Pet Peeves

Bank Fees

Listen, guys – I couldn’t let another day go by without addressing one of the most egregious offences in our current economy: bank fees.

It’s no secret that banks make much of their revenue by assessing outrageous overdraft charges to consumers, most of whom are the most financially pressed. In 2009, US banks made over $38.5 billion dollars in overdraft fees alone, with most institutions assessing anywhere from $25 – $35 per transaction. That means that if your $3 bottle of SmartWater at the airport puts you even $1 in the red, it could be the most expensive beverage you’ve ever had.

Some banks – such as Bank of America – have even gotten in trouble for the practices used when applying said fees. Unsurprisingly, they were caught reordering customer transactions in order to process larger checks and sums first and maximize overdrafts. Of course, they now find themselves involved in a $410 million class action lawsuit because of it. CitiBank and Wells Fargo have been involved in similar litigation, though they’re certainly not the only ones.

I’m sure we’ve all run into times when finances are tight – especially if you’re more artistically inclined and/or not working a traditional 9 to 5 – and that experience is stressful enough on its own. Adding to that the possibility that you could end up paying bigtime for a small misstep certainly doesn’t help.

I ran into a situation like this just last week, when several small automatic transactions were applied to my checking account early. By early, I mean “a few hours before my direct deposit hit”. While the four transactions totaled less than $40 in all, my bank (Capital One) applied a hefty $35 per overdraft and then another on top of it since the account didn’t have enough money in it to cover the overdraft fees. Makes a whole lot of sense, right?

I was understandably upset when I checked my account balance the morning after I got paid, only to see that I was nearly in the red again because of this. I decided to pursue this with the bank and rang the customer service number, only to be told that there was nothing they could do but that I could try to contact my home branch to see if the manager would make an exception. Did she? Of course not. After explaining the circumstances and even admitting that it was totally my fault for not keeping better track of things, my wonderfully caring local manager cut me off and told me in a disinterested tone, “Yeah, there’s nothing we can do. It’s not a bank error so you’re out of luck.”

That’s it.

The situation left a bad taste in my mouth and with an Aw, hell no! attitude, I decided to take it to the 21st Century to set things right. That’s right: I contacted Capital One on Twitter. All I did was send an @ reply message to the account which simply read, “Why are your policies so terrible? So much for putting the customer first!” Slightly dramatic, sure, but I was growing desperate. Needless to say, they began following me within five minutes and shortly after that I received a direct message from one of their customer service reps. We exchanged roughly 3 messages before I received a call from a nice woman in their executive escalations department and was informed that as a “courtesy”, they’d refund all but one of the fees this time despite it being against their usual practices.

All’s well that ends well, I suppose, but let’s get real – why should I have had to go that far for such a small mistake? Despite new regulations put in place last year by the Federal Reserve, banks are still swindling consumers of billions of dollars per year in fees just to pad the pockets of the industry. It’s not cool, and overdrafts aren’t the only way you could be losing cash – Consumerist also put together a list of other charges you could be incurring from your respective financial institution. Stop the madness, people.

Have you guys had bad experiences with banks? Let it all out in the comments section!

Image via Unheard No More!

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