Back home, there used to be a bank that I’ll call GoUSA Federal Bank. It was a pretty big operation that existed locally but not really nationally. They were really everywhere, which was a big plus back when using ATMs was a regular part of banking. They also had really low minimum balances, free checking, and you could pick your own credit card design, which at the time was novel. Options were limited, but you could get a US flag, your state flag, or an eagle. Impressive stuff.
It was the ubiquity of their ATMs that had my interest, because my own bank had four in the entire city of Colosse, the nearest a half-hour from the Southern Tech campus. So I figured that I would get an account with them. But when I brought this up with people who had an account with them, they uniformly warned me against it. GoUSA was terrible, they explained. They had an incredible number of ridiculous surcharges and little in the way of monitoring. So you could use your debit card as much as you wanted, but if you passed $100 a month, you’d get hit with a $35(!!!!) penalty. And you had no way of knowing how much you’d used it.
Still, nobody switched away from them or anything radical like that. Their ATMs were all over the place. Plus, a credit card with an American flag on it.Anyhow, they were bought out by Chase. Chase came in and made some changes. For example, they stopped extorting their customers. Little stuff like that. They did do one big thing, though, which was rename and rebrand everything to their own name. This is a pretty obvious move, but with one problem. Their consumer banking division (at least in our neck of the woods) wasn’t Chase or Chase Bank. It was The Chase Manhattan Bank.
If there was a way to emphasize that they were a far away entity with little interest in the local more effective than that, I cannot imagine what it would be. I mean, even California something-or-other wouldn’t have been great, but Manhattan was New York and (at least back then, pre-9/11 and all that) it was our duty really to just hate on New York. And so here come these yankees buying off our beloved little ragtag
band of thieves bank and probably laughing at us and thinking they’re better than us.
Oh, and they also got rid of the customized credit cards. Now, instead of having the good ole star-spangled banner, they had… the New York Skyline. Because of course they did.
My then-girlfriend Julia’s family banked with them and I remember being in the room when he was on hold with customer support wanting to get his new credit card changed out for one with an American Flag on it.
It blew over after a while. Julia’s family did change banks. Bank of America did a big push at around that time and before I knew it, just about everyone was using them. I honestly don’t know how much of this was related to the Manhattan thing, except that BoA went to great pains to mention that they were from Charlotte at every opportunity.
Except me, of course. I stuck with my old crappy bank which at least would never have the word “Manhattan” associated with it. (A few years ago, they were bought out by BBVA, more formally known as Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria).
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