WaMu Banker Confessions, Part Two

Another Washington Mutual insider has stepped forward with a slew of tips to help save your ass from overdraft fees, check deposit holds, and talking to Filipino bankers. Details, inside…


The Wamu Free Checking acct gets 3c per swipe for Debit Rewards. The total occurred from all your swipes gets credited to the account on the anniversary date of the account opening or being converted to a Wamu Free Checking.

If you have the old Free Checking account which doesn’t have debit rewards, or any other kind of checking for that matter, it can be upgraded by the 1-800 number. Filipino bankers are unable to process that request but a US based banker or supervisor can, and it will be switched within 1 bus day.


ATM deposits can be a lot more difficult that in-store deposits. ATM deposits are ALWAYS placed on hold, not 80% of the time. First $100 immediately available, then the rest above $100 goes on hold. BIG TIP! If you want it all available, make separate deposits of $100 (if its cash you’re depositing). If the deposit is made after 3PM PST, or 1PM CST, it will be on hold 2 business days, if before, 1 business day. If it is ever placed on hold longer, that will be because our risk operations department, who review the deposited item scans, cannot properly verify the item, and they will adjust it to 5-7 bus day hold. If you do the deposit in the branch all this trouble can easily be avoided.

We CAN usually see the item deposited. Just call the 1-800 number and ask, if the banker says they cannot, ask for a supervisor. We can. If it’s a cash deposit, and it’s still on hold, the supervisor can remove the hold immediately if we can pull it up in the system.

Our ATMs do have a fee for customers of 3rd party banks. It is $2 in most states and is increasing to $3 shortly.


The puppy commercial is horribly wrong. The 1 overdraft/NSF fee waiver is automatic and you don’t have to call/stop in the branch to get it waived. The commercial makes it seem like we will waive all overdraft fees, and we wouldn’t be a bank that way would we.

Overdraft charges depend on state because it depends on state laws and the average market going rate of an overdraft fee as far as other competing banks go. This depends on what state you OPENED the account. For example, California is $33, Texas is $27 for the first 5 fees occurred in the rolling year cycle, then $35 for all above the 5 mark.

You can only get courtesy fee waivers from the branch the account was opened at, or the 1-800 number by speaking to a supervisor ONLY. If it’s a bank error anyone should be able to waive it. At the 1-800 number courtesies are judged from an internal checklist. The account has to be opened for at least one year, have no returned deposit within the last 90 days, or have any kind of block on the account for account abuse/deposit fraud etc. The account cannot have had a fee waiver between the time you are calling and the last anniversary date of the account opening. As long as everything checks out we go by a typical grid to determine how many fees:

$0-$3000 – gets one fee waiver (such as OD/NSF/SERVICE)
$3000 – $5000 – gets two fee waivers
$5000 – $10000 – gets three fee waivers
$10000 or more – gets four fee waivers

Fees that cannot be waived unless bank error:
$100 legal fee (when levies etc hit account)
$10 Excess activity fee (for breaking the rules of Regulation D in a savings/money market acct)
$12 Return Deposit Item Fee – because that would mean an RDI within last 90 days.

There is a little-known secret about overdraft fees too. You will only get one if your CURRENT balance goes overdrawn. If you have a deposit hold for example, the account available balance will go overdrawn but your current balance won’t, so any debit card transactions that post will not charge the account unless they take the current balance over too. Now this doesn’t work for checks or electronic debits. If the funds aren’t available with the overdraft protection, they WILL get rejected based on the available balance and charge an NSF fee.

The overdraft transfer service can bite you in the ass, because it goes by your AVAILABLE balance, unlike overdraft protection. If your available balance slips the system will kick in and transfer the amount you went overdrawn plus $12 fee from your savings. Because it goes by your available balance, ANYTHING that affects your available balance will ding the service if it goes below zero. If a merchant charges you incorrectly for example, and it pends against your account and takes the account overdrawn, it will activate overdraft transfer, but if the merchant doesn’t carry through with the authorization and debit the account, you’re out $12.

Check Holds

It doesn’t really matter what the check is, it will be placed on hold depending on:
A) The amount (Anything over $5,000 is typically held longer)
B) Recent overdrawn activity
C) Recent return deposit item activity
D) Whether it is in-state or out-of-state
Nice branch managers will call the other bank to verify the check, so that they can release it all for you. It is manager discretion at the branch to release any deposit hold.

Here’s some extra tips:

-All US bankers go home by 10PM PST. Supervisors after this point are all in the Philippines, and don’t have as much power as US supervisors. When you call during US banker hours ALL supervisors are American.

-We will fedex a replacement debit card free within 2 business days if you say that you are traveling within a week and say your card is lost/stolen.

-If a banker accesses your account, they leave a record of their employee ID and activity. If someone is pissing you off, make sure they at least give you your balance (so they live a mark), then speak to a manager to file a complaint. When we do this, we send an email to their manager.

-Even if a supervisor doesn’t resolve your situation, you can go higher. Contact the executive response team. They can bend the rules further than the above fee guidelines also.

-Other banks ATM machines will cause a $2 balance inquiry fee if you use it to check your balance. Don’t do it! Just pick up the phone and call instead, it’s free.

PREVIOUSLY: 36 Confessions Of A WaMu Banker


Edit Your Comment

  1. Jones91 says:

    Don’t you love how companies these days can advertise something that is completely false but manage to dodge false advertising?

  2. Cliff_Donner says:

    BIG TIP! If you want it all available, make separate deposits of $100 (if its cash you’re depositing).

    Don’t ever make cash deposits at an ATM. If the person processing these ATM deposits happens to be a little light-fingered, you have no way of proving you actually deposited the money.

  3. azntg says:

    Thanks for the tips.

    Thankfully, as a WaMu customer, I have never had any significant problems with them. The majority of the problems I had so far were rude employees in the branch that I opened my accounts with who couldn’t be bothered to do their jobs and do it well (I no longer go to that branch anymore).

    My tip is, if there are pressing issues and some deeper questions, a good place to get them addressed is to go to a traditional (non-Occasio branches) WaMu branch that normally serves more businesses and higher-wealth clients than usual.

    The difference in service is noticeably clear. From my experience, the employees there tend to go above and beyond the service you’d see and expect on a typical WaMu branch.

  4. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I find it disturbing that banks are outsourcing banker/CSR type jobs outside of the US.

  5. @Cliff_Donner: Most ATM deposits are VERY heavily checked by most banks and credit unions. I can say from my personal experience, that when I was collecting ATM deposits with a manager (always 2, and always someone high up), the ATM gave a count of each envelope placed in the ATM. That number had to be exact, or there was a problem.

    Those cameras you see in the lobby of the bank? They’re also in the back – ATMs are heavily recorded, even on the secure bank side.

    I, personally, have no problem depositing cash into an ATM – but I just don’t like ATMs.

  6. dtmoore says:

    The holds are regulated by the government, technically they don’t have to place anything on hold, but 99% of banks will put the maximum hold on items. Most day to day deposits have a very minimal maximum hold date.

    I used to work for a bank and had to build a system to calculate these holds awhile back :D


  7. mgy says:

    But where else can you feel as free as a barnswallow?

    All of these bank threads on Consumerist are making me nervous to check my balance.

  8. agency says:

    @Cliff_Donner: At at least one of my banks, ATM deposits are verified by 2 tellers. This may be standard industry practice.

  9. jpx72x says:

    @Cliff_Donner: Except for like, you know, cameras watching you take the envelope, stuff the cash in and then stuff it into the machine. And, except for the cameras on the dude emptying it. Other than those, no evidence.

  10. Ein2015 says:

    The employee who sent this in is my new best friend.

  11. GearheadGeek says:

    @jpx72x: Unless you’ve worked for a long time as a casino dealer and are used to displaying/counting each bill clearly for the camera, the camera that may or may not show you stuffing money into the envelope doesn’t know how MUCH you stuff in there.

    I’d be as worried about innocent mistakes as malicious theft in this case. I don’t deposit cash at the ATM. If I have cash, I can spend it. If for some reason I need the cash in the account, I would deposit it with a teller so it’s counted and I get a receipt that indicates that an employee of the bank verified the amount of the deposit. There’s evidence, and then there’s SOLID evidence.

  12. rolla says:
  13. lauy says:

    @silencedotcom and agency:

    You are both correct. It is standard practices for ATM deposits in the financial services industry to be handled in dual custody.

    As far as a cash deposit “disappearing” from an ATM, the chances of your deposit going missing have little to do with someone stealing the deposit, but more with similar dollar amounts that are common at ATMs and being unable to determine who the deposit belongs to if the machine malfunctions. There is very little that can be used to locate a missing cash deposit other than the date and time recorded on your ATM/check card activity and if the ATM activity log shows matching activity around the same time. This is also why many banks have switched to Image deposit processing – to avoid the common scam of the empty envelope deposit – no more envelopes. In my experience, the activity on cards and the ATM is very accurate; however, these are machines.

    That being said, as a long time employee of the financial services community, I recommend making cash deposits in person.

  14. Jmatthew says:

    “It doesn’t really matter what the check is, it will be placed on hold depending on::

    Pretty sure this is improper. There’s quite a few types of funds that are required to be next-day available, including government checks, guaranteed funds checks and postal money orders.

  15. Corydon says:

    @azntg: I have to say that I’ve been pretty happy with WaMu too. People in the branches (there are three that I’ve used more than once) all seem to be friendly and helpful, even at the end of the day.

    I like the one free NSF waiver per year, although I’ve gotten better at tracking my spending so it’s really just an additional safety net at this point (which is really what it ought to be).

    I keep a pretty close eye on my accounts too and I’ve never seen any errors or strange charges popping up that I couldn’t immediately identify.

  16. I actually had the last one happen to me with the 2$ fee. But it was from a WAMU ATM. I went into the bank and the teller was hesitant to do a refund. The manager overheard it and came over and didnt even say anything just put his approval on it. I got my 2$ back :)

    He said he is not sure why it happens, but it is random.

  17. kd7 says:

    while i have avoided most of wamu’s pitfalls for nearly twenty years, i have learned that if you can, get large deposits wire transfered. they do charge a fee for it but there is NO HOLD on wire transfers. Just an FYI tidbit

  18. CaptRavis says:

    But aren’t all the WAMU bankers in the San Francisco Bay area already filipino?

  19. humperdinck says:

    If you have the old Free Checking account which doesn’t have debit rewards, or any other kind of checking for that matter, it can be upgraded by the 1-800 number. Filipino bankers are unable to process that request but a US based banker or supervisor can, and it will be switched within 1 bus day.

    I had no idea until just now that there was a debit reward program! Thanks. Although when I called the 800 # and spoke with an American operator, she told me I could only upgrade in a branch. I didn’t bother pushing it – it’s no big deal to me to go to my nearby branch.

  20. geoffhazel says:

    Except for their computer not showing transations up-to-the-minute sometimes, we like WaMu.

    We had a case where we had started up with a Visa Processing company who had access to my wife’s business acct, and needed to cut them off before they took any more unauthorized fees out. The WaMu person was very helpful and sympathetic, got us a new account, and made the transition as smooth as possible.

  21. Invalid_User_Name says:

    Wait, I can’t believe what I (think I) just read: WaMu puts CASH deposits on hold? No way. Can anyone clarify?

  22. I love WaMu and I wish I could go back to them. But they confused my personal accounts and my parents accounts too many times. Yeah, I know it was because I was on all their accounts, too but please don’t cover their overdrafts with my money! Pretty please? I’m just on there in case one or both of them keels over, I can manage the estate!

    Aside from that kerfuffle, I loved that bank.

  23. mac-phisto says:

    nice confession – offers up the legalese in easy to parse form & even offers up “the rules” & methods you can use to bypass them.

    thanks OP! knowing is half the battle!

  24. CaptRavis says:

    >>BIG TIP! If you want it all available, make separate deposits of $100 (if its cash you’re depositing).

    Even Bigger Tip, why doesn’t the ATM custodian release the cash portion of the ATM hold on the account after depostit verification…like the ATM manual clearly states.

    @Invalid_User_Name: The ATM doesn’t know what is the envelope and it is on hold until it is verified. The ‘system’ releases the $100.00 per reg. CC hence the lazy employee’s tip.

  25. mac-phisto says:

    @Invalid_User_Name: according to reg CC (the regulation that governs “funds availability”), an institution must make cash available “next day” (as in, the day after deposit). so a hold on cash is perfectly acceptable.

    as the OP states, if deposited before 3pm, it will be available the following day. after 3pm, it’s two business days. here’s why: an old banking practice is to flip business over to the following day (to facilitate balancing the day’s books), so deposits made after 3pm are actually credited to your account with the effective date of today+1 (meaning the hold would be today+1+1 or 2 business days).

    did i explain that well enough so it makes sense (this stuff can get rather complicated)?

  26. @Invalid_User_Name: Cash deposits in an ATM. But you should avoid putting cash in an ATM at all costs. It’s your words against theirs if some cash sprouts legs and walks away.

    However, many banks put holds on all in-branch deposits, including cash. BofA is notorious for this. It’s because they use a 3rd party to verify all the days deposits sometimes around midnight, not to mention they can bounce checks all day and help you accumulate overdraft fees. One way around it is to ask the manager to make the funds available immediately.

  27. sventurata says:

    @Jmatthew: Interesting – how would they verify in that timeframe if the document was forged or not? My understanding (but I am not American) is that usually these funds are good to go, but can be held at the bank’s discretion.

    @CaptRavis: I assume you’re trying to be funny with the racist SF banker = Filipino comment, but please think twice about how appropriate it was to this conversation. Nothing personal – your other comment was great – but let’s keep the stereotyping and xenophobia to a minimum. Thanks!

  28. Faerie says:

    I had my account upgraded the one that gives rewards, though they said I had to go into a branch to do it. I asked two different phone reps and both said they could not do it on the phone for me. But it’s worthwhile to upgrade to the new account if you’re on their old Free Checking. The new account gives free wires, the cash back debits, and one overdraft with no charges per year (among other things). I just wish I had upgraded earlier!

  29. Sidecutter says:

    I’m surprised no one has pointed out yet that the department responsible for putting your money in limbo with no guaranteed release date is the Risk Operations Department.

    Yes, that’s right, WaMu’s ROD is the entity screwing you over.

    Come on. That can NOT have been an accident. Someone set that name up intentionally.

  30. sholnay says:

    I started my free checking with wamu back in 2002. I had no idea about this .03 rebate / transaction until this article (granted, i would need something like 8000+ debit transactions a year to get the full $250 back lol). Anyway, I called to get my account switched to the rewards option – and apparently it was already on there? Not sure how that happened.

    Was a generally easy call – got some free checks too :)

  31. sholnay says:

    @Faerie: Did you request a supervisor? All supervisors are in the US and have the ability to upgrade your account. Also – you will only get a supervisor if you call during US business hours (10pm PST is when they leave).

  32. czarandy says:

    I don’t understand the people telling you not to deposit cash into an ATM. How is it any different if you give it to a banker? If later the money doesn’t show up how will you prove that you actually made the deposit?

  33. CaptRavis says:

    @Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
    I was a personal banker in Daly City, Millbrae, and San Francisco. It wasn’t I that stated the outsourced staff are Filipino, it was the heart of the opening paragraph. I, for one, welcome our Filipino banking Overlords.
    Plus, Magandá ang mga dalaga

  34. idip says:

    I can see WaMu changing several of these policies very soon to prevent people from abusing the system. IE Fee reversals.

    What the OP didn’t mention was that even though 2nd tier managers on the phone can give reversals, it doesn’t mean they will. They can’t just waive any fee that comes in, even following the above information they still can only ‘give’ so many courtesy waivers a day.

    Everyone complains about outsourced employees saying, ‘OMG, you’re taking American jobs away” well… they can pay outsourced employees half of what they pay American employees. American labor is EXPENSIVE because everyone wants more money. So if they pay more Americans more money (especially at night to cover the outsourced shifts) guess what, some how they’re going to find a way to charge you for it, be it higher OD/NSF fees, or service charges or whatever, while it’s great to have American jobs, in a country where everyone wants more money and wants things for cheap, 100% American Labor is not going to happen.

  35. Cliff_Donner says:

    Except for like, you know, cameras watching you take the envelope, stuff the cash in and then stuff it into the machine. And, except for the cameras on the dude emptying it. Other than those, no evidence.

    @jpx72x: And if any of that, you know, evidence was in my, like, possession when I walked away from the ATM, I would, you know, like, possibly agree with you.
    – –

    I’m not aware of what specific security measures a particular bank may take to keep its personnel honest — and a dishonest bank employee is not potentially the only problem, there also is the possibility of a simple error — but I do know that in case of any discrepancy, with an ATM cash deposit you are totally at the bank’s mercy. You have nothing in hand to prove the amount of your deposit — at most, you have your receipt that just shows the amount you punched into the ATM keyboard, and that proves nothing.

  36. Coelacanth says:

    @CaptRavis: It takes somebody with a lot more guts to hide cash a customer just handed to them and credit the account less.

    In the above example, one must hand the teller a deposit slip, they verify it in front of the customer, and then the teller prints out a receipt showing your deposit. The paper trail is much stronger, and if something doesn’t match, the teller is held accountable.

  37. CaptRavis says:

    @Coelacanth: I don’t think I am going to go out on a limb here but all theives are gutless. Working ATM deposits is ‘in theory’ done in dual control where you either have to have a co-conspiritor or an idiot working with you should you wish to stick it to the customer, whereas any sticky finger tellers are just going to take it out of drawer, sticky finger supervisors will just take it out of the GL’s and sticky finger managers will just take it out of the loan portfolio when they think no one is looking. The problem with bigbank mentality isn’t that the tellers aren’t held accountable, they are considered expendable.

  38. arl84 says:


    Lots of ATMs now will scan the paper money, and checks that you can deposit and don’t require an envelope. I think he was talkin about that.

    This is some great info though, thank you for posting.

  39. Cliff_Donner says:


    Lots of folks have chimed in here, many with info I didn’t know. Apparently, there are often safeguards that banks use to make sure a cash deposit at an ATM makes it into the depositor’s account. I can understand why some depositors might consider a cash deposit at an ATM an acceptable risk.

    All that said, it doesn’t negate what I thought was the point in my initial post — that making a cash deposit at an ATM does not provide the depositor with any easy proof that the deposit was made at the dollar amount claimed.

    And just to be pissy, I don’t think that jpx72x was referring to ATM’s that scan the money. His/her comments seemed to specifically refer to a camera videotaping the deposit as the security measure that would protect the depositor.

    Thanks for your kind words.

  40. Cliff_Donner says:

    @arl84: Possibly eating a little crow here, I’m now unsure when you said, “I think he was talkin’ about that,” you were referring to the OP, or to jpx72x. I leaped to the assumption it was jpx. If not, my bad.

    I do business with 3 different banks, and none of them have ATM’s that scan currency. Do WaMu ATMs typically have this capability?