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Rant: Bank Customer Service Hell

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This was not a good day for my nerves in maintaining my various financial accounts. Today I have had to waste nearly an hour on the phone to fix errors by my banks. Here’s a rundown of the stupidity:

Chase – I opened a new Chase personal credit card account in October and did a balance transfer to my Capital One account, where the promotional rate was about to expire. After a couple of weeks, the account was no longer available for viewing on my Chase Online page and over a month past the opening date I had yet to receive a statement. I called to find out that a fraud alert had been placed on my account (although no one from Chase ever called to tell me that) and I had to basically re-answer all of the questions from my application to verify that it is indeed a legitimate account. Thankfully everything is fixed now, but it is still a royal PITA. Time wasted: 22 minutes.

Capital One – Despite calling twice to verify that no finance charge would be assessed on my promotional balance if I paid it off before November 1, on my latest statement the clowns at Capital One proceeded to charge be a finance charge on the balance I paid off on October 23. I called up customer service and waited on hold for a while for the first line rep, who immediately declared he could do nothing for me and I would need to talk to an account manager. After waiting on hold for the account manager for a while longer, she comes on the line and I repeat my story and she looks at the account and agrees that an adjustment is needed almost immediately. Time wasted: 25 minutes.

HSBC – Reviewing all of my accounts in Yodlee, I noted that my HSBC Checking which I closed last month had been charged a service fee of $12 for falling below the minimum balance requirement. I call up HSBC and after navigating their Labyrinth of a phone tree menu I finally talk to a person and explain the situation twice. She reviews the account and noted the account had been requested closed last month and manually closed the account and submitted the credit to reverse the finance charge. Time wasted: 9 minutes.

In total I spent 54 minutes on the phone correcting errors made by my banks. This isn’t including the time I spent to pull up my notes on the accounts. I also didn’t even do anything with a bank by mail deposit that isn’t showing up on my Presidential Checking account, although at this point I can’t be sure if it is an error by the bank or the postal service lost the deposit in transit.

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November 16, 2007 Posted by | banking, Credit Cards, Customer Service | , , , , | 2 Comments

No direct deposit? No problem!

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

How many times do you see the offers from banks: “Free checking with direct deposit” or “$100 bonus when you open a new account with direct deposit”? So many bank offers and fee waivers are contingent on having direct deposit, and with good reason. Banks know that the more integrated your account is with the rest of your financial life, the more likely you will remain a customer and hopefully use other services from them. They are counting on that you are too lazy to go to the trouble of contacting your payroll department at work to have your direct deposit redirected to a new account. The same reasoning is why so many banks are now pushing bill payment services. You’re less likely to close an account if most of your bill payments are already set up through that account.

The problem with this is that there are lots of people such as the self-employed and employees of small businesses that don’t have direct deposit as an option. There are others of us that maintain multiple accounts (for instance, a local checking account for ATM access and small deposits and a high-yield checking through an online bank) and don’t necessarily want to send our direct deposit to a particular account.

Well, there is hope for those who are in this situation or that just want to take advantage of bonus offers requiring direct deposit. A direct deposit is simply an electronic transfer of funds to your account. This is usually done by a method known as ACH. The thing is that a ACH transfer to your account can be done in a number of ways besides through a company’s payroll department. Transfers from other bank accounts (either your own or someone else’s) and even from online payment services like Paypal are done by ACH as well. Unless a real person is looking at the detail of the ACH transfer, there is no real way to automatically tell if the ACH is a payroll deposit or not. Most of the time a bank will count these non-payroll transfers as a direct deposit, which allows you to avoid service fees and/or collect promotional bonuses based on the use of direct deposit.

The easiest way to simulate a direct deposit is by using another account you control that offers free outgoing transfers. Online savings accounts like ING Direct (click here for info on getting a referral for a $25 bonus), Emigrant Direct, or HSBC Direct all allow this. A few banks and credit unions offer this service free of charge as well. Some people have also successfully used PayPal transfers to simulate a direct deposit.

There is a lengthy thread on Fatwallet discussing this concept and compiling user experiences simulating direct deposits using various methods with different banks. I would caution that you SHOULD NOT CALL the bank and ask if whatever method will count, as they will almost always tell you no and it may tip them off to look for such activity on your account.

October 30, 2007 Posted by | banking, Tips | , , , | 2 Comments