You'd Better Know Your Balance, Because WaMu Certainly Doesn't

“Keep track of your bank balances!”—pretty much every week on Consumerist either we or our readers say something like this. Now a reader writes in with a perfect example of why it’s necessary, because apparently WaMu is incapable of keeping an accurate balance listed even after a week has passed.

I opened a WaMu checking account on Friday, February 29th of this year with a $106.00 opening deposit .I opened this account for my auto-pay setup with my university credit union. With me having to take a semester off because my parents credit didn’t qualify for private Sallie-Mae type student loans ( which in fact could be a blessing in disquise) , im now 300 miles away from the said credit union .

So, I deposit the exact amount of my car payment ( again, $106), then fax the WaMu account number to the credit union.

The next Tuedsay, March 4th, I call the WaMu automated system to check my balance.
Which claims , both in ‘Available Balance’ and ‘Account Balance’, that I have $106.00 in the account.

Now frantic that the credit union made a mistake, I call the credit union. The CU representative tells me, much to my surprise, that the payment was recieved for $106.56 (doh ! ) from WaMu and that all is well. At least on their end.

So, I give WaMu the benefit of the doubt. Aware that I am .56 short , and fully expecting a fee because of it, yesterday (the 6th) I deposit $140 into the account , so as to cover the NSF fee and the next months car payment. Imagine my shock when I see the balance slip showing $246.00 in the account!

So I ask if theres a pending withdrawal on the account. The teller shows me her screen, which shows the $106.00 opening deposit, a $32 NSF fee, a $32 NSF fee reversal, and the $140 deposit I just made.

To boot, the WaMu teller is confused herself, wondering why theres a negative fee (and reversal)when , according to her screen, I never entered the red.

The real, logical reason this is the case is because the automated withdrawal left me .56 cents short ,which triggered an NSF fee, then was reversed automatically ( Your first NSF as a new customer with WaMu is forgiven,so not all fine print is bad ).Except none of this activity , according to WaMu’s computer system, ever happened.

So the senior branch sales,er manager tries and fails to explain why their system can’t tell me how much money I REALLY have.

I ask again, why is it showing, both in ‘Available’ and ‘Account” balances $240.00 when I know for fact that its $106.56 less. 30 minutes later, the closest thing I heard to an explanation is that, because I opened my account on a Friday, nothings gonna post until maybe Saturday.(Never mind that Saturday is NOT a business day).He then amended his statement by saying that by Thursday night , it should all be updated.

Not wanted to be late for work, I bid a calm goodbye.

This morning, I call the WaMu automated system this morning (Friday, March 7th) and its still ‘lying’ to me.

Available balance :$246.00
Account Balance: $246.00

I understand that it is up to the consumer to keep track of how much money they have. But how can I, or any other responsible consumer, be responsible for their money if the very company that holds the money can’t tell me how much I have? Imagine if the Swiss banks treated their clients like this?

Granted, I didn’t lose any money in this process, but what If I had trusted the WaMu balance, and budgeted accordingly? Id be staring down the barrel of multiple overdrafts, each with a lovely $32 NSF attached to them.

Bottom line? If you don’t already track your own expenses, start now. And don’t even bother calling the bank if you’re a WaMu customer.

This guy was lucky in that he had only one transaction to keep track of—imagine the confusion of tracking a new account with multiple payments over the course of a week.

(Thanks for the tip, De’loucous!)

(Photo: Getty)