Monday, November 30, 2009

Chase bank is ripping off unemployed people in Texas

Brenda Bell of the Austin American Statesman wrote a nice article entitled "Texas slow to offer unemployment recipients a free alternative to debit cards"

One of the things that Brenda noted in her article is that there is no transparency where Chase discloses how much money they are making from fees on these accounts.  She clearly worries that Chase is nickel-and-diming benefits recipients.  She rakes the State people over the coals for not getting that transparency written into the contract.

I'm receiving unemployment benefits through one of these Chase debit cards.  Chase is making up fees and nickel-and-diming me, and making exceptional effort to not give me my money.

Christy does all of the shopping, and my name is on the benefits debit card.  And I didn't want to have to take out hundreds of dollars in twenties at the ATM, only to immediately deposit them back into the same ATM in our normal checking account.  There were no fees listed for the on-line bill-pay.  So I set Christy up as a vendor and set up an on-line bill pay to pay her.  I gave Chase enough information to figure out that Christy's account is at Chase, so they could just transfer the funds into her account.  That is what they do with on-line bill pay through our normal Chase checking account.

The bill-pay transaction I set up was for the entire amount in my benefits account.  When the day came they denied the transaction for insufficient funds, even though the amounts were exactly the same.  Then on the next day they billed me a $1 fee.

I contacted them through their on-line support system--the only way to talk to them without paying $5.  I asked why the transaction was denied and why I was charged $1.  They replied that the "merchant who processes transactions often holds more than the exact value of the transaction in case there is a tip or similar increase in the final amount of the transaction", and it was that additional hold that exceeded my balance and triggered the denial.  And then the $1 was the standard denied transaction fee.

I replied and reminded them that they are the merchant in this place and that there was no reason why they should hold more than the value of the transaction, except to give them an excuse to deny my transaction and charge me a dollar.  And I still didn't have my money.

They replied and completely changed their story.  This time they said that there is a $0.50 transaction fee for using a non-Chase bank to complete a transaction, and it was this $0.50 fee that caused my transaction to exceed my available funds.

I replied and reminded them the transaction was entered in their website.  I asked them if they really wanted to go on record claiming that they did not own and operate their website.  I reminded them that there are no transaction fees listed in their contract or on the site.  I also pointed out that there are no $0.50 transaction fees accompanying the transaction.  The denied transaction still just shows the exact amount I had entered, which was the exact amount in my account.

I'm waiting to hear back from them now.  This is what I told them I wanted:
  • I want my dollar back.
  • I want you to fix your system to not charge $0.50 for on-line bill pay through YOUR WEBSITE.
  • I want you to refund everyone you have charged this bogus $0.50 fee.
  • I want my check for the whole amount.
In the meantime I have started making frequent trips to the ATM to take out as much cash as they will let me. I am very frustrated with Chase, and will be moving my account when I get some steady income again.

I wrote Brenda today and told her my story.  Hopefully she will dig into this further and get this fixed.

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