What did the teller say while closing your checking account?!

Jen A. Miller picture

My cousin recently went into a Wells Fargo branch to close her checking account.

When she told the teller she was leaving because of Wells Fargo's new checking account fees, the teller responded, "Yeah, no one has free checking anymore. You can thank your federal government for that."

That is a flat-out lie.

My cousin was closing her account at Wells Fargo to switch to a free account at PNC, which is a large regional bank. Of course, she also could have moved her money to a credit union or local bank that offers free checking, or to an online bank that does the same.

So, that's problem No. 1 here.

Problem No. 2 is much bigger, which is why this teller serves as a prime example of what's so wrong with big banks.

The entity to blame for Wells Fargo charging customers fees on their checking accounts is not the federal government. The entity to blame is Wells Fargo.

Washington stopped big banks from charging customers egregious fees by doing things like making it illegal to automatically sign customers up for overdraft protection – and all of the overdraft fees that entails.

Of course, Wells could offset those lost fees by acting like an actual bank and looking for ways to make more profitable loans.

But no, big banks like Wells Fargo have decided it’s easier to simply impose other fees on their customers, such as monthly maintenance charges on checking accounts.

That leads people like my cousin, a smart consumer, to move her money elsewhere.

I also find it disturbing to hear a teller spouting the bank’s public relations line.

It’s one thing for top execs making millions of dollars to push the financial industry’s fairy-tale version of how the financial crisis wasn't its fault and Washington is to blame for everything.

It’s another to hear a teller, who’s probably making $8 to $12 an hour (according to payscale.com), pass such nonsense along.

You can be a loyal and competent employee without doing that. And the less you make, the more you need the kind of consumer protection Washington has enacted since the financial industry’s reckless lending and deceit crashed the global economy.

I suspect that’s true even if you work there.