Sep 21, 2010

An Overdraught with a fee Chaser? Um, no.

I received a very unsettling email a few days ago. It was an automated alert from Chase Bank (formerly WAMU) saying that my account was $350+ overdrawn. I had to read it twice to believe it. There was, sadly, a time in my life when a phenomenon like being massively overdrawn at the bank was not uncommon. A time when we were living on payday loans (never, EVER do that by the way) and floating the rent check. But that was many years ago and we had not overdrawn our account in a long time; certainly not by this much. So my wife and I started looking into it.

It didn't take long to find the problem. The payment we made online (through the Chase Online Billpay doo-dad) had been posted twice. It happened to be one of our larger bills, so it had a significant impact on our balance; triggering nearly a dozen overdraft charges (at over $30 a pop). At first we thought we had accidentally made the payment twice. But we could find no record of doing so. We also checked the recipient of the payment, T-Mobile, and they had no record of a duplicate payment. I had to get to work, so I left the unenviable task of talking to the bank to my wife.

Shortly after getting to work I received and email from her recounting the harrowing tale of Chase customer service. Or, in this case, lack thereof. She told them the problem and the rep said they had been 'having a problem' involving certain payments being posted twice. But the rep then said that our account didn't 'fit the profile' of that particular problem. They insisted that T-Mobile accepted the payment and refused to do anything. So then my wife called T-Mobile. As usual, their customer service was awesome (say what you will about T-Mobile, but no one can beat their customer service). Just as we had seen on their website, they had no record of a duplicate payment. T-Mobile recommended a conference call to resolve the issue. But by then, my wife also had to get to work herself so it would have to wait until the next day.

Up until this point I was working with the assumption this was just a problem with a few accounts, including ours. But, during my lunch, I did a quick Google search for any issues with Chase online banking. The first listed was this NY Times article. This was a much wider problem that I thought, affecting over 16 million customers. For most it was simply a lack of access to the site. But for some it was payments being double-posted (like ours). In some ways knowing this made us feel better. Now we knew it was not just us and that Chase was taking all blame responsibility. But our account was hundreds of dollars overdrawn and it was all their fault. Regardless of the cause, we wanted our money back and all the overdraft charges reversed. Like right [insert appropriate expletive here] now.

Not so much. After the first day, nothing had changed. My wife was fed up so she physically drove to the local Chase branch. There, a teller told her they were ‘really sorry’ and reversed all the overdraft fees. That was really nice of her, but what about the double payment? When would that be reversed? The teller said it might take a day, but she assured us to would be reversed. We waited two more days and, again, nothing happened.

So she went down to the bank again. This time the Manager himself spoke with my wife. He even called someone at the so-called the 'claims department' and was pretty blunt with them about having the charge refunded ASAP. They said they had thousands of transactions to reverse and would try to get to ours by the next business day. It was a Friday, so that meant another two days (at least) before anything would happen. At this point it struck me that, even though Chase can process and debit likely millions of transactions a day, it was taking them several days to get through a relatively small number of credits...but I digress. After hearing that, just out of curiosity, we took a look at our T-Mobile account again.

Our last payment was over 2000 years ago. What the what!?
We noticed that our account was now showing a credit. Apparently the payment had gone through after all. I figured we were sunk. That once the payment was accepted by the recipient, it was irreversible. But, when we looked closer at the payment details, we found some odd information (pictured) that indicated this payment was indeed a bank glitch. The date-stamp on the payment record was: January 1st, 1 (as in 'year 0001').

We called T-Mobile again and found that they actually have a standing policy to always refund double payments (like a said before, awesome). They said people accidentally pay the same bill twice all the time and were more than happy to refund it; now that there was actually something to refund. I was delighted. Finally, we would get this headache taken care of. But then they saw the odd date and said they could now, regrettably, not do it. Their policy only worked if a person makes their payment(s) from the T-Mobile website directly. We had not done this. We paid via, so there was nothing they could do. Technically, the payment came from Chase and not from us. They could refund the payment to a debit/credit card and not to a financial institution. However, they did tell us what we could do: contact the bank and ask/tell them to do a formal 'refund request'. Then T-Mobile would give us our money back. Well, before we could do that, Chase finally did what they promised to do several days earlier....

On Monday we received a 'secure message' from the Chase Claims Department. The message gave the most sincere apologies Chase could offer manufacture and that the errant payment would be undone immediately. And it was, that very day. Finally!

Now, a day later, I am finding that a few more details are starting to emerge in the news. It seems there was a mysterious '3rd-party vendor' (reportedly Oracle, but no one is confirming that) that came in to fix a database problem. These problems were (again, reportedly) the cause of the initial site outage. But after they were 'fixed', there were lots of problems like ours. I really don't care who is to blame. I am just happy to have my accounts in order again.

The only loose end now is the 'credit' we have at T-Mobile. Currently, it is still there. We are pretty sure that, at some point, Chase will want their money back. But we can't really know when. We are not sure how long we should let the credit stay before we can call it a 'gift' from the bank. Then again, I think they owe us a gift after nearly a week of dealing with their computer glitch.


Jonah said...

This is why Brittany and I switched to BECU. I can't recommend them enough.

We had similar circumstances (though not as extreme as this) happen twice with Bank of America, so we jumped ship.

Brittany said...

My recommendation is to ignore the credit. Chase will take it back eventually. I've heard of other people getting things like that credited to their account and eventually the bank always finds the mistake. In some case the person even got in trouble for using the money even though it was the banks mistake.

Vanessa said...

Go with BECU!!!! This would never happen! And if it did, they would quickly fix. I know that, I used to work there...they are awesome! Give them a try...hope it's all worked out now...

Vanessa said...

One other thing...I used to work for BECU and I think aside from the fact this would never have happened there and if it DID by some chance, it would have been fixed ASAP, but if it would take a long time, they would have offered "Provisional Credit" to you for the amount you were off and then once the problem was fixed they would have taken the $ back out so you were not out that money. Seriously think about switching banks. Chase isn't doing you any favors and this should have never happened...just a suggestion......

Springa said...

Similar issue, a LONG time ago. I did a online payment with Dell - to pay it off. It was about $1000 or so. Somehow it went through twice and wiped me out!!! I freaked out, but BECU was awesome!
They said, since it was not "autorized" i had to file a "unauthorized charge" slip or something. I faxed it to BECU and the debit card side of BECU refunded me the money right away and then went on to fight with Dell.