On Friday, July 11, 2008 at approximately 8:50pm CST, I accessed Woodforest Online Banking and saw that I had a positive current/posted balance of a little over $18.00 but due to a pending transaction, I had a negative available balance of 1.38 plus or minus. I live in the Eastern Time Zone so at this point, it was too late to visit my local branch to make a deposit, as the bank closes at 9pm. But, I breathed a sigh of relief. Surely, this pending transaction would not process before the next business day so I could go to the bank and make a deposit to avoid overdraft fees. Some may ask, why not go to the ATM and make a deposit? Well, while Woodforest does offer ATM services for its customers, the only transactions an account holder can make are balance inquiries and withdrawals. For any after hours deposits, one must deposit to a "night drop" box and the next day your deposit would be counted by a real life teller and your account is updated. I understand this business practice. I'm sure the bank has had customers who made a fake deposit by telling the ATM they were depositing an amount to the bank by submitting an empty deposit envelope and then withdrawing from the available balance. I understand an 8pm CST cut off time for deposits in order to protect the interests of the bank itself.
What I do not agree with is the fact that transactions are allowed to clear my account 4 hours after I am no longer allowed to make any changes to my account. Referring to aforementioned threatened overdraft, I went to bed that night with intentions of going to the bank as soon as it opened to make a deposit to cover this shortfall. I assumed that the pending transaction and my deposit would clear on the same day since both would technically clear my account after the 8pm cutoff time.
So imagine my surprise when at 7:30am CST the following Saturday, I checked my account to find that my account had indeed overdrafted overnight. The 'pending' transaction from the previous night after my cut off time was now a transaction showing to have cleared my account on Fri July 11, 2008.
I thought this must be a mistake, so I called customer service through Woodforest's telephone banking. I explained the situation to the representative who told me that had I made a deposit before 8pm on Fri July 11 my account would not have overdrafted. I proceeded to explain that I am not one to ask others to clean up my mistakes--I have over-drafted before but I didn't make another deposit until well after the next business day. This negative balance occurred overnight. I felt I had not been given a chance to mitigate the situation. Icily, and I dare say, condescendingly, the representative told me there was nothing she could do to assist me. I had until 8pm the previous day to correct an error I wasn't aware of until after that time. Also, she added, she is unable to reverse the fees because the 'Customer Care' center is unable to reverse fees that were not a 'bank error.' I thanked her for 'all' her help and hung up, feeling frustrated and hopeless.
Why hopeless? I am with Woodforest because I have no other choice. I will admit that I have had trouble w/other bank accounts in my less responsible days and I had been prepared to wait until 2012 to open another bank account. I discovered Woodforest in Wal Mart and was excited to see a financial institution taking a chance on customers who are shunned by the traditional banking industry. Now I am at the point where I would be willing to not have a bank account. It would be more simple to have a prepaid debit card and use Wal Mart's customer service as my banking desk. I discussed the situation with my mother who mind you has quite a troubled banking history. She is a current customer of Wachovia and she wondered why didn't I just go the ATM. I told her of Woodforest one way ATM machines. She said oh, anytime I make a balance then my available balance is immediately updated--whether that be after business hours or not. My boyfriend, a Bank of America customer, also said the same thing. My mother also mentioned that her bank's more friendly customer service representatives have reversed her fees when she, the customer, was surely in the wrong. Guess some banks care about its customers. Also, Bank of America avoids the deposit envelope scam by upgrading its ATM technologies. Its ATMs can scan cash and checks submitted for deposit in real time.
Armed with this information, I called Woodforest's Telephone banking line again and this time requested a supervisor because the previous representative had already shown me the extent of her customer service skills. Upon sharing my entire story and the new information from my family, the 'Customer Care Supervisor' proceeded to tell me that Woodforest has the latest deposit cut off times in the nation (which is not true--Bank of America also has an 8pm deposit cut off time). Just as the previous representative said, I was to have made a deposit before I was aware of my error. Only then could I be saved from overdrafting. I told her, I understand it is my responsibility to keep track of what goes on in my own bank account and if I overdraft ultimately it is no one's responsibility but my own. I said, we all make mistakes. She told me the dates I pre authorized the transaction (which by this point, I already remembered) and then told me that on the morning of Fri July 11 the merchant finalized my formerly pre-authorized transaction and it would clear my account that Friday. What she couldn't answer sufficiently was why hadn't that shown as a cleared transaction online after the bank's business day was over. She also says she cannot reverse banking fees and advised me to contact my branch manager and in the same icy, condescending tone thanked me for my business and disconnected the call.
Later that day, I spoke with an associate at my local bank who in the same detached, uncaring, icy, condescending tone said the bank processed all transactions for the at midnight (which I thought technically is the next day). She told me she was unable to reverse charges unless they were caused by bank error. No one at the bank has sufficiently explained to me how there are 4 hours of each day where certain transactions will clear my account but cash deposits can not. So in addition to my roughly $8 monthly service fee, the bank has managed to swindle me out of my hard earned money. I guess until 2012 I am stuck.
If there is anyone out there who understands the situation better than I do, please enlighten me. I am not a banker so I don't claim to know all of the rules, but it seems like this is an unfair business practice. I feel the bank is getting away with it because most of its consumer base is just so appreciative to have a 'bank' account with them that they don't want to dispute the charges. Whatever happened to customer service? Whatever happened to assisting your clients manage their finances? As bank serving customers with a troubled credit history, why not seek to educate rather than gouge us for all we've got. So much for 2nd chances. I think I deserve better. I'd rather have no bank at all than a bank that robs me blind.