Commerce Bank Can't Decide Whether Funds Are Available Or Not

Meg in New Jersey wants to know what’s up with her Commerce Bank account. They say if you deposit a check before 6pm, the funds are made available that day—but when she did just that and then transferred the funds to another account, she was hit with a $35 “uncollected funds fee.” She never got a straight answer out of the Commerce CSR, and although they refunded the fee, they told her she “could only get that refund once ever,” as if to say it was her fault the fee was assessed.

Here’s her story:

Dear Consumerist,
 
I thought you’d like to know about an occurance I had with my bank, Commerce Bank in New Jersey. Recently, my debt card was stolen at the place I work. My bank refunded all the money that was stolen from my account, but since then I’ve been on hyper alert concerning my account. I check it once a day online now.
 
Imagine my surprise last night at 3am, when I see an unauthorized “uncollected funds fee” charge for an astounding $35! I immediatly call their 24/7 hotline and get an incredibly perky woman, who tells me the fee is my own fault.
 
Apparently, the check I had deposited earlier that day wasn’t real money yet in my account, so when I transfered the money to another account, this fee shows up. I was surprised, I had never been informed that you couldn’t do this, and my bank has a slogan that your check is avaliable THAT DAY if you deposit before 6pm, and I did so around noon! Furthermore, how could I transfer money that my account said was avaliable when my bank claims it should have never been showing up?
 
The woman on the phone said that seemed odd and refunded the fee, before telling me I could only get that refund once ever. I asked her why I was allowed to transfer the money in the first place if I didn’t really “have” it yet, and she had no answer and quickly ended the call.
 
I’ve had an account with this branch for years and never encountered this problem OR this fee before. I’ve never had a problem transfering money immediatly after making a deposit. I smell a rat.
 
At least I have my $35 back… and a newfound paranoia towards Commerce Bank.
 
-Meg

Meg, you should pay a visit in person to the branch you’ve always banked at, and explain to someone there what happened. It’s great they refunded the fee, but at the very least they should try to find out why it happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again—and they should reset your “once ever” refund status to “unused” since this was clearly not your fault.
 
(Photo: diaper)

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  1. cristiana says:

    That same thing happened to me at Commerce, except it was with my paycheck which was directly deposited. They also refunded my fee, but, they never gave me a straight answer on why it happened.

  2. Philthadelphian says:

    Speaking as a fellow Commerce Customer, I’ve had this issue before. I spoke at length with someone from their customer service hotline, and to my understanding, the way it works is this:

    The funds from a deposited check are available same/next day to you only as cash. Therefore, you can use your debit/credit card, or make a withdrawl from an ATM or local branch. You cannot, however, write out a check and expect it to be cleared without getting hit by the uncollected funds fee.

    It’s an FDIC issue, and not Commerce’s fault at all. I’ve had the fee removed three times from my account, but I think that’s the maxiumum they will allow.

    Personally speaking, Commerce is the best bank I’ve ever dealt with, and their check-deposit policy is more generous to consumers than it needs to be.

  3. geoffhazel says:

    Sounds like the left-hand computer doesn’t know what the right-hand computer is doing.

    And in this case it’s unlikely that any CSR would know either.

    I’d second the recommendation to stop by the branch soon and get the “one time ever” flag reset on your account.
    And possibly “open a case” for investigation on how this got foobar’d in the first place.

  4. ARPRINCE says:

    Banks tells you when the funds are available. They have something like ON DEPOSIT and AVAILABLE NOW balance. It could be that the ON DEPOSIT is higher than the other simply because a check you deposited has not cleared yet but was recorded. I usually transfer when money values on both are the same (regardless of what they say). All my 3 banks have something similar (Citi, Chase and BoA).

  5. DeannaErmine says:

    Comment on Commerce Bank Can’t Decide Whether Funds Are Available Or Not I used to work for Commerce and the money is not available the same day,
    it is available the next day, if you make the deposit before 6pm. At
    6pm we turn over and work on the next day. This means that if you come
    in on Monday at like 6:01pm the tellers are working on Tuesdays date.
    As for the returned fee, yes they only allow a one time courtesy, and
    then they put notes in your account for other tellers and CSR’s to see,
    that they gave you a one time courtesy.

  6. bloodomen13 says:

    I had a problem with Wells Fargo:

    I was having automatic withdrawals for a loan and only kept the acct. active because of a lesser interest rate by having a WF acct.

    I would deposit a check monthly into my WF acct. the day before the withdrawal. Did it this way for 4 years.

    One day this past fall I get an email stating insufficient funds in my acct. I went to the branch and spoke with the manager… was told that the check processing agency (a third party) has the authority to hold checks for 24 hours for any reason whatsoever. This is what had happened and I was charged a fee.

    I produced my statement showing the deposit put me well over the required amount for the withdrawal but was met with a shrug and told that I should have deposited the funds earlier.

    I deposited before the WF required noon cut off and had been doing it for years. The funds were showing in my acct. but WF’s third party held it for no reason and then wants to charge a fee for money that IS there.

  7. wolfjoat says:

    Fundamentally what you have is what’s called a “memo post” when you deposit the check. The funds being available that day means that they are, pending whether or not the actual item goes through the back office that night. Because if it doesn’t then the bank will yank that money out of your account. Really it’s kind of like Schroedinger’s cat in that it is both available and not available at the same time.
    Most banks will only release a set amount (between $100 and $300) as available the day of but it sounds like Commerce doesn’t do that.
    Additionally, and this is the weird part, the credits to your account should go through before the debits which means the deposit should have been processed before your transfer. Which is probably why the CSR refunded the fee and said it look “weird”.

  8. ludwigk says:

    I would insist that the bank issue as many fee refunds as it takes to cover THEIR mistakes. I got BofA to refund 4x “insufficient fund” fees from some prima accounts I held because I hadn’t been told that the account upgrade would carry a minimum balance (after asking if it would). Maybe the mgr had just had her fee refund budget reset for the month, because it wasn’t too difficult.

  9. ChrisNF says:

    The same thing happened to me at Chase last summer — I withdrew cash from the ATM and was then hit up with a $35 fee for accessing money that wasn’t available. When I called them, same story — “we’ll refund it just this once” and no good explanation of why the ATM gave me cash that apparently had a hold placed on it. The CSR said something like “we want to make sure you can get money in an emergency so we give it to you and charge a fee.” I said that the fee should at least be disclosed at the time of transaction and got a “thanks for your comments and for calling Chase, goodbye and go f*@(& yourself” signoff.

  10. MissPinkKate says:

    This has happened to me before- a check that was deposited and “cleared” on a Saturday wasn’t really “cleared” at all. After complaining through the website, the manager of the branch I had attended called personally to apologize.

  11. Scuba Steve says:

    Granted I never had a problem with funds, but if I ever had a fee like that, I would want assurances from a bank manager as to why the policy was not followed and what is being done to make sure it never happens again.

    I’d also want the name and extension of everyone I talked to, and if refused, the name and extension of their supervisor.

  12. pete7919 says:

    I have had a lot of problems recently with Commerce Bank. No, I don’t write everything in a register and keep my checkbook balanced by the minute, so occasionally I end up in circumstances where I’m near zero balance. Commerce really loves to charge fees and such if deposits aren’t given the proper time to clear, even though their marketing says otherwise. Oh, and they clear everything as it comes, not credits first and debits last at the end of the day like every other bank. Or so they told me. This is a tradeoff for the priviledge of having you money available faster.

    The other thing is that they expanded so fast and their turnover is so high their employees can’t keep their stories straight. They constantly contradict themselves and then pass you on to a manager who says the opposite. On he upside, if you complain enough they will waive almost any fee. I’ve had the “one time” courtesy fee reversal about a dozen times. And yes, they do track those and can tell you how many times you’ve bounced your account.

    Unfotrunately, once you are a customer you get spoiled with the hours and the convenience of the TD Commerce North Bank YES Machine!

  13. CRNewsom says:

    I believe this falls under what I call the “Discretionary Fee.” The bank (or other institution) charges you (and a lot of other people) a fee, but only a certain percentage of people will call to get it refunded.

    /See the article on snopes about the embarassingly issued refund checks.

  14. Byzantine says:

    If possible, I’d like to know which Commerce Bank branch this happened at, as I am a Commerce Bank customer from NJ.

  15. techman01 says:

    Commerce bank is infamous for charging fees for things that make no sense. Their no stupid bank fee slogan is only because their fees are beyond comprehension.

    I actually spoke with the Regional Vice President for them about this after I got slammed with these uncollected funds fees. Their offical answer is, if you deposit a check and it is made available for immediate use; that actually means you can only take it out as cash or use your debit card. If you transfer the money or someone cashes a check against it, they will charge you an uncollected funds fee.

    Makes no sense right? If your Available balance says available, it is only available for certain things that I mentioned above.

    Seems very misleading; I have since closed my account there an opened one at Chase(they offered me $125 to switch since I had a credit card with them) and have yet to ever have one fee charged…

    I suggest everyone change banks also; as that will be the only way they will understand.

  16. reflection717 says:

    The availability claim is NEXT day before 6PM not SAME day – the mistake is with the teller who deposited the check and made it available immediately without telling the customer that “this check is available now for cash and can be drawn against tomorrow” If you were going to put the money in another account anyway you could have had the teller do that for you and saved the hassle.

    I know, I know “blame the victim” but having worked at Commerce for a while in the past I’ve seen this plenty of times. My tellers were trained to tell the customer how they could use the funds to avoid this issue.

  17. akalish says:

    Same thing just happened to mes at Citibank! My deposit was “available now” according to both the ATM and their website, but a few days later, I got a letter with two fees of $30 each for two chanrges. I firmly believe these banks are looking for a way to earn some cash to pump up their earnings statements.

  18. katoninetales says:

    These stories make me grateful that I can use USAA. Even a *pending* deposit is immediately available to me for any reason (to spend or transfer) and shows up on my bank balance (for example, my husband’s direct deposit checks are available to us the day before his payday, which can be very convenient depending on when I have time to sit and do the bills).

  19. thesabre says:

    If a bank says your money is available in your account if you deposit before 6pm and you deposit your check at 11am, that does not mean your money is ready at 11:01am. It means it will be available to you by the close of business that day.

  20. oldgraygeek says:

    Several years ago, Commerce did this to me after I deposited CASH at 5 PM: even though the funds immediately showed as ‘available,’ a check was presented for payment that evening and they hit me with overdraft charges (although they did pay the check).
    When I objected, they accused me of ‘check-kiting,’ saying I had been making deposits the same day checks were paid for some time… and then threatened to hit me with fees and/or bounce checks every time a check came in immediately after a deposit.

    Needless to say, we moved to another bank — Citizen’s. We’re very happy there, although we are now extremely careful not to do anything they might interpret as ‘check-kiting.’

  21. sauceistheboss says:

    @oldgraygeek:

    CHECK kiting with CASH deposits???

    No wonder you switched banks!

  22. Subliminal0182 says:

    What same day availability means is that any checks/transactions posting from the current banking day (ex. 2pm yesterday til 2pm today) will be covered by the deposit.

    Sometimes banks allow most/all online transactions to occur immediately thus when she transferred the money, it technically transferred what was in the acct (not sufficient funds) to the other acct.

    Usually at the proof & encoding dept., they catch these transactions and everything ‘washes’ out, but some banks are fee-hungry and allow this to happen..

  23. Eldritch says:

    @Byzantine:

    Meg here. The branch is in Southern NJ.

  24. Eldritch says:

    Thank you Consumerist! I’m Meg and I’ll definitely be going to my Commerce branch tomorrow and asking them about what happened on my account. I never even thought about going to the branch, since I spoke to them on the phone. You guys are fantastic, thanks for all the advice!

  25. captainleah says:

    if you are not going to let me post please delete my account

  26. htrout13 says:

    I’ve been with commerce for many years… They have this very annoying way of making some deposits available (and visible) immediately, while others take two days to appear.

    If I use my debit/atm card, those transactions drop directly into ‘pending’. Some deposits (like my paycheck) also drop into ‘pending’. Checks, however, never touch pending – they go right into my account history.

    What I love is when I take a check written on a commerce account to be deposited (and I go to a bunch of local branches – not just one – it doesn’t matter if you go to local or not with commerce). It’s before 6, yet that deposit (remember – this is from commerce account to commerce account) will take 2 business days to appear in my account.

    Of course – if I have that amount of money in my account prior to depositing, then it will show as pending for two days.

    It’s crazy – I’ve learned not to give a check unless I KNOW they money I deposited has cleared (and is in history).

    I’ve had transactions sit in pending for over a week, which has totally messed with my account status!

    Rule of thumb – until it shows in your account history – it isn’t your money – be it cash or check.

  27. heavylee-again says:

    This is what I know, being a Commerce customer as well. Checks deposited before 6pm on a business day, become available funds on the NEXT business day. Cash and payroll checks deposited before 6pm on a business day are available immediately.

  28. Alison Lewis says:

    Bank’s practice to allow a credit hold or a debit hold. If the money isn’t available for the transaction it shouldn’t go through to cause an account to go over the limit or overdraft. The bank allows this to happen instead of rejecting the transaction because they want to benefit from information that was wrongly given to the consumer. If the money isnt available my receipt shouldn’t state that it is available for me to do transactions. If the money I deposit isn’t available it should not be listed as available to me when I go online and check my balance. It should be listed under pending transaction or under balance and not available balance. Allowing overdraft and bounced check fees on bank accounts which are caused by check holds is a unfair practice! The check presented should of not of been hold because it is TD’s policy to make payroll checks available.
    These practices are abusive to the consumer and in the long run the bank is profiting from this behavior.
    Unfair or deceptive trade practice occur because the institution withholds information or actually misrepresents information. It also occurs because the institution presents information that is misleading to consumers.
    I will not tolerate such abuse that breach that trust through unfair and deceptive practices. No matter how it is worded and explained to me by TD bank representatives it is still unfair. I am looking for the fees to be reversed on my checking account. Especially with everything going on in the economy and all the credit card companies and big banks are being scrutinized it seems that TD needs to be in that spotlight and someone needs to review what has been taken place behind the scenes. I am tired of the consumer such as myself getting ripped off and no one speaks out about it.