Bank Refused Service To My Wife Because We're On Unemployment

Robert says three employees at an Oregon U.S. Bank refused to serve his wife, saying they don’t consider unemployment beneficiaries “real customers” on the level of conventional account holders.

He writes:

I have been unemployed in Oregon for a couple of months. Oregon uses US Bank to distribute funds and gives beneficiaries a visa debit card in which is deposited their funds every month.

We needed a printout to prove I was receiving benefits so my wife went into the local US Bank. She was denied by three separate people at the bank, including the manager. She was told that US Bank did not consider unemployment beneficiaries to be real customers of US Bank and we can not be served by tellers.

This kind of treatment doesn’t make much sense. We reached out to U.S. Bancorp for comment and will update this post with its response.


Edit Your Comment

  1. tedyc03 says:

    The state of Oregon is the account holder with US Bank, not those who hold unemployment benefits. The bank simply processes payments, but the state is the actual customer, not the beneficiaries.

    • Laffy Daffy says:

      Exactly. She should get the doc through the unemployment office.

    • Quake 'n' Shake says:

      Much the same as if I were to go to my employer’s bank, from which my paycheck funds are drawn.
      I am willing to give the OP the benefit of the doubt here. I think he sincerely misunderstood what his relationship to the bank is.

      • TacomaRogue says:

        I ran into the same issue with US Bank and Oregon unemployment benifits, but the teller I went to was nice enough to explain how it worked rather than just waiving me off with out an explination. The ReliaCard is essentially a pre-paid card, but with a few more perks and security features. Other than withdrawing money from the card (which the tellers can and will do with ID as long as you have suffecient funds) you have to call the number on the back of the card for any help.

    • Megladon says:

      Still you’d think (i would) that they would show them the same respect as a regular customer in an effort to win them over for their business. Thats how I would run mine, and I guess thats a big part of whats wrong with big business.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Well, there’s not enough to indicate how they treated the OP’s wife, only that they could not help her. The OP was operating under the mistaken notion that the tellers absolutely should have been able to help him – the fact that they could not registers a negative connotation for the OP, when the reality is that they weren’t even the right people to go to, so I don’t think they were nearly as rude as it may seem. Robert wouldn’t have complained if the tellers had given his wife the information to the ReliaCard division – if they had, he wouldn’t have a complaint.

        If the OP and his wife have a ReliaCard, it means they did not opt to get their benefits through direct deposit – convincing someone who has already said no to direct deposit that they should use direct deposit seems like a step backward.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      If he has a Visa debit card with his name on it, and there is money being put into an account that he can access via the card, then he is indeed their customer. It doesn’t matter who puts the money into the account. My boss puts money into my bank account twice a month, but I’m still the customer.

      However I note that it was his wife, not him, who went to the bank. Unless her name is also on the account, which it probably isn’t, they were right to not provide her with documentation. Being married isn’t the same as being joint account holders.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        There’s a difference: your pay goes into YOUR bank account. The OP and his wife have no previously established account with US Bank, and their association with the bank is through the state unemployment agency.

        • Crackpot says:

          Actually, that isn’t clear from the OP’s description. The OP said that the State uses US Bank, so they went there. Nowhere in this post does it state that the OP actually banks there, other than to get the state-issued funds using a state-issued card.

          My guess is that US Bank is telling a non-US Bank customer that, unless they open a US Bank account under their name, they won’t be getting teller support. It sucks, but it doesn’t sound like US Bank has actually done something “wrong” here.

          • MeowMaximus says:

            They haven’t done anything “Wrong” in the legal sense, but this is truly cruddy customer service, and insulting and insensitive to boot.

          • Griking says:

            I agree. If you’re a customer then you have an account number. Provide the account number to the teller and I’m sure she’d be happy to help. If you don’t have an account number then you don’t have an account and therefore you aren’t a customer. Sorry.

          • pecan 3.14159265 says:

            I’m pretty sure you didn’t mean to reply to me, since I said nothing that disagreed with what you were apparently replying to…hm.

  2. Grogey says:

    If the card says U.S. Bank I believe they would be customers. I’m wondering if they might have to contact a 1-800 for the info she requires?

    • INDBRD says:

      No… the state of Oregon is the customer…. but normally the bank just issues the card… it is a third party in most states (ACS) who actually deals with the bank. If they have the documentation provided with the card this information is included.

    • smileboot says:

      Are you an American Express account holder when someone gifts you an American Express Gift card?

  3. DanRydell says:

    Not too hard to figure this one out – they don’t have an account with US Bank, so they AREN’T “real customers.” It has nothing to do with unemployment, it’s because they just have a prepaid debit card.

    • DanRydell says:

      And most likely the tellers aren’t able to give her the information she needs. The tellers perform transactions on regular bank accounts. She probably needs to call customer service, to get the information she wants.

      • kobresia says:

        Correct. All the tellers would likely be able to tell her is the current balance available on the card. Really, this type of debit card is no different than an gift or money card, which also don’t have statements associated with them.

  4. humphrmi says:

    “We needed a printout to prove I was receiving benefits …”

    Can’t their state’s unemployment department provide this?

    • DanRydell says:

      Yeah, that confused me. First, to whom do they need to prove it? And second, I would be shocked if the state is loading money onto these cards regularly without generating any documentation.

      • jessjj347 says:

        They may need documentation to apply for other public benefits (TANF, Medicaid, SNAP, etc, etc).

      • varro says:

        I’ve seen many printouts from the Oregon Employment Department – it’s easy to go online and print out a list of your unemployment benefits.

        Not to say that the bank employees were right, though – if they were able to help the OP, they should have. US Bank is getting a sweet deal handling the state’s unemployment insurance accounts…

    • acknight says:

      This. US Bank is not in any rational sense the grantor of those funds, just the distributor. You’d think the state agency that handles this would be the logical place to get such a letter?

      Bad customer service aside, it sort of seems like the OP went to the wrong place in the first place. And expecting the tellers to know where to send them when they went to the wrong place entirely for such verification seems quite odd.

      • guroth says:

        This is like contacting your ISP for details and troubleshooting about your work-provided email address.

    • PsiCop says:

      Just a guess: the state of Oregon wouldn’t provide such a printout to them, at least not in the timeframe of whatever they were doing which required one. That is, maybe they need a printout for tomorrow, but the state is backlogged 6 weeks and they can’t get one that quick.

      If that’s the case, I can understand making an “end run” around the state’s delay by asking the bank for it instead.

      I know here in CT you can go to the DOL Web site and get an unemployment payment history, and it’s possible (if not probable) that Oregon offers the same thing. But it may be that a downloaded Web page is not sufficient “proof” for whoever they’re giving this to; they may have been asked for something on an official letterhead or something like that.

      Again, all of this is my own speculation, and with no sure knowledge of how Oregon or US Bancorp works, or what the OP was trying to do. I’m just filling in the gaps, to make sense of it in my own way.

      • humphrmi says:

        Or, Oregon could work like every other state and automatically submit benefits data to SNAP and TANF.

        Just, as you say, a guess.

  5. McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

    I wonder if it’s the same situation where my wife has a Discover card with her name on my account. Discover wont talk with her, only me. Maybe the State of Oregon (or whatever department within) has to request the documents on their behalf?

  6. SecretAgentWoman says:

    I don’t know if this is them being mean or not. Sounds like the account is just not accessible to her by any other means but the debit card. The state is the true customer of the bank. The OP should be able to login to his state’s unemployment website and print anything he needs regarding payments.

  7. thompson says:

    Yeah this seems a pretty open and shut case—the customer of the bank is the STATE, which is using the bank as a distribution point to those receiving unemployment benefits. They should contact the state unemployment office for the print out.

  8. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Logic Fail. A comapny (state of Oregon) is paying his wife money, directly deposited into a US Bank account. They are, by definition, a customer.

    • ShruggingGalt says:

      Except that technically, their name isn’t on the account where the funds are deposited. The customer is the state, who is contracting with US Bankcorp to provide the “service” of “debit cards” rather than issuing checks/DD to people.

  9. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    According to the Oregon state unemployment site, if you have any customer service questions related to the ReliaCard debit card, you have to contact the division of US Bank that handles that card, or contact the state unemployment department.

    The ReliaCard is ONLY for government agencies, so it makes sense that the bank would not help her. She does not, in the traditional sense, have an account with US Bank – she has an account with the state, who has an account with US Bank.

    in fact, here’s a portion of the state’s FAQ:

    Can I contact my local bank or the local U.S. Bank for customer service on my ReliaCard Visa account?
    No. You must direct all of your ReliaCard Visa questions to the toll-free customer service line.
    You may also utilize the web site for inquiries.

    • DanRydell says:

      So now that this situation is fully understood, what are the odds that Phil actually corrects his libelous article title?

      • thompson says:

        Somewhere between zero and completely-unlikely-because-it’s-Phil-and-it-would-lower-his-page-views.

        • Gramin says:

          Psh… even less than that. I don’t think Phil even reads the comments. Several of these other writers will actually respond to posts and make changes or chat back and forth with us. Not Phil. He makes the most egregious mistakes but refuses to address them.

          It sucks that the bank couldn’t help the unemployed OP, but the headline is a complete lie. In fact, this appears to be borderline libel. Maybe the bank’s lawyer should give Phil a quick call.

          • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

            Can you blame him for not reading the comments when every third comment is “Phil sux!” or something along those lines?

            I do agree however, the headline is overly sensationalist and needs changing.

            • thompson says:

              It’s not like there is an epidemic of “First!” and “[Poster] sucks!” comments on the Consumerist. In fact, I’d say that the *only* author who gets repeatedly questioned is Phil. I seriously doubt that the entire commenting community has just randomly chosen Phil to pick on either. This article is just another in a long stream of the same type of sensationalist, libelous, or just plain false posts by Phil.

    • NashuaConsumerist says:

      Case Closed! +1

    • areaman says:

      A good piece of searching around and scoring.

      Did Robert say if the US Bank workers referred him to the ReliaCard Visa questions to the toll-free customer service line?

      If Robert was referred to this number by any of the bank workers, that should be the end of story.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        What’s outrageously silly to me is that Robert sent emails to US Bancorp and Consumerist when he could’ve just looked up the information himself. It took me all of 30 seconds to find the right information. It probably took him at least 10 to write those emails.

    • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

      Nice work on solving this; I was tempted to call my MIL to ask about it, as she’s a U.S. Bank employee but you’ve saved me the trouble. :)

    • Gulliver says:

      So the OP ignored what the state specifically told him to do with these situations, but somehow it is the big bad banks fault. Typical of an entitled person. The world must revolve around him and his wife. You aren’t working, so i think you had plenty of time to do the smallest amount of research. I am guessing the bank does not run into this problem a lot since the state dictates the terms of the agreement, NOT the receiver.

    • spindle789 says:

      Maybe you should be writing this article, seeing how you actually did a little research instead of just stenography.

  10. Hedgy2136 says:

    The bank refused service to your wife because YOU AREN’T THEIR CUSTOMER!

    I had hoped that by seperating from Gawker, Consumerist would at least try to be more objective, but I can see that I was wrong. Oh, well.

  11. Master Medic: Now with more Haldol says:

    This happened to me with my unemployment paid thru a Chase card. I had other accounts there so they cut me some slack, once they realized I was also a “regular” customer.

    I just filed a form and had the UI direct deposited into a new checking account instead of the state card and then all was just peaches..

  12. ThomFabian says:

    What a horrible title to this article.
    This site can be downright awesome and the article itself is interesting in that it can serve to clarify some points of banking accounts…. but the title is misleading.

  13. Mom says:

    Maybe they should have a bank account of their own, and have the unemployment deposited into the bank account, instead of relying on some shady fee riddled debit card for everything.

    Regardless, the state should be providing proof of benefits, not the bank that distributes the debit cards.

  14. chiieddy says:

    Is it possible to get a feed of everything BUT Phil’s articles?

  15. NydiaGeben says:

    Open a small account with U.S. Bank.

  16. Skellbasher says:

    US Bank is correct. These folks do not have accounts at US Bank.

    Complete non-issue.

  17. benjitek says:

    This seems to be a case of making something non-newsworthy into a posting when there’s nothing else to fill your pages.

  18. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    So they aren’t customers, they just have a US Bank managed stored value card.. Issued by the state. I am sure they are free to open a US Bank checking account and become full customers. I bet they still won’t get what they are looking for, as the stored value card is not really their product.

  19. sopmodm14 says:

    really ?

    then if CEO’s are thieves, and so are banks, cant they arrest the bank ?

    many loan officers used fraud to pass loans, criminally…so the bank hires felons ?

    i’d like to hear the banks rebuttle

  20. MacBenah says:

    Aw shuddup, go collect yer welfare, go back to sleep, quit getting in the way of real workers.

  21. oddnoc says:

    Very misleading title. Why do you feel you need to trick us into reading articles?

  22. psm321 says:

    Wow, way to distort things Robert/Consumerist. I usually side with the OP but this is ridiculous (see all the other posts about how you AREN’T a customer.) the really ridiculous part is making the tone of the article sound like the bank denied them service BECAUSE they were on unemployment, which is not the case at all

  23. APFPilot says:

    The title of this post is a blantant example of Yellow Journalism. Makes me wonder how much Consumer Reports actually monitors the consumerist that they’d allow things like this to not only happen, but stay?

  24. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    Can I just mention that using “service” as a verb makes the headline slightly vulgar to some people? Gotta stay off the horse farm, I guess . . .

    • tundey says:

      Can’t believe you are the only one to comment on that. I thought it was an odd title too.

    • Coelacanth says:

      They didn’t use it as a verb… but a noun.

      It might have been “Bank refused food to my wife…” Also, ever read the signs that say, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” in many establishments?

      Some people’s minds are too quick to wander.

      • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

        I’m 99% sure when it was posted it said “refused TO SERVICE my wife”.

        It’s not about my mind wandering, it’s about how I (and a whole lot of veterinarians) have used that word for a long long time.

  25. justjoe says:

    My debit card (through Fidelity) is issued by PNC Bank. The sweep account that Fidelity uses for my account is through another bank. I’m a customer of neither bank.

  26. Gramin says:


    Is the title of this article libelous?

    1. Yes
    2. No

    • Blueskylaw says:

      Do I both get a star and disemvowelled if I guess correctly?

    • Skellbasher says:

      Tough to get to libel on that. Obviously false and sensationalist, but I don’t think it meets the standard for libel.

      A simple defense of ‘I didn’t understand what they were saying, so I guessed’ would torpedo the libel claim.

    • tidomonkey says:

      It meets the definition of libel being both defamatory and misrepresentative. I doubt that was the intent, but you have to be careful when you publish things as fact and not opinion.

  27. wolfnix says:

    Well, the sheer fact that the bank is servicing the state, through a government program shows that the people issued the cards are not the real customers, but the state is. It is no different then if an employer wanted debit cards issued; you have a specific department to deal with, or the payroll office.

    In my state, when your on unemployment you can get the proof off there website, or from an agency office. No one would expect my bank statement as proof, as many times they want the amounts, how much is left, etc…

  28. IThinkThereforeIAm says:

    I have had this issue under my skin for a while:
    – when a bank issues some fort of currency equivalent (lat’s say, a check, through an account holder’s account) the person holding that item should be treated as a customer by inference – since the account holder passed this right when he/she/it gave out the check.
    I find it ridiculous when you go to the bank where the check is drawn from (but you don’t have an account) they charge you for cashing it. And don’t come with the “risk” factor – it’s a check written against one of the account held by your bank; how hard it is to check whether it’s covered or not? There is no inter-bank transaction, there is no ACH delay. So just cough up the cash, the account holder is paying for that service.

    This also applies here – since the bank handles the account AGAINST which the debit card is drawn, the user of the card should be considered a customer – or at least an authorized user.

    And yes, I know, a credit union would be so much better….

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I find it ridiculous when you go to the bank where the check is drawn from (but you don’t have an account) they charge you for cashing it. And don’t come with the “risk” factor – it’s a check written against one of the account held by your bank; how hard it is to check whether it’s covered or not?

      Um, because the bank shouldn’t be able to access all of your information just because you want it to? And because it shouldn’t disclose private financial information to the stranger that comes in with a check written by a customer?

      If you wrote a check to your neighbor, would you want your neighbor to go to your bank and ask whether you’re good for the money? Do you feel comfortable that the bank can just pull up all of your financial information just because your neighbor asks?

      • IThinkThereforeIAm says:

        Well, if you write a check to your neighbor, and he goes into a bank cashing it, and if I am NOT good for it, they WILL let him know in a form of a returned payment and a returned check fee.

        BTW: do you think that they do NOT check the balance on the account before they hand over the cash? They just conveniently (for them) charge you $5 or more for the privilege. (Which is what I am against).

    • Gulliver says:

      So if somebody got a hold of your checking account number, and produced a check written against it, they should just do it because YOU think it is best? The account holder (State of Oregon) told the card holder to contact specific places. The OP said, nope we will do whatever the hell we want, we are more important than anybody else. WE should have our own rules. Typical of those who feel entitled.

  29. ZakiSea horse says:

    Hrm… state of Oregon switches banks. Problem solved?

  30. txhoudini says:

    I had this same thing happen in Texas when I went into a Chase branch (who at the time had a monopoly on the Unemployment benefits ATM racket in Texas) and I wanted to use the money in my account to buy a money order to pay some bills. I was told that money orders were for “real” account holders. Now that I have a job, guess who doesn’t get my automatic deposit?

  31. gparlett says:

    “Bank Refused Service To My Wife Because We’re Not Customer of That Bank”

    There I fixed your title for you.

  32. TehLlama says:

    I’m with the bank 100%.

  33. Dave C says:

    It may well be that USBank can’t help with these people’s inquiry. I can picture, though, how a bank that couldn’t help you but was nice about it might not cause you to write letters of complaint to Consumerist.

    I’m the finance guy at a nonprofit that had $500k-2 million at a Portland USBank branch for over a decade. Last year we stopped using them, because they were: constantly making mistakes and taking forever to fix them–generally because of corporate bureaucracy; remarkably unhelpful in providing services (eg, direct deposit) that every bank I’ve worked with in the last 10 years provided easily and cheaply; completely incapable of communicating within their own management structure (managers, tellers, the local business-services people, and national 800 number invariably had between two and four different answers to any question we asked); and on top of that were frequently rude or clueless in our interactions with them.

    So, you know, maybe if Oregon used a different bank, their UI beneficiaries wouldn’t leave the branch all pissed off just because the bank wasn’t the right place to ask their question.

  34. medfordite says:

    It’s quite simple really for those in Oregon collecting unemployment and needing proof for whoever needs it.

    Login to your account online and then choose to view the status of your claim. From there, view payment history. If need be, they can even prove how much was taxed and how much was paid out.

  35. stevenpdx says:

    The bank is correct. They’re NOT real customers of US Bank. The customer is the State of Oregon. Therefore, the op needs to contact the state unemployment division for assistance.

  36. Coalpepper says:

    Ah, US Bank, the bank i hate with a passion after having an account with them for 3 months. I think those three months cost me about $500 in fees (i know it was north of $200), thanks to creative customer unfriendly rules. I feel sorry for the couple, and its likely US Bank doesn’t consider them customers as the law doesn’t allow them to screw them out of their money.

  37. nightmage61 says:

    OK, so yes the account is not the OPs, it belongs to the state. Odd thing about those cards, if you use one at an ATM, guess who pays the ATM fee, not the state. I would think the fact that the OP is paying the service fees they could at least get a little help from the bank.

  38. Incident8 says:

    So we bail the banks out with taxpayer money and now they are too good to help those who are being bailed out on a significantly smaller level.

  39. crazydavythe1st says:

    Everyone here is right of course, but I’m fairly sure that if the state of Oregon is paying out unemployment on a debit card through some bank that said bank is benefiting enough from the entire arrangement that they are really obligated to treat the gentleman with some respect and refer him to the state’s unemployment office and not just tell him he “isn’t a real customer”

  40. cb says:

    I work for a bank that has a similar agreement with the state that we are in. In our case we do free cash advances on state unemployment cards. I have this conversation with someone pretty much every day, “we have an agreement to do free cash advances with your card, but I cannot check your balance, deposit money onto them, print a statement or order you a new one. If you open an account I can help you set up direct deposit, but otherwise I can run your card and it will either say accept or decline”. Pretty straight forward but you’d be surprised.

  41. isileth says:

    I’ve been reading posts on this site for a while and I wonder: why is it called “The consumerist”?
    It should be called “we hate everybody who ever had a problem as a consumer because they are all idiots”.

  42. JeremieNX says:

    I’m a US Bank employee here…. The ReliaCards that many states use to disperse benefits are handled and serviced by ReliaCard. I don’t even have the ability to pull up a ReliaCard account because our systems don’t have access to them. All we do is provide the physical plastic.

  43. lordtaco says:

    I know someone who works for said bank and they said “Actually, this is true. They are issued something called a Reliacard and we cannot access any of their accounts. We’re a third party provider, so technically…we couldn’t service them. I have to tell people that all the time. Only more tactfully.”

  44. AlphaLackey says:

    “Yeah, well, you work for the bank, the bank works for me, so ipso facto, I’m your boss”. Or something like that.

  45. Nick says:

    U.S. Bank and Bank of America should merge. Call it Bank of Bank. No customer service for those Oregonians, sorry.