Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Why I'm Switching From Suntrust Bank

Lets start out with, I keep tight records in my checkbook.

Now onto the experience. It is a bit lengthy, but I think worth it. This is not just about me, this is about all consumers rights. Here we go.

I went to a merchant the other morning and made a purchase for $18.53 on my checkcard. The teller by accident ran through $53.18. The teller immediately refunded my card for the $53.18. The teller proceeded to charge the right amount of $18.53. No biggie, right? Wrong. After my correct purchase my account should have been left with $18.25 available. Yeah, I was cutting it tight, but who doesn't now a days.

I stopped by the Greene St branch, about 15 minutes later to make sure this would not be a problem, I have had several with Suntrust in the past months. All worked out for me in the end. I arrive to our Greensboro police force on site. Apparently they had been robbed a short time before. They tell me to call the customer service number, which I do, and their systems are down, no help. (Note: robbery is being kept hush-hush, I was told.)

Jump to yesterday morning. I go online to make sure my checkbook is in order and find $224.00 in NSF(Non Sufficient Funds) Fees. Holy Crap!!!!!

I go back to the Greene St branch and a lady proceeds to tell me that it was the merchants error and they will not refund the fees, I will have to get it back from the merchant. She calls and aggressively tells this merchant that they are responsible and pisses them off. I drive to the merchants to calm them down, I have a great business relationship with the merchant and I do not believe it is their fault. I then drive to the main Green Valley Rd branch where I get my answers and a refund.

Now ready, brace yourself for the explanation from the bank.

They use what is called a "memo post". This is when you swipe your card at a merchants machine they automatically check for funds and remove the amount from your available balance. This is what occurred with the $53.18 and $18.53 charges. The $53.18 refund doesn't need to be checked against your account so it takes 3 to 5 business days to clear. What!!!

Your telling me you can take my money instantly, but you are going to hold it for 3 to 5 business days? All the while the bank has your refund they collect interest on it. At the same time because the $53.18 was not returned instantly, everything else that would have cleared(7 items), leaving me with $18.25, is now insufficient and subject to the NSF fee of $32 per item.

Sounds a bit unethical, especially since this is nowhere in the fine print at all, or online in the FAQ's section of their website. The branch manager explained that not all banks work this way and that this was the "old-school" way of banking.

You would think that if they can take it instantly, they can put it back instantly.

This isn't going to end here though. I have been in contact with the State Attorney Generals Office. They are looking into the matter as you read. They will determine if it is something the AG will handle or if it needs to go to the state Congress for possible legislation against such practices. I will fill you in as I know more.

Can anyone recommend a good bank? I'm looking.

By the way, between the two mornings of running around to straighten this out, I missed a combined full day of work, and wasted a lot of precious and pricey gas. That's the cost of banking.
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