When I moved to Florida in June I knew that I was going to need a new bank for my local banking as our bank in Cincinnati was a local credit union. I didn’t think banks were that different as I’d never had a bad experience with one. So, I chose our new bank based on proximity and the fact that we had a credit card with them. I ended up choosing Bank of America. They have a branch 2 blocks from our house and we already had a credit card with them (which was originally with someone else but BofA bought the other company). When I originally went in to set up a checking account with them is when I should have realized this was all a big mistake and that I should take my money and run. But, the proximity argument won me over and I decided to go ahead with setting up an account.
The first problem – they don’t have free checking. The only way you can ensure that it is free is if you set up direct deposit. Otherwise, they charge you a monthly fee. They do have savings accounts, but the interest yield on them is like .2% (not 2%, .2%). And, having a savings account actually costs money – more than you would make on it. They also don’t give you free checks – you have to pay for them. And, one of our favorite savings approaches, CDs, was basically a no go at BofA as well – their interest yields were about the same as you might get if you hid your money under a mattress. Even so, I figured we could simply put our retirement savings in our old bank from Utah, which has great interest yields on CDs and just manage our checking out of Bank of America. I even had a solution for our savings – Paypal. It isn’t FDIC insured, but if you sign up for their money market account you can make about 4.5% on the balance in your account and you can transfer funds for free to any checking account. So, I figured it may not be the best bank but it shouldn’t cost me any money and I won’t use it much. In fact, I even had a good experience when I set up the account (though it took about 2 hours): I showed them my old Ohio’s license which is a picture of me with long hair. Most people in Ohio said I looked like Jesus. The account manager at BofA said I looked like a killer vampire. Who wouldn’t chose killer vampire over Jesus?!? Maybe this was foreshadowing 😐
Well, things seemed fine initially, until I decided I wanted to change the automatic payment of my credit card balance to my new checking account. Let me be clear here: We have a Bank of America Visa card. We don’t carry credit card balances so I set up on Bank of America’s website 4 or 5 years ago to have the balance on my card paid every month from my Cincinnati credit union’s checking account. It worked fine for years. Now that I was switching banks I wanted to switch the automatic payment option from my old Cincinnati credit union account to my new Bank of America checking account. Now, you might think this would be very simple considering I had a credit card with Bank of America and now a checking account with Bank of America, but you would be wrong. You see, that belief rests on the assumption that Bank of America is a good bank, not Satan’s bank.
Once I set up the new checking account, the web interface for my credit card changed completely. The option to pay off my balance every month was no longer available. Instead I had to use Bank of America’s highly touted and completely useless online bill payment system to pay my balance. Annoyed, I called customer service to see if someone could help me set it up. No luck. There were actually two problems here. First, no one at Bank of America could figure out that I was actually paying my balance every month out of my Cincinnati credit union checking account and that I had set that up through Bank of America’s website. They all insisted that I had to have set that up through my credit union. Hmmm… Let’s think about that notion for a minute and see if it makes any sense. How would my credit union know my credit card balance every month in order to pay it off? That seems like a particularly intrusive credit union. The only company that would and could know my credit card balance every month is my credit card company – Bank of America. But I could not, for the life of me, convince them that they were the ones taking money out of my checking account every month – they insisted my credit union was sending it to them. So, no one at BofA could figure out how to stop the payments, though one person eventually claimed to have figured it out.
The second problem was that they couldn’t let me set up an automatic balance payment option on their website, over the phone, or even in person. I had to go into my local branch, explain in detail what I wanted to do to an account manager, and then sit around for about an hour while he tried to find someone at Bank of America who could do it. They then had to fax him some paperwork that he had to fill out and have me sign in order to have my balance paid in full every month. I understand the logic of this, actually. It makes perfect sense if you hate your customers. Why make it easy to pay their balance and lose the chance to make money on finance charges?
So, come mid-September, 4 months after I initially set up the account, I now had everything worked out, or so I thought… According to Bank of America my balance would not be paid from my Cincinnati credit union account anymore and instead would be paid through my shiny new BofA checking account. Relieved, I figured the nightmare was over… Then came October.
I received my regular credit card statement in October then waited for everything to be magically paid. After the due date, I opened my accounts up to find that my card had been paid – twice! They had set up the new auto payment with the BofA checking account but they had not stopped the other one from my Cincinnati credit union. Luckily the bill was for a very small amount and I still had that in my Cincinnati account. But I was in the process of closing the Cincinnati account and taking all of that money out to move to my new bank, so I wasn’t going to have money in there for much longer. I figured that this wasn’t a big problem and that maybe it just took some time for the changes to register in the system. I called customer service and they assured me that the problem was solved and that it wouldn’t happen again.
Then came November… and the exact same thing happened – a double payment. Except this time my bill was for a lot more and my Cincinnati account had $5.00 in, the minimum amount I could have until my letter to close the account got there. Well, my dutiful Cincinnati bank did what it was supposed to do, it charged me an overdraft fee of $27.50 for not having sufficient funds. And, of course, it didn’t pay BofA – it just charged me. As a big time penny pincher who had been having problems anyway, I checked my account that very day and saw the overdraft fee. I then checked my BofA account and found an overpayment for the statement balance (which was over $1,000). BofA thought it had the money from my credit union… kind of. Furious, I got on the phone with BofA to get them to stop the charge. I spent over two hours on the phone that night and they swore the problem would be fixed. The next day I checked my accounts again. Nothing had changed with BofA, they still thought they had the money. But they had tried to charge my Cincinnati account a second time (this is because they didn’t, in fact, get my money – there was no money there to get). I now had another overdraft fee of $27.50. I tore out my hair, kicked things, then picked up my phone and screamed at people. I had one person at BofA hang up on for saying their customer service was shit! My Cincinnati credit union was somewhat helpful – they agreed to close my checking account so even if BofA tried to charge it again they couldn’t. But they still made me pay the overdraft fees (because it was not their fault). BofA on the other hand said that it was my fault and insisted that I was going to have to pay the overdraft fees. I stormed into my local branch and told them I wasn’t leaving until they paid me back the $55.00 Bank of America owed me for screwing up. They were accommodating and eventually found someone at BofA who could take care of the problem – after 2 hours. I was reimbursed for the charges.
By this point I decided that short of giving me either the head of the president of Bank of America (a.k.a. Satan) on a platter or $100 million there was nothing anyone at BofA could do to keep me a customer of Satan’s bank. But the story doesn’t end there. Two days after I was reimbursed for the bank’s obvious mistake, they charged me $39.00 for having a payment not go through. Yes, you read that right, BofA actually charged me on their end for their screwup even after I had spent by this time at least 15 hours trying to get the problem solved. Another trip into the same branch, where they all knew me quite well by this point, and I was able to get that charged reversed.
So, at this point, I had spent 16 hours of my time fixing screw ups by Bank of America and all I had to show for it was the same amount of money I started with. I opened a new Visa account that night with a different bank. I was going to cancel the card as soon as my next statement balance came through, which would be mid-December-ish. I had a couple of bills that were automatically paid on that card so I switched them to the new card as soon as I got it and waited for my opportunity to cancel the account.
Today is the day before my new statement comes out on my Bank of America account. I knew there were no more potential charges so I decided I’d just pay the balance and close the account. I called customer service to cancel the account. When I told them what I wanted to do they said that to pay the balance over the phone would cost me $15.00. Plus, they said that even though the website said my balance was $69.48, in order to pay off the account I would have to pay $72.00, an additional $2.52. I didn’t understand and asked the first person why I would have to pay an additional $2.52 just to pay off my balance. She said that was the finance charge on my balance. I told her that I never carried a balance on my card and that I hadn’t financed anything. She insisted that it didn’t matter and that I somehow owed Bank of America $2.52 in order to pay off my balance. I said that was the dumbest thing I had ever heard, but before I could add that it wasn’t surprising coming from Bank of America she hung up on me. I called back and talked to another person who told me the same thing. Her explanation was that it was my finance charge, which I tried to tell her can’t be possible since I pay my balance every month. She pulled a Bank of America on me and pretended to be a voice recording, parroting back what she had said verbatim. At this point, I was so frustrated I told her it was worth it to pay the $2.52 just to get Bank of America out of my life then hung up.
I haven’t closed my checking account yet, but I will as soon as my direct deposit switches to my new bank – Washington Mutual. I set up my WaMu account online in about 20 minutes and have yet to talk to an actual person; I haven’t needed to – their website works flawlessly. They have an online savings account with a percentage yield of 4.65%, which is better than basically any savings plan you can get at BofA. I am in awe at how simple and nice a good bank is. It is such a breath of fresh air…
If I believed in a Satan or devil, a supernatural, fully evil character that spent all of its time bugging people, it would basically be Bank of America. I am convinced at this point that it’s sole purpose for existing is to make its customers’ lives miserable. I don’t think I can say this strongly enough – DO NOT BANK WITH BANK OF AMERICA. They are the world’s worst bank.
(Note: I don’t believe there is a Satan; I just want make that clear.)