Friday, September 30, 2011

Bank fees and bullshit

About a month ago while making a fairly routine transaction via phone banking I was informed by the customer service representative that they were now using a security token to increase the security of all accounts. I could purchase the token for the very low 'introductory' price of $20.

Er, no thanks. A security token, in my opinion, adds needlessly complicated additional steps without really adding all that much security, since it's a physical device that can be just as easily stolen as my cards, pin number or account details.

It was at this point I was informed that the use of the security token was now compulsory on all accounts and I had 30 days to purchase one at the low, introductory price of $20 or my accounts would no longer have access to the 'pay anyone' feature or the 'bpay' feature. Essentially, my money would be held hostage unless I physically withdrew it from an ATM or branch. On top of this, the security token fee would be increased to $49.95.

I was instantly outraged. No matter which way you look at it, it's another bank fee. I already pay a monthly service fee, ATM fees, excess transaction fees, card fees, EFTPOS fees, in-branch withdrawal fees, a passbook fee, direct debit fees, in-branch transfer fees, phone banking fees. I'm think, but I may have to double check, I also get charged a fee for walking past the bank branch or for thinking about making a transaction. This blog is probably costing me $8.50.

The token was the last straw. I pointed out to the customer service representative that at the rate they are charging me fees I won't have any money left to protect.

"We do offer a rebate to offset some fees. Would you like me to see if you are eligible?" This actually flawed me. It seems the bank is charging so many fees that many of their customers can't actually afford them and go into overdraft (which of course attracts a fee) so they offset that in some cases.

"How about instead of offering a rebate, you just charge less fees?" I said. "This security token is just another bank fee."

"Well we are selling it to you at cost." She said and I took a deep breath.

"I guess you'd like me to thank you, a major bank who's boasted record profits in the last financial year, for not making additional profit off what is largely an unnecessary process you've forced on me." There was silence. "If the bank feels that this level of security is necessary to protect it's customers than the bank needs to absorb that cost or else implement a more cost effective system."

"I understand your concerns but we can't do that." At the end of this conversation we were at a stalemate. The bank refused to waive the fee and I refused to pay it. I made several more telephone calls and emails all with pretty much the same result. They understood my concerns, they just didn't care.

After pissing and moaning about it for 27 of the 30 days they'd given me, I went into the branch today to close my accounts and move on to greener (and hopefully cheaper) pastures. The teller excused herself when I told her I wanted to close up my accounts and returned with the branch manager.

Now they cared.

The branch manager wanted to have a deep and meaningful discussion about why I was leaving. I told him simply "You've pushed me away with all the bank fees and this ridiculous security token is the last straw. As of next week I won't be able to pay my mortgage unless I pay a $20 fee. So I'm done with this bank."

He put on his concerned face and started making all kinds of helpful suggestions about direct debiting my mortgage. I pointed out that also draws a fee. Yes but it's a lower fee. Had I considered switching my mortgage to them? What if, instead of doing online bank transfers I withdrew more money at the ATM to have less transactions and therefore less fees. He was full of all kinds of helpful suggestions, but rather selfishly, I like to manage my finances around what's convenient for me, not what's convenient for the bank.

"How about you just close my accounts like I asked?"

"Well now, I'm sure we can find some way to help you." He was using a tone now that was starting to really piss me off. The "don't worry your pretty little head about it" tone you often get from salesmen and tradies. If he asked me if I'd spoken to my husband about it I would have to insert a sharp object into his eye. "If the security token fee is what's troubling you, we can waive that."

Are you serious? After how many weeks of infuriating phone calls and emails where they insisted that they can't help me, suddenly, as I'm walking out the door, they can waive the fee. I actually had to close my eyes and count to ten. Afterwards, I smiled sweetly at him.

"I've been banking with you since I was 18. I always thought this bank was one of the better ones." He was smiling proudly now. "But the last few weeks have proven me wrong. You guys don't care. All the good will that was built up is now gone." At this his face turned to stone and he informed me that they require two weeks notice to close accounts.

Is my money employed with them? What is this give notice business? He wouldn't elaborate beyond it being their policy. It seems we were right back to not caring again. He also refused to let me withdrawn the money I had in those accounts because I didn't have my passbook with me, though I did have my ATM card and had always been able to withdrawn that way in the past. "Well you can't now" he said like a petulant child. Annoyed and frustrated I stormed out.

I intend to return (to a different branch) next week and try again. Interestingly, I went to the bank that we have our mortgage with to open an account. I said to the accounts manager "I don't want to pay any fees. I'm serious. I have my mortgage with you so you're already getting two grand a month in interest. I think that's more than enough." He smiled and said "No worries." Then offered to get me a cappuccino.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Awesomesauce... AKA Thai Green Curry

I'm trying to get healthy, exercise more, eat less crap, you know the drill. I've become aware of how poor my diet is and how generally crap my eating habits are. The other day a friend gave me a recipe for a 300 calorie Thai Curry and it reminded me that I did a cooking class and learnt how to make a fish curry. And that fish curry was really good.

Where am I going with this? Oh yes, I adapted the recipe to a turn it into a Thai Green Curry and surprisingly, it's still good and it's still low cals and quite healthy. Perhaps even more amazing is that it doesn't wreak havoc with my Crohn's.

Enough of the preamble. Get to the point, I hear you yell. Well in lieu of anything to actually blog about, I've stolen the domestic goddess theme from a blogger I adore, Redact That and I'm giving you all this quick and super delicious recipe.

When made as below it comes to 370 calories and 17g of fat per serve.



  • 140ml Coconut cream (with no added water)
  • 3 tsp Red or Green Curry (more if you like it hot, less if not)
  • 2 tbsp grated palm sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 400ml Coconut milk (with no added water)
  • *Red or Green capsicum
  • *1 medium grated carrot
  • *100g cauliflower
  • *100g broccoli 
  • **500g of chicken breast
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • 1/2 cup Coriander leaves
  • Lime wedges

*You can pretty much add whatever vegetables turn you on. I went with these because that's basically what I had.

** Again you can add what ever meat you like. I've made this with fish, chicken and prawns. I'm sure red meat or pork would work too.


Heat a small saucepan over medium heat.

Add the coconut cream and cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes until it separates and the oil floats on the surface.

Add the curry paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until fragrant.

Add the palm sugar and cook briefly before adding the fish sauce and coconut milk. Bring the liquid to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Dice chicken and brown in a frypan with olive oil.

Add chicken, capsicum, carrot, cauliflower and broccoli to curry sauce and allow to simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add corriander leaves immediately prior to serving. Garnish with lime wedges.

Serve with rice.


oh, and I'll blog properly again soon.

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