Man fights B of A over fee and wins
Bank of America restores a customer's free checking for life after he complained to the media.
The name and ownership of Robert Whitten's bank has changed several times since 1971, but one thing that remained the same was his free checking account -- that is, until Bank of America acquired the bank.
Displaying a remarkable grasp of personal finance for someone his age, Whitten signed up for free checking for life with what was then Virginia Commonwealth Bank when he was 17. It was a new-customer promotion.
Bank of America, which has recently added monthly service charges to a variety of checking accounts, began charging Whitten, now 57, a fee last year, says ABC News.
"I had the account from then until now and I discovered one day that they were taking $14 a month out of it," he said. "I assumed I had had free checking for life and that meant life."
That offer expired, Bank of America reportedly said. Whitten replied, "But I haven't." (Post continues below.)
The clever man contacted KGO-TV, an ABC News affiliate in San Francisco, and B of A reinstated Whitten's free checking for life the next day, plus refunded $168.
KGO said, "The bank could not discuss the case citing privacy reasons, but did say, 'We typically honor legacy free checking account agreements, as we have done in this case.'"
If Whitten's account status turns out to be truly permanent, he may soon be a rarity. More banks have done away with free checking in order to raise revenue. Nowadays, you'll pay a monthly fee at many banks unless you meet conditions like keeping a large minimum balance or setting up direct deposit of a paycheck.
Fitch, a ratings agency, has warned that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's plan to crackdown on banks' overdraft fee practices could speed up the end of free checking accounts entirely. The cost of checking account fees has surged 21% in the past six years, according to Bloomberg.
Have you been surprised by a new monthly fee on your checking account?
Seriously, when was the last time you checked? My bank surprised me with a hefty checking account fee this month although I'd met all the conditions to remain fee-free. The fee was waived, but despite reviews by several bankers, the bank couldn't explain how it happened.
More on MSN Money:
When Wells Fargo notified me that they would begin charging for my checking account, I started looking for another bank. I found 3 within a 5 minute drive of my home. All three offered checking accounts with no minimum balance, no monthly fee, and a free check card. One is a smaller local bank, the other two are larger banks. They all offer overdraft protection, online banking, and all the other banking goodies we've come to expect. I had no trouble dumping Wells Fargo.
If you're not pleased with your bank's fees, check out the competitors. Your bank is counting on customers thinking that every other bank charges fees, or that changing banks is too much of a hassle, or that changing your auto-pays over to the new bank will be hard, or that it's worth it to stick with them until your supply of checks runs out. And it seems once you've been hit with a $7 or $10 or $14 fee for a few months, you tend to end up going with the flow and accepting the monthly fee. They know this. Don't let them get away with it. Take your money and walk!
BANKS ARE FOR PROFIT AND WILL ALWAYS CHARGE FEES.
CREDIT UNIONS AND OWNED BY THEIR MEMBERS AND ARE NOT FOR PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS
THUS LOW TO NO FEES (MINE HAS FREE CHECKING)
AND BETTER INTEREST RATES
AND MORE LIKELY TO DO A LOAND FOR YOU
GO TO CREDIT UNIONS!
"'We typically honor legacy free checking account agreements, as we have done in this case.'"
"as we have done in this case" is bank-speak for "when we get caught".
I too have had my issues with my bank. Provident was my bank until M & T Bank bought them out and I have been with them since. In February I deposited a check someone gave me that bounced, due to a problem they said they had w/their bank, they did take care of this later with a cash payment to me. I didn't find out right away though, and since it was right before I received my monthly retirement money my account was down a little low, but I thought there was still enough funds. They had charged a "bad" check fee to me for this person's bad check and of course the original deposit was no good. I sent out a couple checks, thinking I had money in there. Two of the checks I sent out the bank honored, but charged me $35 each ($70.00 total). I don't know about other retirees, but I sure can't afford $70.00. I wrote M & T Bank, and since I never had a problem before this I thought they would be considerate enough to of at least reimburse me for one $35 fee. However, I received a very "cold" letter from them and a packet of all their rules, etc. etc. etc. Can't wait until my printed checks run out so I can change banks. This bank has no intention of bending their "rules" a little or being compassionate for anyone. "Where's good ole George from the movie, It's A Good Life, when you need him?" He didn't treat the customers of that Building & Loan this way ya know!!.....P.S...forgot to mention, one of the $35 fees was for a check for $22!
People still have their money in banks? I could understand a local bank--and I understand this man staying if they are honoring his legacy agreement--but Bank of (un)America? Really? They aren't even owned by Americans any more. Most of the big banks aren't.
Anyone other than the 1% should have their money in a credit union or local bank--credit unions are not-for-profit and do not do predatory lending. They are best for the small account--the person who doesn't have all that many assets.
I can understand the 1% doing business with the bigger banks--heck, they might own a share--but for us little people, keeping our money in a more democratically-run institution which invests locally and that is not out to cheat its patrons makes a heck of a lot more sense.
BOA are total (fudgers)* They pulled the 'moving due date' game with me also. A couple years and suddenly one month my bill is due ten days earlier. After fighting and (eventually) winning that battle, they tried another: My bill due on the 24th, paid on the 23rd, is 'accepted' on the 25th-late fees! I pay on the 20th, accepted on the 25th-late fees! I pay on the 18th. It is deducted from my account within a half hour. They have up to five days to process my online payments which they will use if it it gets them more money. As I said- Absolute (fudgers)* AND we gave them hundreds of millions through taxpayer bailouts. I wish the people could afford government representation.
* (fudgers) is a euphemism for what they actually are
Is anyone at all surprised that BoA would pull this kind of thing? This is the same bank that has (at least twice that I know of) lost class action suits because they deliberately sequenced withdrawals ahead of deposits on the same night to force multiple overdraft charges that should never have been applied, which meant that even after the deposit was finally applied, there would be less in the account than the customer thought, which would lead to more overdraft fees before the next deposit.
BoA certainly does stand for "Bend over America".
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Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
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A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
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