Ally Bank Finds My Lifelong Nickname Totally Unacceptable For Depositing Checks

Some of us were born with one name, and whether through deliberate choice or the tendencies of friends and families, end up being known by a nickname. Our reader Nicholas found out recently that apparently some nicknames are just unacceptable — according to Ally Bank, “Cole,” the name he’s gone by his entire life, won’t fly.

Nicholas writes in with his tale of nickname woe, which all started when he deposited his first “e-check” with Ally, via a scan and email. It was written out to “Cole [Last Name],” (with, of course, his actual last name in there).

I called them up and they let me know that they do not deposit checks “written out to third parties.” I was confused but recognized that the check had been written to “Cole [Last Name]” as opposed to my legal name “Nicholas [Last Name].” They informed me that they would never accept a check written to Cole, ever, not even if I put it in writing that NOBODY calls me Nicholas and would therefore never correctly write checks to me.

This conversation escalated to Daniel (Dan) and we had a heated discussion. According to Dan, Ally can accept checks written to Dan in place of Daniel because that is an acceptable nickname. When pressed for the definition of acceptable nicknames, he restated that Cole was not acceptable (despite it being the second syllable in Nicholas). I asked about Elizabeth that goes by Lisa or Lizabeth. Those work. C’mon Dan!! Seriously?! I closed my account today and made sure they sent my check to the appropriate address to Cole [Last Name].

It’s not like he was trying to go by Fuzzy Wuzzy Was A Bear — as he points out, the nickname is an actual sound in his full name. We’d like to see your probably arbitrary list of “acceptable” nicknames, if it exists, Ally.

Woe betide the person who ever addresses me as Mary, by the way. I will accept checks made out to her, however.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Schildkrote says:

    “Friends and family,” not “families.”

  2. incident man stole my avatar says:

    There was a DJ named Alan Corduff who used to make appearances as “Glen Burnout” or Momma Panzerella and he would get the businesses to write out the check to the person he was appearing as. He arranged for the local bank to deposit the checks into his acocunt without having to use his real name. Guess he would be SOL these days.

  3. George4478 says:

    I went through this with First Union/Wachovia over Erick (driver’s license) vs Rick (how people know me). Every six months or so, Wachovia would arbitrarily reject a check made out to Rick. They’d accept dozens, then pick one to reject. I’d have to go into the bank to talk with a manager.

    The eventual resolution was to endorse all checks as Rick LastName, then write “aka Erick LastName” below the endorsement. Never had a problem again.

    Never had a problem again.

  4. Lyn Torden says:

    Ally Bank (one of the many big banks to avoid due to incompetence) is probably confused because of the fact that Cole is also a distinct name of its own. How banks SHOULD be organized is to allow the customer to provide one or a few spellings of their name … instead of depending on some manager somewhere being smart enough to figure this out.

    • kella says:

      I’ve been an Ally customer for over a year. This sounds like they need to fix a rule somewhere, but not incompetence. OTOH, my “friendly” local credit union was only able to stop the weekly spam from their online bill pay service by changing my registered e-mail address to their own, now that’s incompetence. Plus, my CU charges $27 for an overdraft, and they have about as many fees as banks had a few years ago. They also don’t have 24×7 customer service, and they have an annoying IVR to wade through before you can talk to a CSR.

      It’s incredibly convenient to be able to use any ATM I want and have the fees refunded, I have yet to find a CU that will do that. Ally isn’t a big bank, they have far fewer customers than the big banks, they provide decent customer service, good products, and they understand technology a hell of a lot better than most CUs. I’ll take that any day over a CU that begs you to enroll in “overdraft protection” for your debit card so that they can try to charge you even more.

      Credit Unions might be great if you’ve got $25k+ ‘in the bank’ (banks start providing better service at that level too). For normal people (esp. young professionals) they’re barely better than banks, and worse than Ally.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        Not all credit unions suck as much as your old credit union.

      • GoPadge says:

        I don’t know which Credit Union you tried, but both of mine are great for the average customer.

      • jeb says:

        That must be your credit union. Some are good, some are not.

        I used both Ally and a credit union from back home. The credit union has an arguably better system for e-deposit (simply enter in the check information online, deposits immediately, and mail the check up within the week; versus Ally which requires you to scan the check and then hold onto it for 90 days), faster inter-bank electronic transfers on the new “beta” website (which they put on their Facebook page for us to test), and really good customer service/relations (try to look at situations instead of simply policies.)

        Not that Ally is bad, per se, but neither are most credit unions. Plus, Ally required money from the federal government, hasn’t paid it back yet, and failed a “stress test” if worse came to worst.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      I asked about Elizabeth that goes by Lisa or Lizabeth. Those work.

      • phsiii says:

        Or “Betty”. Or “Bets”. Or “Libby” or “Lib”. All well-accepted nicknames for “Elizabeth”.

        It’s not clear to me that it’s up to the bank to make this decision, actually — if you’re fraudulently trying to cash Cole’s check, then that’s a criminal act. All they have to do is hold the funds (which they will) until it clears.

        As far as I can tell, you could deposit a check made out to Mickey Mouse if you’re a business. Which may be irrelevant, but is interesting.

        ObAnecdote: Long ago, I worked for a company called “XYZ Systems Group”. There was another, much larger company in the area called “XYZ Software”. We’d receive checks for large amounts every few months, made out TO OUR COMPANY NAME, but noting that they were for XYZ’s product. We’d dutifully redirect them to XYZ.

        After several years, XYZ changed their name to “Systems Center” (yes, those of you in my end of the business now know who the [long-dead] companies were!) and we said “Phew, that’ll stop the check confusion!”

        The next month we received a check made to to “XYZ Systems Center” — for their product. Sometimes you can’t win for losing.

  5. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I knew a Cole [Last Name] in high school, I wonder if that’s the same guy.

  6. Straspey says:

    William = Bill

    Margaret = Peggy

    Christopher = Chris

    Nicholas = Nick

    And, frankly, I’m surprised any bank would accept anyone’s so-called “nickname” as an acceptable replacement for one’s full legal name on their checks or accounts.

    Does the OP have the name “Cole Smith” printed on his checks ? Does he sign the checks he writes to others as “Cole Smith” ?

    Haven’t you ever had a friend who you knew as “Bill Anderson” – and assumed his real name was William – only to discover one day when he wrote out a check to you and saw the printed name on the check – “Karel Anderson” or some other unusual name ?

    Happens all the time.

    I have two male friends who were born in other countries, one named Vivian, the other Adrian — and yes, they both have nicknames, which I doubt would appear on any of their personal banking materials.

    • catskyfire says:

      But if someone you know in a personal sense writes you a check, will they put your full legal name? No, they’ll put what they know you as. Some may not even realize you have a different name.

      • Hi_Hello says:

        Hi, my name is Hi_Hello, but you can call me Hi, every calls me Hi.

        I just think when you introduce yourself someone, you should always give your full name. Or if you introduce someone, you should always introduce their full name.

        But that’s just me.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          I think it is just you.

          A lot of people use nickneames because they don’t want just anybody knowing their real name. Call it vanity, embarassment, whatever. Some people aren’t comfortable with their given name.

          • awesome anna says:

            Exactly, I hate my legal name (and my parent’s, but that’s for another time) So I’d say 95% of my friends don’t even know what my legal name is. My checks and account are in my “nick name” even though my DL and SS card both have my legal name. Never had any problems receiving checks, etc. under either name.

            • Twonkey says:

              There was a loooong stretch of time back in my school days when I didn’t tell anyone my last name because I was embarrassed by it. After I was born my dad stuck around long enough to saddle me with it, so most times I’d just give folks my mom’s last name instead. In fact I’m considering having it legally changed in the next month or two. So suffice it to say that I can certainly understand where you’re coming from.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          I don’t think you should have to say “my name is ____ but people call me ____.” Your name is whatever I want it to be. Whether you can acceptably use a nickname on legal documents is a different matter.

          • pecan 3.14159265 says:

            D’oh. Meant “your name is what you want it to be.”

            To add to Loias’ point, a lot of immigrants to the US adopt American names. Some of them treat it as a nickname, where it doesn’t appear on their legal documents, bank accounts, etc. but that’s what they go by, and some people will go through the process to change their legal name to the name they’ve chosen for themselves. Nothing wrong with that at all.

        • Guppy says:

          When I do that, it never fails the person calls me by my legal name, not my nickname, and gets everyone else confused. Then it doesn’t matter how often I tell them what I prefer.

          My legal name is too formal for my personality. Only my family calls me by it.

    • TBGBoodler says:

      I guess you don’t have a shortened name, then, do you? Many people write checks to my “nickname” instead of my full, legal name, and I’ve never had trouble cashing or depositing them. I often with endorse them with both names, just to be safe.

      And why woud Ally care about a deposit? I can see being careful about who withdraws money from Cole’s account, but putting money in?

    • delicatedisarray says:

      My younger brother goes by his initials or Chris instead of his full given name (Christopher). He has never had a problem depositing checks that I know of.

    • TasteyCat says:

      So apparently Peggy is a real nickname for Margaret then. And I thought the girl who works downstairs just made it up.

    • MyTQuinn says:

      I too don’t understand how anyone thinks the bank is in the wrong here. My father’s first and middle names were William Mansfield. Family knew him as Mans, and coworkers knew him as Bill. But those names never appeared on any legal documents, and I can’t imagine why a bank would have let him deposit checks made out to those names.

      If Nicholas wants to legally change his name to Cole, fine. If he wants to setup a DBA using Cole, fine. But don’t expect a bank to deposit checks when the payee name doesn’t match the name on the account.

      On the other hand, I guess they would have no problem depositing a check made out to a different Nicholas Smith.

      • selianth says:

        My legal name is Elizabeth, and that’s the name that appears at the top of my checks, but I have never once had trouble depositing a check made out to “Beth,” as the vast majority of them are. I don’t really think it’s so unreasonable for them to do this, but maybe I just have an especially awesome credit union.

    • kgb says:

      Are your friends Vivian and Adrian from The Young Ones?? :-)

    • bluline says:

      I’ve had many checks written out to my nickname over the years (which isn’t close to my legal name) and never had an issue with it at any bank.

    • jiubreyn says:

      I agree. The issue here is that his nickname is “Cole”, not “Nick”. There is a big difference between those two when compared to Kimberly = Kim, Jessica = Jess, Jonathan = John, etc.

      Nicholas != Cole. Period.

  7. Hi_Hello says:

    I blame the English language and people with nic names.

    They should have NEVER accepted nicknames at all. And people should just change their legal name if they wanted to use their nickname.

    Now if I try to cash a check that has Blue Dragon on it, which is a word for word translation of my name into English they wouldn’t do it. If I go to local community and tell them I’m Dragon and I’m here for my money. They would know who I am and it’s all good.

    • FacebookAppMaker says:

      In Canada (At least my province), you can change your name to your nickname at no cost, and without having to go through ridiculous hoops (Like putting an ad out in a provincially funded magazine, detailing your name change) as long as you have been using that nickname for over 2 years, and have witnesses to that (Or things like bills, tax forms, T4’s, etc)

      • sirwired says:

        This is also technically the case in many US states as well. However, actually convincing the organizations with which you do business that this is indeed the case is more trouble than it’s worth, and most people end up going the formal route…

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      I hate nicknames. My name is Kimberly and people assume they can just call me Kim. Kim isn’t my name and I hate being called that. People put me in a akward position by making an assumption like that. If I correct them, I come off as rude, if I don’t, I am letting people call me by a name I hate. When I named my kid, I named her something without any common nickname.

      • wrjohnston91283 says:

        My name is William. I go by Will when people speak to me, but I prefer William when written (I sign all emails William unless its a quick memo to a co worker or family).

        Yet almost every week, someone who I’ve never dealt with gets an email from me (signed William) and calls me Bill.

      • PercussionQueen7 says:

        Late, same for me except Elizabeth and “Liz”. I’m not Liz. I never told you anything but Elizabeth, so why would you call me anything but that?

    • dks64 says:

      I agree completely. My boyfriend goes by his middle name (he’s the 4th, so his Dad uses the first name). He understands that his legal name is Charles and writes it on everything for the bank, school, job applications, DMV records, government documents, blah blah blah. If the OP goes by Cole, why not just legally change his name? There’s no point in having the legal name if you don’t even go by it. The only time I understand nicknames is when you’re a junior/3rd/4th/10 billionth.

  8. vliam says:

    At least the OP has the option of telling them to go screw themselves.

    I switched states and can’t get a driver’s license because my birth certificate doesn’t have my full name. My license from my previous state and social security card are not valid forms of ID thanks to the SecureID nonsense enacted in this state.

    I, for one, do not feel terribly “secure”. I’d move to Canada but I don’t think that I can get a passport at this point either.

    • BennieHannah says:

      Contact your area’s state congressional representative(s). Often they can help with situations like this.

      • vliam says:

        That’s not a bad idea. I should at least drop by and see my state representative. Our area is as big as a postage stamp. She’s probably not busy and could definitely use another vote, which is another thing that I can’t do at the moment.

        • rmorin says:

          DO THIS!

          I had a problem with my state taxes (the state withdrew my taxes owed from my bank account twice) and I could not get anyone in the DOR from the state to help me.

          As a last ditch effort after a month of DOR calls, I contacted my state (not national) congress-person office. Literally within 24 hours I had all my money back. It’s a win-win, they get to do something good for one of the people they represent, and you get your problem solved. Seriously, for issues were you did nothing wrong, and the government made a mistake local politicians LOVE to step in and help in order to get good will. It worked for me!

  9. ophmarketing says:

    Ally had a case right up to the point where they admitted they would allow “Lisa” for “Elizabeth.”

  10. km9v says:

    I get my checks made out to “Bad Motherf*cker.” They get cashed w/o ID.

  11. crispyduck13 says:

    I didn’t know so many people were running around going by some super special nickname to the point that people are writing them checks with that nickname instead of their real, legal name. That’s not how a bank account works kids, and honestly, you’re a self-absorbed jackass for expecting them to make an exception like that. Cole Smith does not equal Nicholas Smith. No one thinks that but you, Christ it’s not even spelled the same.

    Do you go to the DMV and use your nickname on all the forms there? What is the name on your driver’s license, your social security card? If you dislike your legal first name to the point that your friends/family are writing checks out to your nickname, maybe it’s time to change your damn name.

    Ahem, Mary Beth: why are you picking sides here? Dan is the first 3 letters of Daniel, Jess is the first 4 letters of Jessica, Mary is the first half of Mary Beth, Cole does not appear anywhere in the name ‘Nicholas.’

    • George4478 says:

      “The troll, Daddy. Why does his voice sound so weird?”

      “Because he speaks out of his ass, son. It sounds kind of bubbly, doesn’t it?”

      “I don’t like it. Make it stop.”

      “No one can, son. We just ignore him and move along.”

      • crispyduck13 says:

        Crispyduck doesn’t troll, son. Crispyduck runs your ass over with a pickup truck.

        Honest to god man, I’m not usually one to jump all over an OP like this but to me his assumption that the bank should accept checks made out to a completely different name is asinine. I also don’t agree with the bank rep saying they would accept checks to “Lisa” for legal name “Elizabeth.” In fact, I think any Elizabeth at that bank getting checks for “Lisa” is having the same problem as our boy Cole here.

        • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

          What about Bob?

          • crispyduck13 says:

            I mean, if we’re going to get specific here I don’t know why the hell Bob is short for Robert. Shouldn’t it be Rob? While we’re on it why is Bill short for William? How did that evolve?

            Nicknames are great, the weirder the better, in fact mine doesn’t have my name anywhere in it. I just don’t understand the idea that a bank, or the DMV, or your payroll company should recognize or use that name. Why should they have to if it’s not what is on your I.D. or S.S card? This guy is trying to use his nickname as his real name, and that totally defeats the purpose of a nickname.

            • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

              I’m guessing there are a lot of Bobs and Bills who have people write checks to them under that name, rather than Robert or William. When I write a check to someone, I never stop to ask what their legal name is. I’ve also never had anyone ask me (although the longer version of my name is pretty rare).

              I’ve definitely written checks to my niece as Angie (instead of Angela) and my brother Mike (Michael), even though the complete nickname doesn’t appear in those names.

              Heck, my father in law goes by his middle name (to differentiate himself from his father, who had the same first name), and I’m sure everyone uses that name when they write him checks. Then again, the in laws live in a very small community, so everyone at the bank knows him by that name (although the account is under his legal name).

            • Lackwit says:

              English (and to a certain extent, all of the Germanic languages) had an inordinate fondness for deriving a nickname from a modified version of an original name over the past several centuries, often due to playful rhyming or “baby-talk” forms. Hence Robert>Rob>Bob (or even Hob), Margaret>Meg>Peggy, Richard>Rick>Dick. Elizabeth has been an especially fertile source of nicknames, giving us over the centuries and from several dialects Bess, Bessie, Beth, Betsy, Betty, Elisa, Eliza, Ella, Ellen, Ellie, Elsa, Elsie, Elspeth, Ibbie, Issy, Libby, Lil, Lilibet, Lisa, Liz, Lizbeth, Liza, and Lizzie among many, many others.

            • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

              Well, I can give a probable answer the William – Bill question, at least. Early Celtic languages didn’t have a “w” sound, really. The closest thing they had was a bilabial sound that was much closer to the English “b”. As such, this impacted pronounciation and accents for people in the British Isles of Celtic Descent (Scots, Irish, Welsh, &c.). Thus, when the name William became popular after the Norman invasion of England, the neighboring Irish pronounced it something much closer to Bill than Will. Because William was one of the *most* popular names in England shortly after 1066, it’s not surprising that diminutives such as Will and Liam sprang up. And Will eventually split into Will and Bill, because of the influence of Celtic pronounciation.

              Names like Bob probably have a similar origin, but I’ve never delved into that one.

              • Not Given says:

                OK, how the hell did they get ‘Jack’ out of John?

                • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

                  I’m glad you asked =)

                  You can blame the Dutch for this one, actually. John actually derives from the name Johannes (from Latin Ioannes). In Dutch, Johannes becomes Jan (not too difficult a leap – Johannes to Johan is just a bit of shortening, and then Johan to Jan is pretty much eliding the vowel sounds). In Dutch, a common diminutive is -kin (similar to -y or -ie in English, changing Bill to Billy or John to Johnnie), so you end up with “Little Jan” being Jankin. Give a bit of time, and “Little Jan” becomes Jakkin (dropping the “n” sound). Give that one a little more time and a reintroduction to English and it becomes just Jack.

            • phsiii says:

              So every check, every credit card, every piece of ID you have has your full legal name, Jessica? Middle name spelled out? I disbelieve that.

              For that matter, how about checks made out to Mr & Mrs John Smith? Her legal name isn’t “Mrs John Smith”. And no, we don’t need to get into whether she should change her last name (should be HER choice) or whether it’s sexist to treat her as “Mrs him”; fact is, that’s a valid thing to put on a check, and short of the banks I’ve read about (probably here) who get confused if she *hasn’t* changed her last name, never a problem.

              Your purist approach doesn’t work in the real world, alas.

          • frankrizzo:You're locked up in here with me. says:

            Still trying to find Dr. Melvin.

    • j2.718ff says:

      “I asked about Elizabeth that goes by Lisa or Lizabeth. Those work.”

      Elizabeth -> Lisa involves a change in letter and pronunciation. If a rule is to be applied, it should be applied across the board. The solution is simple: don’t allow any nicknames or deviations in spelling.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        I think that bank rep was full of it when he said that. I also agree that any nicknames like that shouldn’t be accepted. My name is Jessica, I go by Jess, and for 29 years of life have never had anyone make a check out to ‘Jess’. Then again I don’t have random people who don’t know me very well writing me checks.

        I don’t know, people think I’m trolling with my obvious distaste for this guy’s attitude, but I really can’t help it. This is dumb.

        • jeb says:

          Must depend on the person. Most people make out checks to me using my nickname, not my full legal name. Never had a problem, but then again my “nickname” is the first three letters of my legal first name.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      “Cole does not appear anywhere in the name ‘Nicholas.'”

      Would it help if he spelled it “Chol” for you? Or do you pronounce Nicholas as Ni-chole-us? Are you a moron? Nic-Cole-us would be the dictionary spelling to cover pronunciation. Cole is how people SAY his nickname. The spelling isn’t important.

      • Snowblind says:

        Huked on fonics werked fer me!

      • crispyduck13 says:

        I’m the moron? You’re the one who is saying Cole = Nicholas. Those two names are not the same, it doesn’t matter how you spell it, it’s just not.

        Like I said, your legal name is what it is for a reason, why should a bank make an exception like that??

        • Kate says:

          So Betsy is not short for Elizabeth?

          It’s really not your choice on how to do stuff anyway.

          Short for Kathryn

          • pecan 3.14159265 says:

            Which could also be short for Kaitlin or Caitlin! There are many derivatives. I know three people who are named Daniel. One goes by Daniel, another goes by Dan, and the third goes by his middle name so no one even calls him Daniel.

          • crispyduck13 says:

            No, I’m not saying that at all. You could go by Astroglide when your real name is Thomas for all I care.

            I was trying to illustrate the ridiculousness of the OP saying the bank should have known that ‘Cole’ was an obvious nickname for ‘Nicholas’. I don’t think a bank should be lax like that.

            But you’re right, It’s not my choice how anyone does anything anyway. That’s why we’re all here commenting on this public website, bitching about how businesses do business.

    • chizu says:

      Whenever I know someone is writing out a cheque for me, I’d be like “Errr, actually, let me give you my full name…” I never thought “Oh hey, my nickname that I had been using almost my whole life is the same as my real name that’s associated with my SSN, Passport, Driver’s License, Credit Cards, and Bank accounts!”

      Speaking of which, I finally had crispy duck the other night. I was sad that I could only had one piece… And then we had “Peking duck” one night, not very good… I was sorely disappointed.

    • AstroPig7 says:

      Yes, because everyone you know who has never heard your real name should magically know the correct name to write on a check. Were you beaten by someone who repeatedly yelled your shortened name at you?

      • crispyduck13 says:

        What in the what?

        People who know me by my nickname only aren’t writing me checks. Apparently I was unaware of this commonplace practice of people getting all sorts of checks written to them from other people who are acquaintances at best. It’s your fucking real name, use it and stop being a whiny asshole about it when business won’t recognize your nickname as legal or legitimate. If you never use your real name and you’re an adult then suck it up and go through the pain in the ass process of changing it.

        I can’t believe you and other people here think everyone should bend the rules for you because you don’t use your real goddamn name. If you can’t see the ridiculousness of that then there’s no point in arguing further as, apparently, you’re a turnip.

        Jesus H. Christ people, are we living in the bizarro world now?

        • Coffee says:

          My legal name is “Daniel” and I go by “Dan”…I have people write me checks with the latter name on them on occasion, and I’ve never had a problem depositing them, nor would I expect to. I can see your point if a nick name is totally different from a normal name, but that sort of thing should be up to the discretion of the teller (my name, for example, is obviously a shortened version of Daniel).

          I don’t think this is issue is really as black and white as you seem to think it is, and it appears that most people agree with that assessment. And frankly, I’m a little surprised by your…vehemence…in confronting people about it.


          Not A Turnip

        • AstroPig7 says:

          My wife has been called Casey her entire life. It was a bizarre decision by her mother to call her by something other than her first or middle name, but changing her common name now would be difficult, as would changing her legal name. We’re not talking about acquaintances, we’re talking about people she has known for most of her life. People she hardly knows typically don’t write her birthday checks.

          I’m frankly puzzled at the vehemence you’ve displayed on your subject, hence my (mostly facetious) question. The world obviously does not operate the way you want it to. Only one institution has ever given my wife trouble about her nickname, and she no longer banks with them (for other reasons). If the bank doesn’t want to abide by a simple request like this one, then I fully support leaving it, as the OP did.

          On a related subject, your entire argument seems to be based on insults and “Iߣm right, so piss off” statements. Do you really think this works, or do you just like watching yourself type?

        • myCatCracksMeUp says:

          You’re an idiot. People have always made checks out to others based on the name that person uses, not their legal name.

          I’ve been writing checks for over 40 years, and I’ve made checks out to Matt (Mathew), JR (John Robert), Betty (Elizabeth), Lee (George Leo) , just to name a few. None of them ever once had any problem depositing those checks.

          Any decent bank, if you’ve banked with them for any reasonable length of time, will take a check that’s got your last name on it, no matter what the first name on the check is.

    • Kusac says:

      But Lisa is in the middle of Elizabeth, and the z got changed to an s, which Ally apparently finds to be perfectly acceptable. Also, Lisa would sound like lee-sah in most cases, which would sound different enough.

      Cole would have dropped the h and changed the a to an e. It sounds closer phonetically to Nicholas in comparison to Lisa for Elizabeth.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      Grumpy f%cker is grumpy. Get a life.

    • somegraphx says:

      so I guess, my name Becky is out since Rebecca doesn’t have the word “Becky” in it. My grandmother makes out ALL my checks as Becky and my bank hasn’t ever had a problem with it.

      And I totally see “Cole” in “NICK COLE AS”

      I’m a little surprised by your hostility around this. Many people go by nicknames and they aren’t even super special.

  12. southpaw1971 says:

    Had the same problem with ING direct when someone wrote out a check to my maiden name.

    My full account name was say, Wendy Sampson Reed. Someone wrote it out to “Wendy Sampson” and they wouldn’t accept it. After a long email diatribe to customer support where I do believe I pulled out a reference to “Lee Harvey Oswald” just to be a smartass, they fixed the issue. For me at least.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      this is a more valid complaint.

    • Misha says:

      Whenever someone writes a check to me under my maiden name, I just endorse it on the back twice, once as [First Name] [Maiden Name] and then as [First Name] [Married Name]. I’ve never had a problem doing this, even with the large national WCIA-contender bank I use and really need to leave.

    • homehome says:

      so you’re mad at them, because they didn’t cash a check that had the wrong name on it?

      • LJKelley says:

        I am legally entitled to use both my maiden name and my married name. Obviously for a gay male its harder to use my maiden name, but for females, institutions will ask if you have a maiden name and to provide it. Some institutions will ask if you have other names which work in my situation.

  13. GMFish says:

    Most Asinine First World Problem Ever…

    My god a bank is requiring that I use my legal name on a check I want to deposit!!!

  14. j2.718ff says:

    Could a bank account be opened up in the name “Cole [Last Name]”?

    I’ve generally used “Jeffrey” on all official documents. But since nobody ever calls me that, the last time I applied for a credit card, I decided to use “Jeff” instead. I was approved, and had no problems. I’m not about go through the bother of changing any existing accounts, but I wonder, would anything have stopped me from opening a bank account as “Jeff”?

    Obviously this isn’t a solution to the OP’s problem. If he did have an account in the name of “Cole”, and someone wrote “Nicholas” a check, I’m sure he’d have just as much difficulty.

    • Not Given says:

      You have to have picture ID and social security card to open an account, now. If your name is Nicholas, you can’t open an account in the name of Cole. I think you can have Cole printed on your checks Nicholas ‘Cole’ Lastname or use Cole in your signature. It’s easier to endorse the check as Cole and then endorse under it with the name the bank knows. For all they know it’s a two party check signed over to you by a relative.

  15. donjumpsuit says:

    Something tells me Dick is an acceptable nickname for Richard. It’s a 1% thing.

  16. radparker says:

    The “grow up, kid” comments are stupid. Stop being mean and go learn about banking law and fraud. The only actual problem here is that you’ve run into an idiot at this bank. It’s time to find out if there’s somebody at the bank with a brain who can make this work, and if not, then change banks. I have the same problem sometimes, in that I have a unique nickname that isn’t obviously diminutive of my full legal name. I’ve been signing and depositing checks made out to my nickname for years, and it works fine 99% of the time, except for that 1% of the time you get somebody who thinks they’re a private detective. If there is no intent to deceive or defraud, there is no issue. Period.

  17. j2.718ff says:

    When I was studying a foreign language, one of my text books included a list of common names and the associated nicknames. This was incredibly useful (particularly since many of the nicknames didn’t look remotely like the name they came from to me).

    Just ask for a copy of the bank’s acceptable nickname list. They must have one!

  18. humphrmi says:

    How would they handle DBAs? A sole proprietor could be “Nicholas Redacted, DBA Cole Redacted” and thus accept checks as Cole Redacted. This is pure bs and it’s good that Cole left Ally Bank AKA GMAC.

    • GMFish says:

      You can’t just willy-nilly start using a DBA. You have to go to your county clerk and fill out a DBA form. Once your assumed name is all nice and legal, you can open a bank account with it. And have people start writing checks to it.

    • DemosCat says:

      Not to be completely pedantic, but “doing business as” should be abbreviated as “d/b/a” to avoid confusing it with initials.

      Nicholas Redacted
      DBA Cole Redacted

      That could be two brothers, one named Nicholas Redacted and the other David Bueller Algernon Cole Redacted. Stranger things have happened. Whereas:

      Nicholas Redacted
      d/b/a Cole Redacted

      Now it’s clear. I just like to be picky, because I’m a DBA (Database Administrator) by profession. :-)

  19. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Saying Dan is okay for Daniel but Cole is not okay for Nicholas directly to the customer is, by and far, the most fucking idiotic thing ever.

    Closing your account was absolutely the right thing to do.

  20. jeadly says:

    You need to add an “h” and lose the “e”, Chol.

  21. ahecht says:

    If NOBODY calls you Nicholas, why not just bite the bullet, pay the $150 (or whatever it is in the great state of [redacted]), and have your name legally changed?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Because it’s more complicated than that. First you have to change your social security and drivers license but then you have to change all of your bank accounts, title information for any property you have, loan information, and credit card information.

  22. chiieddy says:

    Isn’t a check a bearer instrument anyhow?

    “Under the Uniform Commercial Code, a negotiable instrument (such as a check or promissory note) that is payable to the order of “bearer” or “cash” may be enforced (i.e. redeemed for payment) by the party in possession. The payee (i.e. the person named in the “pay to” line) may also convert an instrument into a bearer instrument by endorsing (signing) the back. This is the letter of the law; in practice many merchants and financial institutions will not pay a check presented for payment by anyone other than the named payee.”

    • kursk says:

      If he goes to the bank of the person that wrote the check, yes, they have to pay it out. However, since I am assuming the checks weren’t written off of an Ally bank account then no, Ally doesn’t have to accept them.

    • erinpac says:

      Perhaps if he’d signed the back in the same way?

      Really, I think banks should be more careful about these things… but Wachovia (and now Wells Fargo) has never complained about deposited checks (assuming we are depositing, not immediately cashing) – even if there is no name in common with the account at all; first, last or nickname. They simply do not care, so long as the back is signed.

  23. chizu says:

    My parents had always been wary about how lax US banks are, and years ago, they tried to explain to my relatives that the banks will not let you deposit/cash the cheque if there is one tiny different spelling. (Like, Silvie instead of Silvia if your account is for Silvia Smith.) My relatives insisted that it’ll be fine and my parents had to go through a lot of trouble (with lawyers and witnesses involved) in order to cash a cheque for a few thousand dollars, because of that one tiny spelling difference. (I should note that this happened in HK.)

    Personally, I’d rather have the banks be more strict with things like that. Every now and then, I kept getting letters and offers addressed to “me”, but with completely butchered spelling. (That’s how I know it’s not legit business.) But it worries me that people are getting information about me… But not under my name? What’s being done to my personal information? Who’s out there that’s butchering my name and passing off as me? So when it comes to banking, I always, always, ALWAYS spell my full name out. If something doesn’t spell my name out, I will not accept it, or that I know is not from my bank/mortgage/government/etc.

  24. dourdan says:

    “Elizabeth that goes by Lisa”

    i have never heard of that, but if that is an appropriate nick name then Cole is too.

    • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

      Elizabeth has a whole host of nicknames derived from it (probably due to it’s popularity as a girl’s name for many years): Liz, Lizzie, Liza, Lisa, Beth, Bess, Betsy, and Bessie, and there are probably others I’m missing.

      • whiskykitten says:

        Betty. My mother (Elizabeth) regrets deeply that after her divorce, when she virtually reinvented herself, she didn’t start going by Liz. She feels like a Liz. Never thought of herself as a Betty, which was the most popular nickname for Elizabeth when she was a girl.

  25. capn_amurka says:

    Of course a bank can refuse to negotiate a check for pretty much any reason, but it seems that the check was either made out to him, in which case he should be able to negotiate/deposit/cash it OR made out to a non-specific entity (e.g. cash, happy birthday, a keg of nails, etc.), in which case he should be able to negotiate/deposit/cash it… Where’s the problem?

    • humphrmi says:

      “Under the Uniform Commercial Code, a negotiable instrument (such as a check or promissory note) that is payable to the order of “bearer” or “cash” may be enforced (i.e. redeemed for payment) by the party in possession. The payee (i.e. the person named in the “pay to” line) may also convert an instrument into a bearer instrument by endorsing (signing) the back.”

      So no, Of course a bank canNOT refuse to negotiate a check for pretty much any reason.

      There, I fixed that for you.

  26. GoPadge says:

    My friends call me “Cash”….

  27. GoPadge says:

    You want to have fun with a bank, try cashing a check made out to a minor child….

  28. grypson says:

    Checks are Order Paper, not bearer paper.

  29. brinks says:

    I have an odd first name. It’s so odd, in fact, that some of my less-intelligent relatives have been spelling it wrong for all of my thirtysomething years. I’m glad I never had an issue with cashing misspelled checks.

  30. emyaeak says:

    I’ve had no trouble depositing a check made out to Amy, as opposed to Amelia, through Chase or Wells Fargo. According to my sister (a teller at credit union), when endorsing the check, sign your name first the way its written on the front, then your normal signature below, which is what they keep on file.

  31. JReedNet says:

    ING Direct wouldn’t deposit a check made out to Jay L Reed III. My first name is John. Apparently the phonetics of the first letter of your name don’t count either. Its absurd that a company with thousands of employees doesn’t realize that even some of their own employees can have the same name as their father and grandfather and to avoid confusion, also have a nickname.

  32. wenhaver says:

    My county allows you to register a DBA name for like $20. Granted, it’s really stupid they wouldn’t let him just note the account that Cole is an ok name, especially considering it’s a deposit.

  33. AstroPig7 says:

    My wife had this problem with Bank of America. The name she is known by is not part of her legal name, but only Bank of America has given her grief about it. Every other institution she has banked with or otherwise had a relationship with has made a note in her account and moved on with business.

  34. packy says:

    I’ve been fortunate that none of the banks I’ve dealt with (small regional banks and credit unions) have had problems with checks made out to “Packy “, even though the name on the account is “Patrick”.

  35. dolemite says:

    “I closed my account today and made sure they sent my check to the appropriate address to Cole”. Now that’s the part of the story I like to hear. Big corporations can’t be reasonable? Well, I’m sure a small bank or credit union can.

  36. AnonymousCommenter says:

    They have essentially told you that they do not want your business. Believe them and find another bank. You will be happier in the long run.

  37. Greggen says:

    Heh, I remember arguments with bank tellers asking me to sign the check with my signature, then stating it was not valid because by signature is Greg [Last Name] not Gregory [Last Name]

    I would tell them my signature has Greg, not Gregory and they would get all pissy. I would then ask if they wanted me handwrite the name that the check was addressed to they should say so.

    Some people would even include my middle name sometimes.. Glad I dont bank at banks anymore..

  38. Bagumpity says:

    I have long threatened to change my name to Lastname Middleinitial First.

    That way, when people ask my name I will answer “Lastname First” and they will say “sure.” And then they’ll wait a bit. And a bit longer. Then they’ll ask me my name again. And I’ll say “Lastname First.” They they’ll say “OK, Lastname First,” and I’ll say “exactly.” Then they’ll say “let’s try this again: what’s your first name” and I’ll say “Lastname” then they’ll say “no, first name,” and I’ll say “no, Lastname.” Then they’ll say “OK FINE, what’s your last name,” and I’ll say “First,” and they’ll start to get pissed off and say “OK JEEZUS WHATEVER JUST TELL ME YOUR NAME LASTNAME FIRST!” And I’ll say “exactly.” Then their heads will explode.

  39. DJ Charlie says:

    Glad I’m not with Ally Bank then. :)

    I have an account at my bank in my real name, as well as the name Charles Winthrop (the “name” behind my DJ name, long story). Took a talk with a bank manager, but that took all of 10 minutes. Most banks will let you use an alias with no problem. Long as you talk with them first, and fill out the appropriate paperwork.

  40. CubeRat says:

    From my teller training days:
    Sign the check the way it was written to you,
    Sign the check the way you have set up your account.

    The CU I worked at also had the ability to add the ‘nickname’ on file along with a sample signature of nickname. My bank (one of the big guys) did this with my name when I opened the account, so I’ve never had a problem.

    Good luck.

  41. mmbb says:

    Would use use your nickname when asked to identify yourself to law enforcement personnel?

    Then you probably shouldn’t use it for other legal purposes like banking, either.

    • Bladerunner says:

      Bad example. The police use nicknames all the time, and their reports are often full of “Shaun smith, a/k/a ‘T-Bone’ a/k/a ‘Needles'”

  42. Rhinoguy says:

    Trust me, Rhino is no part of my name in any way. But my (small local) bank has taken checks made out to “Rhino Guy”. They just check to see if the check is good. And I endorse them “Rhino Guy”. Big banks have small minds. Kind of like the way it works with macho vehicles…

  43. RayanneGraff says:

    …Yet if the bank had let someone cash a check from his account using a different name, he’d be up in arms. I love it when people bitch that they’re not allowed to bend the rules. I’ve never heard of Cole being a nickname for Nicholas. Nick maybe, but not Cole.

  44. iesika says:

    All the people who keeps saying “people I don’t know well never write me checks!” are presumably not self-employed. I’m not saying that Cole here definitely is self-employed (or contractor for that matter)… but it would explain him getting checks (probably some in the mail or made out ahead of time, so that he has no control over how the person writes his name).

    Also, he’s not bitching about the bank teller not taking the check with no problems – he’s complaining about there being no way to have the bank take checks made out to “Cole” in the future. They were unresponsive to a (I think) reasonable customer request due to a rule they applied arbitrarily and inconsistently.

    My mom’s been “Cindy” her whole life. I doubt anyone ever wrote a check to Cynthia (Her legal name). Her sister, conversely, is named “Becky” and used to get checks from helpful people made out to “Rebecca,” assuming that was her real name (it wasn’t).

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      Very true. I have roughly a half dozen independent contractors who do work for me. I’m sure that Dan, Jeff, and Kate aren’t full legal names, but those checks were cashed with no problem.

  45. Boehme417 says:

    Seriously, though, Cole for Nicholas? No. I’ve also never heard Lisa for Elizabeth. Liz or Beth, maybe.

    “Thank you for calling Dell customer support. My name is Sandeep, but you can call me Greg.”

    • dks64 says:

      I’ve never heard Cole for Nicholas either. Even though the “Cole” sound is in the name, I would think they were two different people if someone was in a conversation using the 2 words interchangeably.

  46. tooluser says:

    Lots of men who have the same first name as their father go by a nickname that is not even remotely close to their given name. I presume that starts at home so when Mom calls out for one of them, they know who she wants.

  47. baristabrawl says:

    My name is Nicholas and I go by Nick. I don’t really sign anything Nicholas…but I have a credit union.

  48. Yeah Right says:

    So if his given name was James they wouldn’t take a check to Jim or a Dan for Daniel or Steve for Stephen or Ray for Raymond or…or…or… pretty frickin’ ridiculous.

  49. Yeah Right says:

    So if his given name was James they wouldn’t take a check to Jim or a Dan for Daniel or Steve for Stephen or Ray for Raymond or…or…or… pretty frickin’ ridiculous.

  50. smarty-pants44 says:

    I dated a guy whos name was Bryan Matt (lastname) and he went by Matt. I guess Ally would go crazy about that.

  51. Rodulus says:

    Yeah, my bank won’t let me sign Daddy Fat Sacks. Craziness…..

  52. Peri Duncan says:

    I guess he didn’t have much of an ally in Dan.

  53. Press1forDialTone says:

    Doh! Duh!
    ALWAYS use your legal first and last names unless the “field” you are filling is
    specifically labelled or explained as a nickname. How dumb can you get!!
    Even using Bob for Robert is OUT. Unless your legal, official relationship is
    based on your nickname (baddddd idea) don’t even think about using. This
    amount of naivete always amazes me. The business world isn’t some informal
    party like Cheers where everyone knows your name; and what is this foolishness
    about “putting it in writing” that you should take the time to figure out that it is
    REALLY ME. Argh. Need chill pill.

  54. spazztastic says:

    I had a similar issue; the bank simply made my account a ‘joint’ account. With myself.

  55. Bladerunner says:

    This isn’t really relevant to the article, but while we’re on the subject of names, when Mary Beth was posting as “MB Quirk” I would always picture a British guy in a hoodie spinning dub… “Oi, I’m MB Quirk, and this is my partner DJ Strange,mand we’re up the apples and pears to give you the music!”

  56. Skyhawk says:

    First-world problem.

  57. Peri Duncan says:

    I guess he didn’t have much of an ally in Dan.

  58. farker says:

    Hmm. I can see his point, but this seems like it would be easier to ask people to “make the check out to Nicolas” instead. I can see why they wouldn’t accept checks that are non-obvious nicknames.

  59. flychinook says:

    I’ve used “Joshua” nearly every time I’ve written my name, for at least the last decade.

    Everybody still shortens it to “Josh”.

  60. weathergirl says:

    BOTH my parents use common nicknames. I’ve not once had a problem writing checks to either of them. I always wondered where the line was, though…

  61. BackInBlack says:

    I have a name that is commonly misspelled as one sounding similar. For years, all I’ve had to do was endorse it as:

    “SpelledWrong, one and same person as SpelledRight,” then sign it (to cash it), and of course show I.D. if unknown to the teller

    or to deposit it, put

    “For Deposit Only to Account #123456 N/O SpelledRight, one and same person as SpelledWrong”

    But I guess with increasing fraud, banks are getting pickier and pickier, and maybe that doesn’t work anymore, at least at SOME banks (like BoA – see my post in their WCIA thread).

  62. BackInBlack says:

    I have a name that is commonly misspelled as one sounding similar. For years, all I’ve had to do was endorse it as:

    “SpelledWrong, one and same person as SpelledRight,” then sign it (to cash it), and of course show I.D. if unknown to the teller

    or to deposit it, put

    “For Deposit Only to Account #123456 N/O SpelledRight, one and same person as SpelledWrong”

    But I guess with increasing fraud, banks are getting pickier and pickier, and maybe that doesn’t work anymore, at least at SOME banks (like BoA – see my post in their WCIA thread).

  63. geopapa says:

    Typical big bank bullshit!

  64. PhiTauBill says:

    Easy fix. Have your checks printed “Nicholas “Cole” [Last Name].”

    But, yeah, change your bank….

  65. areaman says:

    I blame the OP.

    Nicolas = Cole only in his world.

    When he starts working at a new place that doesn’t have any of his other friends or family working there, he’s going to ask people to call him Cole. Because no one outside of his world would jump to the conclusion Nicolas = Cole.