Letter To Bank of America CEO Results In Waived Overdraft Fees, Joy

Luisa accidentally overdrafted her checking account with Bank of America, but found that no matter how much money she put in — it was being eaten up by the fee monster that lurks at the bottom of her account. It has big yellow teeth and glowing eyes and only the CEO can control it… Rrraaawwwrrrr……..

Luisa writes:

I don’t know who I should be writing to but I just wanted to thank you for guiding me in the right direction! After reading the information on your site, I realized I could be helped!

I incurred $315 in overdraft fees over a 3 day period. Every fee kept making me overdraft more and more. The 1st one was my fault but it just snowballed into a $315 problem. I went to my local branch and had 3 of those fees credited by a very nice branch manager. I proceeded to call CSR and was immediately shut down after pleading my case. I immediately started researching and came across your site. I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot and let B.O.A know what happened and that I would be taking my banking elsewhere. Long story short, I had ALL $315 credited by Norma, who personally called me earlier today.
The little guy won, all because of your help! Thanks a million! The Consumerist rocks!

Here’s the letter that Luisa sent to Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis.
October 11, 2008

Mr. Kenneth D. Lewis
100 N. Tryon Street
Mail Code NC-1-007-18-01
Charlotte, NC 28255

RE: Checking account # xxxxxxxx

Dear Mr. Lewis,

I am writing to you to express my dissatisfaction with Bank of America . My name is Luisa [redacted] and my husband and I have been loyal Bank of America costumers since 2005.We have a checking, savings account and credit cards with your company. As CEO, I am sure you would like to know when you are losing customers to a credit union because your customer service representatives refused to waive some overdraft fees .

Since October 9th, 2008, my checking account was charged $315 in over draft fees. I understand that the first time I over drafted was my fault, and I immediately went to the bank and deposited $200 in cash before the pending transactions posted. When I come back to check my account online I see my $200 have been eaten up by fees and I again am showing a negative balance. At this point I have no more cash to deposit and wait until the following morning to go and speak to a branch representative. Ms. [redacted] was kind enough to refund 3 of those fees after I explained my situation. I have deposited a total of $420 in my account within the past days to make sure I had all of my pending transactions covered and I am still racking up overdraft fees.

I am writing to you as a full-time college student and mother of a toddler in need of a favor which may be small to you, but very helpful to me. I am asking you to waive these fees, which as CEO of Bank of America, I know you have the power to. I simply cannot cover afford to pay the overdraft fees incurred and the ones I am sure will post to my account come Monday.

I hate to have to close all my accounts with Bank of America and move them all to Suncoast Federal Credit Union. I really enjoy the simplicity of online banking and bill pay and I do not wish to discontinue my banking with you.

I hope you understand and find it in your heart to waive the overdraft fees that both pending and posted.

Congratulations, Luisa! If you’ve got a problem that needs a little TLC from BoA, try sending a well-written letter to Mr. Lewis.

(Photo: thecornballer )

Comments

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  1. ViperBorg says:

    Nicely done, Luisa!

    This is an excellent example of what to write. No insulting the company, no saying how obvious it is that they suck so bad. Just a little explanation and clear articulation of what she wanted done.

  2. crazyasianman says:

    common decency, perhaps it still exists?

  3. Tank says:

    Excellent letter. Well stated, direct and to the point. Congrats on the win.

  4. LiquidGravity says:

    Well done.

  5. Adisharr says:

    Overdraft fees are such a scam I have no more words to describe my dissatisfaction with them.

  6. thebluepill says:

    That is quite nice.

    Its easy to fall in to the OD Trap. Wachovia Milked me out of $700 in OD fees one weekend when I was double billed for a hotel stay that put my account just past the limit and started the OD Cycle.

    They were willing to do nothing more than refund 3 of them.. Its nice to see someone make some endroads with the banks on this.

    I really wish this was capped at 10-15% of the total you went Over..

  7. JN2 says:

    She has exploited the system to the detriment of the rest of us. Now executives everywhere will no longer read emails or other correspondence in order to save the company money . . . or get mani-pedi’s.

    :D

    • mythago says:

      @the Goat: You’re totally right. If somebody is flying to see a relative who is dying and can go at any minute, screw them! I’m on my way to Vegas and I want special treatment too!

      Jesus, dude, get a grip. Everyone should get good service, but part of being human is realizing that sometimes we go the extra mile to help each other when things are bad.

  8. blackmage439 says:

    Not to nitpick, but this was funny:

    “…have been loyal Bank of America costumers…”

    Where’s the party? Of course, it’s AIG’s $5.6 mil costume ball at the Ritz Carlton.

    Anyhoo. A decent complaint letter. Clear and too the point. However, doesn’t it actually hurt your case to say, “I’m leaving you bastards if you don’t give me what I want!”? I thought I just read that on Consumerist recently…

    • rockasocky says:

      @blackmage439: If you’re gonna nitpick, I should nitpick and point out that you wrote “too the point.” :-D

    • macinjosh says:

      @blackmage439: If you have already left them, they have little incentive to do your bidding. However, in this case, it sounds like she wasn’t quite moved over yet. It sounded more like a threat than a past event.

    • HogwartsAlum says:

      @blackmage439:

      I think it works better to say it the way she does, at least most of the time. I did that with DirecTV; I told them I didn’t want to go back to Mediacom cable, please oh please, help retain me. It shows that you’re thinking about it but that they can get off their duff and help you and retain you.

  9. Hotscot says:

    In the UK the OD fees have to be related to how much it cost the bank to deal with the transaction.

  10. rdm says:

    Wow, I contacted the B of A CEO about something that wasn’t my fault at all and they refused to help me. Great job!

  11. the Goat says:

    “I am writing to you as a full-time college student and mother of a toddler. . .”

    I hate when people include details like these. The woman’s life situation has nothing to do with wither or not Bank of America should refund the fees.

    I see it a lot in posts about bad airline service. The person is always says they are flying because of a wedding or a funeral. As if that makes their trip more important then anybody else’s trip.

    • snoop-blog says:

      @the Goat: Usually I agree with you on that but this time it somehow feels apropriate. Chances are the CEO went to college, and understands that struggle, and also has a family and knows how that can be a job in itself.

      A funeral is something everyone is going to go to, where as a lot of kids choose not to go to college. I am more likely to want to help someone who is at least trying to help themselves. But normally, I agree with you on that subject.

    • bucklefilledbird says:

      @the Goat: Really? So she should be given the same consideration as the alcoholic who blew his rent money at the bar and overdrew his account?
      I hate when bitter and angry individuals belittle someone else’s honest request for assistance.

    • crazedhare says:

      @the Goat:

      Sometimes it does.

      I have an infant child very sick, maybe dying, of a brain tumor. We are at St. Jude’s in Memphis, and have to maintain our permanent residence in another state to continue to stay here. So, although much help is provided free (including housing), I have a lot of extra expenses.

      I had a similar problem with PNC bank a few weeks ago, leaving me with almost $300 in overdraft fees. I wrote Consumerist to ask with help constructing an EECB. I acknowledged I knew I could spend time researching and do it myself, but I asked for sympathy since that would be time away from my very ill child. Consumerist didn’t bother to respond more than a “We got your email, thanks” one sentence thing.

      I wondered if the issue of bank overdraft fees even when the initial overdraft was the customer’s fault was just not interesting to the Consumerist team, but now I see that’s not the case. But the next time the price of Tide changes 6 cents, I know they’ll be all over it.

      When it comes to requesting a sympathy, common sense relaxation of a company’s voluntarily-adopted policy (i.e. distinguished from a policy mandated by state or federal law on which the company has no discretion), the reasons the customer is particularly vulnerable are useful. Good customer service aids those customers who need help; communicating the reasons help is needed is a great first step. Extra financial troubles, dealing with a particularly upsetting, traumatizing situation (i.e. your flying for a funeral example) – don’t you think those people deserve a little extra kindness? Or are you one of those types who parks in handicapped spots because you’ll only be a minute?

    • crazedhare says:

      @the Goat: @bunnymare:

      P.S., my individual calls to various PNC people were responded to like this “Oh, you should NOT have to worry about things like overdraft fees when your baby is so sick. We will refund as many as we can – 3 – and hope that helps. At the branch level, that is all we are permitted to waive”.

      So, identifying the circumstances help was needed was acklnowledged to be the direct cause of PNC’s willingness to help. Consumerist was stone-hearted, though, so I guess they agree with The Goat!

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @the Goat:

      I work at an airline and I can assure you that if someone mentions an illness/funeral/etc (and it looks genuine), we go even more above and beyond to make their journey as smooth as possible…including priority tagging their bags, waiving certain fees without them asking, making connecting flights wait a few minutes more than they normally would if the first flight was delayed…etc.

      We’re all human, and we’ve all gone through tough times…. Not only is it a nice feeling to know that we made a person’s day that much better when they needed it most, but it tends to make good business sense as well…..positive occurrences during vulnerable moments tend to imprint, which = repeat customers.

      • the Goat says:

        @RedwoodFlyer:

        “Not only is it a nice feeling to know that we made a person’s day that much better when they needed it most, but it tends to make good business sense as well.”

        No, treating all your customers equally would make good business sense.

    • TangDrinker says:

      @the Goat: I work in a BOA building. There’s a large branch in our lobby. They’re heavily promoting individualized services, including the ability to pick your own images, etc for your credit card. BOA wants to cater to the individual, so why wouldn’t an individual include their personal circumstances?

  12. snoop-blog says:

    This would be a good time to remind people that some banks will remove their overdraft “privelage” (of course I’ve never actually felt privelaged when I have overdrafted) it will decline a DC purchase if you try to spend even one penny more than what’s in the account. Now if you write checks, you can still very easily screw yourself.

    I’m actually surprised there hasn’t been any blame the victims on this one. Some commenter on a high horse telling us all how we shouldn’t spend more than we have and how on earth could you ever not know your exact balance down to the penny.

    • RutherfordImbecillous says:

      @snoop-blog:
      @snoop-blog:
      Well, it can also happen that BOA will SAY they are removing that privilege, but then you are closing your account and take out all funds and LA Fitness, which you cancelled also, does an automatic withdrawal and BAM! overdraft and overdraft fees. BOA then will say you owe and while you fight, NCO will start calling…

      Not that I would know from personal experience or anything. But I would suggest to all who request their account not have overdraft “protection” — get copies of all paperwork on this.

  13. OmicroN says:

    Excellent letter. Problem stated very well. I’m glad the outcome was positive for you. Even in the economic crisis, when a big bad company like BofA is able to help the “little guy” (or girl, in this case) shows some economic fortitude and support for middle America.

  14. Schlake says:

    I wish I’d know of The Consumerist when I left BoA. But you didn’t exist then.

    Every two weeks I’d deposit my paycheck, and take some money out. Come Tuesday, BoA would erase my deposit and put me into negative cash. I was never charged a fee, but I was without access to cash for two to four days when my money would reappear. BoA didn’t seem to care. One day, through my own fault, I went $0.24 overdrawn. The overdraft was crushing. They offered me a $5 gift certificate to Denny’s, and I closed my account to keep money in a pile in my house instead of in their bank. When I left school and got a real job I put my money into a small local credit union. The BoA manager still tries to talk me into moving my account back to her bank when she sees me.

  15. ohenry says:

    I also liked the letter; very well written, with zero malice toward the company. I know I’m more apt to help someone when they write the company I work for in a manner like that, rather than being all negative and such.

    I bank with Associated Bank (which I think is mostly a midwestern thing), and they’re really good about this stuff. I once had the same sort of thing happen, and I got the overdraft fees waived by a regular CSR after they talked to their manager.

  16. vermontwriter says:

    A few months ago, I had major problems with BOA. I’ve been a customer for about 15 years and am paying off drilled well repairs done from three years ago. I’d paid my credit card online as always, yet while the payment cleared my bank and showed up on my account screen, they claimed I’d never paid. I sent documents to prove it and finally got the matter cleared up with them recognizing the payment and reimbursing the late payment charge.

    A month later the same thing happened saying I hadn’t paid my May or June payments. I talked to the same person who said I had definitely not paid, despite it showing up on my bank statement and on their online system. Again, I fired back with confirmation numbers and got the matter cleared up. Two weeks later, debt collectors started calling saying I hadn’t paid my BOA card in two months. I was now slapped with late fees, interest charges that shocked me because after the first late payment they tripled the interest rate I had and that put me over the limit which led to over the limit fees.

    I finally gave up and contacted the atty. general here. Within a day, Kenneth Lewis’s secretary was in touch. I had more than $800 in interest and fees returned to my account, my interest rate was restored to what it had been and I received a very sincere apology. Yet, two weeks later, I got another letter stating I hadn’t paid for the past three months and that my account was in delinquency. I had all the paperwork she’d sent me as proof and called her back up to find out what was going on. She couldn’t explain, but said she’d take care of it, which she apparently did. I keep Kenneth Lewis’s office number on hand for this now. It’s been two months since my last contact with them and things have been fine, but the hassle it took to get to that resolution was amazing.

    Despite the resolution, 15 years with BOA is not going to be enough to keep me with them once this account is paid off completely.

  17. Corporate_guy says:

    Please forward this off to your senator and congressman. They need to know how ridiculous the fees are.

  18. Amy Alkon000 says:

    Please complain to the Office of The Comptroller of the Currency — about B of A and any other national bank (with the initials N.A. after the bank name on documents).

  19. Amy Alkon000 says:

    And sorry — the House Finance committee and Senate Banking Committee are the appropriate places to complain.

  20. Blueskylaw says:

    If anyone here is good at math, how much money in fees will accrue over the course of a year if the fees just keep snowballing like a runaway train? A few million perhaps?
    What kind of absolutely remorseless garbage fees will Bank of No Soul come up with after they have completely swallowed and digested their recent “mergers)?

  21. Roclawzi says:

    When I left BoA, I closed out my account in person making sure it was 100% closed…and then charges that were not shown on my account when I closed it (ok, I could/should have kept track, but one of them was an internet charge that no one seemed to be able to stop, so this was part of getting away from it), and I got charge 42 bucks +3 OD fees. I told them the situation and they dropped the OD fees but told me they would sue me for the 42 dollars if necessary. It was so fun having them clear charges to my closed account that I told them I would accept responsibility for the 42 dollars in court, as soon as I got a date to appear. After 3 months I got a letter, not for a court date, be for a record of their crediting my account 42 dollars as a courtesy and officially closing it. Rather smart of them for once. since they probably spent 3-4x the initial 42 dollars dealing with it, and going further was going to cost more, even if I got stuck for court costs.

  22. sarahq says:

    Lovely letter!

    But I’d still recommend (unsolicited advice, I know) that you close your BofA accounts and take your business to a not-for-profit credit union. Many credit unions do indeed have online banking and bill pay! A little shopping may pay off in the future, when BofA inevitably strikes again.

  23. bigdave914 says:

    Congrats on win, I have noticed that BofA will change the order of transactions to best suit their needs. This is a recent change but it sucks so I switched to ING’s electric orange checking. They give you a line of credit for over drafts and just charge you interest but they also give you interest so its pretty much a wash and no annoying NSF’s.

  24. thoseturtles says:

    Great Letter

  25. ShulkaKeppanin says:

    I used to bank with them before all the mergers that made the Bank of America. I was heading to college, and they had no branches in my college’s town, so I went in to close my account. The gentleman who met me told me that they would have to, get this, charge me a fee to close my account. I said: “Really? Can you wait here for just a moment?” I went outside to their ATM, withdrew everything I had except for the $1.42 left after rounding to the nearest 20. Then I walked back to his desk, handed him the receipt, and said: “This account will never see another dollar added to it, ever. I’m leaving for college in another state. Please close this account. Thank you.” Then I walked out.

    In retrospect, I suppose they could have tried to wreck my credit, but I didn’t have any credit to wreck, I was 18, and this was way before they gave credit cards to everyone who might have a pulse.

    Banks count on you not raising a stink over silly fees. Argue with them, every time. If they keep doing it, change banks.

    I now happily use a credit union.

  26. RileyPrometheus says:

    Why are these (hefty) overdraft fees so commonplace in the US?

    In parts of Europe (Germany) you have to pay interest on the amount you gt below zero and that’s about it. This interest tend to be 5 to 7 % higher than on a regular loan but it looks like german banks are getting along with it.

    Is that somehow related to the check payments that are dominant in the US?

  27. Anonymous says:

    After reading this story, I tried it. I have received four overdraft fees on my account in early October 2008. I made several attempts to have the fees waived, but was turned down. So I wrote a letter to the CEO and e-mailed the executive office. Today, I received a phone call from Michael Lynch, in Bank of America executive office, advising me that he would waive my fees. I can’t believe this worked! Now I know instead of calling about bank issues, I am just going to write!

  28. shannanigans slash pterodactyl says:

    hey consumerist,

    i wanted to let you know that after experienced a very similar situation to luisa’s here, i sent a version of her email to the bofa executives whose email addresses you provided in a different post.

    at lunch on wednesday i got a call from michelle at bofa, who refunded $210 of the $280 in overdraft fees i had racked up.

    thanks so much for your help!

  29. giattina says:

    I will be writing to Mr. Lewis today. I have been w/BOA since 80′s. I had two credit card accounts. The first account was okay. I did get my statements. The second account had a balance on it & I did not know. It has been in my wallet for 7 months: not being used. I never got a statement saying I owed anything. So, as far as I knew all was fine. I got a letter two weeks ago saying they were closing the 1st account. So, I called, the guy said, he did not understand. They closed it because the second account had a balance on it. I keep saying all they had to do was send me a bill & I would have payed it. I pay all my bills in full every month. I don’t understand why they don’t accept any of blame. They say, I should have known. It is all my fault & both accounts are closed by them even the one that was paid. It made me decide this old lady is going to on-line banking. No more mail for me. Any idea or suggestions?

  30. Anonymous says:

    I got screwed over by Bank of America on a credit card that was supposed to be 0% interest and that I parked $10 k on while I was unemployed. They claimed I was a day late in making an online payment, it was due August 5 and they received it August 6. They retroactively raised the rate to 10% making me in effect pay a $100 penalty per month . I called them and argued that while I would be happy to pay the $39 late fee if I was indeed late on the payment that raising the rate permanently and retroactivley seemed draconian; but to no avail. So I took out a loan from my credit union at a lesser rate, closed the account and then wrote a letter to the CEO Ken Lewis and cc’d my entire Virginia Congressional delegation and the chairs of the house and senate banking committees.

    Today I got a call, just two weeks after sending my letters, and Bank of America is refunding me $496 in fees that resulted from the increase the % rate from 0 to 10%. They are sending me a check!!!

    Just goes to show rather than just complaining, write a letter! I found the CEO’s address on this website because others had written him too :)

    Jennifer, Virginia