If You Are Planning To Die Soon, Avoid Bank Of America

Because Marc B. hadn’t used his account for a few years, Bank of America decided he must have died, and froze his account. Then they started charging a maintenance fee, which eventually overdrew his account. Full email inside.

I opened a bank account with Bank of America (simplest one, I had just moved into the country and didn’t need anything fancy, nor could I get it because of no credit history) around 4 years ago and used it for roughly a year. Having another more suitable bank account (read: with lower fees), I stopped using the BoA account and decided to leave some money there, figuring that I will find a good occasion to spend it on a future purchase.

A couple years pass, then BoA decided that I might be dead (that’s what the customer agent told me later) and froze my account (to prevent anyone from using my dead corpse’s money (customer agent again)).

Well, in fact somebody could still my use my money, not me (I could be dead, remember), but Bank of America itself, who decided that it should take $5.95 every month. Eventually this account dried, and I became negative on my balance, they continued asking for $5.95, no mercy for the poor dead man.

I eventually found the nearest BoA branch to close this account. Nothing can be that simple, because my account was frozen (well semi frozen since BoA keep unfreezing it to get $5.95 a month), they had to call whoever (Microwave master?) to unfreeze it. The Master was obviously busy because the call was still waiting when I left 20 minutes later. The agent didn’t offer me to refund me the monthly fees and explained that this was the procedure to cover for all the account. Fair enough I answered, just for me how many transactions happened on the account in the last 3 years ? None, sir.

So how I see it is, BoA freeze a dead person’s account and dries it off before the inheritors can get access to it. If you are planning to die soon, avoid BoA, well in fact avoid them period.

Sounds like it’s time to get in touch with someone higher up. The first place I send people who email us is to The Ultimate Consumerist Guide to Fighting Back. There, Marc will find corporate phone numbers for Bank of America, as well as the mailing address for the CEO.

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. APFPilot says:

    Call their executive customer support, it can’t be beat.

  2. detraya says:

    wow.. that is utterly ridiculous.

  3. Wormfather says:

    Wow, just wow.

    Eventually, its going to get to the point where the banks are going to start charging preemptive fees.

    Sir, we see you ususally spend about $2300 a month, we noticed that you only have $1700 in your account so we went ahead and charged you $180 in overdraft fees.

    No, it’s not refundable

    Bank of America, bank of opportunists.

  4. Smitherd says:

    I’m totally on BoA’s side here – those dead customers are always cramping their style!

    /sarcasm

  5. Someone will be rising from their grave to get their fees back!

  6. frankadelic says:

    Marc, while your story is horrifying I’m cracking up at your delivery. Good luck with their executive CS department.

  7. Wimpkins says:

    Dead corpse…

    lol

  8. dorkins says:

    With all the hard work that BoA has to do to maintain your tragically neglected account, $5.95 is a bargain, I’m sure we’d all agree. Any lower and they’d have to outsource that back-breaking work.

  9. bonzombiekitty says:

    Down the street from me is a house that has a giant yellow banner that says “I HATE BANK OF AMERICA!”. I keep meaning to take a picture of it and send it to this site.

  10. sirwired says:

    Inactive account fees are nothing new, and usually disclosed in the bank’s fee policy. However, after a certain period of time (varies from state to state), they are supposed to turn the money over to the state’s abandoned property office.

  11. Mollyg says:

    Lets not forget that unless the account had a very good fixed interest rate, BoA was making money on the account event without taking out $5.95 per month.

  12. How much was in the account? Was it under the miniumum amount? But it could be worse. My Dad opened an account at his local bank for me, and threw in ~$1500. He didn’t tell me about it, and when he did, I asked him to take it out since I could throw it in a ING CD and get some keen interest(they had high rates at the time). Turns out the bank decided to turn my money over to the state after three years, and I have no clue where the money is now. Even though my Dad knows everyone at the branch and vice-versa, they didn’t ask him about the account, just closed it and sent my money off.

  13. Toof_75_75 says:

    @frankadelic:
    The delivery was priceless.

  14. sleze69 says:

    Well this story might just elevate BoA’s chances at the title for Worst company this year. This type of systemic procedure of charging a fee to freeze an account because someone is dead, IMHO, borders on fraud.

  15. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    @Wormfather:

    we see you ususally spend about $2300 a month, we noticed that you only have $1700 in your account so we went ahead and charged you $180 in overdraft fees.

    No, it’s not refundable

    That’s the funniest thing I’ve read all day.

  16. Yifkong says:

    Aside from that BS maintenance fee, it’s standard banking practice for a dormant account. From the FDIC website:

    “Many people incorrectly believe that a financial institution just keeps accounts open forever and the money is sitting in the bank’s vault waiting for them to come and get it,” says Kathleen Halpin, an FDIC insurance claims agent based in Dallas. In reality, state laws require banks to transfer inactive accounts to the state government where the depositor was last known to live. While state laws vary, this transfer would occur if there were no transactions or communications from the account owner for about five years, and the bank was unsuccessful trying to reach the owner”

  17. Optimistic Prime says:

    I find this funny; I tried to put a freeze on my dead brothers account with Bank Atlantic in Florida. I was trying to protect the banks’ interests as well as my brother’s. They refused to talk to me unless I went into the branch and were unable to even temporarily freeze the account. The problem is I live in Ohio. When I questioned how this made sense the CSR hung up on me!

  18. virtuallori says:

    I agree that account maintenance fees are a questionable practice, especially when the account is just sitting there — they are doing nothing but raking in interest on your money, after all, and crediting a smaller portion of it to your account — but these fees and policies are disclosed when you sign up for the account, and fees for inactive accounts are nothing new. Do people just not pay attention? And why wasn’t he checking his bank statements? The first time I noticed that fee, I would have been in the branch to have it reversed and close the account! How long did he ignore it that it managed to dry up and then overdraw his account? I have a hard time rustling up any sympathy for this situation.

  19. insightpatch says:

    So, wait… What if Marc actually was dead? Bank of America would have charged a dead man because they themselves overdrafted his account. I complain about the bank I have an account with through my school, but I’m so glad they ended their contract with Bank of America before my freshman year.

  20. Boltonism says:

    Banks are required by regulation to turn over inactive accounts to the state. I find it funny that, the bank did not charge you a monthly service fee until the account became dormant. There are likely a couple reasons for this fee choice assessed by the bank.

    1) Apparently no one is monitoring the account, and it’s complete hand in the cookie jar decision. As long as the fee is published, they get to assess it, and it’s pure income to the bank. They claim this is to recover their costs incurred by maintaining records and mailing statements. Of course, they have absorbed that “cost” up until the account became dormant.

    2) By assessing a dormant account fee that kicks in long before they would be legally required to turn the funds over to the state, they can successfully drain the account and NOT be required by regulation to then turn the money over (because no more exists to remit). They have collected the balance of the account as income, and now at zero (or worse, overdrawn) they no longer have to do the work to report the account and turn over said funds. Bookkeeping requirements put banks in the position where it is an administrative chore to remit such funds. No remaining funds – nothing to report. Easy!

  21. timmus says:

    I hope I don’t have to tell my story again of why I closed our commercial account at Bank of America several years ago, but in short this bank was incompetent and it had one of the worst menu tree systems I can ever recall.

    And for what it’s worth I’m glad I don’t have to keep seeing that “Are you a resident of Georgia?” question that they constantly ask every account holder in the U.S. all the time (unless things have changed).

  22. chemmy says:
  23. The Porkchop Express says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: your state should have a website for lost/unclaimed property.

    I know florida has one called FLtreasurehunt.com there are several other states that I know have one, but I can’t think of them.

    oh, and: Credit Union

  24. ideagirl says:

    @bonzombiekitty: please do…

  25. hi says:

    I used to get that same fee on my account. They said the only way to avoid it was to set up an $1 auto transfer from my checking account into my savings account… this worked fine until my checking account balance didn’t have the $1 in it…(read: im poor) then BOA with their super computers and high tech programming couldn’t see there wasn’t a $1 in it and then charged me $35 overdraft fee… of course they do this on purpose to stick it to the poor people (who else wouldn’t have $1 in their account?).

  26. NoWin says:

    @Wormfather: +1!

    And for a mere $9.95 a month (pre-paid), our insurance company can offer you an insurance policy to protect you form being taunted by B of A a second time!

    (thanks Monty Python…)

  27. NoWin says:

    rats: form=from

  28. lpranal says:

    @Wormfather: “Sir, we see you ususally spend about $2300 a month, we noticed that you only have $1700 in your account so we went ahead and charged you $180 in overdraft fees.”

    At which point, a polished red wooden ball descends in a chute, with your name on it, and Tom Cruise rappels from a helicopter into your dining room, to arrest you for committing a FutureCrime® (sponsored by Pepsi)

    A brave new world indeed…

  29. deadlizard says:

    BoA is working really hard this year to win Worst Company in America.

  30. elf6c says:

    @sleze69:

    Nah, the anti-Comcast ‘turfers should save them.

    Not that Comcast is any great shakes. . .

  31. Tikabelle says:

    @hi: I used to have that option too, but apparently BofA got rid of it. Now the only way for us poor people to have a free account with them is to either switch it over to a Campus account (must be a student) or to have Direct Deposit. Since I’m a nanny, direct deposit isn’t an option. Good thing I’m still in school.

    I dislike BofA a lot, but as far as I can see most banks suck to some degree and at this point, it’s a matter of the devil I know vs. the devil I don’t.

  32. TechnoDestructo says:

    @sirwired:

    Raise that inactive account fee high enough, and you’ll never have to turn over a dime!

    I know, just square it every month.

  33. stageright says:

    Yup, I’ve had BoA *reopen* an account I closed, begin billing me service fees, then send me to collections a year later. When I went into the branch, they told me I’d have to go back to the original branch I’d opened the account at (1200 miles away) rather than the branch where I’d closed, and they’d re-opened, my account.

    I’ll never use BoA again for anything, ever, period no matter what.

  34. @Lo-Pan: NJ has one, but there are no contact numbers, only mailing addresses. I sent out a request, but no contact as of yet.

  35. greensmurf says:

    Serves you right for playing dead, maybe next time you will think twice before tying to act like you died. hah hah

  36. MPHinPgh says:

    @greensmurf:

    /snip/
    “and the bank was unsuccessful trying to reach the owner”

    Hmmm…I wonder, DID the bank try to reach the owner? Shouldn’t that be a requirement before they start scooping out money that belongs to a “dead person”?

  37. vastrightwing says:

    Funny… my mattress never charges me anything to keep my money there. Even if I don’t do anything for many years, my money stays there. I say, don’t keep money in a bank: especially BoA!

  38. PeteyNice says:

    @Tikabelle: BofA’s “MyAccess” free checking does not have a direct deposit requirement. However, depending on where you are, how much money you have and how you bank there are lots of better alternatives. I’d use a credit union before I went with BofA and I am not a big fan of credit unions (I actually leave town occasionally and like not having to pay ATM fees).

  39. vastrightwing says:

    My mattress never charges me an inactivity fee.

  40. backbroken says:

    So BofA would charge a “dead man’s” estate for overdraft fees on an account he left in good standing with money in it. The ultimate double-dip! Not only do they presumably get all the dead guy’s money, but they then charge the estate for the privilege!!

    I also love the whistling in the wind policy of slow-bleeding these “dead” accounts, while ignoring the obligation to turn the money over to the state.

  41. SacredByte says:

    @Wimpkins: That is much better than a live corpse…. (READ: Zombie)

  42. Tigerman_McCool says:

    I wish more info was given and the type of account, etc. I had a BOA checking account since I was a kid. When I got married, we used a joint checking account from a different bank. For about 5-6 years, I had $143.16 sitting in a BOA checking account with no activity. Got divorced, forgot I had it, started using it again…not one single fee….at least their consistent.

  43. Machete_Bear says:

    So can we finally legally call this outright theft? This bank needs fucking criminal charges levied against them with the kind of screw ups they make.

    Suddenly deciding to declare someone dead and start taking their money isn’t bank policy, it’s something a tophatted, mustachioed villain does after he ties an old lady to the railroad tracks.

  44. The Porkchop Express says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: I actually had one (florida lets you search the website for your name and then print and mail a form) and it took a while.

    Meanwhile a bunch of law offices were sending me stuff saying they would collect it…for a small fee of course. my unclaimed money was a few hundred dollars from various utilities and apartments

  45. ionerox says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: New Jersey Unclaimed Property site:
    [www.state.nj.us]

  46. ShadowFalls says:

    They do it like this so they don’t have to send the money to the state. You should be getting your money back as they froze your account without cause or attempt to contact you. This isn’t 1930, everyone has a phone and gets daily mail, no reason to think people are unreachable without trying.

    This whole thing almost seems fraudulent… Escalate if need be, but the account needs to be closed (Like Bank of America actually does that anyway).

  47. WraithSama says:

    @Wormfather:

    Many of them already charge preemptive fees. They’re called “anticipated overdraft fees”.

    Simply, they show two balances: an actual balance and an available balance. The actual balance is self-explanitory. The available balance is your actual balance, minus any pending transactions. If your actual balance goes into the negative they charge you an anticipated overdraft fee, regardless of the fact that the pending purchase has not yet been posted and you can still deposit money to cover the transaction before it does post.

    My old bank used to nail me on the cross with that kind of crap. My new bank does not do anticipated overdraft fees, but finding banks that don’t do them is getting more difficult.

  48. FMFats says:

    The inactivity fee is there to get the account holder’s attention rather than to be a profit maker for a bank. Every bank I have worked for since 1974 has pretty cheerfully refunded dormant or inactivity fees. Every bank I have ever worked for has also sent letters to the account holder asking that the account holder respond to keep the account active before beginning to charge the fee. Turning over “abandoned property” to the state is a royal pain in the ass for a bank. Inactive accounts are also frozen and can usually only be reactivated under some kind of dual control in order to prevent them from being systematically looted by dishonest employees. If your money is going to sit for an extended period, put it in a friggin’ CD and earn something on it. And if you’re only keeping a couple of hundred bucks in it, close it and buy an iPod or something. The cost to the bank of maintaining the account (statement generation, postage, FDIC insurance fees) exceeds whatever it’s making on the couple of hundred bucks. Banks are not a public service, they’re businesses organized to make money for shareholders.

  49. WraithSama says:

    Excuse me. Rather, if your available balance goes into the negative they hit you with the anticipated overdraft fee.

  50. whydidnt says:

    We can debate the merits of these fees all day long, but the reality is most FI’s now charge an inactive account fee. This is because if you have a small balance in your account — less than $1,000 or so, it costs them more to maintain your account than they can earn by lending out that money. You might argue that point, but it probably costs the bank or credit union close between $2.00 – $3.00 each month to maintain the account, this includes data processing costs, statement costs, compliance charges – they have to report dormant accounts to the state, etc. In addition I would be surprised if you find ANY FI that wouldn’t freeze your account after a period of inactivity such as this. Inactive accounts are ripe for fraud, particularly of the internal variety, so they are usually frozen and require a fairly high level authorization to release. If they hadn’t froze it and all the sudden the money was gone, I suspect the OP would be complaining that there was unusual activity on the account and they just ignored it. WTF is the bank supposed to do?

    What I don’t understand is how the OP didn’t know they were taking this charge. Had he moved and not informed them so he didn’t receive his statement? Did he get his statement but ignore it? BOA is most likely a different animal, but my experience in working with numerous FI’s is that if you call and explain your situation regarding an inactive account fee they are quite likely to reverse the fee. They just don’t want accounts with small balances sitting there not being used, it’s an expense to them.