Will Wachovia walk all over ya?
January 14, 2010 1:20 PM   Subscribe

So, just how terrible is Wachovia for every day banking?

We live in the middle of nowhere and our current bank (SunTrust, whom we like very much) has no branches here and no plans to open any. Any banking we do that can't be done online we save up for one day a month so we can go to the next larger town and get it done. Stupid.

We have the choice of RBC and Wachovia (and my wife's credit union, I suppose.) We won't live here forever, so we want a bank with significant national coverage so we won't be doing this again in a year or two. This makes the credit union sort of a shaky choice, since it's connected to this state and the school where she currently teaches.

I've heard nasty stories about every bank but my own. I've also had this account for ages and always have good experiences when I got to a branch. I hate to leave, but driving an hour to deposit checks is dumb (I'm a freelance designer, so it happens a lot.) FWIW, Wachovia's website stinks. That alone makes me want to go to RBC since we'll be doing so much online. What say you, MeFites?
posted by littlerobothead to Work & Money (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My husband's been with Wachovia forever and has always been pleased. WB used to have a great reputation for customer service, at least prior to the merger with Wells Fargo. Keep in mind that all branches will transition to the Wells brand within the next year-ish, so you might be better off asking about peoples' experience with WF.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:24 PM on January 14, 2010

My girlfriend has had at least two bad experiences with Wachovia putting a hold on a deposit, one time for a month (!), for no apparent reasons. They also don't show pending withdrawals/deposits on their website. Poor.
posted by The Michael The at 1:29 PM on January 14, 2010

Would depositing checks to SunTrust via mail solve this problem for you for the short term? I did this when I had a bank I did not want to leave and found it to be a totally effective way of making deposits to my across-the-country bank.
posted by jessamyn at 1:29 PM on January 14, 2010

I have my business accounts there. They are good to me.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:29 PM on January 14, 2010

I like credit unions...

If the credit union is in the 'shared branch' system you can do 90% of what you need to do at any 'shared branch' credit union.

Anecdotally...I joined an employer specific credit union a few years back. Ive since left the employer....but kept the bank acct. I can't get to my actual credit unions physical location (its on 'campus' and employees only get there) but it hasn't been a problem. There is a different credit union by my house and i can deposit, withdraw etc etc.

Credit unions are great cuz they don't charge an arm and a leg for every little thing.

Here is a directory of shared branch credit unions.
posted by ian1977 at 1:30 PM on January 14, 2010

Oh one more thing...I've never had any issues depositing checks via ATM. With my bank at least, they immediately deposit the first $500, and anything over that is pending until the check clears.
posted by ian1977 at 1:36 PM on January 14, 2010

I've had Wachovia ever since my bank was bought by them about 6 years ago and I have been entirely pleased with the experience. When my card was lost and had mysterious transactions showing up on it, they refunded me immediately, no questions asked. I'm not really sure why people are saying their website sucks, I have no problems with it and all of my info is easy to find/request. My pending withdrawals/deposits show up on their website just fine, when I visit the ATM they are on the website before I get back to the house. I have no idea why The Michael says they don't. I have had one issue with a hold that lasted a long time, but in that case the check writer had apparently requested a hold (probably because they didn't have the money to pay me.

The only current issue is the transition to Wells Fargo, a bank I've heard very mixed reviews about, but have had zero contact with. My current branch is transitioning over to a Wells Fargo branch in March, so I guess I'll know then.
posted by cyphill at 1:36 PM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've banked with them for something approaching a decade now - I can't recall exactly when they took over First Union, so whenever that was - and have been very pleased.
posted by contessa at 1:37 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also like credit unions and use them (it, actually) exclusively - in large part because Wachovia lost a $2000 deposit I made (in person at a branch) and didn't find it for several weeks. Lucky thing I kept my receipt or I would have been out the money. It was a very unpleasant experience and the Wachovia staff was extremely rude, unprofessional and went out of their way to be avoid being helpful in resolving their error.
posted by torquemaniac at 1:42 PM on January 14, 2010

Like Cyphill and contessa, I've been nothing but happy with Wachovia. I have been with them for more than 15 years, using their online banking since the first day they opened it, and I have never had anything but good to say about them. I'm a bit leery about the transition to Wells Fargo as well, but I haven't seen anything yet that would cause me to really worry.
posted by gemmy at 2:26 PM on January 14, 2010

I had a pretty horrifying experience with Wachovia in September 2008. I'd opened an account with a boyfriend and we broke up. They wouldn't let me remove myself from the account, they would only let me close it.

However, ex-boyfriend decided to keep drawing money out of it. I figured it was impossible to pull money from an ATM once you were overdrafted by, say, $400 or so, but guess what? Wrong. and they will keep adding the overdraft fees.

So after nearly $800 in overdrafts occurred over a 3-day period after the breakup (a time of several 911 calls, threats, and chaos), I walk in and beg the manager to tell me how to fix this and when it will stop.

"Can he just continue to draw money and overdraft indefinitely?" I ask.

"Oh... I would imagine anything over $1000 would cause the ATM to stop giving him money, but I can't guarantee that credit card purchases would be denied," says the bank manager.

My only option was to deposit all the overdrafted money before the end of business that day, in cash, which was by 3 p.m. and over $800. Then I could close the account completely; that was my only option. Pay back the money in cash, and close the account.

I wasn't allowed to contest the charges, as they had happened on HIS bank card and not mine (see what a clusterfuck this was? what if something similar happened to you, like you legit lost your ATM card, or your wallet got stolen?). I wasn't allowed to report the card as stolen because unless HE showed up at the bank branch and showed the manager a police report stating as much, they couldn't freeze either of our bank cards, freeze activity on the account, or do anything about the overdraft fees.

The bank employees repeatedly asked me to call Ex and ask him to come to the branch, which I was not willing to do. I had a police report on my person showing that this ex had harassed and threatened me by telephone in front of cops (the previous DAY!) and that seeing as I was probably going to file a restraining order against him, calling him and asking him to meet me there to sort things out wasn't an option. Crying in front of the manager somehow made things more difficult, too, even though I could hardly help it due to the overwhelming nature of the situation I was dealing with at the time.

Even then, they took over an hour printing out receipts and making me fill out paperwork to close the account, and I continued to receive junk mail and whatever from Wachovia for months afterwards, along with various credit-fixing spam mail requests from companies offering to help. Also, they told me as I was leaving that if any transactions had happened during the 4 hours I spent at the bank branch trying to extricate myself, I might have to come back and pay those charges, too, or they'd end up in collections.

Thank god I had one decent friend who loaned me the money so I could handle it and stop him before things got worse.

So my vote is NO NO NO TO WACHOVIA. Maybe I'm the idiot in this situation, but it felt as poorly handled as anything I've ever seen from any bank, ever.

I haven't called to check, but the manager also mentioned that this kind of situation typically put your name in a system that would ban you from opening future accounts with Wachovia, so if you have any sketchy stuff in your credit background, ask about that first. You know, if you go with... Blech-ovia.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:33 PM on January 14, 2010

As I once told the asst. mgr at a local NC branch, " Haven't had a single experience with Wachovia which would lead me to ever open an account here." She repeatedly refused to cash my employer's pay check--the first one, received before I had a chance to get an account in town, and despite my boss calling the branch on my behalf ahead of time. She insisted she could only cash the check if I opened an account--that my employer's check was drawn on her bank did not seem sufficient reason to cash the check.

I opened an account at a credit union. Any credit union is better than Wachovia.
posted by NorthCoastCafe at 3:13 PM on January 14, 2010

When you're dealing with Wachovia, it's important to remember that First Union bought Wachovia and switched names because FU (it's accurate) was bigger and had a worse reputation. I went to FU because it had the ATM at my college and now am stuck at Wachovia.

If you're the kind of person who might go overdraft on their personal checking, I'd say avoid them. They're a PITA, their fees are high and they have a habit of applying debits in microseconds, while sometimes taking days to process credits. (Especially nasty when you get stacking overdraft fees.) You also get hit twice if you dare go to another bank's ATM. Their online banking is not to be trusted and I would avoid using their online billpay. My wife and I are with them because switching everything (it's amazing how many things your bank account winds up on) would be more onerous at this point than staying at Wachovia. I still think about it from time to time.

Go with one of your other options. It may be liveable but it's certainly not something to get yourself into without a major reason (like if every single ATM available to you is Wachovia).
posted by graymouser at 3:21 PM on January 14, 2010

My experience with Wachovia stems from serving as the power of attorney for an elderly uncle. Compared to what I have experienced with other financial counterparties while serving as the POA for both my mother and my uncle, Wachovia has been a dream. They understand what a POA is and what it allows me to do. The set-up process was straightforward, and there were no screw-ups. They are sensitive to the particular aggravations involved in serving as someone's POA, and have not left all of the "block and tackling" up to me when there have been glitches. The local branch personnel remember me, which makes taking care of the occasional issue requiring human contact easy (e.g., I don't have to launch into a big explanation of the POA circumstances every time.)

Using a POA should be a straightforward process regardless of the subject at hand or the type of transaction under consideration. In practice, it often is a pain in the ass with a lot of unnecessary, aggravating and time-wasting bureaucracy to manage. As a result, it is much harder to do than conducting business for yourself. So an institution that manages this well is probably going to manage the more routine aspects of business with above average accuracy and skill.
posted by SuzB at 3:42 PM on January 14, 2010

I am convinced that every single bank is exactly the same as every other bank. Everybody hates the bank they used to use (Bank A), and loves the bank they're with now (Bank B). But ask them a few years later and they'll tell you how Bank B is awful, and Bank C is the best bank ever.

I say, go with the credit union. When you move at some point in the future, you'll want to choose the bank that's closest to your location - something which you can't know now. If you choose Wachovia, then inevitably you'll end up moving somewhere where the nearest Wachovia branch is three hours away.
posted by ErikaB at 4:32 PM on January 14, 2010

I have kept my credit union account, based in Georgia, for the fourteen years I've lived in North Carolina, and I am so glad I have done so. They've been a joy to work with every single time. I have my main checking account, an IRA, a Visa card, and use their online banking and web bill payment system. I financed a car through them a couple of years ago - interest rates were much better. They are awesome.

I know they're behaving responsibly with mine and other peoples' money. I know they're not evil (in spite of being associated with Lockheed). I can call up and actually talk to smart caring customer service agents when I have an issue or a question. I trust that when they try to sell me something else, I don't have to worry that they're trying to rip me off -- priceless.

I have a smaller local bank here that I use for geographically intense transactions (First Citizens, for depositing checks, notary public, safety deposit box).

If I could get a mortgage through the credit union, I would, but the local bank is pretty good too -- just not as good interest rates on loans, or checking and CDs either.
posted by amtho at 4:47 PM on January 14, 2010

I've kept the same account through multiple mergers and acquisitions, it's now Wachovia. Their service and policies are better than that of their predecessor, First Union. They clear checks much faster than the other large banks in my area.

Overdraft fees can be entirely prevented. Open a credit card with them, tie it to the account, and any overdrafts will be covered in $100 increments deposited into your checking account for a $10 fee. This beats the living heck out of any other bank policy I've encountered. (I don't use that card for anything else, and pay right away when I oops, so there's never interest.)

Other than that, they're just like every other giant corporate bank. Basically soulless, but eh, not the worst of the lot.
posted by desuetude at 6:50 PM on January 14, 2010

I have access to a credit union and wouldn't consider dealing with a bank. You have access to a credit union. Try it, you'll like it. Trust me. Or not. Credit unions vs. banks.
posted by snowjoe at 9:25 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been with First Union/Wachovia for years, with mostly minor ups and downs, and while the tellers are generally nice, the Wells Fargo merger has meant one very obvious, very annoying change: they are now constantly trying to sell you on new services you don't need every time you go to the teller counter. That is not a good sign.
posted by mediareport at 9:40 PM on January 14, 2010

Ive had them for three years without any problems.
posted by nuke3ae at 1:50 PM on January 15, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all for the responses. It's hard to pick a "best answer" since this is sort of subjective, but you're all winners in the eyes of the academy ;)
posted by littlerobothead at 5:17 PM on January 15, 2010

It may be too late for this to be useful, but here it is.

I've been with Wachovia for 5 years, since they bought out my regional bank (SouthTrust, I miss you). They have generally been fine for me, but I have two specific observations, one good and one bad.

1. Their website worked with Firefox from the beginning. 5 years ago this was a serious problem for those of us who refused to use Internet Exploiter, and one would have to constantly but heads with the attitude of "we don't support that", because they were using non-standard technologies. It was a delight that I did not have to wage that battle with them. Not sure that really means anything now, but at least at some point in the past they had a clue.

2. I had a fairly minor problem with the online bill pay system about a year or two ago. I could not get an answer via their regular customer support. No matter how clearly I kept restated it, over and over, I kept getting the answer to the wrong question. So I figured I needed to take recourse with my local account manager, from whom I'd received a nice letter introducing himself, saying I should contact him if I ever had a problem.

But I couldn't find that letter (probably threw it out) and Wachovia's customer service couldn't tell me who was assigned to my account ("just go into any branch"). So if you get a nice letter after you move your account(s) over, KEEP THAT LETTER AND NOTE THE PERSON'S NAME. Sometime you need a real human being that you can stand in front of and give the ten yard stare to get their attention.
posted by intermod at 9:56 AM on January 16, 2010

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