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