Groundz turns the key at Key Bank to understand a startup’s banking challenges

Fiscal responsibility to keep up with fees; turns to giving organic seed of peas at Key

By Gregory Jackson


Reviewing business banking statements to find a riddle of fees frustrates or disappoints any business owner. A simple glance at the additions and subtractions demand fiscal responsibility.

When Groundz first began shopping for a bank to do business with we wanted most of our money going toward the organization, but to have financial health you must review their banking details and deals before building a relationship with your banker.

One of the fees that is the most difficult to avoid is the minimum balance fee. About two years ago we opened a bank account at Chase of global financial services firm JPMorgan Chase (JPM).

At Chase, we were required to maintain a $7,500 minimum balance, but just launching a startup is nearly impossible to just find thousands of dollars just to open an account without minimum balance fees. If not, Chase charges a $15 per month minimum balance fee. Eventually as a founding partner, who is no longer with Groundz for other reasons, reported a balance of seven dollars when there should have been at least $150.

After explaining the circumstances, Chase waived the fees, but there was no way we could keep up.

Nearly a year ago we signed up for an account at Key Bank (KEY). We were looking for a more local bank to do business with and believe in their commitment to local causes and merchant accounts are fair. They require a minimum balance of $2,500 or 25 transactions per month. If neither of those conditions is met, then there is a $5 per month fee.

Then we grew to accept mobile pay: Customers can now pay by credit or debit cards. After adding mobile pay with card options for customers there’s a merchant fee based on whether we swipe or manual enter a card. A swipe transaction is 2.75 percent of transaction (similar to Square), while 3.5 percent plus 15 cents per manual entry fee. The additional fee for manual entry is not for security purposes, but is for positive accidentals.

“We can’t verify it’s the actual customer,” said Nancy Flynn, Key Bank Merchant Services. “Interchange or processing key entered transactions can still go through if it’s someone else’s card that may be Joe Smith’s card or Mary Smith’s card.”

This means that you can pay for one of our customer’s food waste recycling services if we accidentally enter your card; transposing numbers is easy to do. To help reimburse charges to an accidental card transaction, Key Bank’s third-party mobile pay provider Elavon Merchant will have funds needed to pay you back.

The last fee is the paper statement fee of $3 per month, which can be waived by enrolling in online banking.

As cybersecurity is becoming a booming business, especially for cybersecurity companies like Symantec, Palo Alto Networks, and Cyberark hacking has been occurring on a regular basis. A couple months ago, when Sony Pictures Entertainment was hacked for 47,000 current and former employees, and actors like Sylvester Stallone, obtained documents containing their social security numbers.  Other recent corporate hacking include Target Corp., Home Depot, and Aetna health care company.  Enrolling your business or organization in online banking begs the question, will I get hacked? Should I run the risk of getting hacked or just pay the $3 per month paper statement fee?

Key Bank has a number of security socket layers, encryption, unlocks, and both auto-phone calling and manual call center enabling of both personal and professional accounts.

I spent at least 30 minutes trying to get into Groundz account trying every password I can think of, including “1-2-3-4-5.” Nothing worked, but I know I entered the right one. I went to desktop and entered the site to find, “You will need to call customer service to unlock your account.” When I called Key Bank customer service was able to unlock my account, upon my vocal confirmation. He even saw me log into Key Bank app in real time, but to make sure I went to a physical Key Bank location and Shannon, personal banker, had me log in at her desk. Shannon Czaplinski is Key Bank’s version of Flo from Progressive Insurance.

“Okay. Let me take a look, “Shannon said. “Yep, you’re all set.”

“Do you like peas or tomatoes?” I said.


I gave her organic pea seeds from one of Groundz organic seed partners, Seed Savers Exchange, and shared with her that pea seeds look like peas. I asked her what she thinks pea leaves, shoots, and tendrils taste like.”


“No, they taste like peas.”

“I’m going to plant these with my daughter to show her what it’s like to grow your own peas. I save those egg cartons and will use them to grow seeds in.”


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