The Long-Term Relationship You Just Can't Quit It's an abusive relationship and you'll probably never end it. Time and again your partner takes advantage of you. You lost trust a while back. You don't even expect any satisfaction anymore, but it's been going on so long you just can't break away.

No, not your spouse. I'm talking about your bank.

For all the anti-bank anger erupting across the country lately, relatively few of us are actually parting ways with our significant financial institutions. In the past six weeks a mini bank-run sent 700,000 new customers to credit unions, according to the credit unions' trade group. But that's hardly noticeable on the scale of the universe of U.S. banking customers. Analysts predict that the percentage of people changing banks in 2011 could edge up to 10%. That's only a slight lift from 8.7% in 2010, according to a retail bank survey earlier this year from J.D. Power and Associates. Momentum is building, to be sure, but it's not yet significant.

Sometimes it seems like it's easier to walk away from a marriage than a bank account: After all, spouses don't have an entire team of MBAs working to make sure you never leave. And face it, your whole life is tied up with the conveniences of big banking: Your paycheck is deposited, your bills are paid, that quick trip to the ATM is right across the street. Maybe even your alimony and child support are on auto pay.

It's not actually easier to get divorced, of course. Far more people are leaving their banks each year than are leaving their partners. But it's not for want of trying on the part of the financial institutions.

Banks invest hundreds of dollars per customer to make your relationship to them last and grow: new products, savings rates, rewards programs, overdraft protections, credit cards, mortgages, home equity loans, bill pay, direct deposit, weekly letters, pens and free lollipops. It works too. A typical banking customer reports having an average of 2.7 "banking products" from their primary institution, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

Worse yet, many people can't even afford to leave their bad bank marriage. That resentment-building $10 monthly checking account fee -- some of which goes to pay for the shiny new branches you see all over town -- may be the price one must pay to avoid a huge, and potentially disastrous, transfer of a whole system of electronic payments and credits.

At least 42% of all American workers lived paycheck to paycheck last year, according to a survey. Increasingly, those funds are delivered electronically through direct deposit. Bills like credit cards, mortgages, rent, student loans, utilities, cable -- not to mention regular subscriptions like Netflix -- are increasingly tied to checking accounts via automatic bill pay.

How do you divert a paycheck next month into a new account while making sure all the bills get paid for last month? It's tricky to choreograph when you live close to the bone. And banks know that.

"The bottom line is that you can't move the account if you don't have extra cash to leave behind for two months," Hank Israel, a director with consulting firm Novantas, told The New York Times last year in an article on switching banks.

It is a lot harder to change something than it is to not change it. In behavioral finance this is called the status quo effect. Plenty of bad marriages -- and bad banking relationships -- have lasted many decades on this principle.

Of course, bad behavior from a bank is easier to ignore than that from a spouse. You can leave statements unopened, but you can only hide from your significant other for so long without severe consequences.

"Banks are just caretakers, they don't have opinions. Spouses have opinions," says Maggie Baker, a clinical psychologist and author of Crazy About Money. "You don't get into an argument with your bank account."

Catherine New can be reached at

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Your bank is conning you.
Your bank is stealing from you.
I do not know what bank you are using
and I do no know where your are, but I do know they are cheating you. It is their business.

November 16 2011 at 11:06 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Adele's comment

Adele, my bank is not cheating or conning me.

Maybe they just saw you coming?

November 17 2011 at 8:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We Are The 99%
Thursday in Houston

Host: Michael B., MoveOn member

Where: Beginning At Market Square Park @ 315 Travis, --Ending at I-45 over White Oak Bayou (in Houston)

When: Thursday, Nov. 17, at 4:00 PM

November 16 2011 at 10:53 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

When the Wall Street protestors open up bank accounts at the largest banks, when they never had one before, what sane person would move their account somewhere else?

November 16 2011 at 12:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Typically the media focuses on the have nots--and all they do is go through life complaining about everything and expecting a free ride. Glad to see a better story--more truthful depiction of the real world.

November 16 2011 at 9:55 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I had no problem closing my account with Region Bank after being charged extra fees.Went to TD bank will change again if Td would start charging extra fees I Will not be used

November 16 2011 at 7:14 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rjoh959287's comment

Nothing like a good Canadian Bamk to put your money in.

November 16 2011 at 12:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Skip the big banks. Shop at a small local community bank where they know you and you know them, where they collect hats and mittens for the kids in winter, where they hate to foreclose and do so only as a last resort, where they like to invest in the community and you can get a good loan at a decent rate, where the teller knows your name and the coffee is always on in the lobby.

November 15 2011 at 3:59 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to forcex2's comment

When I read this I swear I could hear the soundtrack from "It's a Wonderful Life" somewhere off in the distance.

November 15 2011 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"42% of all American workers lived paycheck to paycheck last year"...If you are one this 42% the bank really doesn't want you as a customer anyway.

November 15 2011 at 11:09 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Oh so wrong...I found out long ago I don't need the BIG banks..I opened a checking account with smaller bank, and a credit union..I moved my auto payments away and I am done..with the NO CHARGE for using the ATM at other banks when I travel or the credit card...I am FREE of the big bank..and frankly if you do not leave you are CRAZY..if I am going to be badly treated then I will pick another bank..
Unlike some people I have a commercial loan coming due in 2015 for $3 mil..I will USE a smaller bank to redo that loan..and dump the WS bank that gave me that loan and their BS and all the little strings it comes with..I have already located that bank and building a LTR with them..Wells Fargo I hope you guys are reading this..had you been nice to me you would have a $3 mil loan to redo for me..NOW...BYE BYE...suck..out the door.

November 15 2011 at 9:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I don't have to leave my bank. I don't pay fees. You know why I don't pay fees? Because unlike any other mouth breathing American, I read the service agreements and arrange my accounts so I don't pay fees. And not only that, I earn interest. Sure it's not much, but my bank pays me, you get that? They pay me. Americans are such idiots. All you have to do is go out your front door and look around to realize it - this Country is doomed.

November 15 2011 at 7:45 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to ilm9p's comment

I'll be kinder and not say they're idiots, but will say that a lot of folks don't pay enough attention to things that effect them. Many then blame someone else because they didn't pay attention.

November 15 2011 at 11:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Amazing isn't it when you take the time to understand a situation.

November 16 2011 at 9:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Violet's News

The bank is only after one thing and that's money - your
money to have off the top, and the extras that at meetings
of CEO'S who find that small envelope saves at least 5cents
at a mass mailing, than the legal size ones, and this is
why they get bonuses of such a large scale. The minute
you put one dollar in the bank, they take for themselves and
you get the add ons with fees and service that they do not
give you, because they could not do business without you
supporting them. They pay millions to lobbyists to buy
politicians, and to write articles like Catherine Drew did
for AOL, in public relations as your friend and buddy.
They are even paying the cops in New York 4.2 million
to get rid of the protesters, only the people who own
Zucotti park are behind the 99%, so they are all members
of the God is Money Club, and they are scared that
losing accounts is one thing, but the IRA's and retirement
programs are another and the 70 billion the government
gives them every month to pay for SS, Medicare, Medicaid,
Vets, are what they care about, so they will say or do anything
to keep the source of power they have.
But, supporting the buying of our government and it's
elected members is another matter and they stepped
over the line with the greed. They know it, so now they
have their lobbyists writing all the bad violence about
occupy, which is like the strike breaker thugs did
years ago to child labor laws, and illegals, barely
living off working for less than less.
No - the banks are not your friend and never will
be until they get out of politics and go back to
servicing the public and accountability on that.

November 14 2011 at 6:54 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Violet's News's comment