Thursday, July 27, 2006

Evidently My Business Is Not Worth $33 to Fifth Third Bank

So this morning when I got to work, I checked my bank balance to see if my Paypal deposits had come through yet. O, I was surprised to find that I had $0.85 in my account due to $66.00 in overdraft fees.

Naturally, I got furious and called them. The lady on the phone reversed one of the charges but said that it was "not their policy" to reverse more than one if there was no bank error. I asked to speak to her supervisor and she refused to put me through, saying that her supervisor would say exactly the same thing.

Here's the activity on my account:

Date Debit(-) Credit(+) Balance Check Description Action
07/26/2006 $16.68 *** DAILY BALANCE ***
07/26/2006 $66.00 OVERDRAFT FEE
07/26/2006 $117.00 PAYPAL TRANSFER
07/25/2006 ($34.32) *** DAILY BALANCE ***
07/25/2006 $100.00 ING DIRECT WITHDRAWAL
07/25/2006 $90.00 5/3 JEANIE WITHDRAWAL
07/25/2006 $24.91 DEBIT CARD WHOLE FOODS
07/24/2006 $180.59 *** DAILY BALANCE ***

Fifth Third processes transactions in a strange and unorthodox way. For instance, the Whole Foods transaction was deducted from my available balance right after I charged it on 7/23. However, it wasn't processed and put on my online statement until 7/25, where it shows up here. At no point did my available balance drop below zero. But my statement balance did. And since they processed the $100 first, and then bounced the $90 and the $24.91, they charged me two overdraft fees. And the Paypal deposit was probably processed at midnight, just after they processed the withdrawals, because it was showing in my available balance. Just not on the account statement.

I called back and told the person that I did not think it was fair to customers to do it in that way, because that just guaranteed more overdraft fees. The lady claimed that this was because they processed the most important ones first. "What if," she told me, "the largest one were the house payment?" Well, that argument is parading concern for the customer's well-being over their own. I asked her how she knew the largest one was the most important. She told me they didn't have the manpower to go through all of them and determine that.

So I asked her if $33 was more important than my business, and she just repeated the line that it's their policy to give a one-time reversal of one charge unless there was a bank error. Wait, you mean they would refuse to reverse it in the future? Yep, that's right. One reversal and that's it.

I checked the features of my savings account online. Yup, no ability to use it as an overdraft line. I guess the only thing you can use as an overdraft is one of their credit cards. That sounds like a terrific idea! When I run out of money, charge me extra money to a high-rate card! Yaaay!

Looks like the credit union will be getting my business now. I don't really care all that much about having lots of locations, because I have direct deposit and do most things online, but there's a location two buildings over from me at work, which is actually closer than the Fifth Third branch here in the hospital. My coworker said that they're really easy to work with and apparently their employees have a lot more individual power than Fifth Third's telephone ladies. (I generally find that when you give good people power to help others, they tend to use it as often as possible.) They've got online billpay and free debit cards and all that jazz.

I'll need to wait on closing the accounts until my paycheck goes through and I can pay all the bills. So probably next Friday, I'll get to pay the nice people at the Fifth Third branch at my work a nice visit and tell them to close my damn account. First, however, I will have given the nicer people at the credit union a big fat check for the balance of my account.

This was just the last straw with Fifth Third. They failed to give me the employee benefits package on my account, even though I told the person who signed Boyfriend and I up for accounts where we would be working, charged me several times for going under a $200 average balance on my savings account, or making too many transfers (despite that all of the transfers were just between the savings and checking accounts), or for using the PIN pad instead of signing for things. Oh, and that time that they guy at the branch told me that he couldn't withdraw $20 from my account and give it to me in quarters - I should just go out to the ATM, get a $20, and come back in and give it to him.

The lady on the phone wasn't particularly concerned when I said I would be closing my account - probably a lot of people say this, and then realize how annoying it would be. Well, I don't really give a flying crap. I've definitely paid Fifth Third more than this in fees already and it's getting old. Goodbye, you old dog.


Daniel said...

Bravo! Some companies just can't figure it out. They try so hard to find new business but then they forget about their current customers.

I guarantee you that they spend more than $33 in new account acquisition fees.

Not only did Fifth Third lose your business but they also got "negative advertising" courtesy of your blog. There is an article in Business Week this week about companies being bad mouthed on the internet. Check it out if you get a chance.

Jason said...

Good for you. The best way to show your displeasure is to close your account in person. I bet they purposely change the order of processing transactions to get higher fees.

It's probably a good idea to go with a credit union. I use a local one for my "normal" banking and am very pleased. Far less fees and much better customer service than regular banks.

D said...

I'm not sure, and I am not an expert, but I vaguely remember an issue with banks in the news a while back. How they charge you fees to stimulate their profits and cost you. And how this is illegal.

Looking at your detail as transactions occur you should have only been charged 1 late fee. A bank does not have the right to switch them around.

I suggest printing your transactions and writing a letter to the CEO or CFO in charge at the corporate offices. This information can be retrieved on the website. Explain the circumstances as calmly and clearly as you can with no anger. It is also important to include the employee's name you spoke with noting times and dates. I would also emphasize how you feel your business may not be as important as other big businesses, but you thought it was Fifth/Thirds policy to treat all customers with respect and dignity and now you know the truth. etc.etc.

Your moving your money anyway. You just never know what will happen and you might save someone else from this nightmare.

I did this with LaSalle - Took my money and left and they sent me an apology letter with a gift card and assurances that the employee concerned would be sent through for further training.

Single Ma said...

Competition is a lovely thing.

I would still press to get my money back, then say screw them!

Ms. MiniDucky said...

Oh yes, banks definitely always use that line, "what if the first payment was for your house mortgage/some hugely important thing?" If they were truly that concerned for your welfare, how about giving the customer a call and asking? Yes, I didn't think so.
I ran into a situation like that with an account where I deposited money first thing in the morning and scheduled a payment that afternoon. I almost had a heart attack when I checked online and found that the afternoon payment had been debited first, dropping the account below a $300 balance, and THEN the deposit was credited. One CSR insisted that at ANY time the balance dropped below $300, even for a second, they would charge me. Luckily, a later call found another CSR assuring me that the balance at the end of the day was what counted.

mOOm said...

All this is of course processed automatically probably according to some profit maximizing algorithm... I wouldn't be surprised if it also took into account the amount of money involved in the bank's "relationship" with the customer. They certainly know that when they talk with you. You can bet if you had a mortgage with them or large investments they would think twice about you closing your account....

Anonymous said...

Thank and to add to that not too long ago the overdraft fee was $29. They've raised it to $33 (not to mention the $6 a day fee) I have a cousin who works in the higher ups at Fifth Third and she confirmed with me that "they have to make money somehow" and they know what they are doing and they have it set up that way.

elizabeth said...

I switched from a bank to a credit union when I got tired of paying a fee every time my checking balance dropped below $300. It has worked out well for 7 years so far. Hope it will work for you!

NinjaPigeon said...

Sorry to hear your bank is so sleezy, Kira. But for this very reason I keep a "buffer" of cash in my checking. That way if they ever screw with the order of transactions, I still won't ever go negative. I consider the first $1000 of my checking account to be the zero barrier, and avoid crossing it as much as possible.

I've had a checking account for 12 years now and never had to pay an overdraft fee ;) But they always get me on the ATM fees (can't be avoided in my situation).