WaMu Enrolls You In A Program Without Permission, Then Charges An ETF

Reader Michael signed up for a new free checking account with WaMu and the person who opened the account for him (accidentally?) enrolled Michael in some sort of bullshit coupon program that costs $5 a month. Now WaMu has charged him a $10 early termination fee and is refusing to refund it.

While searching for bank to open up my first checking and savings account, I decided to take WaMu up on its much-advertised free checking account offer. Unfortunately, that decision left me with a $5 monthly fee.

For some unknown reason, when I first opened up my account at a local WaMu branch a week and a half ago I was also simultaneously enrolled in the “Plus Package” program. I’m not sure if it’s standard practice for bank representatives to enroll new customers in the program, but it’s certainly an interesting twist on “free” accounts.

Within days of opening my account I noticed a $5 debit while reviewing my information online. The description read “PLUS PACKAGE MEMBERSHIP,” which made it pretty easy to find out what was going on. I soon learned about all the fantastic benefits of membership from a terse entry on WaMu’s website, including discounts on hotel accommodations and eyewear. No thanks

I went back to my local branch last Saturday and explained that I never consented to enrolling in the program and never received any information about it. The representative was very understanding and un-enrolled me from the program and refunded the $5. She speculated that the mistake may have been because they used to enroll people in the program for a free trial, a promotion which has since ceased. However, I would have also guessed that the old promotion at least included telling customers about the program — ya know, about the fees and benefits. Apparently not.

Unfortunately, I’ve also found out that there is a $10 early termination fee for leaving the program within 120 days of enrolling in it, so now I’ve gone from being out $5 to being out $10 for my new free account. I wrote an online message to customer service about the mix-up and a representative responded that there was “no bank error” and I would not be refunded. I’ve sent another message back in hopes of clarifying the situation and am awaiting a reply.

So far this has been a mediocre start to our new relationship. Way to go WaMu!

Michael writes to WaMu:

I was originally enrolled in this program without my knowledge and went back to my local bank less than a week after opening my account to un-enroll from the Plus Package program. The initial $5 monthly fee has since been refunded to my account but now I need this early termination fee to be refunded as well.

Thank you.

WaMu writes to Michael:

Dear Michael [redacted]:

Thank you for your email.

Washington Mutual takes responsibility for bank errors and will work with customers to resolve issues arising from those errors. Your concern has been researched, and as no bank error was found, the fee cannot be refunded.

I regret any inconvenience this may cause you.

We would not be shocked to learn that there’s some sort of incentive for WaMu bankers to enroll hapless individuals such as yourself in this coupon program. Oooh, coupon programs with monthly fees make Consumerist very unhappy!

(Photo:bookish in north park)


Edit Your Comment

  1. snazz says:

    why not go back to the branch and speak to the guy who signed you up, or the customer service rep that gave you the $5 credit?

  2. Smitherd says:

    Write to them and dare them not to remove the fee, while simultaneously pointing out that since you did not consciously enroll in the program, you are under no obligation to pay the fee, and come Hell or high water you’re not going to pay it.

    Either that, or for every time they bill you for it, make yourself a bogus bill that looks similar to theirs, and charge them the ten dollars for it.

  3. ianmac47 says:

    Why not open an account at some other bank and leave WaMu?

  4. CorporateTool says:

    Unless he recorded the call it will be hard for him to prove the he didn’t ask for the service. If only someone regularly recorded customer service calls… oh wait. Banks do.

    Ask for a transcript of your call, although the time and effort might be worth more than the $10 to you.

  5. stevegoz says:

    Never bank with an organization that clearly announces its intent to wam you.

  6. adrock75 says:

    Go down and hang out at the local branch with a t-shirt that says “DON’T ENROLL IN THE PLUS PACKAGE!”

  7. cmdr.sass says:

    @Smitherd: They already have his money. It’s too late.

  8. Nighthawke says:

    EECB and a nuke to the Fed. WaMu wants to play the shell game with their custies, they are in for some serious shell shocks.

  9. jaydez says:

    We were forced to do this shit when I worked for a cell phone provider. We were told to add all the features to an account for the “free” trial period becasue most people never notied the extra $2 or 3.

    We only took it off if someone came in complaining.

    I can garuntee the guy that singed you up gets a $5 commission for enrolling you in the program.

  10. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Okay…so on one hand you have the rep refunding the $5, which seems like an acknowledgment that it was bank error to enroll him.

    Since they are sending the bill through the mail for the $10, wouldn’t that be mail fraud? I’m sure WaMu would react to that claim quickly.

  11. darkclawsofchaos says:

    @stevegoz: but the consumer was to busy facing the other direction because he was bending over for the bank, oh wait never mind that what caused the waming ing the first place

  12. Smitherd says:

    @cmdr.sass: Ahh, true.

    Stupid checking accounts, they put all your money in one place! [/sarcasm]

  13. Speaking of banks, is anyone else being driven CRAZY by the new optical recognition ATMs? You know, where your check gets scanned in automatically, but, half the time, the deposit amount is incorrect and you have to enter it manually?

    Good times. Thanks, banks!

  14. rdm says:

    Wamu is bad about errors and I came here today looking for info on other banks to switch.

    We bought a car last year, put $2000 down in a check (from Wamu). The next day a $2000 cash withdrawal was showing at a branch I had never been to. Panic ensued – sort of – I figured it was for the car but why would it show as a withdrawal? I called both the 800 number *and* the branch. The branch didn’t have any answers for me and didn’t recall the transaction (love that customer service). The 800 number kept offering to send me the withdrawal slip. I said, one does not exist, because I didn’t sign one. Nor did my husband. They kept offering to send it to me, and I said I do not want it because it doesn’t exist. They sent it to me. Charged me $5. They turned the check into a withdrawal in cash for the dealer (still don’t know if they can even do that legally) and shredded the check (is what they are claiming). Will they refund my $5 fee for the form I didn’t ask for? No. I said, “Are you willing to lose my accounts over $5?” “yes.”

  15. Buran says:

    Thank you for your email.

    I take no responsibility for bank errors and will work with businesses to resolve issues arising from those errors. Your concern has been researched, and as a bank error was found that you don’t want to pay for, my account will now be closed

    I do not regret any inconvenience this may cause you.

  16. Thespis306 says:

    @ianmac47: Exactly.

    If your first interaction with a business is a sneaky effort to screw you out of cash, followed by a refusal to give it back when you catch them, you’d have to be a fool to let them access to, you know, all your money.

    All banks pull junk like this from time to time I guess, but WAMU seems by far the worst — so don’t use them.

  17. brent_w says:

    @AlteredBeast: They don’t send the bill through the mail, thats the other dirty thing banks get to pull on you.

    You never get a “bill” they just take your money.

  18. landsnark says:

    Small claims court? Anyone know if this guy can claim extra $ for lost time/punitive?

  19. B says:

    Try telling them you have cancer.

  20. I would say go back into the bank and talk to the same rep. I was enrolled in the “Plus Package” as well and had it dropped in seconds. What a load of crap that plan is.

  21. UnnamedUser says:

    On a site that showed a graphical representation of ID theft by bank or other financial institution I saw that WaMu and Providian were somehow related by corporation, or the like.

    I know Providian from an acquaintance of years ago who had gotten into financial trouble. Providian was the only place she could get a credit card. The provisions of that card were truly draconian. She was on the phone with Providian every month for something or another where she was contesting yet another unwarranted fee.

    So, seeing WaMu’s unethical behavior does not really surprise me.

  22. remusrm says:

    i hate wamu…

  23. KingJoe says:

    This “There was no bank error” line is exactly what they used with me when they deducted money from my savings account without my consent. If it’s worth it to you, send a letter to all the executives at WaMu. I found them on an SEC filing.

    I got a response about a week later, and my $40 back. Unfortunately, it did cost about $4 in stamps, so in your case it would be more about justice than profit.

  24. Buran says:

    @KingJoe: I still think it’s worth it if it bothers you enough. I’m trying to get a refund from a company that screwed up and confirmed cancelling an order, then shipped it anyway and expects me to pay for it. I grow very tired of the “just eat it, it’s only $22” comments I get (not here, elsewhere). Why should I? And there’s people who tell me I’m lying about how much time/effort I’ve put into it (yeah, like they can read my mind?) and think they know better … sometimes it’s less about the amount than it is about standing up for yourself and not letting companies make you pay for their mistakes.

    I even get people tell me I’m overdoing it when I repeatedly state they’re guilty of mail fraud (as they sent it through US Mail).

    It’s like it’s not “wrong” to some people if the amount is smaller than some arbitrary threshold.

  25. LawyerontheDL says:

    Write a letter to the president of WaMu and cc it to the Comptroller of the Currency. Your money should be credited shortly. The COC has to investigate claims and the banks don’t like drawing attention.

  26. CaptRavis says:

    There is an employee incentive. At the new acct desk it was $1.00 towards incentive for a PFR and 1.50 for a Sr. PFR, The branch manager also gets a cut in monthly incentive as a % of cross-sold products (account add-ons on the ‘free-checking’) The $10.00 early termination fee counts toward ‘fee-income’ which is also a metric for which management is incentived. Get the Quality Ass dept and tell them you were slammed with a PP …

  27. ugotit305 says:

    Well Guys My Story Gets Better. I was charged by a company called Monumental Insurance Premium 8.95 and it Over Drafted my account. I called customer care the rep gave me the Run Around I could barely understand her. she told me oh you have to call that company find who they’re i was no i dont i never authorized this amount withdrawl from ACH. come to find out it was Wellsfargo the ACH authorizer for Monumental Insurance Premium. i was given there number called the insurance company told me. there no policy under that account number that was listed on the account. but the funny thing was that the Person had the same first name, middle intial and lastname but he lived in California & I live in Florida (Miami). I just frusted on how i was treated by customer care. im reconsidering my accounts at wamu i have had them since 2004. I currently have a Bank of America Campus Checking but i just use this account to pay bills via there awesome online banking platform. what is your recommendation? is the keep the change worth it. I know if i close wamu im going to loose the High Yield Savings at 4%.

  28. He says:

    You read consumerist and you still opened a WaMu account?

  29. soulman901 says:

    I would close that account and tell them they can keep your $10 and $0 out account.

  30. by ianmac47 at 11:07 AM

    Why not open an account at some other bank and leave WaMu?

    by He at 12:38 PM

    You read consumerist and you still opened a WaMu account?

    Seriously. I’d think all you guys would be members of some local credit union. Credit unions rock.

  31. jmschn says:

    Just go to the person who opened your count. He will refund your money. I’m sure he needed to meet his sales goal and signed you up for stuff you didn’t need or consented to. I worked at Wells Fargo and shady bankers did that all the time. Not really worthy of Front Page since it’s pretty easy to alleviate.

  32. Landru says:

    @jmschn: How is that easy? The brief period I was at wamu there was never the same people working there from day to day. And this story is totally “Front Page” because it’s consumer fraud.

  33. jbellusdlaw says:

    Love the photo guys, I eat at that place in North Park all the time!

  34. Boy Howdy says:

    @jbellusdlaw: I was just coming here to post that, too. I was just walking there this weekend.

  35. geoelectric says:

    WaMu owns Providian nowadays. I’m unlucky enough to have one of their cards, with a 30% (non-default) interest rate. At the time I got it in 2001, it was a 18% card and I was distinctly subprime due to bad credit decisions on my part. A $3K limit card with ~20% interest was a belssing.

    A couple of years ago, they raised all the interest rates (or so they claim) and mine was given the 12% boost. I’ve asked for the rating to be re-evaluated a couple of times since (I have a ~650 FICO nowadays, and a 700 Transunion, which is what WaMu/Providian uses) and they’ve refused to budge it.

    Only reason I still have it is that it’s $0 balance and no fee, and I need the headroom on my credit report. Now that my credit is much better, it’ll probably be the next account to get closed in favor of a real card.

  36. ManPurse says:

    @rdm: I’m not sure this is the same situation – I still pay a lot of my bills with paper checks and more and more of them are starting to show up on my monthly statement as debit transactions and not as checks… It really weirded me out at first too but I am used to it now.

  37. Kloud says:

    Am I the first person to notice Stewie from Family Guy on the bus stop poster?

  38. geoelectric says:

    Re: the checks, I’ve noticed a lot of companies have fine print now that say they may take your check and use it to generate an equivalent Electronic Funds Transfer. I’m sure this is what happened to the poster above.

    That’s no excuse for WaMu sending something unwanted and then billing for it. In that sense, it’s very similar to the OP.

  39. atomi says:

    WaMu is accountable to the office of thrift supervision. send your complaints to [www.ots.treas.gov]
    WaMu hosed me a few weeks ago. They said a check from adsense I deposited was bad and suspended my account. Obviously the google check was good. But during the suspension two of my checks bounced; they refuse to refund me the fee for that. I can imagine the potential for abuse here, it would indeed benefit WaMu if they suspended accounts for any little shit regardless and refused to refund fees for their mistakes.

  40. RickRollin says:

    I don’t know about WaMu, but he might not be able to close his accounts right away to switch to another bank. A few banks (like Chase, my former bank as of today) charge an early account closing fee (Chase’s criteria is within 90 days), so if there’s a similar rule at WaMu, he might be stuck with those accounts for 3-4 months. That’s not saying that he can’t take most of his money out and go and open an account somewhere else, but closing those accounts immediately might incur more charges that will only benefit the bank.

  41. luvlyssa says:

    Poor guy… I had the EXACT same thing happen to me in August. I’ve gone around and around with them.

    Wamu said they would refund the money since I hadn’t received the coupon book. So I got $5 back.
    The next week I had the same $10 charge.

    When I called to ask for the refund because I didn’t know I was signed up for this thing they refused saying that they had sent me the coupon book. I explained over and over (up the lines of supervisors) that I hadn’t received anything.

    It’s now four months later. I finally gave up after 4 phone calls, three branch visits, and numerous emails. My time is worth more then the $10 they conned me out of.

    I did go to another bank though. Why would I want to stay with a bank who is deliberatly trying to con me?

  42. soft_guy says:

    Stand outside the bank holding a sign that says “WaMu stole money from me.” until they fix it.

    Or if you don’t have time for that get even by vandalizing something of theirs.