For those who aren’t familiar with my recent financial saga, I’ll give a quick recap. For the full story, click on the links below.

August 27 – I deposit an escrow refund check from Taylor, Bean, & Whitaker into my Chase checking account.

August 29 – The funds show as available, so I transfer the money to my ING Direct savings account.

September 3 – The check from Taylor, Bean, & Whitaker bounced. Upon further investigation, Taylor, Bean, & Whitaker is in trouble and the bank that drafted my check has been told to cease & desist operations. 8 transactions come through my Chase checking account with insufficient funds. I talk to two different representatives from Chase, each telling me a different amount that my account will be charged in fees. The supervisor tells me I’ll be charged for 6 transactions at $25 each, and she’ll credit back $70. That’s what I plan on. I also contact TBW, who say a new check should be in the mail soon.

September 4 – Chase charges me a total of $204 and credits back $70. One more transaction goes through with insufficient funds, because I’m charged more than I was told I’d be charged. I talk to a 3rd representative from Chase, who tells me that I’m being charged $34 for the first 6 transactions, because I’ve had insufficient funds in the past (which is categorically untrue). I also fire off (nice) emails to three Chase executive officers. As of yet, I have not heard back from them. I call the FDIC, who seem to have no idea what is going on with TBW and the escrow accounts. They take my info and say they’ll get back to me.

Talking to Chase Bank Personnel in Person

Yesterday, September 7, I took my kids into our local Chase branch to see if they could do something for me. After giving a brief explanation to the teller, as well as a copy of a newspaper article explaining what happened to TBW and the bank that issued my check, I was nicely told to have a seat and wait for help.

After a few minutes, I talked to a Personal Finance Rep about my issue. She was very kind and sympathetic, but said I would have to talk to the people at the actual branch that my account resides. She gave me a couple of names and phone numbers for the Roseburg, OR branch and sent them an email to ask them if there was anything that could be done for me. She told me that it’s up to the individual branch as to how many charges they can reverse, because it’s the individual branch that takes a loss when reversing charges.

When I got home, I called the Roseburg branch. I was told by the assistant manager that there was nothing that could be done. I asked to talk to the manager. The manager called me back and said that she couldn’t do anything, but she would forward my information on to the district manager. Finally at 3:30 yesterday afternoon, the Roseburg manager called me back and told me that they’d credit back another $70 for a total of $140, and that’s the best they could do. I thanked her, checked my account, and the money was there.

The Bottom Line on the TBW/Chase Fiasco

  • I was charged $238 in insufficient funds fees for 9 transactions.
  • I was charged at $10 NSF fee for the escrow check that didn’t clear.
  • I was finally told that in Oregon, the fees are $34, not $25.
  • Chase credited me back a total of $140
  • My total loss out of pocket is $108.

My Final Thoughts on This Experience

I’ll save an in-depth analysis for next week, when I put together a series about finding a good bank and watching out for bank fees. However, I do have a couple of thoughts.

First, I’m grateful that I’m only out $108. I don’t like it. I don’t like that I was initially told that I’d only be out $80, and Chase didn’t follow through on what I was told. But they didn’t have to cover any of this, so I realize I’m fortunate.

I’m not grateful enough to remain with Chase for my banking. After experiencing these awful fees and Chase’s inflexibility first hand, my heart goes out to people who have to deal with this and don’t have any type of cushion. In my opinion, their fee structure is very predatory. I can easily see how someone with no emergency fund could have their life completely messed up if this happened to them. I’m not talking about someone who recklessly bounces checks. But someone like me who incurs these fees through no fault of their own. It’s inexcusable, again, in my opinion.

The newspaper article I found said that Platinum Community Bank was finally seized by the FDIC and replacement checks should be going out soon. Hopefully I’ll have my $1200 in escrow funds in a week or two, and I can go about the business of moving my checking account.

Lest you think that all banks are as inflexible as Chase, tomorrow I’ll be posting a story similar to mine that took place at a different bank…with much different results.

So what do you think? Am I doing the right thing in changing banks? Should I have kept fighting for that last $108?