Sunday, June 8, 2008

Are You Kidding Me..?

Well, here we go again, but I really can't blame Mercury this time - dammit! Apparently my (soon to be former) bank, Charter One, has decided that they will now deduct an NSF fee ($39) from your account, if there is a possibility you might be overdrawn. Yeah, you read that right - might be overdrawn.
It all started back in April. I usually check my online bank statement daily, at least every few days, and update my checkbook program to match the available information (very responsible of me, wouldn't you say..?) So, I'm checking to see what has cleared, and I see an NSF fee.
I checked my balance. Nope, no negative. Granted it was scary low, but it wasn't negative. If they had paid something I didn't have money in the account to cover, I should have gone negative...Even if they returned something unpaid, it should have gone negative by the amount overdrawn, then back positive by that amount when they declined payment and returned it. I was a bit confused, to say the least.
I called the bank and they advised me that my "online statement is an estimate provided for your convenience only, and not guaranteed to be 100% accurate" and that I did, indeed go into the negative. Hmm. Ok, so I screwed up somewhere. No biggie, it happens.
About a week later, I got my statement, and looked for the negative balance, to see just where I messed up. No negative balance. Now, they may say the online info isn't !00% accurate, but let me tell you, it matched my statement 100%. So I called the bank again. This time I didn't let them blow me off with that line, and advised them I have my statement, and that is 100% accurate, correct?

Me: "I just don't understand what this NSF fee is for..."
Him: "Well, I show on here that your account went negative."
Me: "When..? I am looking at my statement and don't see a negative balance reflected anywhere. What exactly bounced? Everything I have had out has cleared. The average daily balance never even got to zero, let alone went below it."
Him: "Well it shows here that there was an outstanding authorization, and when we authorize a purchase we put a hold on the money for three days. During that time, something came through that caused you to go negative."
Me: "So why don't I see that on my statement?"
Him: "You wouldn't see it on your statement, but it's here on my hold screen.."
Me: *getting a bit frustrated at this point - seems I spend a lot of phone time that way - "On your "hold screen"? Did my account go negative?"
Him: "Yes."
Me: "On what day, on what item, and WHY ISN'T IT REFLECTED ON MY STATEMENT..?"

So it turns out that despite the fact that $300 was deposited WELL BEFORE the item in question was presented for payment, and that my account didn't really go negative, only virtually did, because there was a hold for that amount, and something else cleared, and there was a possibility that I might overdraw my account (I didn't, but I might have) I was charged an NSF fee. Is it just me, or is that way f*cked up..? When I made the purchase, I knew the $300 would be direct deposited the next day. Before it was presented for payment. So what? The bank said I overdrew the account even though it never went to a zero balance, and they never PAID anything there wasn't money to cover.
I ended up talking to some sanctimonious prick who treated me like an errant 2nd grader, but finally refunded the money. I also contacted the Comptroller of Currency, which is the regulatory agency my (soon to be former) bank, Charter One, answers to. I got the contact information from a different manager, who apologized profusely and assured me it wouldn't happen again. Yeah, ok.

Now, let's take a moment for clarification, shall we? Wikipedia defines Insufficient Funds Fee as: in the US banking industry, the term "non-sufficient funds" (NSF) is used to indicate that a demand for payment (a check) cannot be honored because insufficient funds are available in the account on which the instrument was drawn. In simplified terms, a check has been presented for clearance, but the amount written on the check exceeds the available balance in the account. It is often colloquially referred to as a bad check, a "bounced" check, or a rubber check. Businesses frequently use the term dishonored check.

"cannot be honored because insufficient funds are available in the account on which the instrument was drawn."

At no time was this the case. Nothing was presented for payment to my (soon to be former) bank, Charter One that there weren't funds to cover. If it had been presented the day it was authorized, that would be different. I'd deserve the fee, because the money wouldn't have been there. But it wasn't, and when it was presented, there were funds available to cover it. Besides, if there weren't funds to cover it, why did they authorize it? Oh yeah, they get to charge fees that way....

So, I mistakenly take the manager at her word, and choose not to further pursue my complaint with The Comptroller of Currency. Dumbass.

May 30th, there it is again. Grrrrrrrr. This time, based on my last experience, I wait until I have my bank statement. But in the meantime, the $39 Charter One took for that fee, caused 3 other things to actually bounce. At $39 a piece.

This time I went to a Charter One branch, for all the good it did me.

Me: "Hi, I'm a little confused here. I show an NSF fee, but no zero balance. Can you tell me what the problem is?"
Her: "Well, let's just look at that." She scrolls through my account and sees an NSf fee with no zero balance. She then calls over the manager.
Apparently Charter One corporate has seen fit to enlighten their managers about this new policy, but not their tellers. The manager then begins to give me the whole "authorization" theory.
Her: "Well, you had an authorization for $30, and when we paid the $84.74 out of the $103.80 balance, that caused an overdraft."

Huh..? Is this the new "bank math," "cuz when I was in school, 103.80 minus 84.74 would leave 19.58 available. Which is what my statement shows. It also then shows direct deposits of $1,002.35 and $658.38 before that $30 was presented for payment and processed through my account. But they still charged me an NSF fee of $39 on the $84.74 that left a balance of $19.58 still in the account. Which in turn triggered 3 more $39 fees.

After 45 minutes of discussion with the manager who alternately talked down to me -

Her: "Well, do you keep a register?"
Me: "Uhhh...YES.")

and trying to shush me -

Her: "Please keep your voice down! We have other customers & people with children."
***not one curse word came out of my mouth - not even damn or shit****
Me: "Don't you think your other customers have a right to know you're going to charge them an NSF if there's a possibility of them overdrafting their account?"
Her: "That's not true."
Me: "It IS true. Charter One is stealing from me."
Her: "I've worked here five years! Do you think I would work for a company that would steal?"
Me: "You're here..."
Her: "If you continue to cause a ruckus, I'm going to call the police."
****mind you, I was in calm & rational mode, not "psycho-bitch-gonna-climb-over-the-counter-and-kick-your-ass mode - which I am fully capable of, and quite good at, I might add *grin*

Me: "Call them, what are you going to tell them? That I am informing your other customers of Charter One's policy of charging NSF fees on possible overdrafts?"
Her: "That's not how it is."
Me: "That's EXACTLY how it is. I have it here in black and white! At no time did my account go to a zero balance, yet there is an NSF fee plain as day! You're stealing from me."
Her: "I've never stolen anything from you."
Me: *mouth gaping for about 2 seconds..."How arrogant do you have to be to think I am talking to you personally rather than as a representative of your employer, Charter One?"

Oh yeah, that's when she quit trying to shush me.

the final determination, so far, was that I had to call customer service as she didn't have the authority to refund monies back to the account. When I indicated I had had money refunded to the account by tellers in the past her only response was that she wasn't a (lowly?) teller she was an assistant manager. Ok then...

Customer service refunded the original fee, but not the ones caused by it. I will be pursuing this further through the Comptroller of The Currency. I withdrew all money, that wasn't already outstanding, from the account, and as far as I am concerned, if I never set foot in Charter One Bank again, it will be too soon. Since we are both on direct deposit, I will have to withdraw our checks on Friday, but we will be taking our not inconsiderable banking business elsewhere immediately thereafter.

Am I being unreasonable? My hunny says I'm a "ruckus-causer" *snicker* But truly, if anyone out there thinks I am in the wrong - or in the right - I'd like to hear it. I have been known to be wrong...occasionally.


Anonymous said...

Thats burns me up!!

what I hate almost as much is I can write a check, and The Gap or whoever can "electronically present it" and its gone immediately. But somehow, if I deposit a check it still takes up to a week to "clear". Whats the difference?

Dawtch said...

I have no idea! But you're absolutely right, and it's crap! Unfortunately, what can you do, other than take it..? Communication with these places is almost impossible, and they're so big, they're going to do whatever they want, and get away with it. It sucks royally!

Reas Kroicowl said...

Ok, you were NOT in the wrong and that was complete bullshit. De-regulation in the 80s is what ultimately caused all of this. Banks can charge we the customer the most egregious fees for basically whatever the hell they want and we're always in the wrong. The fact that they didn't bother refunding you is just business. You're leaving? So what? Thousands more in line to take their lickings.

The check not clearing? It's another way they can hold our money and charge more fees. If you spent the money you "deposited" (but not really, since the bank is holding the check) and then you go into negative balance in the belief your money was there, well, $39 times two or three or four. And it's your fault for not keeping on top of things and not knowing the protocol with checks.

You're inspiring a post over on my end, and I will throw up numbers to back your (and now my, via highjack) rant. I've been burned too, and it sucks. It's why I no longer bank with Bank of America. Who, BTW, just upped their ATM fees from $2 to $3 at thousands of their machines last year. My bank reimburses me up to $15 a month for ATM fees, but I don't use BOA ATMs on principle.

Nogard's Lair said...

Watch "Maxed Out" on Showtime on demand. This is common practice! They even point out one credit card company that shredded on time payment checks, then charged the those customer late fees, and up their interest rate!

Anonymous said...

The same thing has happened to us at Charter One. I am speechless!

Charter One no longer offers a "free" checking account either. All of their changes took place after Citizens Bank "bought" them.

Something MUST be done! They cannot get away with charging overdraft fees when there is no overdraft!