My Fifth Third Nightmare

Today I am seething over the recent treatment by Fifth Third. In two days, this crack bank charged my account $700.00 in overdraft fees. While my account was overdrawn (due to a single Quicken mistake at home) and certainly entitled to be charged a penalty, I ask you: does $700.00 seem reasonable for a two-day period?

I was charged $700.00 because Fifth Third uses predatory practices:

1. Rather than deny my debit card purchase at the store (because I was overdrawn), the bank approved it as a “courtesy” and then charged a $33.00 fee. This means the $1.00 bottle of water I bought for my daughter’s basketball game cost me $34.00. This happened seven times on the first day, costing me $264 in fees, before I was even aware my account was overdrawn.

2. Once I did realize my account was overdrawn (the next day), I could not determine how much I needed to deposit to cover things because none of my overdraft fees were visible online. I was able to view my pending purchases, but not the fees. When I went into the bank to determine exactly what was going on, I got two separate answers.

3. After I deposited what I could to cover the pending charges from the second day (until a money market transfer could go through), the bank processed their own (undisclosed) fees first, causing all subsequent purchases to require “courtesy” overdraft protection. This cost me another $330.00 in fees. In other words, charging my account fees to cover its fees allowed the bank the “opportunity” to charge more fees.

All told, these fees along with the daily overdraft fees – this all happened over a weekend — totalled $687.00. Also worth knowing: I have been a customer for ten years and have excellent credit.

Okay, so what next? Aside from yelling at the manager’s supervisor until I was shaking, inducing eczema to burn my face in two places, I am not ready to give in quietly. I’ve done research and found out that Fifth Third is being sued in a class action suit for their overdraft practices. I’ve also learned that bills have been proposed in both the Senate and House that would force banks to reform these predatory practices.

I guess I’ll start with a letter to the local paper. I will tell everyone I know: DO NOT BANK WITH FIFTH THIRD. I will rant on Facebook. I don’t know, what else? Suggestions are welcome.

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35 thoughts on “My Fifth Third Nightmare

  1. If you knew how to balance your checkbook, or at least know that you don’t have $ in your account, this wouldn’t happen. You are the same type of person who would have complained about the “inconvenience” of having your debit card declined for a $1 charge. You can’t have things both ways. Learn to do basic math or keep your money under your mattress. Banking is a privilege, not a right. They are holding YOUR money for you and are not lending you money on your account. People like you are the reason overdraft fees are so large.

    I’m not sure why I’m even posting it as this comment will not likely make your page.

    1. How about “ABLE TO DO MATH”.. Once upon a time you would get declined which would save consumers from the headache of overdrafts. It’s not always just a math problem a huge majority live check to check. Mean while banks can reverse the order (especially 5th Third) in which things get processed to charge you more $$.. Is that ethically?? NO it’s robbery.

  2. Dude – I’m posting your comment because you are sooooo out of line. I know how to do basic math…and I have basic reasoning skills. Further, I know how to research an issue before I post a rambling rant, unlike people like you.

    For the record, I don’t care if my card is declined because I don’t have any money in it. As I said (since you seem to lack basic reading skills), I do feel it’s fair to incur some penalty for overdrafting my account, but $700 does not pass the test of reason, nor does it reflect the bank’s cost of doing business. Paleeze.

    People like me are not the reason overdraft fees are high. Overdraft fees are high because it the latest way for banks to increase revenue (overdraft fees accounted for $38.5 billion in revenue in 2009, up from $36.7 billion in 2008). It costs a bank around $1.00 to process an overdraft. That means the bank made a profit of 350% on my mistake. Overdraft fees now account for 1/3 of a bank’s revenue. It is the fastest growing source of revenue for a bank.

    Additionally, many banks pay employees bonuses based on branch revenues thereby inciting employees to not help customers. If you did a little research before commenting on blogs written by people like me, you might sound more intelligent.

  3. One more thing: banking is not a privilege, it’s a business arrangement. And since we live in a free market economy whereby I can choose my own bank, I’d say the privilege to do business was actually theirs, particularly since they made quite a bit of money off me –though that privilege has ended.

  4. Way to go!

    I’m so glad you posted the comment and response. That people actually think this way and are willing to spout those close-minded opinions off is an uncomfortable feeling. There are just too many of them out there…but that’s a different conversation.

    $700 in overdraft charges is insane.

    Credit card companies have been sending me letters regarding changes to their policies due to legislation. I admit I haven’t done my research so I have no idea if 1. the legislation has taken effect and 2. this includes predatory banks as well as credit card companies. Probably not if this scam is going on…

    I’m appreciative that you are following up on this and not willing to just feel victimized. You put this thing in great perspective. I’m impressed. Completely.

  5. Oh, and hit up the local online communities. Do you have YELP in your area? Or something like it? I know that I pay attention to online reviews…

    My oldest is in total activist mode and is canceling her account with Bank of America due to their part in the recession. But your bank is somewhat local, correct?

    …getting ready to hide my money under the mattress…

    1. Yelp – I’m all over it. Oh, and I thought my bank was local, but turns out it’s not even close. It’s one of the largest and not even HQ’ed anywhere around me.

      I did read that BOA is changing their overdraft policies, so they got that going for them, which is nice.

  6. I agree with you 100% (like I’d do anything else after you put “able to do math” in their place!)
    I would try to let everyone in town know what happened. There must be another bank in town, or the next town over. Change banks. This happened to me once and my bank charged me one $25 “bouncing” fee – even though there were many bounces. My town is smaller, times smaller too.

    1. Oh, your times are just right, Goldilocks.

      And yes, I am NOT DONE talking about this. “Able” can go tell every one at his obvious workplace – that this customer is CRAZY mad.

      I believe this is one great upside to small-town life. So far, I’ve convinced about four people to do business elsewhere, one of whom is a prominent business person in town. I’m bringing the bank down, one preppy person at a time.

  7. STST- Clearly the bank’s practices are out of line, and I’m with you. A responsible bank should simply *decline overdrafting debit charges*. Their version of “courtesy” appears to be to line you up in front of a firing squad. I hope that you complain to whatever branch of government in your state is regulating banking practices and the State Attorney General. Have you thought of signing up for twitter and starting to tweet about your horrible experience with Fifth Third? I’m sure you’ll get some people retweeting and spreading the word.

    And to the charming “Able to Do Math But Afraid to Use My Name”: As a PhD physical chemist who just loves her differential equations, I can tell you that *anyone* can have a bad day and make a simple error in calculations. I can think of bad days in which a simple math mistake wrecked some of my experiments. (Gee, could it be because I was tired or distracted?) Bad math can clearly happen even in situations where the consequences are dire. Like medication calculations by physicians or pharmacists that result in overdose or how about the people at Perkin Elmer who made the original mirrors on the Hubble Telescope, or the charming people at NASA who fried the Mars Orbiter? Consider those little conversion errors the equivalent to making a mistake with those pesky little bank fees, etc. Except STST and her significant other probably don’t have a team of engineers or medical personnel checking and rechecking their calculations in their check register. They’re just… people like me and even like you. Though possibly slightly less self-righteous.

    1. Thank you, Marzie. I will look into the state agency and AG. Now I’m feeling very Erin Brockovich-ish, minus the suggestive clothing and heavy make-up.

  8. You definitely have every reason to be outraged; $700 in two days is OBSCENE! Since you’re in excellent standing at your bank–and they know full well you’re not exactly in the habit of kiting–you must be feeling pretty insulted. (You know, in addition to the flabbergasted.)

    It’s very interesting that your bank has has in place the “courtesy” overdraft fee policy–in which they’re more than happy to charge you for each successive OD–and yet they do NOT have the *common courtesy* to give you a friendly phone call, text, email, or issue a “Call Center” message on the CC terminals in store–no warning alerts, whatsoever. Not only does this practice seem negligent, on their part, but worse, it’s clearly nothing more than a money-making scam–with you, their loyal customer, as the patsy. Some reward, huh? 😛

    I don’t know how many other banking choices (if any) you have in your “smalltown”, but you might want to give some serious thought to online banking (such as ING) if better local options don’t exist. The bottom line: Fifth/Third *clearly* does not deserve your business.

    (“Able”, on the other hand, might be completely happy with them…)

    1. In the interests of full disclosure, I did get a “courtesy” call after the first several hundred dollars in fees had accrued. Conveniently, it after business hours over the weekend. I could make an ATM deposit over the weekend but funds would not be available to cover anything. Meanwhile, I still got charged a fee for Sunday even though business doesn’t happen on a Sunday.

      When I went to the bank on Monday, I could not get a consistent story on where my account stood. In fact, one teller told me I only had one $33.00 fee. And none of the fees were visible online.

      While I scraped together enough to cover my pending charges until a money transfer could go through the next morning, because the bank charged me their (undisclosed) fees first – all of the pending charges bounced – including a $33.00 fee on a $1.00 fee for using a non 5/3rd ATM.

      P.S. Even though I’ve been a customer for 10 years, the manager would not meet with me to see if there was anything we could do. He was busy, drinking his coffee and chatting with colleagues.

      It just ain’t right.

  9. As a former customer service rep for a large bank, I can tell you that being able to do math will not help you. It is in the bank’s best interest to make sure you overdraft as often as possible, and they do everything short of outright stealing from you to make it happen.

    Banks don’t allow you to make purchases from an empty account for “convenience”, it’s to make sure you overdraft. Pure and simple.

    Banks will overdraft you on their fees, charge you an overdraft fee, then charge you an overdraft fee on every purchase they allow to go through until you notice it on your own.

    Suppose you write out 5 checks, one large, four very small. You have enough money to cover the four small checks, but not the one large check. The bank will, quite deliberately, process the large check first, purely to ensure that they get 5 overdraft fees instead of just one.

    Also, banks have a ranking system for their customers, the bank I worked for ranked from A, most desireable, to D, least desireable. A person who never overdrafted was a C, because the bank didn’t make as much money off of them. Occasional overdrafters were the As.

  10. It’s stories like your that make me *just not get it* when I hear my fiscally Republican in-laws go on and on about why the bill to prohibit predatory lending practices is, like, the worst thing EVAR!!1!!one!!! Well, it’s second in evil only to the idea of universal healthcare. Yes, really. I married into this family.

    “Able,” I wish you many free hours in which to research actual facts before you tersely excoriate another blogger and assume things about her for which you have no basis. If you’re going to be rude, honestly, at least base it on facts.

    1. Hear that, Able? While you’re sitting their in your 5/3rd cubicle, take a little more time to understand your business instead of cruising blogs.

  11. I, too, join you in the loathing. My husband and I have had nothing but trouble with 5/3. He went so far as to *close our account*, which they did not accurately do, so we *continued to get fees!! He ranted at them like he was auditioning for Jerry Springer, and while they did refund part of our fees, the issue was never completely resolved. Now, THREE MONTHS AFTER CLOSING OUR ACCOUNT, we get a letter in the mail saying “your account is being closed *due to inactivity*.” I’m sorry, WHAT? It’s inactive BECAUSE WE CLOSED IT! They’re morons. Period.

    1. Oh no. This is very depressing and enlightening. I will demand specificity in any potential fees when I CLOSE MY ACCOUNT.

  12. Everyone else has already said it better than I could, but I’ll throw another word out there. Horrifying. This whole thing is just horrifying. And disgusting. And I’m so sorry it happened. I hope you write/blog/twitter/etc the hell out of this experience and I hope you, somehow, get your money back.

    1. I can’t tell you how many things I could do with $700.00 — like, saving it. It’s sickening and keeps me up at night. Maybe chocolate would help.

  13. I can’t even touch this. Between my righteous anger over their practices to my even more righteous anger over Able’s silly comment (Oh! Math! I never thought of that! Math is Hard!), I’m just… I’m just…. Yeah.

    Stewing.

  14. Wow, that is really terrible. Aside from their predatory policies, just their complete lack of transparency with the fees, Sunday fees, and the manager blowing you off – I can see why you are more than a little annoyed (also WTF with first poster). Are you joining the GA class action? I wonder if there are other class actions out there. It is good that you can get word out not to bank at Fifth Third! At the least, the branch manager can go down for his flippant attitude and hopefully others can avoid getting hosed. This post has made me paranoid and I’m going to go check all of my bank accounts now! keep us posted.

  15. Oh, my God. This has happened to us more times than I can count. I hate 5/3 bank with a passion. The worst offense ever was when I deposited money FIRST, then submitted a loan payment to them. They posted the loan payment to the account FIRST, throwing it into overdrawn status, and then after dancing a jig and whistling Dixie for a few hours, deposited the check. I had to walk into the branch and have a sit down with the manager before she’d reverse all the charges. I mean, come on! There was no logic whatsoever in how they processed those transactions.
    FWIW, I read this earlier today, before I saw your blog post:

    http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/03/the-least-trusted-banks-in-america/

    I’m seriously going to move my money elsewhere.

    1. Thank you for the link. I posted it on Facebook. You were lucky your branch manager would sit down with you. Mine totally blew me off. What’s up with that?

  16. Sorry to hear about your bank woes.

    I hate banks. Went cash only for a while and loved it. It forced me to be mroe responsible and use my calculator more. It also meant spending time at Customer Service Departments at my nearby grovery store buying money orders…and there were fees for that, but nothing…NOTHING compared to the anmount I spent in ATM fees, add on fees, FDIC tax what not and Misc fees for checking accounts and I’m sure to pay for the chains used to keep the pens in place in bank lobbies.

    It was ridiculous.

  17. Well, I just screwed up with Fifth Third. I am about to be overdrawn (my fault) so decided to do the right thing and make a cash deposit at a nearby ATM.

    Soooooo….

    I get all the way through the transaction and the machine says, “Deposit transactions not allowed for this account”. And, because their customer service line closes at 8:00…..

    WTF? Anyway, I suppose now I will have to PAY overdraft fees tomorrow.

    *sigh*

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