Best Buy Register/Bank Error Leaves You Overdrafted And Cameraless

Reader Jeff is now in a situation that we find all too familiar, but most people have never even heard of: Electronic Funds Transfer Error Hell. You see, Jeff bought a camera at Best Buy and something went wrong — causing his debit card to be charged twice. This in turn caused him to overdraft. Now he’s shocked to learn that the process for reversing the charge isn’t as simple as it would be with a credit card.

Jeff writes:

I have been trying to get Best Buy to refund a double charge posted to my debit Mastercard for the sum of $741.99. Best Buy’s double charge has caused my account to overdraft and for me to cancel long-term plans that I had been anticipating for months due to insufficient funds.

Best Buy claims they have no record of the double charge so I contacted my bank to fill out an EFT inquiry for unauthorized charges, but this will take 10 business days! My bank is telling me that this is Best Buy’s mistake and Best Buy is telling me that this is my bank’s fault!

I had to return the camera to Best Buy because I could not afford to have a negative balance in my checking account waiting for the EFT to go through. I am frustrated, angry, and I want my $741.99 back! Best Buy hasn’t offered me any sort of compensation or solution to this matter and I don’t know where to turn now so I’m coming to The Consumerist. Help!

Jeff forwarded his emails to Best Buy as well as their response, which was polite and helpful, but not what Jeff wanted to hear. In it, they explain that while he may have been charged twice, they didn’t get the money:

In this case, we have determined that Best Buy has only received payment for one transaction that was posted on 9/20/10 for $741.99. We also note the returned transaction on 9/22/10 but have no other funds unfortunately. I’m currently requesting a reference number that you can provide your bank to confirm this so that they can move forward in their systems or possibly research what occurred on their side.

I’m sorry for all of the confusion but I wanted to make sure you knew I was here for you in the meantime.

As much as we love piling on after the whistle when it comes to Best Buy, we have to say that this situation is not easy to resolve. Why? Because you used a debit card.

Your bank is absolutely correct, they have up to 10 business days to investigate the electronic funds transfer error. They then have 3 business days to inform you of their decision. If they cannot come to a decision within this time frame, they have an additional 45 days to investigate — during which they must temporarily refund the money in question.

So, I’m afraid the news is not good. You’re going to have to be patient. For the rest of you, there are a few things you can do to avoid this sort of thing happening to you.

The first, and most obvious, is not to use a debit card for large purchases. Of course, cashiers have been known to accidentally enter a total incorrectly and charge someone $8k for Burger King — so your mileage may vary. Had this been a credit card, however, no actual money would have been removed from your account, and the situation would have been easier to resolve. Also, credit cards sometimes come with helpful benefits such as complimentary extended warranty protection. We do recommend, however, that you pay off the credit card each month.

The second strategy is to decline “overdraft protection” on your debit card. If your card declines transactions that would result in insufficient funds, you don’t have to worry about a negative balance.

Good luck, Jeff!

Answers About Bank Errors [Comptroller of the Currency]