Back in May/June, US Bank announced that they were instituting monthly maintenance fees. I’ve had an account since the early 2000′s when they bought out my old bank, and they’ve generally been good to me.
When the fees were announced, I received a letter in the mail informing me of the change. But my letter was apparently different from any other that anybody at US Bank has ever seen: At the end of the “What is changing with your checking account?” section there is one specific underlined sentence. It reads: “However, because you are a valued customer we’re waiving the monthly maintenance fee on this account.”
Am I crazy in thinking that this sentence means that I will not be charged the monthly maintenance fee on this account?
I receive a phone call from my local branch a few weeks later in which they want to discuss monthly fees and the various programs they have to waive those fees: direct deposits, monthly minimum balances, automatic savings transfers and so forth. I told them well, that’s great, but I don’t have those fees anyways. The person (a customer service manager, no less) started to get huffy and indignant with me immediately. “Well if you’ll just let me tell you about these!” and I said “well that’s fine, but I don’t expect those fees anyways and decline to take any of those options as I’ve got this letter!” I read the letter directly and was told flat out that it doesn’t say that, or that I’m misreading it. I offered to bring a copy by, and they agreed.
I ended up sitting for 20 minutes while they called an internal customer service line and said “well, we’ve never seen this before, but your account has a valued flag on it and we’ll honor this.” Great! Thanks guys. I went home pleased.
I deposit a check a month or so later and while I’m there they ask me again about the fee waiver programs, one of which involves transferring a small amount from checking to savings every time you make a purchase. I’m trying to be better at saving, so I decide what the heck, yes, I’ll do that. They say it can be as little as a quarter per purchase. Easy, great. I like to buy stuff, and dumping a quarter into a bucket every time is a start.
Another month goes by and I check out my transactions online. What’s this? A $6.95 maintenance fee, plain as day. Uh.
so I went to my local branch, letter in hand. A teller makes an internal call when I present my problem and says “sorry, I can’t do anything” after 15 minutes. I suggest that I’m willing to change banks and she asks if I want to speak to a service manager, and I definitely agree. The first words out of her mouth are “Well, looks like your letter didn’t work THIS month, now did it?” Which nearly set me off, but I was relatively calm. I was told that instituting the savings transfer had altered my account and irrevokably removed my “valued” flag. They conveniently didn’t mention that this would happen a month ago. I pointed out that I’m not really feeling like a valued customer at this point, as I’ve now got THREE reasons that I shouldn’t be charged a fee: the letter in my hand, the purchase-transfers, and I also mentioned a third avenue: I’m a student, and they purport to offer free student checking. I offered my student ID, and am told that since my card has no enrollment dates I need more than just a student ID, such as an official letter of enrollment or something similar from my school. Which isn’t in session yet, as it’s, you know, the summer.
What I also wasn’t told a month ago either was that in order to waive the fees with the purchase-transfers, they must equal to $25 or more over the month, hence still being charged! I said that this is unacceptable, and though I really, really don’t want to change banks, is that going to be what it takes after a decade? I was told that I’m free to choose another financial institution. Goodbye.
So: I go home and call the number on the back of my card. A front-line rep does the best he can to find me a solution by switching me to student checking. I also file a complaint against the managers at the local branch, both the one from the initial phone call and the one I spoke with in person who told me to take my business elsewhere. I also ask to speak to a supervisor about the letter I’ve got.
I’m told that this letter can’t possibly mean what I think it means, and that furthermore switching to student checking does get rid of monthly maintenance but has a nice side effect: it “de-couples” my savings account – which adds a $4.95 monthly maintenance fee.
I’m then told that “of course we don’t want to lose your business”, which rang rather hollow at that point. I offer to scan or fax a copy and send it to this supervisor, and I’m given a fax number. This was a little over two weeks ago. I just returned from a week-long family emergency trip and haven’t had time to send that fax yet.
I’m an older student going back to get the degree I always wanted, and I’m broke. Fighting over $7/month seems ridiculous, but I can’t stomach paying someone to earn interest off of what I do have, and I thought I was playing by their rules to keep that from happening. Every penny counts. Since this has happened, I’ve had two more people I know say that have recently ditched US Bank for various reasons, particularly for being unfriendly to their businesses and/or clients.
If US Bank has suddenly decided that it’s good business to drive customers away, well, they’re right on top of their game.