Why I Love My Local Bank

Earlier today, I was going about my work day in San Francisco, making a few purchases with my debit card: Philz coffee, a burrito, Luxe parking. I rarely have cash on me (since always) and I do not have a credit card (since 2009 — long story, will write that one another day) so my debit card is my financial transaction lifeline. I stopped at my favorite car wash in Sausalito (The Flea only gets a bath when the B.F. is coming for a visit) and took out my debit card to pay. I handed it to the car wash attendant, and he was back in less than a minute telling me my card had been declined. Totally perplexed, I asked him to run it again, which he did not want to do. I said, “There is no way this is getting declined for $19, please run it again.” While he did that, I looked up my balance, (as if I didn’t know it, I ALWAYS know it to the penny, yay for YNAB), and saw that I was correct. There was no way this transaction should be declined based on insufficient funds. (The fact that my brain immediately went to insufficient funds is also part of the no credit card since ’09 story.)

The thought of fraud did not enter my mind.

And then I looked down at my phone… a voicemail from an 800 number. Sure enough, I was being contacted by the fraud department of the bank’s debit card servicing center. It turns out that 12 minutes (12 MINUTES!) after I bought my burrito, some criminal/asshole in Arizona had used my card number to buy lunch at a restaurant to the tune of $76 and change.

Whatever their algorithm is that detects geography and purchase discrepancies performed flawlessly on my behalf because they shut the card down in the 13th minute and then called me.

After I spoke to the fraud center and was informed that I would have to talk to my bank directly about getting a card reissued, I was worried this was going to be a descent into bank bureaucracy hell. Remember, with no credit card to use in a pinch, cash (which I am grateful to have) is my only option. Think for a moment about all the transactions you make during the day, or the week, either in person or online, and my guess is, the majority of those are card based or electronic and linked to your card account. Now imagine if that card goes away, the day before a holiday weekend, and you don’t have a credit card as back up. It complicates things. And for me, the sting of shame rises up. However incorrect shame’s relation to this situation is, it is very real and it hurts.

Enter, Bank of Marin.

I headed over to my branch, feeling fairly confident they could help me get a new card fast, but with very low expectations. I have been a customer there since 2009, and could not be happier. Yes, they are not open on Saturdays. Yes, I pay $10 per month for checking and savings. Yes, that means there are nice humans there like Cathy who handled my monthly cashier’s check transactions which were a requirement of a payment plan I was obliged to, or she calls me when my dad is trying to make a deposit for me. After the personal financial turmoil I was dealing with post-divorce, Bank of Marin became part of my Rebuilding the Life team. So today, they did it again.

I went in, explained the situation, and asked if there was any way they could get me a new card by tomorrow. Tracy jumped on the phone, flanked by the assistant branch manager, and within five minutes the news came through that they could have a replacement card to the branch tomorrow by 10AM. No drama. All efficiency and kindness. That’s the best f — k you to the criminals who waste their time (and clearly considerable hacking talent) to steal from me.

Happy Thursday, my friends. Move your money to a local bank or credit union. It will make your day.