Bank Of America: "That's Why You Don't Open New Accounts Online"

After reading about how Jesse was banned for life from Bank of America for no clear reason, other readers wrote in with similarly bizarre BoA stories. Wayne was locked out of his new account after he opened it and charged a $75 overdraft fee. Chris was sent checks linked to a duplicate account and then charged penalties when the checks bounced. Edward’s new account was closed but the CSR refused to tell him why, and he was charged a $60 “research fee” for the closing. When Edward went to a BoA branch to clear things up, he says the employee there told him, “That’s why you don’t open up accounts online.”

If you don’t have time to read all three stories, skip to the bottom to see what Edward found out after sending an EECB to Bank of America.

First, Wayne’s story. It’s long, but it illustrates that even when Bank of America attempts to fix the problem, they can cause more harm than good.

I recently moved to a new state and opened a checking account with BoA online (my local bank in Ohio didn’t exist where I moved outside Philadelphia). It was a Sunday when I filled out the application online and I had considered just waiting until the next day and walking into the bank and opening one. After talking to an online customer service rep via their chat window I was assured it was smarter to open the account online because the free checking account offer I was signing up for was ONLY available online.

I transferred my balance (around $400 I think) over from my old bank to my new BoA account. The online rep explained to me that until I received my debit card in the mail I could just walk into my local BoA and take money out of my account, which was fine with me. Wednesday rolls around and I do just that. The bank teller lets me take $200 out of my account and sends me on my way. So far so good. A couple of days later I come back to take another $100 out of my account and I am told there is a problem.

First, the new bank teller says she can’t understand how they let me take any money out of my account the previous time because there is a flag on my account and it says I don’t have any money in the account. In fact, it shows that I came in on the date of my previous date and withdrew money, and that they charged me a fee for having insufficient funds. At this point I am totally confused…and slightly pissed.

She explains to me that she doesn’t understand what is going on either and that I need to call their customer service center because they are the only ones that can handle my problem. I am on my lunch break from work so I hop back in my car, start heading back to work (hungry), and dial up the number the teller had given me. The customer service rep that answers my call confirms that there is a flag on my account because they could not verify my new address. I explained to her that I just moved not even a week ago and since I moved into my cousin’s apartment, I didn’t sign a lease or anything. I told her I had to sign some paperwork to move in with the leasing office however so that they knew who was going to be living there. She asked if I had any utility bills in my name there and I said no, I don’t, but I did have a new cell phone from a provider in the area where the bill was sent to my new address with my cousin.

The rep told me to take something from the leasing office acknowledging that I was living there and my cell phone bill into my local branch and they could take care of it. I said that’s fine, but shouldn’t my social security card and ID be enough to verify I am who I am? She says that would help but take at least a copy of my cell phone bill or a letter from my cousin and instructs me to go back the branch. I turn my car around (still on my lunch break (and still hungry) and go back to the bank that I had just left.

I walk in and talk to the same teller and explain to her what the lady said. The teller seems even more confused. She tells me that there is no way they handle anything like that and gets the manager. The male manager confirms the same thing. At this point I am pretty frustrated and just want to close my account and take my money and get something to eat so I can get back to work and on with my day (and life…without BoA). The teller and manager at this point take me to a tabel on the side and have me call their customer service line again right there from the branch.

This time I get a male customer service rep who confirms there is a flag on my account because they couldn’t verify my new address. Nothing shocking there. I clue him in on what the previous customer service rep and he seems incredibly confused stating he has no idea why the other rep would have said that and said that in fact they had already closed on my account out completely. He said I would be banned from ever opening an account with Bank of America again. I ask him when I can have my money back (since Christmas was less than 10 days away) and he tells me 6-8 weeks. I hang up the phone, tell the manager what he said and they seemed just as baffled as me. I leave the branch pissed off.

Now…the best part. I had around $100 left in my account at BoA when they closed it. Around 6 weeks later I receive a check in the mail from BoA for around $20 with another letter explaining an overdraft fee of $75, apparently from when I took the original $200 out of the account. The kicker is that THEY SENT THE CHECK TO MY NEW ADDRESS THEY SAID THEY COULDN’T CONFIRM. As far as I am concerned not only did BoA waste my time and screw me over for doing nothing other than signing up for one of their accounts online (under the guidance of one of their own online reps), but they also flat out stole money from my pocket by charging me for it and for taking my own money out of the account…after telling me that I could.

I wouldn’t wish a BoA account upon my worst enemy. At least when my car was broken into and robbed the thief ran off and tried to hide. When BoA stole from me they sent me a letter to brag.

Here’s Chris’s email about the duplicate checking account and how BoA tried to charge him penalties for not noticing he’d been given a second, fake account.

I was just reading the Bank of America article and experienced the same thing this past year. I received a set of checks in the mail that were registered to a second account under my name, that I never knew existed. The account was registered to a bank in a town that I have never actually been to. Because I did not know about the second account I proceeded to use the checks and the checks got returned because the account did not have any money in it. Once I discovered what happened I was on the phone with Bank of America reps all day working my way up the food-chain. No one would listen to me until I said that Bank of America is a scam and that they were trying to con me. Once I threatened them with those words I finally got them to reimburse any charges that I received for checks bouncing and had them cancel the account. They tried to tell me I applied for this second account, even though it was at a Bank of America in a town that I have never been to. Bank of America is a screwy company at best.

Finally, here’s a copy of the EECB Edward sent to Bank of America after his account was closed without explanation and dinged $60 for an unexplained “research fee”:

On May 7, 2009 I applied online for a MyAccess checking account. I chose the Debit card funding option and had $100 withdrawn from my Chase bank account to fund the Bank of America checking account. I received confirmation of submission of my application. Shortly after, I receive notification my account was approved. On May 11, 2009 my Chase checking account was debited for $100.

On May 13, 2009 I received two seperate mailings: one included information regarding my temporary password for my online account and the other contained bank disclosures. I proceeded to enroll in online banking and was notified that a call to customer service was required. I called customer service and they informed me that my account was closed — they could not provide any reason and said I would need to contact their Risk Department at 877-240-6886. I called them that night, but they were closed — apparently they close at 4PM PST.

On May 14, 2009 I called the Risk Department around 1PM. Once the representative verified my information, she began reading to me what sounded like a prepared script. She went on to state that when opening the account online, I agreed to a disclosure that stated Bank of America reserves the right to close my account for any reason and at any time. She goes on to tell me that the account is closed and that I will never be able to open an account at Bank of America. I asked them what was the reason behind my account closure. The representative then repeats that Bank of America reserves the right to close my account for any reason and at any time. I ask again, “But why was it closed?”. She repeats the same statement for the third time and then states, “That is the reason why.” She said they will be sending me a cashier’s check for $40. I inform her that my initial deposit was for $100 and it has already been debited from my bank account. She states that there was a research charge for $60. I respond saying that it is hard for me to comprehend how Bank of America can close my account, without giving any valid reason AND charges me $60 (60% of my account balance). She tells me for the fourth time that Bank of America reserves the right to close my account at any time for any reason and then disconnects me.

Immediately after this phone call, I walk into my local Bank of America branch. I am eventually directed to a personal banker. I explain the situation. After telling my story, she comments, “That’s why you don’t open up accounts online.” She lets me know that the online departments are seperate from the retail branches, but says she will try to find any additional information. She asks for my social security number and tries to look up my account history. She cannot find any information. She lets me know all she can see is that the account is closed. She tells me there’s no use in her calling the Risk Department as they will only tell her the same thing they told me. She gives me a card to Customer Solutions. She tells me to call the number as it is my best bet at getting this issue resolved.

I call Customer Solutions at 1-800-831-4419. I explain my story. They put me on hold as they contact the Risk Department. They come back on the line and give me the exact statement the Risk Department told me. I let the representative that it is completely absurd that they cannot even give me a valid reason, let alone charge me $60. She says Bank of America will not refund the fee. I ask her if I have ANY other options to get this issue resolved. She responds, “No.” At this point, I want to start recording names and record the shady nature of these business transactions. I ask her for her name and extension or any other information in which I can identify her. The line goes silent for a minute and then disconnects.

I look online to see whether this has happened to other individuals. Apparently it has.

http://www.raisedguidance.com/2008/10/banned-from-bank-of-america-fo.html
http://www.debtconsolidationcare.com/banking/bankofamerica-risk-assessment.html
http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/checking-account-scam-c92924.html
http://www.my3cents.com/showReview.cgi?id=41155
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090312090401AAcoGUA

This has been absolutely my worst experience in dealing with a bank. It bewilders me to see how Bank of America treats its customers. I expect at the very least, a full justified explanation for my account closure along with a refund of my full $100 deposit. Assuming that Bank of America charges $20/hour for research, please let me know what exactly took three hours and what research they found because apparently I haven’t heard it.

Edward notes that the EECB appeared to do the trick. He even finally got an answer as to what triggered the closure:

I was also sure to copy the comptroller of the currency who regulates these financial institutions. Long story short, someone from the “executive offices” of Bank of America gives me a call letting me know that Bank of America is sorry and that they will refund the fee they charged me. They sent me my entire balance back along with a $50 Home Depot gift card for my inconvenience. I also finally got a real answer in regards to why they closed my account — my mailing address was not the same as my legal address (note that despite this, they had no problem taking funds from my Chase bank account).

Anyways, thought you might want to share this with your readers. Obviously Bank of America has some serious procedural issues in regards to how they handle what they determine as “fraud”.

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(Photo: jonathan mcintosh)