We all should strive to live honestly. Being straightforward is often viewed as a virtue; a virtue that is in short supply these days. We are inundated with doublespeak — from our friends, family, bosses, and politicians. Everywhere you look you’ll see deceptive advertising and misleading headlines. For these reasons, it’s hard to trust anything. The best you can do is try and be as upfront as you can in your own comings and goings.
There are, however, times when it pays to bend the truth a bit. You don’t need to start spreading full-blown nonsense online or among your co-workers, of course. But if you can effectively make calculated decisions about what (or how much) information you’re sharing and who you’re sharing it with, you gain some small advantages that make your life easier.
One example? The way in which you deal with your bank or financial institution.
Most of us have probably stretched the truth a bit when it comes to our finances. Overstating our income to get a bigger line of credit, perhaps. Or maybe understating it to get a better deal when negotiating medical bills, or something similar. You might feel guilty about it, briefly. But it’s typically not enough to stop us from using what worked previously in our next negotiation.
When it comes to dealing with your bank, there are some advantages to withholding certain details. These banks, after all, withhold certain details from their customers — so maybe we shouldn’t feel so bad about it. It’s not like you’re laundering money for drug cartels, setting up fake accounts in order to steal from customers, or rigging financial markets in order to profit, right?
When you take that into consideration, you can keep these secrets from your bank, and still hold the moral high ground.
1. You’re no longer a student
You graduated, and that’s fantastic. But you don’t necessarily need to tell everybody about it, especially not your bank if you’re benefiting from student discounts and fee-free services. Many banks have special accounts for high school and college students, and if you’re no longer a student, you can lose out. You can consider yourself to be a “life-long student” and hang on to your perks as long as possible. The average monthly checking account fee is about $13.25, or $159 per year!
2. Plans to switch careers
If you’re applying for a home or car loan, lenders are going to want to see stability. They want to know you have a solid job or career, and that they can count on you paying them back. That means no hiccups in your income, which may come from quitting your job or switching career tracks. If you want a mortgage or other big loan, it may be in your interest to keep your future plans to yourself. You don’t want your lender to know how you’re leaving your steady law firm career next year to become an independent consultant with volatile pay days.
3. Car loan? Don’t mention how you plan to use it
Speaking of big loans, you might want to keep your plans for your car or house to yourself. If you want to earn some extra money driving for Uber, for example, you may not want to disclose that to your lender. Want to use your house to start a business or rent out an extra room? That’s something else that may rub lenders the wrong way. Basically, don’t give up any information about your plans that you don’t have to. You never know what might trip up the process.
4. Accounts with other institutions
As an adult, you can generally do whatever you want. That includes having accounts, credit lines, and anything else from competing institutions simultaneously. You may want to keep that information to yourself, though, unless you feel like hearing a sales pitch every time you visit the bank. Bank at Bank of America, but have a Chase credit card? You can bet that BoA would love to have you ditch Chase and open a credit card with BoA. And they’ll do what they can to get you to switch. Save yourself the trouble, and stay quiet.
5. Your plans to move your money
Banks use all sorts of tactics to get customers to open accounts. Sometimes they’ll give you cash bonuses, interest-free lines of credit, or rewards points. You can take advantage of these types of promotions, as many people do. But the whole plan is to get you to stick around as a long-term customer — the promotion was the incentive to get you to sign on. So, how do you take advantage?
It mostly comes down to being diligent. Signing up for bank accounts or credit cards will net you rewards — sometimes thousands of dollars — but you need to make sure you’re upholding your end of the bargain without getting scorched. Pay off your balances. Maintain minimum account thresholds. And keep an eye on your credit score. If you do it right, you can get more out of the banks than they’re getting out of you.