Same Amount of Money, More Problems?
March 8, 2010 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Bank-Filter: What is going on with Bank of America's leadership, and should I consider switching to a different bank?

I'm currently considering switching from Bank of America to USAA. My husband and I currently have our checking and savings account with BoA, and our insurance and credit cards with USAA. I'm not exactly unhappy with BoA- we haven't been screwed over in a big way, and I haven't seen any huge red flags in my personal experiences with them. However, we've been getting overdraft protection fees when we're not overdrafted (ex: a deposit was put in, or a transfer between savings and checking was made and scheduled to go through before the bills), which was not happening when I first opened the account back in 2007.

Additionally, two of the Board members of my Foundation left BoA in the last few years to take top positions in other banks, which makes me wonder what's happening at the top.

USAA is my other choice because I've been very happy with our insurance through then as well as our interest rates on credit cards, and the service has always been exceptional. Other plus sides are that their checks are free, and there are no ATM fees, as well as the fact that this could increase our chances of getting a loan from them in the future, if we wanted that option.

I'm not particularly worried about BoA going under or losing my money- it's under FDIC levels. Rather, I wonder if it is worth the trouble of switching banks, and whether any me-fites can help explain why my spidey-sense is tingling a bit regarding BoA?

I have searched previous threads and ask-me, but I'm still uncertain as to exactly what is going on at BoA.

Thanks for your help!
posted by questionsandanchors to Work & Money (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I wonder if it is worth the trouble of switching banks, and whether any me-fites can help explain why my spidey-sense is tingling a bit regarding BoA

-we've been getting overdraft protection fees when we're not overdrafted
-I've been very happy with our insurance through [USAA]
-[USAA] service has always been exceptional
-[USAA] checks are free
-[USAA has] no ATM fees
-could increase our chances of getting a loan from [USAA] in the future

I don't really know what you're asking. For what it's worth, I think the nugget about your board members leaving BOA has little relevance, but if you're unhappy with BOA and you like USAA, it seems like an obvious choice.

How much work is it, really, to switch banks? Turn in a new direct deposit form at work, and change a few recurring bills? Should take less than an hour.
posted by jckll at 11:45 AM on March 8, 2010


I'd recommend just for the sheer fact that you get much better service with community and even some small regional banks. I used to have BoA several years ago, and it's great unless you have any problems crop up, then you get the joy of dealing with a hierarchy where no one wants to rock the boat to fix your problem. I moved all my accounts away to a metropolitan area bank. These people are completely on the ball with our accounts and even called & emailed us when we had a small overdraft problem to give us a chance to cover the amount.
posted by crapmatic at 11:46 AM on March 8, 2010


They're charging fees for overdraft when you're not?

Why are you staying???
posted by sandraregina at 11:54 AM on March 8, 2010


Perhaps I should have been clearer: I'm mostly looking for additional reasons that might help me convince my husband that it's worth the trouble to switch.

As for the overdraft fees- it's happened twice, but only $10 a piece, so it hasn't been often enough/enough money that I've wanted to go through the hassle of addressing it, especially as I thought maybe I missed something in the order things were supposed to go through.
posted by questionsandanchors at 12:03 PM on March 8, 2010


Worst bank in America

I've heard plenty of stories of BoA losing accounts with thousands of dollars in them and not willing to accept blame. After hearing enough of these stories I moved all money and debt I had with them to another bank.

Good luck, but my personal opinion is to go with another company before
posted by zombieApoc at 12:37 PM on March 8, 2010


I'm a former Bank of America customer.

I would switch banks now, before you have any problems. Bank of America is fine until you have a problem. One you have a problem, it's like pulling teeth from a crocodile while sitting in its open mouth to get it fixed. And all that will happen is you'll get snapped up in the jaws of tedious hierarchy and pain-in-the-arseness.

My husband and I keep a joint savings account but separate checking accounts for a variety of reasons. I needed a little extra money, so he wrote me a check. We went to my 20 week ultrasound appointment. I deposited the check in an ATM on my way into work in an envelope. The money appeared in my account as pending. Then it cleared. Then a week later there was a pending account correction for that amount. I freaked out because I had a pending payment for that amount and all of a sudden I didn't have my money. I did an emergency transfer from my savings to cover myself.

When I called the customer service line, I was told nothing could be done because the pending account correction hadn't gone all the way through. What???? It had to clear before they could do anything? So I called the day it cleared. They said it had to do with my husband's bank not processing it. My husband called his bank and they were all like, "Ummm..no...we have no record of anything in that amount for your account within the last month, nor do we have a record of anything regarding that check. Not us." So I called them back. They said it was because the ATM envelope was empty. What? It sure as hell was not. They said they couldn't do anything for me.

I then went to a Bank of America location in person. The manager on duty said he couldn't do anything for me and there was nobody to call.

I then, A WEEK LATER, went to another Bank of America location and specifically asked to speak to the senior most person on staff, and no, I would not wait. I got that branch's assistant manager, who was a competent person and who I hope moved on to a less soul sucking job because she sure deserved it. She was the first person to tell me I should submit an electronic claim. The claim would be investigated and in the meantime a deposit for that amount would be deposited into my account while they investigated. Well, guess what? TWO WEEKS LATER THEY FOUND THE DIGITAL IMAGE OF THE CHECK!

I decided that once this was all cleared up, I was going to close my account. I went to a location to do so. The manager didn't even bother to try to talk me into staying after I explained that I had talked to three customer service reps on the phone, all of whom told me something different, went to a branch in person where I was told nothing could be done to help me, and finally had to go to a second branch in person to be told something I should have been told the FIRST DAY I CALLED.

I got my money. I opened my account at a fabulous little regional bank and went along my merry way. And you'd think that'd be it. But, oh nope. About a MONTH after I closed my account with Bank of America, I received a billing statement with $0.32 in the account. And the account was active. Not closed. What?!?! I had to call three times to CLOSE IT AGAIN. And I said explicitly I wanted a letter that said the account was closed, not just the billing statement this time. Well, another month later, my account still wasn't closed! I finally, finally, finally got it closed on the THIRD TRY!

And then, get this, this is priceless. After I closed my account, I received a phone call from someone at Bank of America about a deposit. I was at work, which is the only reason that I didn't scream at him. "My account is closed. I closed it three times. I have not made any deposits." Turns out he had the wrong customer, but I still called back a few hours later to verify that 100% absolutely without a doubt my account was closed.

I was a Bank of America customer for nearly five years. Never had a problem until this routine check deposit. I wouldn't wish ever having a problem with Bank of America on anyone. And that is why you should close your account and move to a new bank. Because as soon as you do have a problem, it will be a huge hassle that you just do not need.
posted by zizzle at 1:11 PM on March 8, 2010


we've been getting overdraft protection fees when we're not overdrafted

I work for a rival bank, and, no, you're not. You are getting fees in a manner that may make no sense to you, and very likely would make no sense to most people. But they're not randomly taking your money. The tranfers are not taking place the way you think and/or the deposits are not crediting when/how you assume they would.

Reading this: (ex: a deposit was put in, or a transfer between savings and checking was made and scheduled to go through before the bills), which was not happening when I first opened the account back in 2007.

This is something you should have asked for assistance with the first time it happened. Go to a branch, talk to a desk person (we call them "platform"; this is opposed to a teller) explain what is going on, and ask them if they can explain/find out what's happening. They might not be able to give you an answer right off the bat, but they'll a) be able to find out something b) suggest what can be done to avoid it in the future and c) do something about those fees you got...

As for the overdraft fees- it's happened twice, but only $10 a piece, so it hasn't been often enough/enough money that I've wanted to go through the hassle of addressing it, especially as I thought maybe I missed something in the order things were supposed to go through.

Well, now you're just being silly. That is what they are there for. Talk to them. After doing (a) and (b), the desk person will understand what the confusion is and be more inclined to do (c).
posted by spaltavian at 1:15 PM on March 8, 2010


You are getting fees in a manner that may make no sense to you, and very likely would make no sense to most people.

I truly don't understand this line of reasoning. As a customer of a bank, should I not expect that my bank's fees will make sense to me, let alone most people? Should I not have to go to a "desk person" every time I get hit with a fee?
posted by blucevalo at 1:19 PM on March 8, 2010


I truly don't understand this line of reasoning. As a customer of a bank, should I not expect that my bank's fees will make sense to me, let alone most people? Should I not have to go to a "desk person" every time I get hit with a fee?

At no point did I say that it was good or that it was the way it should be. What I said was that even though they might not understand why it's happening, it's almost certainly not happening in an arbitrary manner, and with a small amount of effort, it can be avoided.

Either that, or you can rage about the unfairness of it all, get hit with fees until you close your account, switch banks, have the same thing happen there, and so on until you happen to end up with a bank whose seemingly Byzantine practices somehow mesh with the way you use your account.
posted by spaltavian at 1:23 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't get why everyone always hates on BoA. It seems so fashionable for some reason.

I thought it was relatively common knowledge that most banks allow pending transactions to clear in a way that benefits them - it isn't fair, and I'm not saying it is. I think I remember congress was trying to address the issue (a la the credit card reform) but I don't think it got anywhere. This means that if you have a pending withdrawl (say an automatic bill payment) and you realize you don't have enough money and transfer money from another account, in all likelihood the pending withdrawl will credit before the deposit. This isn't unique to BoA by any means.

I always just make an effort to transfer/ deposit money at least a few days before I need it for bill pay, etc, and make a conscious effort to not schedule automatic bill payments until a few days after my direct deposit hits (eg I get paid on the last day of every month, and I don't have auto bill pays set to go off until the 3rd, so I know I can't get caught).

Anyway, I've been using BoA for more than five years. The two times I have ever had an issue (incorrect overdraft fee assessed - see above, and a stolen checkbook being used to write a large check - with the check obviously lacking my signature) BoA customer service has been prompt, effective, and very helpful.

I use USAA for credit cards and insurance, and BoA for banking. They have both been good to me. As there are lots of BoA ATMs in my city, and I like the ability to talk to customer service reps in person, I like the set up that I currently have.
posted by CharlieSue at 2:38 PM on March 8, 2010


USAA has been my primary bank and only credit card and insurance company for my entire adult life and then some. I've lived abroad and all over the place, including USAA's hometown, San Antonio. When I moved from San Antonio I worried that it would be a pain to have a bank so far away. It has never been a problem. Their banking service is unmatched. The bank, like USAA's other services, has never made a mistake in any of my accounts.

Plus, it is very convenient having all of one's insurance, banking, and other services in one place online.

I know I sound like a commercial. I don't care. You won't regret the change if you make it.
posted by vincele at 3:16 PM on March 8, 2010


I've been a USAA customer for 15 years and will never change. Customer service is awesome. They treat customers with respect and work hard to make sure your problems are solved. Seriously, make the change and don't look back.
posted by JV at 4:02 PM on March 8, 2010


I truly don't understand this line of reasoning. As a customer of a bank, should I not expect that my bank's fees will make sense to me, let alone most people? Should I not have to go to a "desk person" every time I get hit with a fee?

Yes you should be able to make sense of how your bank's fees operate, but many people assume they know how their banks processes transactions when they don't. Most people have heard about the cascading fees situation which can happen when debits are processed before credits - the first debit takes the account overdrawn and then all succeeding debits attract a fee, sometimes leaving the account still overdrawn even after the credit is applied to the account. Some banks will automatically process debits from largest to smallest - their algorithms are not written to process transactions in the manner which would minimise fees to the customer.

Most banks will waive those fees the first couple of times it happens, but they aren't going to change the way the process transactions to accommodate individual customers. You can often designate which debits from your account should take priority, but it's important that you understand which processes are inflexible and especially any situations under which transactions may be reversed without your awareness. You can probably only obtain this information from the bank itself, but doing so will allow you to plan your banking activity in a way which minimises unnecessary fees.

In my experience all financial institutions make errors, but not everything which disadvantages a customer is an error. A good financial institution will not only waive the fees the first time or two it happens, they will clearly explain how the same situation can be avoided in the future. The customer might not like the information, but at least they will be able to make decisions on the basis of fact, not assumptions.
posted by Lolie at 5:47 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why don't you talk to these Directors on your board that have left?
posted by Pants! at 6:56 PM on March 8, 2010


I'm currently considering switching from Bank of America to USAA.

Go for it. I made the same switch about five years ago and I haven't looked back. Got a credit card with half the interest rate, savings account with double the interest rate, and stopped worrying about ATM fees. I have consumed the Kool Aid.. I have an absurd number of USAA accounts now. I was not a profitable customer for BofA, and I felt reminded of that often... the threat of fees for not maintaining a minimum balance, periodic freezing of my savings account due to infrequent use, excessive clearing times for deposited checks. Infuriating.

I was reluctant to give up having a physical branch nearby, but that hasn't been a problem. Mail deposits are fast, postage paid envelopes are free and virtually unlimited, and now you can just scan checks (or take a picture with an iphone) and deposit immediately. I can get deposited cash faster out of USAA than I ever could with BofA. Cashier's checks can be requested online and overnighted, and you can write things like "IM BUYZING A UNICORN FOR NEW ZEALAND LOL" in the comments field without having to avert your eyes from a teller. Usaa.com is well designed and intuitive... they have the better website in my opinion. USAA telephone customer service is top notch... it feels like a luxury not to connect to an overseas call center. The person you talk with is competent and capable of addressing your issues. And they have endearing San Antonio accents.
posted by eddydamascene at 11:30 PM on March 8, 2010


Not to hijack, but are the USAA ATM cards linked to Visa? I friggin hate BoA but I live and travel for work to a lot of places where I need my bank card to be linked to Visa if I'm going to have a prayer of getting at my cash.
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:06 AM on March 9, 2010


Not to hijack, but are the USAA ATM cards linked to Visa?

No, they use MasterCard.
posted by eddydamascene at 8:09 AM on March 9, 2010


A little tangential, but I thought I would come back and add that BofA has just decided that it will do away with debit overdraft fees altogether.
posted by blucevalo at 8:39 AM on March 10, 2010


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