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.

Manhattan? Manhattan.

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).


Category: Market

About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

13 Responses to New York City? (Get a Rope.)

  1. greginak says:

    I bank with Wells Fargo since they have a million ATM’s. They also have an old timey stage coach and horses in their commercials. It really shows their good old fashioned values, the kind that built the West, and embody a true old school western heritage.

    • Peter says:

      Some years back Norwest Bank from Minneapolis (IIRC) acquired Wells Fargo. Even though Norwest was the surviving entity it decided to go by the Wells Fargo name because that was much better known.

  2. I prefer banks whose fee structure is such that it’s easy to know what and when you’ll be charged even if that means paying a little more in fees or having a higher minimum balance requirement. Of course, I have the resources to be able to pay a little extra while some don’t.

  3. fillyjonk says:

    I guess I’m some kind of radical; I use the credit union open to my university’s employees. It’s local (the head office is a half-hour from me) and I’ve generally been happy.

    you can’t get mortgages through them, though: they don’t do mortgages. They do car notes, but that’s about the only lending they do.

    I don’t have an ATM card. I learned the hard way while I was in college that I was NOT good at keeping track of my ATM withdrawals, so ATM locations/fees are not an issue to me.

    My credit union also seems not to be a fan of nickel-and-diming their customers, so there aren’t many fees, and some of them I can avoid by doing things like having regular direct-deposits of my paycheck.

    • Peter says:

      When I was living in Connecticut in the late 1990’s I had a small account at the state employees’ credit union. The nearest branch was on the grounds of a state mental hospital. Although the hospital was by then in the process of being phased out before full closure there were still some “characters” to be seen on the grounds.

  4. RTod says:

    I use on credit union and two banks, and find that whatever I need done one or the other does it better/cheaper/free.

    Each is always trying to get my to consolidate to just them, and every now and then I’m tempted, but never enough to close any of the others down.

    • I’m a big believer that it’s usually a good idea to have accounts at at least two different institutions, provided one can afford any extra fees and inconvenience (something admittedly not everyone can).

      • Kazzy says:

        I tend to bounce my second account around, taking advantage of special offers for opening. The requirements are ones I can meet and it puts an extra few bucks in the pocket.

  5. Kazzy says:

    In NYC, Chase ATMS are located in just about every — if not actually every — Duane Reade pharmacy, meaning you are never far from one. I’ve had really good experiences with them in addition to the convenience.

    • trumwill says:

      I think that’s how GoUSA managed to do their thing. They just signed an agreement with Walgreens and 7/11.

    • ScarletNumber says:

      Duane Reed never made it into NJ, but Chase is probably the most ubiquitous bank in North Jersey. However, they literally have zero presence in South Jersey, while BOA has a strong presence in the entire state.

      BTW, here is an article featuring a Cedar Lane food crawl.

  6. SFG says:

    Does seem like they could have done a little more market research about how this would have played in Peoria. Oh, well, bless their hearts. Or, as we say back in New York, where I’m from…

  7. Peter says:

    Chase Bank trivia: more than 200 years ago its predecessor The Manhattan Company began business as a water supply utility. Chase’s octagonal logo is actually a cross section of the wooden water pipes used at the time. If I’m not mistaken Chase’s corporate charter still allows it to go into the water supply business if the directors so voted.

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