Switching Banks
January 24, 2005 2:24 PM   Subscribe

My retirement fund is with an online brokerage firm. The firm recently got bought by a national megabank. The bank's web-site, however, says that it only works with MSIE. I dumped IE in favor of FireFox a long time ago and hate to go back to it -- especially when it comes to sensitive financial information. I'd love to switch to another online brokerage, but the bank charges a penalty for transferring accounts.

Any ideas on how to move my account without incurring penalties? As far as I'm concerned, by not supporting alternative browsers (given the US-CERT warnings against IE) they're failing to provide service and that should be grounds enough for me to leave them behind without penalty. It galls me that I have to pay them a fee so I can get away from their crappy service. Is there any sort of FTC or banking rule I can rely on to make a stronger case?
posted by fubar to Work & Money (6 answers total)
I know this doesn't directly answer your questions, but you might find it interesting and helpful: Many of these sites work just fine in Firefox. The problem is that the site sniffs your user agent string, and if it's something other than some flavor of IE, you get the error message. If you use the User Agent Switcher Extension, you can change your user agent string, and the site will load just fine. For example, I changed my user agent to IE 6.0 (Windows XP), and your bank's website let me in with no error message.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:35 PM on January 24, 2005

Not a direct answer for you, but you could try installing User Agent Switcher to see if telling the bank site you have IE is enough to do anything you want to do. Some things may break, but it's probably bad coding more than a specific technical requirement anyway.
posted by willnot at 2:37 PM on January 24, 2005

Without more info on what you actually hold its a bit difficult to answer your question. But here are some ideas:

1) Argue that, since there was a change of ownership, you should be grandfathered out of having to pay new fees if you want to close your account.

2) If your retirement fund is in mutual funds and/or stocks, try to have them transferred by another brokerage. when I signed up for a new brokerage account, I simply gave them my old one's information and they did all the work of transferring. If I had sold securities at the old brokerage I would have incurred fees; simply transferring them to a new one did not.

In general, read your agreement very closely. There may be some conditions under which transferring or withdrawing money incurs no fee.
posted by googly at 2:42 PM on January 24, 2005

Response by poster: trharlan:

1. What do you mean by "retirement fund?"
It's a SEP IRA account from a long time back. I can buy and trade stocks, bonds, and mutual funds and it's all supposed to be tax-free. It's invested in mostly sad-sack tech stocks (except for Apple -- thank you iPod!)

2. Is it in a brokerage account?
Yes. It was an online discount brokerage firm that got bought by mega-bank.

3. Are you in the US?
Sorry. I should have mentioned. Yes, I am.

4. How much money do you have?
How is it that politicians answer this? Between $1 and $50K :-)

posted by fubar at 2:54 PM on January 24, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks trharlan. Great suggestions. I'll call the receiving firm and see if they'll reimburse the fees. I'll try the pain-in-the-ass routine with the megabank.

willnot: I tried the browser switcher. It gets me past the front page, but a few clicks in, stuff stopped showing up. I think they're using strange IE DOM stuff. But thanks for the tip. I'm keeping the extension. It'll come handy with some other sites.

googly: The megabank charges the fee on IRA transfers too. I'm going to dig up my terms documents with the old brokerage firm and check the fine print.

I just tried to access the megabank's 'feedback' link on their site to send them a note. Typed up my note and hit 'submit.' It barfed with an 'execution denied' error. *sigh* I am sooo out of there.
posted by fubar at 3:29 PM on January 24, 2005

if you're closer to 50K than 1k, then the receiving firm will probably reimburse you

Even if the amount being transferred is relatively small, if you're transferring it to a firm that you already have money with, the amount you already have with the firm may make a difference.

In other words, if you're moving the money to a firm where you (say) have $100K of accounts, then they're more likely to want to help you out (to keep you happy), compared to than a situation where you have (say) only $5K with that firm.
posted by WestCoaster at 1:02 PM on January 25, 2005

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