Sep 302011
 

So I’ve known for quite a time, Bank of America (BofA) and I have not been working. Sometimes it’s just so hard to let get. I know folks might not understand loyalty to a business that doesn’t care about its customers. I want to share with you… a trip down memory lane.

Many, many years ago… back in 1994, I opened an account at a bank called Seafirst. Cute little name, right? It was a Seattle founded company with excellent customer service. EXCELLENT. The bank had a policy, which it displayed on all the walls next to clocks.  “Wait any longer than 5 minutes in line and the bank guarantees $5 to your account.” I have to say, going into a Seafirst was a joy as I eagerly waited for 5 minutes to pass.

Needless to say, I never received $5. Why? My wait time probably was like 1-2 minutes max each visit. <sigh> Those were the days. Back then, customer service really meant serving the customer.

The next year, I found myself out of state. Bummer, cause Seafirst always had those cool Versatellers (ATM) machines. What to do?  I didn’t know when I first opened my account, but BofA already owned Seafirst and also had Versatellers. Wicked cool! Using the Versatellers allowed me to avoid those nickle and dime charges we see at non-branch ATMs. I was set.

I traveled the country a bit, happily using my Versateller card. Didn’t see any more 5 minutes/$5 offers, but all was good. Finally in 2000 or so, Seafirst gave up their name and their awesome policies and went full BofA. The transition wasn’t too bad… at first. Mostly, I was just bummed to see a lot of the advantages of banking with Seafirst go away. Waiting less than 5 minutes was a thing of the past. Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Phone service was a hassle. The biggest advantage to staying with BofA was being able to find a Versateller where ever I landed.

Let’s skip ahead some years. In 2003, I moved to the Carolinas (South Carolina first). I opened an account at a non-BofA bank because the nearest Versateller was something like 45 minutes to an hour away. When I moved to North Carolina in 2006, I was once again in range of a BofA. Only thing… my WA state account was on a different system than the ones they used in NC. What? To simplify matters, I opened another BofA account. That’s when things went all to fuck.

We were hit pretty hard financially in 2008. Bills piled up and credit ratings took a dip. Being with BofA sure didn’t help matters.

The account I opened at the NC BofA was a joint account I shared with my husband. Before our 2008 financial fiasco, we’d managed pretty well sharing the account. We always had money in it, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t keep a ledger. Then one day it happened. Our balanced dipped below $0. To make matters worse, my husband had been using the account to buy food and drinks while on the road. Little purchases — a pack of gum, a hot dog, soda. Nothing big, maybe 5-20 a day. At least I thought it was no big deal. Those little purchases cost us the most.

This is how BofA handled the situation. I’m going to make up numbers and dates here, but you should get the gist. Let’s start with a beginning balance of $517 with the following transactions:

Transaction Date Amount
Gas station purchase 8/8/2008 2
Gas station purchase 8/8/2008 7
McD 8/8/2008 8
Gas station 8/8/2008 65
Gas station purchase 8/9/2008 4
Gas station purchase 8/9/2008 5
Grocery store 8/9/2008 120
Gas station purchase 8/10/2008 3
Gas station purchase 8/10/2008 5
Phone bill 8/10/2008 138
Power bill 8/10/2008 175
Deposit 8/10/2008 100

Let’s say you see the disaster coming and try to divert it by depositing $100. The thing with BofA is they don’t always process the charges when they receive them. Often, they hold onto the charge (pending) until they can maximize the penalties… at least that’s what it seems to me. So, 8/11/2008 rolls around. All the charges above were pending the night before. And remember, the account balance was $517.

This was how BofA processed the transactions back in 2008:

Transaction Date Amount Balance
517
Power bill 8/10/2008 175 342
Phone bill 8/10/2008 138 204
Grocery store 8/9/2008 120 84
Gas station 8/8/2008 65 19
McD 8/8/2008 8 11
Gas station purchase 8/8/2008 7 4
Gas station purchase 8/9/2008 5 -1
Gas station purchase 8/10/2008 5 -6
Gas station purchase 8/9/2008 4 -10
Gas station purchase 8/10/2008 3 -13
Gas station purchase 8/8/2008 2 -15
Overdraft ($35 each) 8/10/2008 175 -190
Deposit (Pending) 8/11/2008 ++100 -90

Note the largest transactions are on top so the funds are depleted by the time the smaller transactions come around. When I saw that, I was like WTF! And because everything was pending for a few days, they managed to stick the little transactions at the bottom even though they came in first. Note, the deposit that was put in on 8/10/2008 is now pending, so that didn’t even help.

So I asked them, why would you do that? Put all the big transactions first and nickle and dime me (well, more like $35 fees per overdraft) on the little charges. You know what they said? Something to the point, we do the big ones first cause usually the big charges are the most important– like the mortgage. That way the important bills get paid. What? Do you take me for a fool? You paid ALL of the transactions. What makes you think I wanted to pay $35 for a candy bar? I would rather pay $35 for a mortgage overdraft fee than seven (7) $35 fees for sodas and hot dogs. Hell, I would have rather have had the mortgage bounce sky high then rack up a buttload of overdraft charges. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back in time, slip through the phone line, and beat the hell out of the rep.

One thing for sure, you can definitely count on BofA to kick you when you’re at your worst. Now that’s dependability!

Let’s say BofA had been considerate of the customer. They might have processed it something like this:

Transaction Date Amount Balance
517
Gas station purchase 8/8/2008 2 515
Gas station purchase 8/8/2008 7 508
McD 8/8/2008 8 500
Gas station 8/8/2008 65 435
Gas station purchase 8/9/2008 4 431
Gas station purchase 8/9/2008 5 426
Grocery store 8/9/2008 120 306
Gas station purchase 8/10/2008 3 303
Gas station purchase 8/10/2008 5 298
Phone bill 8/10/2008 138 160
Power bill 8/10/2008 175 -15
Overdraft ($35) 8/10/2008 35 -50
Deposit (Pending) 8/11/2008 -100 50

Notice, the transactions are now processed in the date created. Perhaps they even choose to process the little ones first. The customer is hit with a $35 fee instead of $175 fee. Same number of transactions, but the customer isn’t taking it up the ass. You can try going into the branch or calling, but I doubt they’ll give you much help. I think they have some kind of policy which states they’ll refund 1 fee per year.

I should have ditched BofA back then, but I didn’t. I just tried to be more cautious. Idiot me, it wasn’t the last time I got hit with a bunch of overdraft charges for similar situations. Then a year or so ago, the Feds started putting rules in place to protect the customers a little. Instead of the unlimited overdraft fees, banks can only charge a certain number. I think (but don’t quote me on that) the number is 4 for BofA. Still not great to be hit with $140 in charges because they want to do the greatest transaction first while holding onto the little ones, but better than $300+.

Over the past year or two, I’d stopped using BofA as my main bank. I still kept the account open, but really only used it to deposit money then transfer it to other non-BofA accounts. Well, Wednesday I did a deposit and did my typical transferring. I left a bit extra to write a check and do a little grocery shopping yesterday. I did some calculating and realized I’d overspent. Ran home, transferred funds into the account. Low and behold, both transactions (grocery shopping and check) went through, but the deposit was “pending.”

Yes, my fault for miscalculating. But give me a break. The grocery store was pending all night long on 9/29. BofA does their processing after midnight, which means the groceries would have been processed on 9/30, yet they decide to post it for the day before? This morning they already had the deposit pending, so why save that for the next day? Why not just process it at the same time they processed the check and groceries?

I called them up, asking if they’d reverse the charges. Come on, $35 fee for going $0.95 in the hole when the money is right there. The deposit is pending, for Pete’s sake! By the way, who is this Pete guy?

-Nope… can’t do it, the rep said.

I guess you don’t want my business,” I said.

-Yes we do.

“Well, it sure doesn’t seem like it.”

Anyway, we didn’t work out an agreement. I don’t get it. I don’t agree. And I’m not going to deal with it any more. My final response was, “Alright. I’ll go down and close my account.”

BofA, you paid yourself big bonuses with my stimulus money, yet offered nothing in return but grief. You take every opportunity to screw customers over and are completely inflexible. Now you’re complaining you can’t make any money screwing folks over the old ways so want to charge fees just for using a debit card. Okay… so be it.

Some options for folks in similar positions. BofA will try to encourage you to use your debit card in other ways, at least that what they’ve told me. What ways? 1) When you need to make a purchase, first go to the ATM machine and withdraw the money then pay in cash. Okay… I guess you can say goodbye to your online purchases then. 2) Choose a different banking plan which may or may not cost you more than the $5 fee. Great news folks! I have an alternative solution 3) Ditch BofA and go with a credit union or smaller bank which believes in customer service.

My nearly 20 years of consumer loyalty to BofA definitely has not paid off. It took me all of an hour to drive to Bofa, close my account, and return home. It was so worth the gas. The only thing I have left for BofA is this:

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