Saturday, February 06, 2010

No More SUM for Citizens Bank

It's hard to believe there was a time when there were no ATM fees. A time when you could go from bank to bank and use their ATMs without fear of charges at either end of the transaction. At least, I know there was such a time in my life.

ATM fees are a permanent part of life now. And one last vestige of what that old time was like faded away quietly in recent months. My bank, Citizens Bank, has left the SUM ATM network.

Started in the late 1990s by US Trust, the SUM Network was the small banks way of battling back against BankBoston. Remember BankBoston? BankBoston ATMs were everywhere in Boston. And BankBoston charged fees to use them if you were not a BankBoston customer.

In an attempt to stand up to the BankBoston giant, US Trust collected together all the other small little banks and created an alliance. Use any ATM at any of the smaller banks, and you don't pay a fee. It was a fantastic populist reaction to the move of the evil banking empire, and it worked. US Trust was rewarded with loyalty. That certainly was the case for me, a US Trust customer by accident (the regulators made me a US Trust customer when my first bank, Bank of Boston, was eaten up to make BankBoston).

Except US Trust wasn't around that much longer. Citizens Bank bought US Trust right about the turn of the century. To the delight of US Trust customers, Citizens stood by the SUM network and said it would remain a part of the small bank alliance.

That ended late last year. Citizens has pulled out. I emailed Citizens to ask why, and I received the note at the end of this post. This is a sad event for the little guys who just need a bank to keep their money safe.

Citizens is crucial to the SUM network, in my opinion, because the bank offered more ATMs than any other SUM participant. Without Citizens, the options for SUM participants are dramatically smaller. I wonder how much longer SUM will be around.

Every time a bank merger happens, the resulting entity says the merger is completely about offering better service to customers. If that were the case, than Citizens would have remained a SUM network member forever. At the very least, it would recognize that it technically owns the originator of the idea (notice in the email below they try to make it sound like the SUM concept was someone else's thing, anyway).

Regardless of the consumer advocate arguments, the bottom line right now is the ATM I used before every time I walked to my car in the morning is no longer free. And that's a shame.

Dear Ross Levanto,

Thank you for your recent email regarding the SUM Network. Citizens Bank has made a business decision to no longer participate in the SUM surcharge-free program offered by the NYCE network. Customers were notified of this change in their November 2009 checking account statement.

Please keep in mind; you enjoy free access to more than 2,600 ATMs operated by Citizens Bank or Charter One. You may search for an ATM or branch in your area by visiting our website at and choosing the Branch/ATM Locator on the right side of the page. This will direct you to a page which requires the city, state or zip code of the branch you are looking for. Once this information is entered, you will be brought to a page which will list the five closest branches, along with their hours, phone numbers, and directions.

If you have any further questions, please contact us via email or by calling our 24-hour Customer Service Center at 800 922-9999. Thank you for using our Online Banking Services.


R. Ventura
Email Team Advocate

1 comment:

Erin said...

Jerks! I have two little kids and there aren't any drive up ATMs in my area. Ugh. I loved being able to drive up to and get my dough without having to take two kids out of the car and then put two kids back in the car . . . maybe that's a pathetic complaint, but boy, is it a bummer dude!