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The most annoying of all fees:
Some banks even charge for deposit slips

Does your bank like you?Ask people what bugs them about their banks and somewhere near the top of the list is fees.

Now, some banks are charging what might take first prize as the world's most anger-provoking fee. A fee that seems so absurd that when we asked other banks if they charged this fee we got answers ranging from, "Are you kidding?" to "No, we don't and it doesn't sound like something we'll start anytime soon."

It's charging for deposit slips -- the ones that are on counters in banks.

"Hi. I just want to make a deposit but I forgot a deposit slip."
"OK, that'll be one dollar."
"For what?"
"The deposit slip."
"I have to pay a dollar to put money in my account?"
"Yeah, sorry."
"You've got to be kidding!"
"No. If you want to put money in your account and use one of our deposit slips it will cost you a dollar."

Letting customers slip away
It's fair to say that's pretty close to what happened to John Gilroy when he used a bank deposit slip at Union Planters Bank in Bradenton, Fla.

"I was angry. There's a woman who has been there for years. I asked her why they were charging for deposit slips and she said, 'I'm sorry, that's the new policy.' She seemed embarrassed. I closed my account and went to a local bank closer to my home."

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At least one bank has gotten away with charging for deposit slips for years -- but you have to wonder what it's cost them in lost accounts and goodwill.

Mary Lou Bochenick says she closed her account and yanked her mortgage and car loan from a First Union bank in Key West, Fla., when they charged her 75 cents for a deposit slip so she could plunk a paycheck in the bank. That was eight years ago.

"I wasn't about to pay it. It's absolutely insane. I'm putting my money in their bank, they're using it for their loans -- plus, I paid a service fee on the account."

No one from Union Planters headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., would talk to us, but a customer service rep at the company's Port Richey, Fla., banking center said the fee is charged because, "There are a lot of errors when customers write their account numbers. That's our way of promoting customers to use their own deposit slips."

Sarah Holden, a spokeswoman from First Union in Charlotte, N.C., says her bank goes to great lengths to provide customers with personalized deposit tickets.

"The counter documents create additional work for tellers and back-office processors because of the additional verification process."

Holden says each customer gets one free counter document -- that's bank lingo for deposit, withdrawal and all those other slips piled up on the bank counter -- every month. If a customer maintains their minimum balance of $750, they can have unlimited counter documents.

Apparently, not everyone's blood pressure rises when they get hit with the fee.

"The people I talked to said they hadn't heard a lot of complaints," says Holden. "Most people bring their deposit slips in with them and if they forget they don't mind paying the dollar."

Backlash over "bad idea"
Consumer watchdogs feel differently and are flashing their canines on this one.

"They don't put enough deposit slips in checkbooks in the first place so it's outrageous that they charge a fee to borrow them," says Ed Mierzwinski of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in Washington, D.C. "Bank marketing defies all common sense. It's a stupid idea. Why are they charging you a fee to put your own money in the bank?"

Mierzwinski says he doesn't believe a lot of banks are charging a fee for deposit slips -- yet. But he says more banks will probably try it.

If you run out of deposit slips (you get 8 with each book of checks) and you want to avoid paying a buck at the bank, Holden at First Union says you can order 200 deposit slips for about $7.50 from your check printer. Of course, prices may vary depending on who prints your checks.

The truly thrifty may be entertaining the thought of photocopying a deposit slip. Bad idea. The ink on the bottom is encoded and Holden says it will look counterfeit.

-- Posted: Dec. 15, 2000


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