Polite Letter Gets Bank Of America To Refund Overdraft Fees

Jenn’s checking account with Bank of America recently had a policy change designed to increase overdraft fees, and it worked: sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning she was hit with 6 NSF charges going back the previous 48 hours, because she was about 15 minutes late transferring funds into her account the day before. Technically she had broken the new policy, but Jenn hadn’t realized or remembered that there was a policy change and she was taken by surprise. She decided to try to reason with BoA’s corporate office about the fees, and explain why she thought they were unfair.

Today, she let us know that her letter worked: “Just got off the phone with BoA Corporate in Boston. They’re refunding everything! It pays to write.”

We think it’s worth looking at her letter as an example of how to present your side of an issue to a large company. Jenn is polite, and her letter is professional and well-written. She makes a point of explaining why she chose to become a BoA customer in the first place, and how she’s been an advocate for them in the past—and then points out that this policy change has the effect of ruining her goodwill toward the company by making them “just like every other bank. It’s the reason I left Chase.”

Of course, Bank of America isn’t rescinding the new policy, so it’s not like Jenn’s letter changed the world or anything. But it does show that it occasionally pays to write a solid letter to the corporate office if you can’t resolve your issue at a branch.

May 7, 2008 
Dear Mr. Lewis, 

I am writing you to lodge a formal complaint about 6 overdraft fees that were recently charged to my account. 

I am a dedicated online banker.  I love Bank of America’s to-the-minute online status updates.  It is just one of the many reasons I switched to BoA from Chase two years ago.  I am also an artist, who though salaried, lives to the penny every month to make ends meet.  I check my bank account online every single day.  Sometimes three or four times a day. 

Since joining BoA I have operated under the “as long as there is a positive amount in the account at the end of the day, you won’t get charged an overdraft fee” rule.  Up until last week, that was true.  I frequently buy a sandwich for lunch at noon if I know I’ll be able to deposit $20 by 5pm.  So I was completely shocked to see two overdraft charges show up on a Saturday morning when on Friday night my account was in the black.  What’s worse is that the two fees were charged for transactions made on Thursday and so were backdated, thus also overdrafting every transaction I made on Friday accumulating another four $35 fees! 

Yesterday I went into the Lincoln & Ashland branch in Chicago, IL to dispute the fact that I was charged overdraft fees on a positive account.  My account details were printed and scoured by 3 different CSRs.  No one could understand the charges.  But no one could do anything about them.  They then made a call to Account Services and discovered that apparently the fees were legitimate because of a new rule just instated last month that removes available funds from the account the minute the card is swiped.  So because I had bought some lunch just before I transferred money into my account to cover it I was penalized $210 for what amounted to a 15 minute technicality.  The CSRs sent me away and told me to plead my case to the customer service number.  At the 800-number I was eventually able to talk to “a manager” Jessica, who read me the verbiage that had appeared on customer statements about this change.  So, indeed, the charges are apparently my fault.  Thankfully, Jessica gave me a courtesy refund for 3 of them, which helps a little. 

My complaint is about this new policy.  It makes you just like every other bank.  It is the reason I left Chase.  I thought BoA was different!  And I have recommended BoA to MANY of my artist friends because of that flexibility and that, until now, I have had nothing but wonderful experiences with your employees and with my account management. 

Unfortunately, the remaining $105 that is now tied up in fees will ensure that my rent check this month bounces which means I will be charged more fees in addition to NSF fees from my rental company, and it is all I had budgeted for food for the first two weeks of this month.  The good news is I just got a promotion at work which will, in another month, enable me to pick up and repay this set-back, sign up for automatic deposits, get money into my Savings account that might actually stay there and start to invest in some sort of stability for my future. 

I’m just going to have to think long and hard about whether I want to continue doing all of those things with your bank. 

Thank you for your time. 

Jennifer

(Photo: The Consumerist)