Banking Dos And Don'ts: Answers And Clarifications

The employee who provided us the Goofus and Gallant 19 point guide to banking has some answers to your questions and clarifications, inside…

Anon big bank employee writes:

I am willing to admit that when the email was typed last night, I was trying to “hide” where I worked and that some things came across a little arrogant. I apologize to anyone whom I may have offended. I will admit when I wrote the original message, I was up late (was sent at midnight) and didn’t have a good day. (everyone can have a bad day sometimes). I just see some things that people say on the consumerist and would rather let people have another look at what may have happened than jumping to say that “it’s always the banks fault”.

I wanted to give some input and feedback with a clearer head about some of the comments posted:

1) yes, the bank can be wrong. It can AND DOES happen, no bank is perfect. No company is perfect, if they claim to be, run for the hills! If there is a valid situation that is not being resolved, no matter what the reason, ask for the manager first, if it’s not fixed, ask for a regional manager or “priority service” so it can get fixed, keep in touch with the person you talk to so if the situation isn’t fixed by the date promised, you know who to go back to. Stay on them until it’s right. Nothing at all wrong with that. Follow up!

2) When referring to closing the account, too many people try to “pull rank” and act like the issue was caused by the bank when SOMETIMES this is not at all true. If it’s a valid reason, see #1 above, almost always something can be adjusted. Though for some customers, no matter what the employee or the bank does, they will not be happy they want MORE. Or they are asking to adjust something that is either not adjustable or match a rate/product/service that at that point is exclusive at the other bank. Someone will be willing to work with you to find another option, but if it’s not enough and the alternatives do not satisfy you, then closing the account may be the best option. Losing a customer isn’t a great option, but there are only so many solutions out there.

3) If you have any customer service person who is mis-treating you in anyway, see 1. Climb the ladder and complain complain complain. If you complain, and the regional notices it’s for a valid reason, they can give the person a disciplinary action and possibly get the person terminated. There is no reason to put up with being mistreated in any way.

4) Overdraft Fees: Yes, some banks charge for the “service” of doing an automatic transfer from a savings or Line of Credit for overdraft. But it’s always better than to not have the rent check get paid. And even better option? If you have remembered something may be coming out before the business day is out (before 2-3p, check with your online banking area), do a transfer on your own online from your Savings, also free. The computer automatically returns checks/ACH items if they will bring your account below zero. There is no buffer at my bank as a commenter had noted about their bank.

It’s also when some people who are over-drafting their account often think that threatening to close their account is going to scare the employee they are talking to, the bank has to balance number of times you overdraft your account against the likelihood you will pay it off again.

And here is a secret: Bring your account negative more than a few times or wait awhile (couple weeks) to pay it back and your debit card may be suspended until you “learn your lesson” and don’t overdraft again. (some “probationary” periods have been AS MUCH AS 6 months to a year for repeat offenders.)

5) Our bank posts credits before debits.

6) Every bank is different with the way debit (Mastercard/Visa) card transactions are presented, some will leave the transaction on your account until they post. Some will allow them to fall off after a business day. Though for paying items the second can be good since if some items have fallen off, those funds are NOT being held against your balance when items are presented and thus charging MORE overdraft fees.

7) If there is an incorrect Fee on your account, ask to have it returned, why it got there and how to make sure you don’t get it again. Sometimes a slip of a mouse when opening an account can put you in the wrong account or if you have a type of account that is based on the balance of all of your accounts, someone may have missed a checkbox and it just needs fixed.

8) If you are talking to someone about an issue or to verify a policy, get the person’s name or someway to be able to reference them. In person, get a business card or full name. On the customer service line, ask for any and every piece of information to say “this person told me this”. This can also be referenced above for 1 and 3.

9) Cashing foreign checks against an account can be a big issue. Make sure you have the funds to pay for your other items as well, or you could get a nasty surprise of overdrafts. Please check with your joint holder to make sure they didn’t cash a check against your account before yelling at the bank rep for why the bank “charged you all these fees”.


Edit Your Comment

  1. pestie says:

    The word is “dos.” Yes, it looks weird (and might give some old-school computer geeks like me flashbacks), but there’s no apostrophe in it.

  2. MercuryPDX says:

    ‘your debit card may be suspended until you “learn your lesson”‘

    I WISH! That’s what really nails me. My bank doesn’t “shut off” the debit card if the account has gone overdrawn. They allow me to dig myself deeper into a hole. Nothing stings more than being charged $40 for a $5 purchase (+$35 penalty) because the card still works even despite my balance tunneling its way to China.

    The two or three times I’ve been overdrawn (again, my fault for crappy bookkeeping) would have been less painful had the bank shut my debit card off until my account balance went positive; but that may have tipped me off that something was wrong before the bank could take $175 in penalty fees for less than $75 in purchases.

    I understand that banks, like every business, are out to make money. I just wish that they were a little less eager to capitalize on my stupidity.

    And thank you to the “Anon Big Bank Employee” for coming back in to give additional feedback.

  3. d0x says:

    You think thats bad Mercury? Recently I had forgotten I had made a payment. My account had $1.37 left in it.

    I went to an ATM and checked the balance and there was a $2 fee. My bank charged me $25 for an overdraft fee for that…

  4. mac-phisto says:

    @MercuryPDX: a lot of ppl don’t realize that banks may have automatically enrolled them in “overdraft protection”. this is to “avoid the embarrassment of having your card denied at checkout”.

    they accomplish this by allowing approvals beyond your available balance by $100 or more.

    you can opt-out of overdraft protection by visiting your local branch & asking them to remove it. then your card will almost never work when you do not have the funds available (there are still ways you can overdraw b/c of merchant floor limits, but you should overdraft much less often).

  5. MercuryPDX says:

    @mac-phisto: Personally, I don’t find it an embarrassment. Cards can get declined simply because something went wrong during the call from the card reader to the bank.

    I did make it a point to call after the first two times asking them why they didn’t kill the card. Their response was the same as yours. Additionally, the type of checking account I had does not allow for this to happen (up to $1000 overdraft protection was included), and in order for it to work I’d have to downgrade the account.

    It didn’t seem worth it to me to start paying for everything else I’d been getting for free (Checks, ATM access, online bill pay/access etc.), instead of not being an idiot and keeping a closer eye on my finances.

    If anything, it’s scared me into checking my balances online or over the phone every two days and being more responsible. I haven’t gone overdrawn again in close to two years.

  6. Rum1 says:

    Another banker’s input:

    As for your card not being declined because you’re overdrawn……the computer at 7-11 doesn’t talk to the bank. Would you want it to? The magnetic strip on the back of your card carries information that gives you A) a per transaction limit and B) a daily limit overall. Each transaction you make daily is tracked by the carrier system. Ecxeed the single or daily limit and voila! Declined.

    Gallant knows that at the end of the day knowing how much money he has is HIS job, not the bank’s.

  7. mac-phisto says:

    @MercuryPDX: i’m with you…i’d much rather have the $40 in fees than save the “embarrassment”.

    if they require the o/d protection & you don’t want it, perhaps it’s time to shop around. i recently signed up for ingdirect’s electric orange & i love it. plus their debit card is cool. & yes, i do occasionally base important financial decisions on trivial things like how cool a debit card looks.

    they have o/d protection also, but they don’t charge you to transfer from the loc to the checking – you only pay interest on the money borrowed.

  8. formergr says:

    Rm1, are you sure that’s entirely accurate? Back in the day I definitely had transactions decline because of insufficient funds, and it had nothing to do (and wasn’t even close in amount to) the daily limit.

  9. MercuryPDX says:

    @Rum1: I already know it’s my own fault for being overdrawn and would not blame the bank for that, so thanks for pointing that out.

    I would like to think that at some point the bank is involved at the POS. They’re not the ones giving the authorization/decline codes? Is it a some random third party with a magic eight ball?

    By your statement, every stolen card comes with a free shopping spree that’s good until either amount A or amount B is exceeded, despite the card being reported as stolen.

  10. mac-phisto says:

    @MercuryPDX: it’s much more complicated than that & to be perfectly honest, you probably don’t want to know. i have a binder that’s 6-inches thick which is a summary of how everything works if your interested. it’s pretty conclusive (except for information on international floor limits by region & merchant code…that info is in a separate binder).

    sometimes it really does seem like an eight ball has more sway than the bank…

  11. anonbankemployee says:

    @MercuryPDX: Since Consumerist was kind enough to let me comment, I want to say that when referring to the “suspending” of your debit card, it normally is when you have gone more than a week or two in the negative and no pattern to pay it back. The Longer the account is in the negative, the less likely the card will be reactivated soon.

    In Fact, every branch and place that opens an account (over the phone, etc), get reports that show accounts that “belong” to them that have been overdrawn, and they may put a hold on it or even cancel the card due to that negative balance. While they don’t want to lose a customer, the branch also has a “total deposit balance” that they have to live up to, and those who are negative are pulling the rest of it down. So the branch doesn’t actually see a penny of those overdraft fees.

  12. cgmaetc says:

    What if the bank policy is totally asinine, like BofA’s cash policy? Only the first $100 of a cash deposit at the teller is available that day, the rest posts at midnight. But don’t have a check come in that’s more than your ‘available balance’ which is just what was in the account before plus your $100 deposit), ‘cuz the bank will bounce the check, charge you a fee, and throw your account into a tizzy.

    And be careful when they ask, “would you like to get Overdraft Protection” because at some banks it’s a credit card, NOT a savings account. That means they will run your credit as if you are applying for a credit card, not opening an account.

  13. Brie says:

    >If you have remembered something may be coming out before the business day is out (before 2-3p, check with your online banking area), do a transfer on your own online from your Savings, also free.

    A while back we had a hinky month with a couple of big surprise expenses, so I was online every day tracking the cash flow and ended up having to do at least six transfers between savings and checking. How do I know it was six? Because we got a nastygram from the bank that said something like “you have initiated transfers six or more times, and federal regulations require us to tell you that your account wasn’t supposed to be used that way.”

    I interpreted that as “keep shuttling money back and forth, and we’ll start charging you huge fees.”

  14. anonbankemployee says:

    @MissedTheExit: Actaully, if you see a comment I posted to the original post, it’s due to Regulations. Not the bank. you have limits for that as well.

  15. Rum1 says:

    Yes, Formergr, I’m sure that’s how it works in today’s system at my bank. Yours may be different, and back in the day it may have been different.

    Yes CGM, that sounds wrong to me. Cash is cash. Most banks have that sort of policy with deposited checks.

    And Mercury? You’d be amazed at the number of people who DO blame the bank because basic checking account balancing is either beyond them, or just too much trouble and think the bank should be their personal watchdog.

    The bank gets involved with POS/Credit when the vendor actually uploads data to COLLECT their money. Either it will then clear the bank or it won’t. (Again, I’m simplifying a process.) The swipe at the counter is only your promise to pay (like the afore mentioned check.) But the bank isn’t part of the immediate transaction. If you report your card as stolen then ALL systems are alerted, and if you notify the bank in a timely manner then you aren’t responsible anyway.

  16. ReccaSquirrel says:

    @anonbankemployee: Okay, I know which bank your work for. I know your are anon about it as I am as well. I’m curious what site you work out of and would love to know.

    I’m also quite surprised you didn’t making a comment at any point about customers that go to ATMs to make deposits, fully expecting them to be immediately available.

  17. MercuryPDX says:

    @cgmaetc: This is partially what I meant in the previous article post when I said my bank “Posts the debits before the credits”. I’ve since worked out a payment schedule where everyone is getting paid the Monday after any Pay day (Thursday) which gives everything more than enough time to clear.

    Again, another example that is not the banks fault… but mine for not understanding that while my job DOES direct deposit my paycheck on Thursday at midnight, that DOES NOT necessarily mean it’s available Friday at 12:01 AM.

  18. Luminosity says:

    Has anyone else had this problem with Bank of America? After overdrafting my account, BoA now holds any check deposits for 5 business days before I get access to my funds. This includes my paycheck. And of course, Saturday and Sunday don;t count a business days so it takes almost a week before I have access to my paycheck.

  19. anonbankemployee says:

    @ReccaSquirrel: Well, to answer your second question first, it was because I was looking to find more things as “advice” rather than just a “lecture”. In fact, like i had said originally in this post, I regretted how I phrased some of the things (though Consumerist turned it into the “Goofus and Gallant” situation, not me. In Fact, there were 22 things I had typed, but obviously they wanted to forgo some of them for space.)

    Though one I will shorten, but think people do need:
    * Keep your disclosures and Fee Guides from when you open your account. Don’t have them? Next time you are at a branch, ask for them. Keep them safe, check them if you think something is wrong. Read them over whenever you have a chance.

    And first question: Even if you are pretty sure you know where I work, I don’t “fit” into a “regular” area with a traditional job. In fact, none of the “jobs” people guessed for me in the comments were right. I just have alot of experience all over and wanted to relay it to anyone that it may be useful to.

    And just for the record, I know pretty much everything I said was not really a “secret”, but I still don’t want to be found out. No Offense to anyone.

  20. saritonin says:

    @Luminosity – Two of my friends have run into the same problem with BofA keeping their paychecks for almost a week before posting. Sometimes you can go to the local grocery store to get your paycheck cashed if it’s under a certain amount, and around here they only charge minimal fees (