Banking weirdness. Is this stuff more typical than it feels?
March 22, 2013 5:01 PM   Subscribe

Maybe others, especially those in banking, can weigh in on how common these sorts of things are.

I've recently moved to an urban area; I'm not sure it's permanent since I don't have a job yet, and I'm living off savings. The name-brand national bank that I've had a multiyear, nearly inactive account with, with $1500 or less in it except for a very short period, recently a) sent me a debit card when I'd explicitly asked not to have one; at the new area's branch b) said yes they have safe deposit boxes where I heard another person a week or two later being told no; c) have me listed as a "high value 05 customer" although they've made no money off me ( up until a year ago my account was inactive, and since then it's been nearly so); d) said "we've had several new hires recently" at the new-area branch; e) had a wrong phone number with an area code I've never lived in associated with the account, although the teller explained it saying "sorry, I must have pushed the wrong button"; f) say they can't print out an activity report that extends further than a couple months (saying that further back, all they can do is bring up the old monthly statements); and g) last time I was in, the eastern-european-named banker asked me if I'd parked in their lot, & walked me to the door to the parking lot when I left.

Not trusting this bank, I'd opened a savings account at another, local-area bank, but I'm getting the same vibes there. They keep sending mail to my street address (where mailbox is easily accessed from sidewalk, mail to prior room-renters arrives in great quantity, and the mail's not always brought in until a day or two later), although I specified PO box as the mailing address. On a Saturday a couple weeks afterward I opened a checking account with money transferred from the savings account. Come Monday morning I asked for the savings acct balance, and a teller gave me its original balance, & said the checking account money had been reported as a deposit rather than a transfer from savings (but that it'd be reconciled that evening). Meanwhile the banker who'd originally opened the savings account came over & hovered within earshot.

The savings account was opened from a cashier's check from my old (rural area) credit union, & had a mark said to disappear upon heat; but when asked to apply heat, the teller said heat didn't make it disappear.

How much of this is irregular enough that it should concern me?
(My concerns are 1) the possibility of someone making off with the money; and 2) that someone may have been using my account(s) for nefarious purposes, or trying to make it look like I am.)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
have me listed as a "high value 05 customer" although they've made no money off me

If you have money deposited with the bank, it's making money off of you, even if it isn't charging you fees—banks loan out the money that's deposited (even though you never see it technically leave your account) and make money on it.
posted by limeonaire at 5:11 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


This sounds like a lot of random stuff and some bad bank customer service.
- If you don't want to have the debit card your bank sent you, you should cut it into pieces and dispose of the pieces across multiple trash cans. Stupid big national bank. Funny how a lot of big national companies will send you plastic cards even when you don't want them.
- It sounds like some employees of the bank are not fully briefed on whether that branch has safety deposit boxes, perhaps logical as the branch is new and some employees are new (as you say below).
- "high value 05 customer" does not mean anything special. They aren't going to label any category "shitty customer." Every account category sounds fancy.
- Yes, it's normal for a new branch to have a mix of employees transferred from other branches owned by the same bank and other new employees hired at the same time. So everybody will be new to this specific branch, but some will be old-timers with the bank and others will be new to banking in general, others may have been hired away from another bank.
-Yep, it's weird that a wrong phone number was put in.
- My small local bank cannot print activity reports for me more than a couple of months back, either, but can print monthly statements. They are the same thing. Some banks make it easy to get all the information you want in whatever format you want, others do not. Have you tried your bank's online interface? I find I can get reports online that I cannot obtain at bank branches.
- Why would it matter if the banker had an Eastern European name?
- Perhaps this banker was trying to be courteous? Do you have reason to believe otherwise?
- If your other bank is sending mail to the wrong address, you should go in to the branch or go online and change that. It sounds like somebody messed up. Again, bad customer service.
- Did the money that you transferred show up later? Is it still missing?

Do you get bank statements? Do you have an ATM card? Can you log on to your banks; websites? If so, you have up to three independent ways of verifying what is going on with your bank accounts. I do not see a pattern that would cause me worry unless my bank statements, ATM machine check-ins and online bank account information showed irregular or unfamiliar activity.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 5:38 PM on March 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


None of this sounds weird to me:

a) Typical bank screwup, especially if you said "no debit card" in person rather than on a form that had a checkbox for it; by default they probably give one to everybody. Also, are you sure they gave you a debit card? They may have given you an ATM card that does not function as a debit card.

b) Well, if they have new hires at the branch, that would definitely help explain inconsistent information being given out! Or maybe you misheard the other person's request--they may have wanted a box of a specific size, e.g.

c) A bit odd, but again this might be based on how much they think they can make from you--if they've flagged you as in the market for a house, for example, or living in an expensive zip code, or attending grad school in a high-income potential field, they might be seeing you as a prospect they want to cultivate even if they don't make much from you at the moment. Or maybe it's a mistake.

d) Doesn't seem strange that the bank would hire people...hard to see what's suspicious about that

e) That's a little weird, but entirely possible that the teller mixed up your account with someone else's when updating new info (again, especially with the "new hire" thing)

f) This is entirely common, especially for smaller and less tech-savvy banks

g) You probably got this because you were a "high value customer," or maybe the manager is just very into friendly customer service

If you think someone has been using your account--well, what do the statements say? Do the statements have any activity you don't recognize? If not, what would somebody be doing with your account? And how would stuff like the second bank's sending things to your door rather than the PO box have anything to do with goings-on at the first bank?

(And the second bank very likely has no idea what your home mail situation is, and the second banker probably wanted to learn about how transfers are categorized...that does not seem strange at all.)
posted by phoenixy at 5:41 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most of this sounds pretty normal to me. I'd be ticked at the company failing to respect your request for PO Box as mailing address; I'd hassle them to change it or at least explain it if they are required to send it to a billing address instead. It's certainly conceivable that someone could have been doing something and just doing a good job covering their tracks, but on the odds I wouldn't worry about it - there isn't a lot of money that's disappeared or been deposited and then disappeared or anything like that.

But they may have run out of safe deposit boxes, and a lot of stuff sort of happens automatically in the background - so your request not to have a debit card may not have been conveyed to anyone with the ability to actually stop the automatic-debit-card-generation. If they even can, come to think of it; it might just be part of 'checking account' in their system. Similarly, my bank also doesn't have transactions saved past a certain time, just the statements.

Especially with a second bank and having the same experience, I'd chalk it up to 'man, bank service sure is crummy'.
posted by Lady Li at 5:42 PM on March 22, 2013


Banks are not in the business of respecting their customers. They're actually in the opposite business. If you open an account at a credit union instead, your chance of having a better experience increases, but only marginally.

In other words, I don't think they're trying to scam you to a greater degree than the rest of their customers, but your banks sound very annoying, and I would close your accounts there and open one at a credit union.
posted by january at 5:55 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Banking is a strange industry - local banks (and credit unions) are virtually guaranteed to be better than national chains. Find a local bank or credit union.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:30 PM on March 22, 2013


I'm thinking you've left out some relevant information somewhere. This sounds like run of the mill incompetence coupled with normal bank behaviour.

a) This is not a surprising snafu. Cut it up. Are you sure it's not an ATM card that wouldn't work in a shop?
b) Did you rent a safe deposit box? I would assume either incompetence or that when the next person asked, none were available, depending on precisely what was said.
c) The part that's weird to me is that you have this information, not that you've been flagged in some way. Banks will invariably attempt to sell you things (usually credit cards). They're definitely sorting people into categories.
d) Er... banks hire people sometimes?
e) Was it an obvious variation on your phone number? Or a totally different number? People mistype things all the time. Banks send money into the wrong accounts (behind the scenes, not tellers) as a result all the time, too. They just hope they figure it out before a customer notices.
f) No idea. But why does this matter? I'd just use online banking to obtain the statements.
g) It sounds like this was either a banker you were sitting at a desk having a conversation with or one of those random floater people banks sometimes have near the entrance. In either case, they're trying to make you feel valued. I personally find the floater people talking to me when I enter a bank really annoying, but apparently enough people like it that the bank deploys their staff in such a manner. I'm not sure why his perceived region of origin matters, though.

Did the teller refuse to attempt to verify the cashier's check was real? Or they tried and nothing happened? Either would be strange, but the latter obviously has to do with your old credit union. Did you attempt to get the check to change color yourself? (That said, those color-changing things sometimes fail. Metra ten rides do it, but you occasionally get one that doesn't want to change when normally they change fast enough that you notice in normal handling of your ticket.)
posted by hoyland at 6:38 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


It sounds like standard incompetence to me. I agree about the "debit" card, it might be printed on the same Visa debit card stock, but the mag stripe only allows it to be an ATM card. Possibly.

My general experience and advice on banks is to choose one that is big enough to have some responsibility, but small enough to care about maintaining individual accounts. Credit unions are no guarantee of competence. My experience is the opposite- they are more prone to professionalism and scatterbrainedness. Depending on the state, they may be less regulated than banks. They may not even have the same FDIC-type of protections. (Though this might have changed in the last 10 years.)

And yes, banks make their money on your money being in your account untouched. They don't generally make money on the fees, they only stem the bank's losses. If you leave $1500 untouched, they love you. (Well, they'd love you even more if you left $1m untouched, obviously). But the $1500 savings account is more valuable than a checking account that varies from $10,000 to $1,000 each month.
posted by gjc at 3:08 AM on March 23, 2013


Hi! I work for a bank! It was once a decent-sized local bank, and was purchased by a big national bank. I have never worked in a branch, but I have been a Product and Project manager in just about every other area and have worked with/touched every customer facing product or process at one point or another.

Large bank:

a) sent me a debit card...

At a large national bank, the person who sent you this debit card got incentive credit for doing so, and doesn't care if you ever use it

b) said yes they have safe deposit boxes where I heard another person a week or two later being told no...

This could be a new hire thing, this could be "some branches do and some don't", this could be "we only offer them to high value customers". Banks in general wish that safe deposit boxes would go away, as the PITA of dealing with abandoned boxes state by state generally makes the whole thing unprofitable

c) have me listed as a "high value 05 customer" although they've made no money off me...

You had a decent sized chunk of money in the bank that no one had to deal with or service. Average DDA balances for a really large national bank hover in the low 3 figures on an average monthly basis. They also likely ran a score on you (debit bureau and/or credit bureau) when you opened up your account that slotted your potential profitability. That cooked into your "high value" segment designator.

d) said "we've had several new hires recently"...

Branch banking turnover, nationwide, in the top 10 bank segment hovers around 35% monthly.

e) had a wrong phone number with an area code I've never lived in...

It's possible/plausible that this was an error

f) say they can't print out an activity report...

Their host systems aren't holding large amounts of activity data near-line. Sometimes the tellers or call center folks only have 60-90 days, but the bank's online banking systems access deeper warehoused data and can give you 2 years or so. Similarly, statement records can be "some near-line, some I have to request from records"

g) last time I was in, the eastern-european-named banker asked me if I'd parked in their lot, & walked me to the door to the parking lot when I left.

Many large banks are introducing all kinds of "lobby ambassador" programs. Guy at the door with an umbrella when it's raining, you get greeted three times like you're at the freaking Waffle House, asked on the way out if everything was ok, walked to your car.


Local bank:

They keep sending mail to my street address (where mailbox is easily accessed from sidewalk, mail to prior room-renters arrives in great quantity, and the mail's not always brought in until a day or two later), although I specified PO box as the mailing address.

Federal regulations around "Know Your Customer" (post 9-11) insist that banks have a physical address on file. This bank has input that address as your address of record, and likely have put your PO Box address in notes or a secondary address field. Everything that gets system generated will mail to your physical address because of where they logged it in the system.

On a Saturday a couple weeks afterward I opened a checking account with money transferred from the savings account. Come Monday morning I asked for the savings acct balance, and a teller gave me its original balance, & said the checking account money had been reported as a deposit rather than a transfer from savings (but that it'd be reconciled that evening).

Their host system is not recording real-time transactions, nor do they run nightly recon cycles on the weekend. Likely they only run cycles Monday through Friday night, so anything you do after their cutoff time Friday, and on Saturday or Sunday runs as part of Monday's cycle, and is systematically backdated.

The savings account was opened from a cashier's check from my old (rural area) credit union, & had a mark said to disappear upon heat; but when asked to apply heat, the teller said heat didn't make it disappear.

Stumped, but I haven't seen heat stock for years.


Frankly, out of EVERYTHING you mentioned, the ONLY thing that concerns me at all is the wrong phone number. Was it a real phone number - did they tell you what it was? Was it a number from an area code where they also do business?

Most of the large bank stuff you mention sounds perfectly common to me, especially if that bank has been in the business of buying smaller banks for a while. There's just lots of legacy system weirdness that can linger on for years and years - you'd be shocked if you knew how much of banking operations and process is just bubblegum and band aids behind the scenes. I deal with problems like that on a daily basis, and they just never get prioritized to be fixed because we're always looking at the next big acquisition.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:13 AM on March 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


It sounds like standard incompetence to me. I agree about the "debit" card, it might be printed on the same Visa debit card stock, but the mag stripe only allows it to be an ATM card. Possibly.

I wanted to point out that this would NEVER happen - a card with a Visa or MC logo is never "just an ATM card". Banks don't print their own plastics - they all (even the tiny guys) contract with card issuers to do it, and anyone who used Visa or MC card stock for an ATM-only card would have their right to issue proper V/MC debit AND credit revoked SO FAST.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:20 AM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


None of this sounds alarming to me, although this gave me pause:
the mail's not always brought in until a day or two later
Do you not have access the mailbox to which your mail is delivered? That seems odd to me, but instead of a PO box, I'd suggest a UPS box as it has an actual street address.
posted by sm1tten at 7:57 AM on March 23, 2013


I'll second most of Ersatzkat's responses, based on my five years at a mid-size bank. One more possibility for getting a debit card care - it may be that they originally issued you a card when you first opened the account. You say you didn't want it, but perhaps it was never closed in their system and the one you recently received was to replace that card when it's expiration date came up.
posted by saffry at 10:18 AM on March 23, 2013


They may not even have the same FDIC-type of protections.

Just a note that federally chartered credit unions and most state-chartered credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Association. Same as FDIC, insurance on deposits up to $250k.
posted by aka burlap at 1:20 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


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