TD Banknorth Charges $134 For Overdrafting A Granola Bar And A Vitamin Water

“In March, I went to a ski resort on my way to a job interview. I stopped at a grocery store to pick up a granola bar [update: and a vitamin water]. I had to put it on my debit card, and the one I used was my (RARELY used) TD Banknorth card. I don’t usually keep much money in there because I hate Banknorth, but I bring it with me to go skiing to secure demo equipment without risking my real bank accounts. As soon as I got to Boston for my interview, I deposited $10 to cover the $8 I charged at Shaws, even though I knew there was supposed to be money in the account.”

Fast forward a month. I start getting calls from a random phone number, but I’m a student and the person always called while I was in class. I listened to the voicemails, and all they were were a person named Rebecca from TD banknorth calling me. So, figuring it was something to do with the recent reissue of debit cards to pretty much every account, I called back. No dice. Got her voicemail SIX TIMES. All times of the working day, etc. About this time I start to wonder what’s up, so I go to check my online account only to find my online access was denied. So I called the CS line, but they’re only open during banking hours and I have a life and a job, so I was never able to get a live person to reinstate my access.

Two days later I go to pick up my mail, and I see a letter from Banknorth. Trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious phone calls, etc. I open it up. It’s a letter dated two days before (bear in mind I had been getting calls for a week) stating my account was 30 days overdrafted. I go “WHAT?” They had charged me, at that point, 90 some odd dollars in overdraft fees, and were warning me that they were going to start charging $35 every two days since my balance due was more than some exceedingly small number.

The next morning I find the only branch near me, paperwork and checkbook in hand, to try to straighten this out. The woman pulls up my account. In the FOUR DAYS since the letter had been postmarked, I had racked up an additional $75 in overdraft fees. We took a look at what caused the problem. I had had $15 in the account, of which I charged $8 at Shaws. Unfortunate for me, that was 62 days since my last account activity, and Banknorth decided to charge me $10 for account inactivity. They withdrew this charge BEFORE processing the debit charge, putting me at $3 overdrafted, THEN charged the overdraft fee before processing my deposit, putting me at a net overdraft of $18. They then proceeded to charge me $25 every three days after the account had been overdrawn for two weeks.

Bear in mind that in this time I was not able to access the online account information, and they didn’t send me a statement. So I went to the branch, and the “best they could do” for me was reducing my overdraft fees to the number stated in the letter they sent me. $90 for a charge I not only had enough money to cover but deposited EXTRA to be sure!

Needless to say, I zeroed out my account with them, keeping it only for paypal deposits, and most of my friends did too. I’m sticking with my credit union from here on out. They’ve never done me wrong in 8 years of banking with them. But if I could get away with it, the idea of keeping all my money under a mattress is sounding better and better. Banknorth also recently forbade me from taking out all the money in the account a second time, citing a need for funds to cover “Account maintenance.” Screw them.

Ah, the wonder of overdraft fees…I finally just got this situation resolved with banknorth at the end of June, a full three months after the incident in question even happened…


She would’ve been fine if it weren’t for the account inactivity charge, issued because Banknorth needed to recoup the cost of not doing anything to Lauren’s account…

This is why you need to know exactly what fees your account charges, even if, or especially if, the bank doesn’t make it easy for you to figure out what they are. If the fees end up tripping you up into overdrafting, the bank then goes on a rampage to screw the bejeezus out of you.

Also, if you hate a bank so much, that’s probably a good sign that you want to close your account with them, and not even risk it on what could end up being a $98 granola bar.

(Photo: dospaz)

UPDATE: Lauren had this to add after seeing the post and a few comments:

Hey Ben-

Just wanted to clear up some points. I posted a comment to this effect but I just want to be clear.

The charge was actually for a granola bar and a bottle of vitamin water.

I did check the account several days after this at an ATM (bear in mind, my online access STILL doesn’t work, but I also don’t care because there’s only $25 in the account) and none of the charges had posted. It showed my balance as $14.65, which is what I knew it was the day of the charge, so I figured the deposit would post, they’d deduct the charge, and all would be well. That was a mistake on my part.

The next I heard from them was the calls from collections. there was NEVER a letter notifying me of the original overdraft. Now, they could have sent it but that doesn’t necessarily mean I got it, as mail gets all kinds of confused on a university campus. It’s possible the letter bounced around the mail system but never got to me. Either way, I never got one, and I still couldn’t access the account.

The number they had for me was a cell phone. I listened to all the voicemails that were left and returned every call the same day I got it, but I never got Rebecca on the phone. I did leave her a message, but I suspect by the time she got around to it, I had already settled the account.

As soon as I knew there was a serious problem, I was at a branch working with a person to settle it.

I think my comment takes care of the rest, such as the reason to use a nearly dead debit card as collateral for ski equipment.



Edit Your Comment

  1. joeblevins says:

    Why in the world bother to keep a debit card in your possesion for an account that has 10 bucks in it. And you don’t even intend to really use that bank again?

    And yes, that sounds like a crappy bank.

  2. Quippish says:

    So does Lauren realize she’s just asking to go through this whole ordeal again?

    Some 62 days from now they’re going to charge another “Account Inactivity” fee but this time she won’t have any money in the account to cover it and will automatically go into racking up overdraft fees.

    The inactivity thing is not a consumer friendly fee but we all need to be aware of the requirements of accounts we open.

  3. levenhopper says:

    @joeblevins: As the article said…to demo ski equipment w/o risking access to her major bank account. Sounds like a good reason to me…

  4. smallestmills says:

    So, um, she hates the bank, but she uses it.
    She figures out to whine to Consumerist, but not how to call a number on a rarely used bank-hating card to check the balance before she used it? She can write some stupid long-assed letter, but she can’t bother to know about her bank’s rules?
    I hope the granola bar was worth it, but I’m afraid we’re probably going to see another letter from her to Quaker Oats about the lack of chocolate chips in the $98 bar.

  5. goodkitty says:

    These over-drafting fees are going to become the new scandal fad after the whole payday loan thing finally gets legislated into obscurity. I’ve had the same thing happen over just a few pennies overdraft on a debit card purchase. The bank should simply refuse the transaction. If you don’t have the money to cover the purchase then isn’t it just predatory practice to charge people 10x more than the minor overdraft in extra fees?

  6. enm4r says:

    User error. Same thing time after time. Leave the bank if you don’t like the policies, but you have to know the actual policies first, I guess that’s asking too much.

  7. acambras says:

    $8 for a granola bar in the first place? Jeez, I live in CONNECTICUT and I don’t think I’ve ever paid $8 for a freakin’ granola bar.

  8. humphrmi says:

    @levenhopper: Um, credit cards are much better security than debit cards. If an errant charge goes through, it’s the bank’s money on the line until it’s resolved, and you’re not out of pocket. Also, an errant charge on a debit card would start the whole overdraft cycle over again.

    I’m not saying the charges aren’t outrageous, but someone needs to practice a little financial responsibility here.

    Didn’t Consumerist just recently post an article by Frank Abagnale about Frank Abagnale about how we should “Never [use] debit cards” and always use credit cards so your “money is never directly at risk?”

  9. Televiper says:

    If you can use a debit card to demo ski equipment, then you can also use cash. There’s no point in keeping a bank account at 0 balance.

    also… check your balances regularly, as in weekly.

  10. EtherealStrife says:

    @acambras: She said “I stopped at a grocery store to pick up a granola bar”. The person in question is female. That should be enough information for you. =P

  11. uricmu says:

    Umm, how do you secure something with a debit card? I thought that’s the whole point of a credit card (i.e., one you need one for a car rental).
    Perhaps they charged the amount of the ski equipment ?

  12. Crazytree says:


  13. Lula Mae Broadway says:

    Yes people should be on top of it – but fees on top of fees on top of fees are outrageous – an INACTIVITY FEE?!! So they do nothing, you don’t tax their system in any way and they STILL charge you?!

    Most shocking thing is that she’s keeping the account open at all.

    @EtherealStrife: An uh no, you sexist bonehead – the key information was her taste in snacks of gender, it was that she was “at a ski resort” – the kind of isolated fiefdom that thrives on outrageous charges for snacks, drinks, etc.

  14. deweydecimated says:

    the inactivity fee reminds me of how suntrust charged us $20 to close our account when we moved far out of their service range. we called it the “hitting your a** on the way out” charge.

  15. ivieso says:

    I think the consumerist is running of stories to run. Please get back to posting stories worth publishing. This is nothing but a whining letter from Queen Lauren.

    and…$8 for a granola bar? Are you serious? I can see why you only have $15.

  16. jburland says:


  17. unsunder says:

    I use a small hometown bank and I overdrafted my account by a few bucks one time. I left someone a voicemail about how the banks website was down that week and that I should be refunded. Without any further explanation my account was credited the overdraft charge.

  18. Crazytree says:

    I have free overdraft from BofA linked to my checking.

  19. triple says:

    I got charged $26 for a .75 overdraft once on a can of coke, but I just asked.. im like, you know, $26 for .75 cents?

    I think it helped I deposited $1200 the next day, but still.. they removed it.

    Local bank, but awesome.

  20. EtherealStrife says:

    @Lula Mae Broadway: “the key information was her taste in snacks of gender”

    Now a banana I could see, but a granola bar? I think that’s a bit of a stretch.

  21. mobbo says:

    Totally Lauren’s fault on this one. But I can relate to her feelings regarding the way banks will completely screw you over by conveniently arranging the order in which charges will be taken out to maximize the # of overdraft fees. Wells Fargo did this to me… one time on campus I had Starbucks in the morning, Wendy’s for lunch, a snack from 7-11 at some point, then bought an expensive item at Best Buy late in the evening. Rather than coming out of my account in order… the large item would be charged first, then the smaller items would follow, resulting in 3 – 4 overdraft fees. If they came out honestly, I would have just overdrafted once. And I’m not making it up or paranoid because it happened to me twice and my girlfriend once.

  22. ScramDiggyBooBoo says:

    I have said before and i will say it again, BANKS ARE THE DEVIL!!! I have been with a Credit Union since high school. On several occasions when i was denied credit for a car, credit card, etc., i would go to them and they would give me the money no questions asked. They look at my history and see that i have never made a late payment. Not some simple credit score. Get this, they know my name too!! I walk in and i am always greeted with “Hi Adam”!! Weird i know. I have overdrawn a few times in that time (both my fault and theirs) but have gotten pretty much EVERY one refunded. I know tons of friends who get screwed all the time by their banks. I have to pay ATM fees and all that, and the one complaint is that they charge me $1.00 to use another banks ATM, but for all the other pain and suffering they are saving me from, i’ll pay a buck all day long.

  23. ScramDiggyBooBoo says:

    she did, but like Ben said, they charged her 10.00 for doing nothing to her account for it being “inactive” I guess that is a way for banks to suck money out of you. you have a savings account you have not used for years, and then you see (way to late of course) that they took 100 out because it was “inactive” over that time. They know you aint gonna notice.

  24. ReccaSquirrel says:

    Here is a quick rule of thumb:

    If the bank has a sustained overdraft fee (fee for being negative for X days), you need to find another bank.

  25. North of 49 says:

    how is it lauren’s fault when the bank charged an inactivity fee?

    There is/was a bank in Canada that charges a $1.00/mo accounting fee for any account under their minimum, especially “inactive” accounts. This has hit seniors and children as well as those who can least afford it. I had over 30$ in one of those accounts and when the bank instituted the fee when I was a teenager, they stole my entire savings one dollar at a time. I refuse to bank there and that’s not the only reason why either. There were several news reports over the years about how people were being nickled and dimed to death. The stupidest thing about it all is that the bank feels justified in charging the “inactivity fee.” They don’t even do any accounting. Its all computers now!

  26. mac-phisto says:

    wow. a whole lot of self-righteous ppl here. disregard the fees altogether & let’s look at the big picture here. td banknorth was unable to to service her phone calls despite repeated attempts to contact them, generated $100 in fees in the process of horrible customer service, & didn’t allow the OP to close the account.

    it is important to keep tabs on your accounts, but how can one account for bullshit charges that are conveniently charged in a method to create more fees?

  27. BofA charged me a fee on my savings account a few months ago when I went below the minimum balance for a day and a half. I called up and the executive customer service associate reversed the charge…just like that.

    I feel for Lauren. But I’m not surprised that Banknorth hits below the belt.

  28. steinwaytony says:

    So I called the CS line, but they’re only open during banking hours and I have a life and a job, so I was never able to get a live person to reinstate my access.

    Must be one of those high-flyin new folks that don’t eat lunch. Oh wait, she bought granola, so she’s gotta eat, right?

  29. legerdemain says:

    @triple: I’ve had something similar happen, and the bank didn’t even charge me. They sent me the usual overdraft letter, and in the part where they itemize everything, it looked something like:

    Balance when presented: $0.12
    Amount of item: $1.08
    Overdraft fee: $0.00
    Current balance: -$0.96

    Of course, that was probably eight years ago. That bank switched hands a couple of times, and I’ve switched banks. My current bank would probably charge me $36 and clear all of my other accounts today.

  30. Pixel says:


    Actually, she only called because they had been repeatedly trying to contact her. They were calling and she was consistently unavailable during business hours, and did not leave them any sort of daytime contact info. How exactly were they supposed to “service her phone calls”.

    She used an account she knew had little/no money in for a purchase. Didn’t pay attention to the fees charged. Didn’t check to make sure her deposit went through and covered her purchase. Was not available to be contacted during business hours. Did not call the CS number during business hours, etc.

    Also I will note:
    “They then proceeded to charge me $25 every three days after the account had been overdrawn for two weeks.”

    So she was overdrafted for TWO WEEKS before these charges started racking up. If at any point during those two weeks she’d checked online, or at the bank or anything she would have seen the $18 overdraft, and could have paid it and been done with it.

    I also find it very hard to believe that they never sent a letter when her account went into overdraft. Said letters are automatically generated, and in most states are a requirement.

    Not really feeling the sympathy here. Yes the situation sucks, but this isn’t purely a case of Banknorth screwing her over. She didn’t pay attention to what was going on with her account, and she paid the price. Hope it was a tasty granola bar.

  31. soloudinhere says:

    Just a bit of a rebuttal:

    I use the debit card with no money on it because when you secure demo equipment (in this case, at a major resort in vermont) they physically take the card from you and clip it to your rental agreement as collateral to bring the equipment back.

    Since I’m not comfortable having my high limit credit cards in the hands of an hourly seasonal employee with the ability to charge $1600 in equipment to my card at will, I leave them a debit card, and always return my equipment on time, so they have no reason to charge me, and the charge wouldn’t go through anyway.

    as far as the $8 granola bar, it was actually a $3 luna bar and a $3.50 bottle of vitamin water, plus 6% state and 2% local tax.

    I knew there was sufficient funds to cover $8 in the account. There was exactly $14.65 in the account and I knew it. What I didn’t know was that they were going to take $10 of it for account inactivity.

    As far as getting them on the phone, not only could I not get the collections person to talk to me, I also called their service line twice on my lunch but was never able to get a live person. Once the voice system was down and once they couldn’t locate my account information because the account was suspended. Gee…you think? that might have been why I was calling them, but I don’t know.

    The overdraft fees on the day I went to pay them were actually higher than in the title line- $165 and some change. I did end up paying them $90.92 in overdraft and service fees, for my $3 luna bar and bottle of vitamin water.

    They seem to have figured out I don’t use the account much and reset my minimum balance for $25 to cover these activity fees. Gee, thanks guys.


  32. MissPinkKate says:

    I’m with Pixel- I find it hard to sympathize with any complaint that starts with some version of “So, I overdrafted my account….” Keep track of your balance, people! In this day of online banking, it’s really easy.

  33. Pixel says:


    You stated Banknorth didn’t let her close the account. If you reread her letter she never tried, in fact she specifically said she planned to keep it open with a $0 balance.

    Nearly every bank account in the world has a minimum balance, specifically to cover fees and such. And Lauren has already proved herself to be a bad risk by going into overdraft, not correcting it in the two-week grace period, and then waiting long enough to rack up $134 in overdraft fees.

    Heck, I’d be willing to bet Banknorth would rather she close her account, rather than not use it, not have any money in it, and massively overdrafting it.

  34. Nytmare says:

    @smallestmills: A $10 inactivity fee is not something you could possibly expect or be expected to know, let alone keep a running mental tally of the exact dates of your previous transactions so you can calculate the time difference between that and the bank’s official definition for a period of inactivity so you can decode whether or not a fee is about to be deducted from your account balance. Not to mention that a bank is perfectly capable of determining whether or not sufficient funds are available during debit card use to allow the transaction in the first place, rather than throwing up errors after the fact.

    @ivieso: It is only this one account that has a low balance. This is not her life savings.

  35. alpha says:

    HA! Another “blame the company” post.
    If I sign up for something I’m damn well going to be aware of all the fees associated before I decide to do business with said company. So, 1) she should’ve been more than aware that such a fee existed and 2) she should’ve said “Inactivity fee?!? Screw that I’ll go bank somewhere else.”

    I’m tired of all this BS where it’s never the person’s fault that they can’t read for shit.

    While we’re at it, how much you’re charged in overdraft fees should have nothing to do with how much you overdrafted. It is not a line of credit. You are not paying interest. You messed up and used too much money. They can charge you whatever they damn well please for doing as such. If you want the “ability” to spend more than you have, do what the rest of America does and use a credit card.

    The ONLY thing that is really shady about what banks do is the ability to control which transactions post first so they can maximize the overdraft fees. THAT is a practice that should stop.

  36. bohemian says:

    I have noticed that our regional bank is delaying processing charges. They used to process in almost real time for POS, ATM and online bill pay. This was good because you knew nothing was going to cross paths if you were busy and not able to sit down to crunch numbers in your account. Now since they are delaying processing on everything there is the opportunity for people to easily overdraft because you don’t get a charge declined, you get an overdraft.

    This is the new scam upon people who live paycheck to paycheck. Of course their solution is that you keep a spare $5000 or so in your account.

  37. kimsama says:


    A $10 inactivity fee is not something you could possibly expect or be expected to know,

    Um, terms of service? That’s how I know all my bank’s fees. And that’s how I avoid paying them.

    …let alone keep a running mental tally of the exact dates of your previous transactions

    Yikes — I believe that is what online banking and check registers and the like are for. Anyone who tries to keep a mental tally of their checking account should be charged an idiot tax (via their bank fees).

    I can remember doing similar retarded stuff when I was a college student, but at least I took responsibility for it. If I didn’t check out my TOS and my balance, and I got hit by a fee, there was no whining involved, just a little hard-earned experience about how to deal with banks. And of course, since I learned my lesson, I’ve had nary a fee for about 7 years (since I graduated, natch).

    Sounds like Lauren needs to take some responsibility for the fact that she doesn’t know how bank’s TOS and fee structure (still! I mean, what’s with the keeping it open with a $0 balance?! Isn’t she going to get hit with another inactivity fee?), and didn’t keep track of her balance (and how hard would it have been to check online after she deposited the $10 to make sure everything was ok?). If you can’t keep your financial house in order yourself, the bank will be happy to charge you to do it.

  38. Gannoc says:

    Why is she keeping the account at all? She already has a credit union. She says she wants the 2nd account for “Paypal deposits”. Well, just have your credit union open another sub-account for you – it doesn’t have to be a separate bank. I can’t believe she didn’t immediately close her account after being charged $90.

    Also, she says the reason she kept the original account open in the first place was so she could buy stuff without “risking” her real accounts, and later on there were some other problems mentioned having to reissue new debit cards, etc.

    Maybe she needs to get a credit card instead of trying to manage multiple debit cards at multiple institutions.

  39. enm4r says:

    The fact that there are relatively few people running to her defense, once again restores my faith that some common sense prevails among some of the population.

    She blew it, wont take responsibility, and is now throwing a temper tantrum instead of owning up and fixing the situation. Eat the granola bar (whats with calling that an bananas female foods? I must have missed that memo…), enjoy the fees, and move on.

    Chalk another one up for “user error.” I’m not sure what I’d rather read, Chinese toothpaste stories, undercover nonsense, or whiney consumers.

  40. kimsama says:

    What’s with the weird wrapping after blockquotes? Ben, please fix.

    Also, from 12 Signs of a debt addict:

    12. Being unclear about your financial situation. Not knowing account balances, monthly expenses, loan interest rates, fees, fines, or contractual obligations.


  41. scoobydoo says:

    Once again the lesson is to keep an eye on your damn accounts. Don’t wait for the bank to call YOU. Login to the account every day or 2 and see what is happening.

    Or better yet, spend $40 and get Quicken to do it for you.

    I am constantly amazed by people who complain they didn’t notice shit happening for a month.

    I login to my accounts every single day, it only takes 3 or 4 minutes but it’s my money, and I don’t want anything happening to it that I can’t control.

  42. ARPRINCE says:

    Crappy bank + crappy depositor = Disaster waiting to happen. In her case, it did happen.

  43. banned says:

    I deal with the TD bank in Canada and they would only ever charge overdraft once, not day after day, thats brutal. They charge interest but thats only a percentage. I even moved to a new city and stopped using that account altogether for years then came back, went to open an account, and it was still there, with my $3.00, no charges, nothing. The few times they have charged me, I would politely speak with a teller and they would waive it.

  44. soloudinhere says:

    Some of you might have missed that Banknorth suspended my online access. So for everyone who says “that’s what online banking is for!” I tried.

    For the record, four months later, I STILL haven’t gotten them to reinstate my online access.

  45. tvh2k says:

    OK – TD Banknorth sucks. We all know that. That said, if you’re so worried about using your “real debit card” for purchases — get a credit card!

  46. mac-phisto says:

    @Pixel: this is the part i was specifically referring to reagardin customer service:

    I listened to the voicemails, and all they were were a person named Rebecca from TD banknorth calling me. So, figuring it was something to do with the recent reissue of debit cards to pretty much every account, I called back. No dice. Got her voicemail SIX TIMES. All times of the working day, etc.

    it’s possible that notices were sent to her electronically – she did state that she received ONE letter.

    i misread the part about closing her account. i thought that’s what she meant by “withdrawing all the money”.

    also, i’m not as rigid when it comes to this stuff. i bend rules ALL THE TIME for ppl b/c at some point you realize that someone’s gotta cut the bullshit. $134 in fees for a single small denomination purchase is a little excessive, don’t you think? sure, she OD’d. fine. charge her $20 or $30, but anything above that is just usurious.

  47. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    Lauren = idiot

    If you don’t know the terms of a service that you use, then don’t piss and moan when they don’t cater to YOUR whims.

    Yes, $134 in overdraft fees is a bit ridiculous, but then again so is keeping the account open after you’ve openly expressed how much said service-provider sucks. And for what reason? Spite?

    Build a bridge and get over it, Lauren.

  48. Chicago7 says:

    It may be her fault, but a NORMAL business(that wants to keep you as a customer) would say “OK, we see what happened and we’ll waive the fees. It was our timing that caused the overdraft.”

    Is it just me or are banks becoming just a little bit above used-car dealers in reputation?

  49. SBR249 says:

    @Chicago7: yeah that sounds about right, except used car dealers don’t also happen to hold most of your money…

  50. enm4r says:

    @Chicago7: Is it just me or are banks becoming just a little bit above used-car dealers in reputation?

    No, there are great banks out there. The problem is that people demand access to services that they aren’t competent to use, and then complain when the bank doesn’t bend to their every wish. User error is prevalent in banking, much more so than in used car dealing.

  51. Chicago7 says:

    And WTF is a $10 inactivity for? If they tried to actually determine whether you wanted the account to be inactive before they charged the fee, maybe that would make sense, but I don’t see them doing anything here except charging a fee.

  52. spindle says:

    “So I called the CS line, but they’re only open during banking hours and I have a life and a job, so I was never able to get a live person to reinstate my access.”

    this is the part where I went from sympathetic (former Banknorth employee) to not. The call center is NOT open during banking hours only:

    Monday-Sunday: 6:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., Eastern time.

    Lauren, you must have one hell of a life/job to be too busy to call, yet find the time to shoot off an e-mail about how wronged you were by the bank for your own ignorance.

    5 years of inside banking experience taught me the wisdom of the following four words:

    use a credit union.

  53. Major-General says:

    Finally, a bank less ethical than USBank. She got calls when she was in class, got voicemail when she called back, received one letter, and couldn’t access the account online.
    Most likely it happened in the middle of the statement cycle, and she wasn’t expectiing the inactivity fee.

    She has no reason to think it has overdrafted and deposited money to replace what she spent. Frankly, I think most of you have never had the experience of a bank metaphorically raping you. she has my sympathies, especially as I’ve been charged overdraft fees because the account might have in theory had a negative balance.

  54. crichardson79 says:

    Lauren is a dumbass :)

  55. mac-phisto says:

    @enm4r: i would agree with that statement. but then, i’d also point out that banks, their agreements, & their business structure is incredibly enigmatic even to savvy consumers.

    surely the users are at fault for taking the bait, but they weren’t the ones who set the trap, were they?

  56. LawyerontheDL says:

    I had a similar thing happen a couple of years ago – except mine was an old savings account that had been charged a $3 inactivity fee per month (KeyBank a/k/a Fee Bank). It was in another state and I frankly forgot about it until I received a letter stating that I owed the bank about $200 in overdraft fees. Mind you, they were the ones who overdrafted it. After several calls to customer service, where they told me that they could take off $35, I finally wrote a letter to the United States Comptroller of the Currency complaining of usury and unfair business practices. Holy reaction. Within a couple of days, someone in the executive offices of KeyBank had credited my account and closed it at my request. It’s amazing what contacting a government agency can do.

  57. enm4r says:

    @mac-phisto: In general, I see where you’re coming from. But in this case they didn’t need to set the trap. She was using a debit card for an account that was neglected, without knowing the terms of that account. I’m having a hard time finding any bait here…

    And while I agree an entire business structure might be hard to comprehend, the fees for an account shouldn’t be. I can name off all the fees for my accounts (3 savings, 3 checking!) on one hand. Probably because I choose to bank where that is possible. If you can’t remember/know/understand the fee structure of your account, that should be enough of a warning. If it isn’t, you have to take responsibility. She didn’t.

  58. royal72 says:

    this kind of “legal” thievery is all too common with any and all banks these days. i used to like u.s. bank, but they have tried to do this to me three times in the last year with average fees around $100. luckily the people at my particular branch have always been great and after some discussion they took care of it. that is the only reason i’m still with them, till i find a good credit union.

  59. Trae says:

    Y’know, if she had instead threatened to not pay anything instead and just use a different bank account, they might have reduced the fee even more.

  60. lo_fro says:

    Either way, this situation sucks.

    It’s obvious that she hasn’t used the account regularly for a long time and was never charged this inactivity fee before. And since she knew she had some money in the account — exactly how much, in fact — how was she supposed to know that she had even overdrafted in the first place, let alone that these fees were racking up, when she was unable to speak with someone and couldn’t access her account online??

    I use BofA, and I goto the same branch all the time. If some mysterious fees pop up — actually, any fees at all — I go in, say I shouldn’t be charged that fee, and they take it off immediately.

    Which is how it should work… unless of course, you are a regular overdrafter. In which case, I don’t have sympathy.

  61. AnnieGetYourFun says:

    Wow, what happened to Consumerist readers? I know that some stories have sort of featured some whiny people, but I don’t think that this gal is out of line at all.

    The bank was clearly trying to get her into the red by charging an inactivity fee before accepting her deposit.

    I’m baffled by her choice to keep the account open, but still, I’m really surprised by the vemon on this comment thread. Seriously – over a hundred bucks in overdraft fees? It’s bullshit. It was bullshit when banks started pulling that back in the mid-nineties, and it’s bullshit now.

  62. mermaidshoes says:

    you lost me at “I went to a ski resort on my way to a job interview.” unless the interview was for some type of skiing-related position, i fail to see why a ski resort would be in any way a convenient place to stop. i also don’t understand why you would stop at all on your way to a job interview, particularly at a ski resort (“oh, sorry i’m late, just stopped off for a quick run down the mountain”), unless the interview were really far away and you were making a long trip of it all or something. of course, i do live in texas, which is not exactly brimming with places to ski, so maybe your northern ski culture is just that foreign to me…

    and if the bank sucks that much, why do they still have your money? i’m sure you could get a debit card from another bank that doesn’t have such dramatic overdraft/inactivity fees. sure, getting screwed by a company is unfortunate, but staying with the company after that happens just gives them an opportunity to screw you again. choice is one of the greatest allies for a consumer–exercise it.

  63. enm4r says:

    @AnnieGetYourFun: Bullshit? That’s what I call on consumers who think they are always right. The bank is offering you a service. You can enter freely into this service. The bank will make available to the terms and conditions of this service, which you will then agree to. If you sign away without a care in the world, this is what happens.

    It’s bullshit when people run around expecting everyone to compensate for their inaction, their mistakes, and their inability to hold up their end of an agreement. If she didn’t like the terms she could have left at any given time. It’s her fault that she kept the account so low, and it’s her fault she had no idea of the activity in the account. It is also her fault that she used her super backup debit card for a perchase that not only almost exceeded the amount she thought the had in, but an account she had no idea what was going on in!

    You “verify” beforehand, you don’t spend something, hope you have enough, and then go back and hope everything is alright. You’re right, it is bullshit…bullshit that she thinks she deserves some sympathy for being in the dark on her own accounts.

  64. crichardson79 says:

    I hate Lauren r u with me

  65. riggs says:

    My recommendation is to NEVER let the balance in any account get down to less than $50 or so…usually helps avoid monthly maintenance fees, etc…also find a bank that offers overdraft protection that’s linked to a savings account. In other words, if you do screw up and bounce a check, the money to cover it automatically comes from your savings.

  66. Chicago7 says:

    There should be a law that the bank CANNOT charge an overdraft for a fee that they impose.

  67. deabruzo says:

    I too have run into the “sustained overdraft fee” while I was away. It was my fault for not paying attention and dipping below by a couple of bucks, and since I wasn’t home to get my mail, I had accumulated several hundred dollars in fees.

    In a related case, Wachovia has a slightly more underhanded way of overdrafting you. This happened a year ago and i still grates on my nerves.

    On a Friday at about 4:30 I deposited close to $500 in cash into my account, putting my “available balance” over $700. Immediately I spent a good $250 between equipment, dinner and a donation to a charity.

    Well, because it’s Wachovia’s policy to not post the cash to the account until the next business day after 2pm, they overdrafted my account. – despite it showing as available.

    Once I started racking up fees, several charges (that had cleared and were already subtracted from the account) overdrafted. All said and done, it cost me several hundred dollars.

    Wachovia’s answer was to refund half of the fees (even though I had my numbers right). they just conveniently posted the funds after the debits instead of before. The Available balance was only if I went to an ATM or a teller, so they technically weren’t breaking state law.

    Follow the advice from above, go to a credit union. MOST of the time they are better – and certainly not predatory like Wachovia and TD Banknorth.

  68. rockergal says:

    which is why I love overdraft protection on my card.

  69. synergy says:

    This is exactly the reason why I closed my Chase checking account three or four years ago. They pulled this same exact b.s. on me.

  70. synergy says:

    @soloudinhere: Why does the account have to be open? Do they swipe it to make sure it works? If not, then just close the account and keep using the card. I would doubt that they’d notice the expiration date.

  71. synergy says:

    And as a final comment, “I remember when…” :) when banks didn’t allow you to use a card if there wasn’t enough funds. You got to live through the embarassment of all the people in line behind you overhearing that you didn’t have enough money to cover your purchase coupled with their anger that you were wasting their time in line.

  72. @Spindle:

    When my TD Banknorth account was overdrafted because of a double charge, I was told by CS that I had to call my local branch – who I called four times during business hours and was forwarded to voicemail every time. I left a clear message with TWO phone numbers every time – and NEVER got a phone call back.

    I eventually had to go to a branch – which also happens to have very inconvenient hours – to resolve the problem.

  73. SJActress says:

    Something like this happened to me at Wells Fargo. I had $15 in the account (poor college student) and they “accidentally” charged me a $29 overdraft fee.
    Thinking I had the $15 in there from the last statement (haven’t used the card since well before the last statement) I bought soda at the campus bookstore three times that day, totaling around $4.50. Yep, I got three more overdraft fees. I went to the branch and explained to them what happened, and they said they’d drop “one” overdraft fee. I told them, “Great, drop the one you charged me for no reason; that’ll take care of the other three.”

    They FINALLY figured out their mistake when I had my lawyer send a letter explaining what they did to me.

    That account is CLOSED.

  74. tz says:

    The problem is the “inactivity fee” was not charged when the account was inactive – they did check the balance which was $15, not $5 – but was applied a microsecond BEFORE the debit card charge was processed. That started the cascade with overdraft charges (with their system or people such that they could not be contacted).

    Both my credit union (I don’t bank) and credit cards have “actual” and “available” balances. If the “available” balance was $5, it should have said so or prevented the charge from going through.

  75. misskay says:

    “The bank is offering you a service. You can enter freely into this service.”

    Mmmmyeah. True. But the banks are also borrowing OUR money. There’s a two way relationship here.

    I just got drop-kicked by TD Banknorth for $100. Because I’m an irresponsible person who can’t balance a checkbook? Nope. Because a vendor incorrectly billed me and the incorrect bill that they autocharged on my account (I prefer autocharge because it’s more efficient and it ensures that my bills get paid on time) overdrew my account. OOPSIE. I immediately tranferred money to counteract the negative balance…then watched as the overdraft fees piled up anyway, after I had already transferred the money. It had taken me less than 24 hours to figure out the problem btw, I wasn’t just chillin’ somewhere with a Maitai waiting for the world to do my work for me.

    So I call the bank and they tell me to contact the vendor and settle the dispute through them. So I did. The vendor admitted their fault and removed their charges. So I contact the bank and asked them to remove the overdraft fees, since clearly, that would be the logical next step. Their response: Because you did not file a dispute through the bank we can’t do anything. When I spoke with them, I asked them what the best course of action would be and THEY told me to deal with the vendor directly.

    Hmmm. Looks like it’s going to be an ongoing battle.

    Really…my point is this. Customers are not always correct. But neither are banks. To those of you who are, in fact perfect…congratulations.