Here’s how I negotiated out of bank fees
May 18th, 2005 - 33 Comments
Have you ever had a teacher or adult who is supposed to be really good at something, but they haven’t actually done it in so long that you wonder whether they even remember how to do it? I had a CS professor at Stanford who is supposedly one of the best hackers of all time, but when I was stuck on some assignment, his advice was “Just look at it–harness the power of C.”
HEY THANKS FOR NOTHING, JACKASS. GOD YOU ARE SO USELESS!!! I’m not convinced that this renowned CS professor actually remembered how to program anymore.
Anyway, I give a lot of advice but sometimes it’s nice to actually get out there and do it. And just this week, I got the chance.
I previously wrote about how to get your banks to waive certain fees, like overdrafts and stop payments (original article: Step #2 To Getting Rich: Banking)
This week, I deposited 2 separate checks. Unfortunately, the companies had put stop payments on them. (If you write someone a check, then realize it was a mistake or you don’t want to pay them, you can issue a stop payment and the check won’t clear in their account; in other words, they won’t get the money.) Why did the companies put stop payments on my checks? The reasons are complicated, but suffice it to say that I knew the checks wouldn’t clear only after I deposited them.
Not surprisingly, a couple of days later, I got a notice from my bank indicating that they were going to charge me $7.00 for each check for “processing fees.” What this actually means is that they rubber-stamp each check and mail them back to you. Why they think I care about getting a returned check in the mail, I don’t know. And hopefully you also find it absurd to pay for someone else stopping a check (it’s not my mistake). So a couple days later, this is what I received in the mail: one of the canceled checks that they wanted me to pay $7.00 each for (click to enlarge):
$14.00 in fees for some returned checks? Yeah, right.
Remember that $14.00 would basically wipe out my interest for the year. So I called Wells Fargo up and had a nice little chat with them. They’re actually very friendly on the phone. I pointed out that they had charged me a processing fee for a returned check and said, “I’d like to have that removed.”
She said, “Of course. Let me just make a note in your file.” And she removed the first one just like that.
The second one was a little trickier. After removing the first one, she said, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” And I pointed out the second charge and asked to have it removed. At this point, she was very hesitant to remove it. She said “We ordinarily don’t remove more than 1 processing fee per 3 months,” which is why you see I wrote down “3 months” on my statement.
But I pointed out that they had removed a $20.00 overdraft fee a while ago, and this would only be $14.00–the only difference was that this would be 2 charges as opposed to 1 larger one. She asked if she could put me on hold and check with her supervisor, which she did and then came back. “Ok, we can do that for you. Here you go!”
And my charges were refunded. I was polite and friendly on the phone, but also direct. Remember, with a customer-acquisition cost of over $350, banks want to keep you as their customer.
Next time you see any fees levied on your account, make the call.
[Update: See part 2 of negotiating out of bank fees]
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