Cafe Witness

Friday, April 20, 2007

Personal Banking Blues

I received a $500 check from a freelance client last week. I deposited it in my bank on Friday. Despite the fact that it was (as far as I can recall) from a local bank, the check still took 5 days to clear. The teller neglected to mention this, though they usually do when a check will have a hold.

So I presumed the money was there.

On Monday, I tried to book a plane ticket using my bank card.

Denied.

I checked my online bank account, which showed that the money was, indeed, there.

I tried again.

Denied.

Confused, I tried to PayPal myself $150 -- the price of the ticket -- and PayPal accepted the request.

The next day, I called my bank's homebase and asked what the situation was. The clerk explained that there was a hold on my check for 5 days, and that my account was actually $5 in the negative.

I wound up malling 3 different bank branches -- on of them twice -- to settle the matter. The last thing I was told, by the manager at my branch, was: "I'll try to find an image of the check to verify that it was a local bank. If that's the case, I'll see if I can lift the hold. In the future, remember that deposited checks may take up to 5 days to clear."

(Never mind that I've deposited checks from this client before that cleared automatically.)

"Will I get hit with overdraft fees because my account is in the negative?"

"Probably."

"But my online bank account tells me the money's there."

"Right. But just because the money's there, it doesn't mean it's available."

Cut to: today, the day I was told the check would finally be available.

I check my bank account. $467 available.

I inspect further. "$150 PayPal transfer - returned. $30 Insufficient Funds Cancellation fee."

Meanwhile, the price of the ticket is now $194.

So, essentially, I was charged a $30 penalty by my bank for not being able to transfer my own money from one account to another because I was overdrafted by $5 because no one told me there was a hold on the check.

Entire cost of not knowing there was a five day hold on the check? $74.

Personal banking = broken.

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7 Comments:

  • I had a similar thing happen ....i am supposed to get emails when my account drops below $100. one time i didnt get that email and i got nailed with overdrafts....i called the bank and they refunded one of my overdrafts....I had the money in another account i would have transferred if they would have done their job and told me i passed that min.

    stoopid banks....damn the institution!!!

    By Blogger patheticboy, at 11:42 AM  

  • Look around any town and you'll quickly see that the bank buildings are always the nicest ones.

    Now you know.

    :-)

    By Anonymous Michael Bailey, at 11:47 AM  

  • I used to work in a bank. If you explain logically that you were upset that this happened and you have a good customer record with the bank, they'll generally waive a fee or so on the spot. Don't start screaming at the tellers, speak with customer service in that branch.

    Technically the bank should be showing your 'available' balance on your printed deposit slip receipt or via the ATM.

    By Blogger Shiggy, at 12:59 PM  

  • Doing business in cash...

    Priceless.

    Yet, completly impossible these days.

    I am a luddite only as pertains to money.

    By Blogger Andrew Smith, at 3:50 PM  

  • See if you're eligible to join a credit union instead. Many credit unions are far more service-oriented, have the same deposit insurance as banks, and often have better rates. My credit union has overdraft protection as well, which is essentially a short term loan. The same situation would have cost me probably $1.11 in overdraft interest for 5 days - credit unions are one of personal finance's greatest secrets.

    By Blogger Christopher, at 9:44 PM  

  • There was a class action lawsuit almost on point on this issue in Michigan 3-4 years ago, though I have no idea how it worked out. Guy checked online and it said he had an available balance of X. He took out less then X from the bank and they charged him an overdraft fee because the money, even though it said it was available, wasn't actually available.

    By Anonymous Robert Melton, at 6:48 AM  

  • Shiggy i don't agree with you for one minute. No only does my bank stick it to me over similar situations (even when i have other accounts with plenty of funds), but they have never ever refunded an overdraft fee.

    Once i threatened to move to 5th/3rd and that didn't work, but hey you have to try once in a while.

    Also bank hours Suck. I have to take time out of my work day to go to the bank. If I need to get mad at a teller I have to do it on company time.

    By Blogger Norm, at 9:23 PM  

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