First they seduce you with conveniences such as online access and ATMs on every corner. Then they slap you with unexpected fees or the voice-mail cold shoulder.
Don't get mad, go steady."For many years, big banks have charged commercial customers based on their relationship. If you had large loans or compensating balances, those were taken into consideration when determining what fees you were charged," says Bill Anderson, publisher of Bank Rate Monitor.
Now some banks are beginning to do the same for profitable consumers.
"Our strategy is to attract those customers who consolidate their business," says Lynn Brown, senior vice president and director of marketing for Wachovia Bank.
Customers who have $10,000 in a Wachovia CD, brokerage account or IRA - or who have a home-equity line of credit with the bank - are able to take advantage of a no-fee checking account with free checks, free traveler's checks, a free safe-deposit box and a no-annual-fee credit card.
Plus, when you call the bank, you get to skip the call center and talk directly to a personal banker.
Depending on where you live, a $6,000 to $10,000 combined balance at Citibank - in checking, savings, brokerage, mortgage, installment-loan or credit-card accounts - entitles you to a no-fee checking account with unlimited free ATM transactions at other banks' machines (the other banks may still charge a fee). Free PC banking and bill-payment service, plus free traveler's checks and discounted home-equity loan rates are thrown in, too.
NationsBank offers similar enticements - discounts on home-equity loans, two free "foreign" ATM transactions per month, free PC banking, a free safe-deposit box and a no-annual-fee credit card - for various account combinations, including a mortgage of at least $60,000. First Union and PNC Bank shower perks on steady customers, too.
But remember, sweetheart deals could vanish if your bank merges with another.