How to Keep Your Cool When Dealing with Your Bank (and Other Financial Institutions)

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Having to deal with your finances isn’t always all that appealing to begin with. And if you’ve ever lined up behind a crowd of 20 at the bank during your lunch break, then you’ve experienced how difficult it can be to remain patient and calm. Throw in miscommunication with your bank or banker (or credit card problems) and it can feel more like an all out battle.

Things to remember when interacting with your bank in person:

  • Approach calmly – If you’re all riled up then it’s best to take a deep breath or cool off with a walk before you begin your conversation with the teller. If you’re angry when you enter into the interaction your communication will be based on emotion rather than logic.

  • Ask clarifying questions – If you don’t understand There is absolutely no shame in asking questions when you don’t understand. In fact, taking the time to clarify any confusion will usually save you time in the long run. When you ask questions, you can clear things up earlier rather than later which can put you and your banker on the same page from the get-go.

  • Request a meeting with a personal banker — You might think that the only face-to-face time with a banker happens through glass, but you’re usually eligible to sit down with a banker. Ask your banker if you can schedule a private meeting to chat one-on-one. This way you can have uninterrupted conversation about your options and go over potential solutions for any problems.

  • Pick a favorite branch and teller — When you become a regular at a specific bank branch you enjoy the benefit of being more familiar with the set-up and the schedule. You also have the opportunity to form a relationship with the tellers there. If you get along particularly well with a teller, make an effort to foster that relationship. When you have a good, long-standing relationship with a specific teller they’re more likely to feel invested in solving your problems and taking care of your your needs.

  • End conversations with action steps you can take to prevent problems in the future — Bankers have some flexibility in making changes to your account.  For example they can sometimes reverse fees or strip unwanted charges. But there’s a limited amount of “fixes” a bank can ultimately do. If you really want to take control of a situation, it’s best to find out the ways to protect yourself in the future. Ask them what you can do so that you can avoid having to go through similar challenges.

  • Research regulations so that you can back up your rights — The best way to win in a battle of wills is to have cold, hard information on your side. If you’re fighting a point it strengthens your argument when you can cite rules or regulations that are in your favor. Bankers are informed employees but if it’s a very detailed argument they may default to the “probably” right answers without double-checking.

  • Ask them to notify you of changes/ add flag to call you when changes occur — To avoid feeling out of the loop with your bank, you can ask your bank to be the first line of communication when something changes. They’ll flag your account and you’ll be notified anytime there’s an update in rules or protocol.

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Things to remember when you’re interacting with your bank over the phone:

  • Set aside time to dedicate to the conversation — It’s a pain, but make sure that you have enough time to start AND finish the conversation. You want a resolution by the end of the conversation, and if you’re trying to fit it into a 15 minute time slot between meetings you may not reach it.

  • Make sure you’re in an area that’s quite and with a clear connection — Along the same lines as the tip above, it’s also important to caution against a fuzzy or weak phone signal.

  • Ask for their identification number — Getting the identification number of the customer service representative you’re talking to (or their extension) can be very helpful if you (A) have a problem with them and need to talk to a manager or (B) get disconnected or need to contact them again later.

Things to remember when you’re interacting with your bank online:

  • Be cautious of sharing any information — Never send personal information or account numbers via e-mail. If you need to share personal information, do so via a phone call or in person. If by chance you do send over any account #’s, delete the e-mail and empty the trash and then go about changing your passwords for your online banking system.

  • Check a bank’s website for specific e-mail addresses — Most institutions are built on large infrastructures with numerous sectors. Your best bet in quickly contacting the sector that will be able to help you is by looking for the e-mail address that is most directly related to your concern or problem. As an example, you can check out Bank of America’s contact page which uses a drop down menu to direct you to the correct point of contact.

Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is that bankers are people

This is the number one piece of advice for keeping your cool. Though there’s a desk separating you, it will help you manage your frustration if you can keep that important point in mind. The situation may be frustrating, but ultimately you are speaking to another person and they deserve the benefit of respect. If nothing is resolved, at the very least you can walk away from the situation knowing that you kept a level head in the situation. At the end of the day, they’re limited in what they can do. But by making the interactions pleasant and effective you can ensure that your banking needs aren’t going to be overshadowed by emotion.

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