Being a bank teller is no easy job.
You see people at their best and at their worst. You help people learn what they really want, not just what they think they need. You have the responsibility every time you walk into work of taking care of other people’s money. You have to be a rockstar at customer service, even when you have to tell people “no.”
Being a bank teller was not what I expected when I started my first banking job. I went into it thinking of it as just another part-time job, but I’ve learned so much about money, people, and how banking works that I can take with me long after my days behind the teller line are over.
Over the past few years, I’ve been able to learn so much about people and the way they interact with their finances. Generally there are a few different categories people fall into:
- Extremely detailed, analyzes their statement each month. Keeps a balanced checkbook.
- Average, uses online banking to keep up with their accounts but doesn’t stress about the details.
- Confused or disorganized, has overdraft fees every month and doesn’t understand their balance.
By observing people’s behavior and learning how banks work, here’s a few things I’ve learned from my time as a bank teller.
Know Where Your Money is Going
While I don’t think you should necessarily balance a checkbook every day (unless you like to), it’s very important to keep an eye on your accounts and know where your money is going. It is so easy to swipe your debit card here and there for every little purchase and not realize how much it adds up.
Are you keeping track of your spending? Do you use online banking to monitor your bills and expenses? If not, sign up for online banking and make it a habit to check on your account once a day.
It’s also very important to know where your money is going because of scammers and thieves. I’ve seen numerous cases where somebody’s debit card information was stolen and the thief charged tiny purchases first to make sure the card worked. When those transactions went through, they knew they could use the card to make larger purchases.
If you ever see charges for a few cents to some random company you don’t know, talk to your bank about ordering a new card or closing your account.
Learn about protecting yourself from identity theft and staying away from common scams. Prevention is much easier than restoring the damage identity thieves create.
Learn How Overdraft Actually Works
This is one of the hardest things for me to see as a teller. I see people getting charged overdraft fees over and over again just because they don’t understand how the overdraft protection works.
If you find yourself struggling with overdrafts, ask your banker what you can do to get out of the cycle. Different banks have different policies, but in my experience I’ve seen options such as no-interest loans that a bank will give you to clear your overdraft that you automatically pay back each month.
Going forward, learn how the overdraft program works. Some banks will charge you for each transaction that goes into the overdraft until a certain limit is hit that day. If you are hit with five overdraft fees at $30 each because you kept using your debit card when you were overdrawn, that’s an extra $150 that your shopping spree cost you.
If you have no choice but to use your overdraft, pull out as much as you will need in one cash withdrawal. This way you only get hit with one fee, and you can deposit whatever you end up not needing back into the account.
While overdraft is not ideal, it is there for a purpose. If you need to use it for a certain period of time, be sure you’re doing it the smart way.
Become Friends With Your Bankers
This one applies as much to banking as just about anywhere else. The friendlier you are with your bank staff and the more often they see your face, the more likely it is for them to help you out when you’re in a bind.
It’s pretty much common sense–you’re much more likely to do someone a favor when they’ve been kind to you versus when they’ve yelled in your face. If you ever find yourself in the situation of needing a fee refunded, needing a little extra help with your bank statement, etc., having that relationship established with your banker can go a long way.
Do keep in mind though: don’t use your good relationship to take advantage. Oftentimes banks have rules on how many fees an employee can refund in a day (for example) so don’t take it personally if they can’t always help you out.
Learn Your Bank’s Products and Services
If you’ve never worked at a bank or spent a lot of time in one, you may be surprised at how many different products are available for your banking needs.
The first bank I worked at we were required to sell to our customers. While I wasn’t always comfortable with selling, it taught me a lot about the different services banks can offer and how many different ways there are to handle your finances.
Listen to your teller when she tries to tell you about a new product that may serve your situation better. If she’s doing it right, she has the best of intentions for you and wants to help not just the bank, but you as well.
In the end, follow the golden rule and treat others how you would want to be treated. Take the time to learn more about your bank’s products and services and policies, and start managing your money in a way that makes sense for you. Make your next trip to the bank a fun (and informational) one!