Best Buy Register/Bank Error Leaves You Overdrafted And Cameraless

Reader Jeff is now in a situation that we find all too familiar, but most people have never even heard of: Electronic Funds Transfer Error Hell. You see, Jeff bought a camera at Best Buy and something went wrong — causing his debit card to be charged twice. This in turn caused him to overdraft. Now he’s shocked to learn that the process for reversing the charge isn’t as simple as it would be with a credit card.

Jeff writes:

I have been trying to get Best Buy to refund a double charge posted to my debit Mastercard for the sum of $741.99. Best Buy’s double charge has caused my account to overdraft and for me to cancel long-term plans that I had been anticipating for months due to insufficient funds.

Best Buy claims they have no record of the double charge so I contacted my bank to fill out an EFT inquiry for unauthorized charges, but this will take 10 business days! My bank is telling me that this is Best Buy’s mistake and Best Buy is telling me that this is my bank’s fault!

I had to return the camera to Best Buy because I could not afford to have a negative balance in my checking account waiting for the EFT to go through. I am frustrated, angry, and I want my $741.99 back! Best Buy hasn’t offered me any sort of compensation or solution to this matter and I don’t know where to turn now so I’m coming to The Consumerist. Help!

Jeff forwarded his emails to Best Buy as well as their response, which was polite and helpful, but not what Jeff wanted to hear. In it, they explain that while he may have been charged twice, they didn’t get the money:

In this case, we have determined that Best Buy has only received payment for one transaction that was posted on 9/20/10 for $741.99. We also note the returned transaction on 9/22/10 but have no other funds unfortunately. I’m currently requesting a reference number that you can provide your bank to confirm this so that they can move forward in their systems or possibly research what occurred on their side.

I’m sorry for all of the confusion but I wanted to make sure you knew I was here for you in the meantime.

As much as we love piling on after the whistle when it comes to Best Buy, we have to say that this situation is not easy to resolve. Why? Because you used a debit card.

Your bank is absolutely correct, they have up to 10 business days to investigate the electronic funds transfer error. They then have 3 business days to inform you of their decision. If they cannot come to a decision within this time frame, they have an additional 45 days to investigate — during which they must temporarily refund the money in question.

So, I’m afraid the news is not good. You’re going to have to be patient. For the rest of you, there are a few things you can do to avoid this sort of thing happening to you.

The first, and most obvious, is not to use a debit card for large purchases. Of course, cashiers have been known to accidentally enter a total incorrectly and charge someone $8k for Burger King — so your mileage may vary. Had this been a credit card, however, no actual money would have been removed from your account, and the situation would have been easier to resolve. Also, credit cards sometimes come with helpful benefits such as complimentary extended warranty protection. We do recommend, however, that you pay off the credit card each month.

The second strategy is to decline “overdraft protection” on your debit card. If your card declines transactions that would result in insufficient funds, you don’t have to worry about a negative balance.

Good luck, Jeff!

Answers About Bank Errors [Comptroller of the Currency]

Comments

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  1. FreshPorcupineSalad says:

    This is why I switched to using a credit card with rewards that I pay off every month for everyday purchases.

    • dragonfire81 says:

      I’ve wondered about people who do this. Do you make a CC payment each time you charge something to it or just leave the money in your bank account and pay the CC balance off in full at month’s end?

      • slim150 says:

        pay it at the end of the month, its a fun bill to get though :D

      • Geotpf says:

        You have until your next statement to pay without getting charged interest, provided you pay the statement balance in full each month.

        • Joseph S Ragman says:

          … unless you have a credit card through BofA, in which case you will receive another statement the following month for residual interest.

      • Sammich says:

        Depends how good you are at keeping track of your spending on a monthly basis.

        Not so good and know it? Pay at least the larger purchases at your earliest convenient opportunity.

        Good enough to not exceed what you can afford without having a running tally as you go? Monthly is fine.

      • jason in boston says:

        I have a schedule – I just pay it off every single Friday morning. It’s dead simple and literally 3 clicks.

      • Murph1908 says:

        I track my bank account balance and my CC charges in a spreadsheet. When I get cash from the ATM, I enter it into the spreadsheet, lowering the balance. When I make a CC charge, I enter this into the spreadsheet in different color, lowering the balance. Three or 4 times a month, I make a payment to the card and change the color of the CC entries to black, signifying the money is gone.

        I always have a running total of my available account balance, accounting for payments I need to make to my CC.

        I do something similar with my household expenses. I budget certain amounts for each expense, and track it based on paycheck and monthly total. When I set up my online payment, I enter it, and the spreadsheet automatically calculates if the amount is above or below the budgeted amout for that item, and calculates my current total above or below the monthly budget. I have a ‘Misc’ line item that can handle unexpected overages like a higher than usual electric bill, and that can be used for occasional expenses, like AAA dues or vacation cash.

      • areaman says:

        I pay the full balance on or around the same time I get my mid month pay check.

      • Woofer says:

        Is this somehow a newfangled usage of a credit card? I have all my bill pays cycled to the same day, CCs, car loan, cell phone, etc, so I get it all done in roughly ten minutes of online bill pay per month. Every possible alert is activated so I get an e-mail/text if there’s a funny charge or any debit whatsoever charged to me, so I don’t check the statement until bill-pay-day rolls around.

      • jamar0303 says:

        My US-issued Amex doesn’t allow me to pay before they say so. My Chinese card, on the other hand, lets me pay it off at any time by sticking it into any of their deposit-capable ATMs in China and dropping in the cash. Easy as pie when I don’t feel like doing the electronic transfer (when your bank requires IE for online banking, and IE6 for access to bill pay…Oh, China).

    • James says:

      Exactly. Everyone poo poos credit cards, but I always use them for big purchased – B&M and online. It’s nice to have accounts and make payments completely separate from my bills.

      I usually pay it once a week or so, or immediately if I make a large purchase.

      I had my hot tub service company accidentally run $350 through twice on my debit. (Done over the phone and he was hand typing it in on the machine.) He immediately fixed it when I told him it went through twice, but the refund took a couple days. (actually he refunded it twice so a few days later when it all evened out I had to tell him to charge me the original)

      But it took a few days to all even out, and had I only had $500 in my account I would have been screwed for fees and what not.

      Yes, I love credit cards for responsible use…

  2. milkcake says:

    Well, error is error. I feel sorry for this kid, not because of the error, but he has less than $500 buffer to do what he needs to do.

    • ovalseven says:

      He has less than $500 buffer because of the error, unless you’re suggesting that we should always assume we’ll be double-charged for everything.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Well yay for you for having so much money socked away. Now you can feel superior to this poor guy.

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Blame the OP Comments.

    IN-COMING!!!!

    • quijote says:

      I blame the parents.

    • danmac says:

      THAT’S WHAT HE GETS FOR NOT HAVING MONEY FOR A CAMERA AND A TRIP MAYBE HE SHOULDN”T HAVE PLANNED A TRIP IF HE DIDN”T HAVE THE MONEY WHY OH WHY DOES SOMEONE AS POOR AS HIM NEED A 750.00 CAMERA? EVERYONE KNOWS HE SHOULD HAVE PAID WITH A MONEY ORDER DUH AND BY THE WAY I HAVE MY CREDIT UNION NEGOTIATE THE PRICE OF THE CAMERA BECAUSE ONLY SUCKERS USE BANKS…

      …AND WHY DID YOU GO TO BEST BUY IF YOU READ THE CONSUMERIST YOU WOULD KNOW THAT BEST BUY KILLS BABIES.

      There…happy?

    • Griking says:

      /fail

    • sonneillon says:

      The Op should make his own cameras from home.

  4. FatLynn says:

    Typically, when a double-charge goes through, it is a mistake by the processor, and it gets reversed by the processor…I have never really noticed how long it takes, though.

    • Murph1908 says:

      Places I have worked, the system didn’t allow duplicates to go through. Once we had a contractor working buying the same item for 2 differnet jobs. He had to do the charge twice to keep the records separate for the 2 jobs. The system denied the second charge as a duplicate, so we had to put the second one through at 1 cent less to get approval.

  5. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Always use a credit card, for every non-trivial purchase. Always. It’s in your best interest as a consumer.

  6. TuxthePenguin says:

    The first thing I’d do is sit down with a branch manager (or bank manager if its a small bank) and just point out that you had to charges come through for the exact same amount at the exact same time. You could always twist it as “shouldn’t that be an exception or fraud alert?” If you try to spin it that the bank has weak controls, you might get another group involved (internal auditors) that might help you get the money back faster.

    But be patient. This is why credit cards are a godsend. Just pay off every month, as Consumerist said.

  7. billbillbillbill says:

    That’s too bad that his bank takes so long. I had this happen on a much smaller purchase and my Credit Union had the funds back in my account within a day of filling out the form. It was a courtesy to get the money back quickly while they did the process to validate my claim.

    • Gulliver says:

      It was a courtesy, and most banks (even evil Chase and BOA) will do a courtesy reversal. The person at the bank must give the law regarding the situation, so as not to confuse the consumer and be considered a liar. I am guessing this happened somewhere with the processor and they pulled money twice, which means it is sitting in the nether worlds.

  8. Yentaleh says:

    And this is one of many reasons why I don’t shop at Best Buy. I was screwed over by them a few years ago on some DVD’s. (I didn’t have a CC at the time and so was using a debit card too.) They overcharged me 144$ on a 28$ purchase. I tried to talk to them about it but I got the run around. I finally got the bank to rule in my favour, But it took nearly a month. For this reason I’ve taken my business elsewhere. (Like B & H photo, I’ve never had a problem with them)

  9. sjb says:

    It could be that there was only one purchase that went through but that somehow there were two authorization holds made to the account. Op should check to see if there is still a authorization hold pending.

    Had that happen on a credit card I use for travel, has enough credit limit to handle a small trip. Hotel messed up on a room assignment and for some reason ran my credit card again for the reservation and tried putting a second hold on the account. There was not enough credit left so was rejected. Hotel got all upset because of this until I asked them to please just use the original credit hold that they still had pending and to stop blaming me for their mistake.

  10. James says:

    and for small items it’s quite wise to use a credit card too. A $20 meal my find an unscrupulous waiter harvesting your # in the back.

    Then a day before a big trip you have a ton of unknown charges. If it’s done with a credit card big deal. A quick phone call, form and a new card is sent.

    Via a debit card you have to fight and argue to get your money back, hopefully before your bills come due.

  11. sirwired says:

    Every time the bank tries to “upgrade” me to a debit card, I send it right back. And for precisely this reason. It’s much better to be arguing with the bank and retailer about the BANK’S money rather than arguing about YOUR money.

    I carry an ATM card and two credit cards. (And of course those credit cards are PIF every month.)

  12. MrEvil says:

    My Credit union is downright snappy when it comes to incidents such as this. I once had an ATM shortchange me by about $60. I asked for $260, the machine debited my account $220 and only dispensed $160. They had a guy from Diebold out the next day to audit the machine and got my $60 back.

  13. Nick says:

    Does anyone know if this problem is specific to using a debit card with a PIN? Or would the same thing happen if the debit card was run as a credit card (e.g., through VISA)?

    • Mulva says:

      I had a double charge on my debit Visa card through TJ Maxx. I had it rung through as credit due to TJ Maxx being guilty of holding PINs in their system (among other problems – yes, I know I shouldn’t even be using a debit there). Both charges sat pending in my account for four days, holding both amounts hostage. On the fourth day both charges went through but I also received a credit for one charge. Learned my lesson and it’s AmEx only from now on there.

  14. pokinsmot says:

    If I remember correctly, with debit cards, aren’t there always two transactions? One to make sure the funds are there (which gets refunded after a few days), then the second actual transaction. For large purchases, using a debit card is just asking for trouble. I ALWAYS use cash for large transactions that way you can’t get screwed if something during the purchase process goes wrong.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      If run as actual debit using a pin, no. As a credit card there is an authorization and then a capture. The capture will reference the auth though, so there wouldn’t be a double hold.

  15. Jsizzle1980 says:

    Most people think that not using your debit card but using a credit card will resolve this and these people are half right. I work at a bank and deal with debit/credit transactions. Finding an error after using your debit card with pin number is very difficult and time consuming . The reason is that it is very hard to trace back where the error was made. Most of the time a merchant will tell you that the transaction did not complete and ask the consumer to re-enter their pin. Never do this. This will cause a double posting to your account. But a credit card is not needed, just tell the cashier you would like to run your debit card as credit. It still clears your bank account (typically 1 to 2 days later) and if there is a double posting a reversal is easy and you are completely protected by the bank. Using your pin number,depending on different institutions,are not protected.

  16. moth says:

    Ick. Had a similar but smaller error at a store where I used to work. The terminal lost connection during a debit transaction. We reran it and the first had come out of my bank acct but was not reflected in the debit total on the register. My manager had no way to fix at and told me to do through the bank. The bank fixed it in 2 weeks.

  17. Snakeophelia says:

    I feel for this person. I had a similar situation happen, but in my situation I believe there was intent of fraud. I was dining with a large group of people and picked up the tab using a debit card that was linked to a checking account with a balance of around $400. The meal was a little over $100 total, but the waiter, after taking my debit card away, brought it back and said he’d attempted to run it through four times, but that it was declined each time. I provided another card for the meal, and checked that account balance as soon as I got home. Yep – the waiter ran the card through SUCCESSFULLY three times, and the fourth time it was declined because by the fourth time, the check total was more than the balance in my account. Basically, the waiter drained that account. The fact that it took multiple phone calls to clear this up, to a manager who didn’t seem all that concerned, made me think it was deliberate. Thankfully, my credit union got the whole thing cleared up on their end tout suite.

  18. thor79 says:

    I had this sort of thing happen with my lifetime subscription to Star Trek Online. I got charged 2x $200. Fortunately I had the money in the account to cover it all. Also fortunately, I was able to get the erroneous charge reversed in 3 days. It took a lot of calls between my bank and Cryptic’s CS people, but it turns out one of them was a hold for the full amount, the other was the actual charge…the hold dropped off after 3 days. Crytpic certainly got an earful from me about placing a full amount hold on there in addition to the full charge.

    The OP’s situation sounds like an error on the bank’s side, since Best Buy had no record of the transaction.

    I’ve been running off of only a debit card since I got my first bank account. I’m increasingly looking at getting a credit card just so I can manage when my bills are paid. As it is I have 90% of my bills hitting my first paycheck…and sometimes it gets a little tight. Still learning to manage my money. I worry about myself getting a credit card though as I am sometimes an impulsive buyer…and that’s where I get into trouble.

  19. LACubsFan says:

    What he needs to do is contact executive customer service ASAP. Explain what is going on nicely, and explain that you don’t have the money to wait for 10 days. They will have someone call you back and take care of you right away. This happened to me last year and it was solved in 3 hours.

  20. JBTX says:

    I had a similar issue with IKEA and WAMU when I was younger.

    I had close to $1000 in my checking account and went to do some shopping around x-mas, we saw some good sales at IKEA and bought a couch and some other items for around $700 ish. IKEA double swipped my card, I was now overdraft about $400 but didn’t know it. Figuring I had still had about $300 left, we went a did the rest of our holiday shopping. $20 here $30 there we spent about 200 more during the day over 10-11 transactions, incurring an additional overdraft fee each time. I got home that evening figuring I’d have $100 or so left only to find my self in the red for almost $800.

    I immediately went back to IKEA the next morning, they were very sorry and with out any hassle refunded the second debt the same day. I then went to WAMU and met with the branch manager who refused to refund a single over draft fee and proceeded to call it a good service they provided me. And since IKEA made the mistake they should refund the charges.

    I called and asked IKEA about this and they politely refused, and rightly so. So here I am stuck with 12 $35 over draft fees. I ended up going to a different branch and the Woman at the counter refunded 3 and said it was her limit and couldn’t do any more and I would need to speak to the manager when I got in the next day. I returned the next day to have that other manager give me the same crap it wasn’t their fault and IKEA should pay for it and I shouldn’t have gotten the 3 refunded that I did and how he was going to have a talk with that teller.

    I was so pissed I was ready to punch them. I was young on my own and this was a lot of money to me. I opened another account at a new bank and switched, but left my WAMU account open since if I wasn’t a customer any longer my chances of getting help were slim to none.

    In the end (8 months later) and after countless hours trying to get my money back I gave up. I got half of the fee’s refunded and the other half I had to eat. I planned on taking them to court but working 2 jobs and going to school I simply didn’t have the time.

    • Copper says:

      Something similar happened to me with BoA last year. There was ~$700 in overdrafts and they refunded half. I ended up being negative about $150 after all was said and done. The only way I got half refunded was by calling the executive customer service number I found here on Consumerist and that was after months. I already had a USAA account so I just ate the $150 to close my account and be done with them. If I hadn’t had it at the time, I’m sure it would’ve been sent to collections. They were already threatening. I hate BoA.

  21. HammRadio says:

    I once bought a bed at a Matress Giant. The salesperson ran my credit card through twice (thinking the first time it didn’t go through), He received a message that the card was declined. I knew I had MORE than enough money for the bed (just not for 2!). I called my credit card company (BofA btw) and they confirmed that there were two swipes (the second one declined). Fortunately I did use my credit card and NOT my debit card.

  22. MNGirl says:

    I had the exact same thing happen to me at a Wal-Mart kiosk. I was using a mastercard debit that my employer gave me that my checks were deposited on. It was supposed to deny any over drafts and when I was using the kiosk to het a $600 money order it charged me twice. The card said it was Walmarts fault and Walmart said it was the card. I had to make the store manager call and it was fixed in a couple days.

    • ShadowFalls says:

      That is how it works these days. It is never their fault until you slap the proof in their face and they still argue you about it. Then they give in and proceed to act like they are doing you are a favor.

  23. ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

    More evidence that a bank error in their favor isn’t treated anything like one in your favor.

  24. checkcard2009 says:

    The article is wrong. They have 10 days to decline the dispute OR issue provisional credit. They have 90 (NINETY) days from when the problen or error is reported (the dispute) to either make the credit final or reverse the provisional (TEMPORARY) credit. All associated fees WILL be refunded.
    I thought Consumerist would at least get the facts straight. Wow. 45 days is only for PIN/ATM transactions under Reg E. Great job on the research….

  25. Coles_Law says:

    What happens if the bank investigates, sees the one refund from the camera he returned, and says “Oh, the store fixed it. No double charge here!”?

    • checkcard2009 says:

      Then all the OP has to do is provide the credit slip (the receipt you get when you return something) to show he returned the item. Best Buy still will not be able to have 2 signed receipts from the original double billing.

  26. PLATTWORX says:

    How many times do we need to see a story here from someone who has had trouble after using a DEBIT card to make a purchase and the error screws up THEIR money in THEIR account.

    You do NOT use debit cards for purchases like this. You use a credit card to make sure you are protected and then pay the darn thing off immediately with the funds in your check account you have set aside for that purchase. No interest, no fees…. and you would never have this double charge/overdraft problem.

  27. davebu3 says:

    What about using a debit card as a credit if your bank supports it? How is that treated in these situations?

  28. Yorick says:

    My debit card is only used for credit transactions, and ATM withdrawals (and those only at one of my actual bank’s terminals).

    I’ve only once had a problem, where somehow a charge for someone else’s bank account was processed onto mine, but I got all my money back within 2 weeks.

    I would prefer not to have a credit card around, it’s far to easy to cause yourself trouble even with the best of intentions — all it took was losing income for one month to prevent me from paying off the bill as planned.

  29. Rob says:

    Make sure that any EFT disputes are in writing. A phone call will get the investigation started. Put the dispute in writing maintains the account holders rights under the banking regulation for EFT disputes.