Inactivity Fee Gobbles Up Funds From Customer Who's Now Looking For New Bank

New Jersey resident Daniel had a checking account he used for eBay, but he forgot about it and sure enough his bank had to go an empty out the account because his money spoiled and had to be tossed out like sour milk. You know, due to inactivity fees.

Daniel got hit by some bombs, and now he’s in the market for a new bank:

I have been a big fan of your site over the years. I have learned a lot and even had an opportunity to add meaningful and informative comments to some of your stories. One of my lengthy comments was even turned into a story on its own by your staff. Now, I have a problem and hope some of your readers may be able to give me some assistance.

I live in Northern New Jersey and have banked at Sovereign Bank for many years. I originally opened a Free Checking Account and a Savings Account, but a few years ago opened a second Free Checking Account that I used exclusively for transferring funds to and from my Paypal Account I use for eBay.

As time went on, I didn’t need to fund my Paypal Account and completely forgot about that second Checking Account. The last time I checked the balance, it was $50.41. I received a notice in the mail last week that mentioned that the account had a zero balance and that it would be closed soon if I didn’t add funds. I knew that the Free Checking Account that I opened had no annual fee and no minimum balance, so I figured that there must be a mistake.

I went to my local branch to find out what happened and discovered that I was charged a $12.00 per month inactivity fee because I hadn’t transferred funds into or out of that account for over a year. I hadn’t checked the balance in that account for quite a while and it only took a few months for my account to be completely wiped out by their fees. Because of the zero balance, Sovereign Bank closed the account. I had over $10,000 in my other Checking Account and Savings Account and used both of them regularly. I just forgot about the second Checking Account and before I realized what happened, my $50.41 was gone.

To be honest, right or wrong, I felt robbed. Since I had been a good customer of Sovereign Bank for so many years, I hoped that I might be able to get those fees refunded. In my mind, all I did was forget about my account and felt I shouldn’t be penalized $50.41 for it. If I had just transferred money in or out of that account or even wrote a check five months ago, I would still have my $50.41 today.

I tried to appeal to my local branch and even spoke to four different people at 877-SOV-BANK over a period of a few days, but no one seemed to care. Much of what I heard were scripted responses that sounded like they were being read right from their Customer Service manual. It was obvious that those fees are there to catch people who innocently forget about their money. I was basically told “Sorry Charlie, we got your money and we’re not giving it back”. I was then told how important I was as a customer and how much they valued my business. Yeah, sure. Again, it sounded as if it were read right out of the Customer Service manual. If I was really important to them as a customer and if they really valued my business, couldn’t they do something to help me?

I had called my local TD Bank branch, which is a pretty big bank here in the Northeast. I asked them how much their Inactivity Fee was and they told me that they did not have Inactivity Fees on their accounts. Even when I mentioned to Sovereign Bank that their local competitor didn’t have these fees, they still wouldn’t do anything for me. I realized that if I had banked with TD Bank instead of Sovereign Bank all along, I would still have my $50.41.

I’m now waiting for one last check to clear and then am considering closing my accounts at Sovereign Bank and opening accounts at TD Bank instead. I obviously feel that Sovereign Bank does not value me as a customer.

Can any Consumerist readers recommend a good bank here in Northern NJ? Has anyone had any good experiences with their bank that they can share?

Somewhere out there is a northern New Jersey Consumerist reader who knows of the perfect bank that’s willing to take Daniel into its arms in a loving embrace while he kicks up his heel and violin music swells in the background. This is that reader’s chance to hook them up.

(Photo: The Consumerist)