Although I have been a cheerleader for Bank of America, they finally figured out a way to fuck me. Fuck them.
Traveling is fraught with stress. You are in a foreign country and the money looks funny and everything seems expensive. You worry about your house while you are away and whether the bills are being paid on time or whether you have a summons for jury duty. It can be a pain in the ass.
So, you rely on people like neighbors to watch your house and collect the mail. And you rely on your financial partners to keep track of your money and make sure the bills are paid. It is a matter of trust.
And if your neighbor lets all your houseplants die while you are gone, well, you don't ask that neighbor to watch the house for you again. And if your bank arbitrarily decides to freeze your account and stop paying your bills, for example your health insurance, car payment, property taxes, and whatnot, well, you'd probably change banks, right?
My little nightmare began with an innocuous e-mail from Bank of America:
We’re letting you know that due to changes in the status of your account(s), your Bill Pay service has been inactivated. Any automatic payment plans, electronic bills (e-Bills), and external Pay From accounts that were set up in Bill Pay have been canceled. In addition, if you had any pending payments through Bill Pay, those have also been canceled. Please ensure that alternative arrangements are made for any payments that are canceled.
At first I didn't give this much thought, until I realized that the poor sap I pay to mow my lawn while I am away probably was just issued a bad check, if he got one at all. Then I logged on to BoA and realized that my health insurance premium which was shown as paid is now shown as unpaid. What was going on?
Unfortunately, I was in Canada at the time, and it is hard to dial a 1-800 customer service number (not that it would have done any good, as I later found out) on Rodger's Wireless. Also, since Internet service was spotty, it was hard to get online. When I did, I found out that I could not e-mail BoA or "chat" regarding BillPay issues.
I finally got a hold of customer service a couple of weeks later. They explained that "compliance" had randomly frozen my accounts. This was after 15 minutes on hold. 15 minutes more and I am put in touch with "compliance" who wants to know what country I was citizen of. "US" I reply. "I'm sorry, I can't hear you!" they say. So I chant "USA! USA! USA!" and then shout "AMERICA!" and start singing the national anthem, America the Beautiful and God Bless America until they got the point.
Apparently their computer "randomly" decided to "audit" my account and since my citizenship wasn't on file (although I gave them my passport when I opened the account ten years ago) they sent me a letter which I did not receive of course, because I am on the road. To the minds of the cubicle-dwellers at BoA, no one ever leaves home, but instead waits by the mailbox for a letter from the bank, just in case they decide to randomly cancel your account.
They could have called me, they have three phone numbers on file. They could have e-mailed me asking for the information or even asking me to call. Instead, they just sent a weirdly worded e-mail saying my billpay was cancelled for some unknown reason.
So, my health insurance is now cancelled, as Blue Cross hasn't received their premium. No word on the lawn guy, whether he was charged $20 for presenting a bad check. I am out more than an hour of my time on the phone (at ten cents a minute) to straighten it out.
Bank of America's response is, "Gee, we're really sorry". But that's it. No one is accountable for this fubar, and no one will say, "Gee, maybe this was a really shitty thing to do to one of our better customers!"
I mean, after all, I transferred nearly a quarter-million dollars from one of my Fidelity accounts to Merrill Edge to become a "Platinum Customer" with them. I can only wonder how they treat the bronze customers. Do they just kick them in the teeth or what?
This on top of a whopping $17 ATM fee from Scotia Bank - after being told by BoA toadies that I should use their bank in Canada to withdraw money as there are "no service charges". So much for that.
One thing is clear to me: I can no longer trust Bank of America. I set things up for automatic payment and they totally screwed things up. Anything important, like money, I can no longer trust them to deal with properly or responsibly.
And since no one at Bank of America will own up to being responsible for this or even trying to keep me as a customer, I have no other option but to move on in life. And as a shareholder in the bank, this disappoints me. Because likely I am not the only one to be screwed this way.
It is not like I am some low-life slacker with $17 in his account, bouncing checks right and left. I didn't do anything to trigger this action. Nothing was my fault. But I am expected to follow up with all my bill pay accounts, insure that bills are paid, and apparently now, shop for new health insurance (the Obamacare enrollment window is opening soon, I hope I don't get sick before then).
As a consumer, you have only one choice, and one choice only, and that is to vote with your feet. If you don't like a company, service, or whatever, you can choose not to use them. And that is what I will choose to do.
There are other banks out there (and thank God, I do have an account with a local bank in Georgia already - everyone should have at least two bank accounts, if they want to travel). But I will be looking for a new bank to do business with. One that actually wants my business.
Fuck Bank of America.
UPDATE: Bank of America has unfrozen my account, now that I have told them verbally I am a US Citizen and a Patent Attorney (thank God for this high-tech security!). However, my Bill Pay setup has been erased, which means any future bills set up to use Bill Pay are erases, the Payee names are erased, and the account numbers and addresses are erased. All... Gone.
FORTUNATELY, I tend to use the push-method of billing lately, using the payee's website to draw from my checking account using ACH DEBIT. So most bills are not a problem. Others charge to a credit card.
However, since the account was frozen for a week, any debits or checks were refused, which may result in some BOUNCE FEES, which Bank of America said they would pay, provided I CALL customer service, wait on hold for another hour, explain my life story to Sanjay in Bangalore, and then, hopefully, they will reimburse me.
No word on what happens when my lawn mower guy gets nicked $20 by his bank.
All this, DUE TO THEIR ERROR and now I have to jump through hoops to fix it all.
Part of me wonders whether this is an intentional ploy by Bank of America to get rid of me as a customer. Since I declined their "rewards" credit card, they really have no way of getting their hooks into me. And since they have to comp all their bank fees now that I am a "Platinum" customer, it is costing them money.
Maybe this "mistake" on their part was a way of chasing me away. Perhaps!