Here’s how I negotiated out of a $20 overdraft fee and a $27.10 finance charge from Wells Fargo.
I accidentally overdrafted a couple weeks ago (overdrafting is when you don’t have enough money in your checking account to pay off your bills, so your bank helpfully transfers money from your savings or credit-card account. They also helpfully charge you $15-$30 for the service, wiping out all your interest for the year).
I had transferred money from my savings account to checking account to cover a temporary shortage, and the transfer arrived one day late. I saw the overdraft fee, sighed, and called the bank up to get it waived.
This time, I had a feeling they would be less than happy to waive my fees, but with a little coaxing…
Ramit: “Hi, I just saw this bank charge for overdrafting and I’d like to have it waived.”
Bank rep: “I see that fee…hmm…let me just see here. Unfortunately, sir, we’re not able to waive that fee. It was [some excuse about how it's not waiveable].
Bad things to say here:
- “Are you sure?” Don’t make it easy for the rep to say no.
- “Is there anything else I can do?” Again, imagine if you were a customer service rep and someone said this. It would make your life easier to just say “no.” As a customer, don’t make it easy for companies to say no.
- “Well, this Indian blogger dude told me I could.” Nobody cares…but it would be cool if 1,000 customers called their banks and said this.
- “Okay.” Don’t give up here. Despite what you learned in sex ed, “No” does not mean “No” when it comes from a bank.
Ramit: “Well, I see the fee here and I’d really like to get it waived. What else can you do to help me?” (Repeat your complaint and ask them how to constructively fix it.)
Bank rep: “Hmm, one second, sir. I see that you’re a really good customer…I’m going to check with my supervisor. Can you hold for a second?”
(I’ve been with the bank for many years, which you should always use to your advantage when calling to complain. Banks pay hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars in customer-acquisition costs and don’t want to lose you.)
Bank rep: “Sir, I was able to check with my supervisor and waive the fee. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
- Mistakes happen, but don’t be dumb and overdraft like me
- When complaining, have a clear goal and don’t make it easy for companies to say ‘no’ to your complaint
- “No” is the beginning of the conversation
[Update]: Always, always track your customer service calls (you can use this free spreadsheet). When I logged in this morning, I saw that the bank had categorized the overdraft as a cash advance from my credit card and and charged me a $27.10 finance charge. I got that waived (with a fight), but imagine if you’re earning $400/week. Those ridiculous fees just took 10% of your income away, underlining this recent Washington Post article about Americans’ dissatisfaction with credit card fees. If you’re going to say, “But consumers should just read the documentation,” it’s just not that simple.
[Update 2]: To open a high-interest ING savings account (I use one), click here.