There is a lot of good information about money management, investing, and banking on the internet. Unfortunately, there is a lot of old, incorrect, or outdated information out there as well. Here are 10 things that your bank or credit union may not do anymore, no matter what that article says.
- Exchange Foreign Currency – Not long ago, your bank was the best place to exchange foreign currencies. Those smart money articles and travel guides implored you to take advantage of better exchange rates at your banks instead of overpaying at the airport money changer, or even worse, in the foreign country itself. – This used to be true, especially when “foreign” meant Mexico, Canada, or Europe. These days, Americans fly everywhere, and keeping up with currencies isn’t worth it to all but the largest banks in the largest cities. You can bet the U.S. Bank in San Francisco exchanges foreign currency, but you aren’t likely to be able to change those dollars to euros at your local branch or hometown credit union. (Extra bonus tip: Get a travel credit card with no foreign transaction fees and use it. You’ll get a pretty solid exchange rate without having to handle a lot of foreign cash.)
- Cash Savings Bonds – When it is time to cash in those savings bonds to avoid taxes or before they stop earning interest, you might head to your local bank. While your boomer parents (or grandparents) almost certainly walked into the bank and cashed their Series E or Series EE savings bonds, it doesn’t really work like that anymore. You can’t buy them there either. In fact, almost all modern savings bonds are held electronically. Even the U.S. government is online in the 2020s. Buy and redeem your savings bonds at TreasuryDirect.gov (remember dot gov not dot com).
- Match Another Bank’s Rates – It never hurts to ask but with shopping around just a click away and every bank and credit union offering a new “special” rate, it’s hard for banks to just match rates willie nillie. This is especially true for “rate shoppers,” loyalty-less customers. Those special rates are designed to bring new customers to the bank where their offerings will lure in a new customer. Besides, they often come with strings attached like requiring a direct deposit, or using bill pay, or having minimums or maximums. Your bank can’t research every deal on the internet to make a match.
- Give You Free Stuff Just For Opening an Account– It’s been a long time since banks gave you a toaster for opening a new account. Lately, though, you have probably seen plenty of offers for money for opening a new account but read the fine print. As always, the big headline belies the reality of what it takes to earn that new cash bonus. Banks aren’t interested in handing your $400 free cash and then watching you close your account, so that bonus comes with some strings attached. First, there is probably a minimum time the account must be opened. Then, a lot of offers require direct deposit (proof that you are going to put money into the account), and/or a certain number of debit card transactions each month.
- Medallion Stamp – Medallion stamps are often confused with notarizing a document with a notary stamp. Notaries often are available at most banks and credit unions. Medallions stamps are only available at bigger banks or credit unions, usually that also offer in-office financial advisors. A notary attests that the signature came from the right person. They can attest to that in court, if necessary, but that is the extent of the certification. A medallion stamp includes a liability in the process. Medallion stamps are common among brokerages and are a good reason to have one local brokerage account you can go to in person, just like having one bank account you can go to in person is a good idea.
- Traveler’s Checks – There really isn’t such a thing anymore. Since all of America basically has a credit card and debit card system, there isn’t much need for traveler’s checks. That doesn’t stop people from asking for them.
- Tax Forms – Money is money, and the IRS definitely wants your money, but your bank or credit union are not likely to provide blank tax forms. Like many other government services, the IRS has tried to move everything online to save time and money. What about the tax forms like the 1098 or 1099 forms? Most reporting forms have minimums and you if your account does not reach the minimum, don’t expect to get a tax form from your bank either.