There's just too much change in life. Take banking. Get used to one bank, itself the product of various mergers and acquisitions, and it merges again-witness the pending union of Bank One Corp. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Millions of consumers will be customers of this new company because they were customers of predecessors such as the original Banc One, Chemical Bank, Chase Manhattan, NBD, and First Chicago-all of whom had consumed many local or regional banks themselves. No doubt some customers will feel trepidation about the future of their local branch or whether their paycheck still will be deposited electronically into the right account.
Then there's the planned issuance of American Express cards by MBNA (Card Watch, page 6). The old lay of the land was simple: banks on the one side issued Visa and MasterCard, and on the other side were American Express and Discover. No more. Too much change.
It's nice to know that some things, however, never seem to change. Take the classic Parker Bros. game, Monopoly. I've played it on the computer in recent years, but I hadn't played the actual board game for a long time until a couple of months ago, when our seven-year-old son, Tim, caught on to it. Everything looked so pleasingly old-fashioned, and where else can you buy a house for $200 or less?
I'm proud to say that Tim's pretty good at Monopoly. In fact, he's beaten Mom and me several times, with us doing nothing more to help him than urge him to buy houses instead of sitting on his dough. Upon his first win he declared that, "I can't believe I'm in first grade and I won!"
Tim also likes to use Monopoly to exercise the new arithmetic skills he's learning in school. He makes change constantly, trading in a $100 for five twenties, for example, even if he doesn't need smaller bills.
Which leads me back to the rapidly consolidating world of banking. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article Jan. 16 about Bank One, Chase, and the new era of retail banking. It's an era characterized by vast branch networks, ubiquitous ATMs, and bankers peddling insurance, mutual funds and other products never sold in your father's bank.
Another tenet of the new era is fees for practically everything, or higher fees for stuff that traditionally generated a fee, such as a bounced check. The same goes for credit cards-annual fees are pretty much gone, but it doesn't take much to get dinged with a penalty fee. Fees enhance banks' cash flows, but overdo it and they've got a lot of disgruntled customers.
And that, in turn, leads me back to Monopoly. I decided that change was good, and that I was the one to bring the Parker Bros. National Bank into the 21st Century, starting with my own family. So you want break a hundred, Timmy? That will cost you $2. You took too long to roll the dice; that'll be $1. And effective immediately, the bank is instituting a building permit fee that will cost you an extra $5 per house, $10 per hotel.
The new fees didn't go over too well with Tim. After a while he said, "Dad, let's play Clue."
Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the payments industry
Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the industry
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