CAPTION: Ann, an Amish Cook reader, shared this photo with me which is a fun illustration of Amish banking. It was taken at a bank in Berne Indiana. I’ve been to this bank before, and I think it’s the First Bank of Berne branch on US 27. Anyway, it illustrates that the Amish, even though they don’t have cars, still might need to use drive-up banking. Why not just go inside? Good question. My guess is that the buggies aren’t practical for the drive-thru lanes, so they probably park and walk up, or these are just Amish that work nearby and come on foot. Interesting, fun photo, for sure.
By Kevin L. Williams
AMISH BANKING: Sometimes people are surprised that the Amish embrace the banking system so heartily. The Amish are generally cash customers, meaning not many actually use credit cards (although some do, especially for business), but many have debit cards with the Mastercard or Visa logo. Still, others mainly use checks and cash. While checks are diminishing in popularity among the general population, the Amish still use them a lot.
There’s also a notion that most Amish pay cash for their homes and while that is true in more cases than the general population, the Amish need home loans also. I write a little bit about this in an upcoming book of mine. Joe Caffee is the vice-president of commercial lending with the First Bank of Berne in Indiana and he estimated that about half the bank’s loan portfolio was made up of Amish customers. Caffee says the Amish are subjected to the same considerations when applying for a loan.
“The same rules apply to them as anyone else. But lending to the Amish IS different than to other groups, because there are cultural considerations,” Joe said
“How so?” I asked
“Well, when a young man comes of age, gets married, he often won’t have a credit history, so he’ll have someone, usually his father-in-law, co-sign on the loan. The young man will pay his bills on time for a few years and then he can have the loan just in his name,” Joe said.
The more conservative Amish may not use banks as much. When I was in Pearisburg, Virginia last year buying some baked goods at an Amish bake sale, it was three months before the check I paid them with posted to my account. Ditto when I bought some baskets from a Swartzentruber Amish family in Ohio, the check took a couple of months to post.