I caught my bank in a lie… now what?

Michael Lux Blog, Student Loans 3 Comments

This past month I have been investigating an irregularity with my bank and it got me thinking about the issue of trust.  Whether you are investing, banking, or getting student loans, you come into contact with massive companies.  These corporations are obviously in business to make money, but it is probably fair to assume that some have more integrity than others.  So how does one earn your trust?  Is it the company or the people behind it?

My Recent Issue

Last month I deposited a check that was a little out of my normal banking practice.  The teller, who I had never met, told me that because the check was out of my routine, the funds would not be available for several days.  I took her at her word, and said that I was fine with the delay.

What she failed to tell me was that this check had been flagged as potentially fraudulent.  I still haven’t figured out why at this point, but I do realize that banks have to filter out the bad checks so security measures do need to be put into place.  Like I told the teller, I understood if there was a slight delay.

The thing that really bothered me was that they put a hold on my entire account.  Not just the new check, but everything.  Like most people, I pay my utilities, rent, and student loans all through the same account.  I was both outraged and terrified by what was happening.  When I called my local branch to get what I assumed was an error corrected, I was told that the hold was, “for my protection”.

Then I got really angry.  ALL of the funds in my checking account were frozen.  Not just some. For them to suggest that it was for my protection was a flat out lie.  They could justifiably say that a hold on new funds was for my protection, but to suggest that their actions were for my protection made no sense.  They suspected fraud and froze everything to make sure that they didn’t become a victim.

The Investigation

Instead of going back to the same branch, I went to a different one.  I asked to speak with a manager.  I wanted to get to the bottom of this situation.  I explained what happened, what I was told, and what angered me about the situation.  She assured me that she would get to the bottom of it.

To my satisfaction, she actually did.  I learned that because my check was deposited on a Friday, certain regional resources of the bank had already been closed for the weekend.  Because of this, a hold on just the check could not be placed on my account.  The local branch had to either place a hold on my entire account, or none at all.  They chose to freeze the account, and then tell me it was for my protection.  The manager at branch two apologized profusely, was true to her word, and got to the bottom of my issue.  She also assured me that it wouldn’t happen again.

Why Does this Matter?

I’m now left with an interesting problem.  On one hand, this is a bank who lied to me and that clearly doesn’t value my business.  On the other hand, I now have established a contact who I believe I can trust more than someone at a new bank.

In my time interacting with different student loan lenders and banks, I have learned that not all employees are the same.  The people at large faceless financial institutions are there to earn a paycheck and get by, just like the rest of us.  Some care about their work, others don’t.

If there is one lesson to be taken from this experience, it is to find honest people who care about doing their job.  With one of my student loan lenders, I have a direct contact to an employee who I know to be hardworking and knowledgeable.  I make sure all my questions go to her.  With my other lender, employees do not have direct dial numbers, so I’m not able to go this route.  Whenever I have a question or an issue I call and talk to enough different people until I am satisfied.

The Bottom Line

My bank treated me like crap, lied, and tried to tell me it was for my benefit.  Maybe I’m just jaded when it comes to banks and lenders, but I’d expect the same crappy treatment from most of them.  Because, I was able to find someone who was honest about the whole thing and who could assure me that it won’t ever happen again, I think I’ll stick around.