Monday, August 31, 2009

Nagging, Part I - The Evil Bank (of America)

One of the reasons why I was feeling so overwhelmed lately was my banking issues. I've never been too bank-friendly and I cannot understand why people cannot lead a normal life if they don't have a bank account, credit, etc. In my opinion, this only exists to give you an extra hassle, and truthfully, I only use it because I absolutely have to - nowadays you can't do much without one.

If you ask me how to make a transfer - or anything else other than deposits and withdraws for that matter -, I am completely illiterate. I only put the cash in, take the cash out and try to keep track of my money via online banking.

A couple of years ago I had to open one because of work. A couple of friends told me to open one at Bank of America, a couple of friends told me not to. Reluctantly and foolishly, I did it. I opened a checking account with BofA.

Countless times I deposited checks and they would hold it for 5-7 days... and countless times I paid overdrawn fees because of that (which, technically shouldn't be my fault since the money IS in the account). They would tell me there was nothing they could do about it, it was the system, the computers did not allow it, etc etc... Until one day I was traveling to a different country, a teller who I had become acquainted with just pushed a few buttons on the computer and voilĂ . No more holds on my checks. And thousands of dollars worth of overdraft fees went down the drain for me, into BofA's pockets.

They have this thing called "overdraft protection program", which is apparently, nothing more than a waste of your time (setting it up) and a trap for them to use your money for investments and still charge you for overdrafts. Yes, that's right. I had it setup IN the bank, by one of their own people... and one day I needed to use it, so I confess I wasn't particularly worried about my balance since I knew I had overdraft protection with over $500 dollars in my savings. To my surprise, a few days later when I check my online banking, I am hundreds of dollars negative, and the money in the savings account remained untouched... they never used the protection plan, and I had to use all money in my savings to cover for the fees - had the protection plan been effective, it would've been only 10-20 bucks.

But what really got on my nerves was the fact that, in about a month period they managed to take around $1,000 dollars from my account giving me the lamest excuses and arguing with me and making me sound stupid.
It started with my rent check in July. I wrote the check, a few days later it was debited from my account, but my roommate never got the money in hers. The money was lost somewhere in the banking outer space. And then BofA decided it would be fair to charge me an overdraft fee for a bounced check. Not expecting the extra $35 off of my account (that's how much they charge), I went out for lunch with boyfriend, he had macdonald's and i had something else. Then we had ice-cream. Then I bought a couple more small items. I would've been fine, but the unexpected fee made my account negative, which triggered ANOTHER FIVE OVERDRAFT FEES. Because they charge per item, and not per day.
I started calling customer service and each time they would tell me something different had happened. I talked to an expert in these banking issues and she advised me to ask for an interpreter, regardless of my speaking English. I did that. What happened? The interpreter was clearly a low-class Brazilian woman (I could tell by the way she spoke) and she didn't know I spoke English, so she started mocking me to the BofA attendant, until I said "Excuse me, I can hear you, and I can understand you too." She was speechless and they disconnected me.

After almost a month struggling to get my money back, I ultimately gave up, I paid them what they wanted just to get it overwith and told boyfriend: Do not let the account go anywhere close to $0.

One Friday, I go buy some lunch at In N'Out (which resulted in pubic hair food poisoning), and then dinner at Pick Up Stix. Then before heading home I make a deposit just to make sure my account will be covered with a positive balance, since I knew there wasn't much money in it, and go grocery shopping.
I checked online banking at home before going to bed, probably between 12am-1am. I have a positive balance of $20 even with the pending debits from lunch, dinner, grocery and a couple of online purchases I made.

"Boyfriend, I have $20 dollars left in the account, let's not touch it until I deposit more, ok?"
So that was that and I didn't even look at my online banking since it was Saturday (and Sunday is not a banking day) and I had not touched my card. On Monday I needed to check something online, and to my surprise, my available balance is not $20 anymore, it's $0. I go to the statement page, and guess what? My account is now miraculously $151 dollars NEGATIVE. How can that be???
I'll tell you how. In the hours between Saturday 1am and Monday morning, they charged me 2 mysterious overdraft fees and pulled it down under my Friday purchases - on a positive balance -, which made my last transactions negative, which made them charge me MORE overdraft fees.

I went in 2 different branches, one of them the manager gave me a paper printed at the bank where the bank was overcharging me for the transactions, and she kept repeating herself which made me think either she was too stupid to explain it, or I was too stupid to understand.
A few days later I went to the second branch, the manager was on vacation and the person assisting me said there was clearly something wrong with it - and the statement that she had on my account was already different from what the previous woman had, and what I had on my online banking. She tried to give me a refund but she said she didn't have the authority in the system.

She gave me a number I should call (customer service), and my boss recommended someone from a different branch for me to talk to. I called this person first, but instead of talking to her, I was transferred to customer service. Good enough.
I talked to a girl named Stephanie, amazingly enough the data she had in her system was again, different from what the 2 previous ones had - and from the one I had on my online banking.

She keeps telling me I was charged the overdraft fees because I was indeed negative (when I actually know for a fact that 2 Fridays before, when they started charging the fees, I was positive), and I say "No, what I see here is that you charged me overdraft fees on a positive balance" and she says I can only be crazy to say something like that. AM I??? OH AM I???? The conversation went kinda like this:

Me: Ok, Stephanie, so I'll just send you a print screen of what I see here.
Her: I'm sorry but we don't take any e-mails or faxes.
Me: Oh really? So I'll just go ahead and e-mail this to the BBB, and I would also like to have your full name please.
Her: I can't give you my full name.
Me: So can I talk to your Supervisor?
Her: .... [pause] Ok... hold please.

I was on hold for 15-20 minutes more and then disconnected.
I had given up, but then the person my boss had recommended called her, and she passed the phone on to me. She was adorable, but couldn't help me at all. Instead, I had to listen to her lecture me about controlling my expenses. And yes, you guessed it right: The statement she had was different from all the previous others. And she kept telling me "But you started the day [on Aug 7th] negative!!! That's why you were overdrawn!!!"
Indeed, she was absolutely right:

(read it from bottom to top)

But what comes before the 7th is funny too:

As I said, overdrawn on a positive balance is something only BofA can do for you. I had a nervous breakdown because of this, and I do not want to argue with anyone anymore. When I said I wanted to close the account they told me I have to pay them $250 dollars to do that (the amount my account is negative now with extended overdrawn fees) and I am morally struggling to do that, but I might just have to in order to get some peace.

I googled "evil bank" and "bank abuse" and amazingly, the first few links on websearch and image search were all Bank of America related. If you're thinking of opening a new account, DO NOT OPEN WITH BANK OF AMERICA. They will eat your money away.


  1. Aww, Lilize :( My heart goes out to you under such unfair circumstances!

    When I was in the US, I had a checking account with Well's Fargo and had never encountered a problem - quite the contrary.

    I say do the sacrifice and release yourself and your money from such tyranny. They should be sued!


  2. @Wilmaryad: some friends have been telling me now to open a new account with Wells Fargo, I even know someone who works there and can do it for me... I will ultimately end up doing it, but for now I am procrastinating for as long as I possibly can... keeping distance from banks, u know? hehehe

    thanks for your words!!!! :)

  3. Ugghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh i HATE banks. i do!
    my bank messed up like that once, but they admitted their mistake n cancelled the overdraft fees, but it was still a major headache. go and see them, speak to the manager, and keep at it till they admit they're in the wrong! i can really feel your suffering T_____T

  4. ugh! banks are ____!!! i'm glad i'm reading your blog... i get to know many things about where you live and relay it to my mom (living in san jose)...

    btw, thanks for swinging by again... i'm from the Phils... ^_^

  5. see if the state government has a consumer protection division, and if they have consumer advocates who will intervene on your behalf, try that. it made an immediate difference for me in dealing with a company in vermont. otherwise, call the state attorney general's office and inquire about making a complaint about BofA. If they can't help you, they may be able to help you find someone who will.

    i hope you've moved your money to a diff. bank -- you do not deserve this abuse.

  6. Lilize! I love you! You are sooooo good for my ego!ahaha ha! but actually I really need a diet lol! i'll be going back to uni soon n my mom is cooking up a storm n feeding me a whole year's worth of food before i leave!haha....ahhhh mothers......

  7. Lilize!
    I have finally answered your question in my latest post.
    There's a new giveaway coming up soon!



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