Bank “Upgraded” The Account and Started Charging Fees without Authorization!

I am a bit obsessive about my financial accounts. I check all my bank accounts and credit card accounts at least once every other week. The better half on the other hand is the exact opposite. He never checks any of his bank accounts, unless he is forced to go in there to make any changes. Since we have pretty much automated everything, this doesn’t happen often. This weekend was one of those rare occasions, where he had to log into his account to transfer some money.

So, imagine his surprise when he found out that his account had been upgraded and he was charged a monthly fee of $25 for the past 5 months for the upgrade!

He immediately called the bank and asked them for details. It turns out that about 6 months back a joint CD that both of us held had come to term and I had requested that it be transferred into his checking account. Since it was a CD for $50K+, the lady had said that transferring the amount to my husband’s checking account would qualify his account for an upgrade to a premier checking account. But we never intended for the money to stay in that account since it was from a credit card arbitrage and it was time to pay back the credit cards. So I politely declined. She was quite insistent that we should check it out and offered to send us some material to read over and see if we would change our mind. I was at work and wanted to end the call as soon as possible and so agreed to read over the material when she sent it. I specifically remember telling her *not* to upgrade the account and that my husband will call back after reading the material if here is interested.

In about a week or so, we received the material in mail. Frankly, it was one of the crappiest proposition I have ever seen. We actually had a good laugh at it! We were required to maintain a minimum balance of $25K in the checking account at all times to avoid a fee of $25 per month to qualify for the premier status. And the premier status offered a special APY of … drum roll please… 2.25%! This was around the time when HSBC was offering 6.00% APY for their online savings account. So you can see why we found it completely whacky. Other additional benefits of the “premium” status were, we would qualify for platinum check card with better rewards program, have access to lines of credit without fees and a “potential” discounted rate if we decided to go for ARM mortgage. Are you kidding me??? We promptly dumped it in the recycle bin and forgot all about it.

Notice that throughout this entire process, my husband was never really involved or contacted directly by the bank, and it is his account that we are talking about here.

But the lady seems to have gone ahead and marked his account for the upgrade. And since we are not idiots to leave $25K lying around in a checking account (we don’t even have $25K to leave lying around in a checking account even if we wanted to!), the account violated the condition for being a premium account and got charged a fee of $25 per month.

It took a while to sort things out, but finally the bank agreed to reimburse the fees, since nobody from the bank has ever really spoken to my husband about an "upgrade" to his account. But it does shake up our confidence in a bank that both of us have used for quite some time now! Was it just one over-eager banker or is it the ethics of the banking company itself that is skewed here? I don’t think we will ever really know. For now, we have decided to give them a second chance. But they are on probation watch and better not try any stunts with us again!

Do you check your bank accounts often enough to catch any anomalies or unusual activities? If not, now may be a good time to do a quick check to confirm that everything is as it should be.

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Nerida said...

That bank employee on the phone was probably just after some commission. Unfortunately it seems that these days, they're not rewarded for their service skills but for their selling skills.

Patrick said...

Needless to say, I would have been quite upset. I'm glad you were able to get this sorted out. Personally, I have a big problem when companies do not communicate "upgrades" or other changes to accounts or services.

I'll agree with Nerida on this too. I'm almost positive there was a commission behind this. That kind of account is too much of a money maker for the bank for there not to be a commission.

Creative Investor said...

I know for a fact that bank employees receive commissions for most of such upgrades or at the very least there is a quota they have to meet which affects their bonuses.

ispf said...

Nerida, Patrick, Creative Investor: Yeah, looks like this may have been motivated by commission greed. Well said, Nerida - it is really sad that there are a lot of incentives for good selling skills, but not as many for service skills!

FinanceAndFat said...

Wow! Sounds like typical 'large bank' behavior these days. I've used the same bank for over 10 years now, and had developed a certain sense of loyalty there, but I can see changes over the last couple of years that make me dislike it more and more every day. There are so many little 'gotcha' fees that I have to watch out for it's becoming ridiculous.

Banks like ING Direct seem to do a much better job and the only thing that has kept me at the large bank (for now) is having a local branch available when I need it (though I hardly ever go there). Glad you were able to get your money back, but it's too bad you had to waste your time and energy on it.