Are you like millions of Americans who swore to tell their bank to take a hike? Well, I'm one who actually did it.
My 2012 resolutions have to do with fighting back for bad service and overzealous fees. I'm not alone in my frustration over these issues. About 30 percent of U.S. consumers said they'd leave their banks over fees for using their debit cards, according to a fall 2011 survey by the Research Intelligence Group. And Bankrate's March 2011 Financial Security Index found 64 percent of Americans would consider bolting from their bank if slapped with new checking account fees.
I started with my bank. I'm one of the Regions Bank account holders who got charged the $5 debit fee on four accounts. Before they rescinded the fees, I closed two of the accounts and switched banks to our local credit union. One was my teenager's account. Why should a teenager be charged a $5 fee? That accounts for almost one hour of taking orders and handing over food at McDonald's, which is her part-time minimum-wage job.
But the switch is not official until I've had my direct deposits and bill payments transferred over to the new accounts, so that's the order of business for this week. And even though Regions Bank (among other banks) dropped the fees, I'm switching on principal. Verizon recently tried a similar tactic and instituted a $2 online payment fee. Just like most banks dropped their fees, Verizon quickly dropped the plan because of consumer outcry. It's a lot more difficult to drop your cellphone carrier due to the exorbitant fees associated with breaking contracts early.
Another way I plan to save money this year is by following all the advice I've been reading about cable. I already "unbundled" and ditched my cable company almost a year ago because of bad picture quality and terrible customer service. I switched to satellite and saved about $30 on the monthly TV service, and I love it.
We also have Netflix for movie streaming through my son's Playstation 3, however, I found my kids gravitating to watching the Netflix TV shows and movies. They were skipping the real TV channels, of which we have more than 120. So I'm ditching my $54-per-month satellite service in favor of getting the antennae (about $50) for the local channels, and I signed up for Hulu Plus for $7.99. During baseball season, I will have to fork over the $119 to MLB.tv for the season subscription. Compared to the $748 yearly satellite TV bill plus Netflix, I figure I will save half of my television-related expenses. All you nonsports fans will save even more.
In another area, I ditched the gym in favor of running with my dogs and doing my favorite yoga tape. This amounts to another $30 per month in savings.
So what services are you ditching to improve your budget, save money or take a stand in 2012?