Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ding - Ding - Ding - Ding

I've never liked Bank of America, although that's where my checking account landed after BoA bought Fleet, which had bought BankBoston, which had bought BayBank. Or whatever. 

I didn't really care, although I should have. For example, I used to get interest on my checking account — a few dollars a month, because I always keep a healthy balance (at least, it used to be healthy before I lost my lovely, steady freelance job last August). But whenever I approached BoA bankers to ask them how to get an interest checking account, I got dazed, incredulous looks and insinuations that I am asking for something bizarre and impossible. 

I could switch banks, but I have trained myself too well on the locations of convenient BoA ATMs all over Boston and Maine. I'd probably keep going to them absent-mindedly if I had a new bank, racking up outrageous surcharges at the one on Salem Street, for example, from my deeply ingrained habits. 

But I loathe those new BoA ATMs. There's that annoyingly loud dinging bell that continues throughout your transaction and serves no purpose I can discern. When a whole row of ATMs is dinging away, I can't think straight. I guess, if I were blind, the dinging might be helpful in some way... but the sound doesn't change to indicate when, say, my cash comes out of the slot. So I'd be standing there, blind, still trying to figure out what was going on. And since blind people's hearing is supposed to be far more acute than that of the rest of us, I'd be even more freaked out by that nasty racket.

Then there's their new envelope-free check deposit. In theory, this is a good idea: most of the time BoA's ATMs are out of deposit envelopes, or they are all crumpled up on the floor underneath a sleeping homeless person as a pillow. But the check reader stinks. Most of the time, I forget to note the amoun — because I'm freaked out by that perpetual dinging — and it goes into its slot, churns around forever, and tells me it can't read the amount. Then I wait for it to spit out the check, note the amount, and start all over again. There's always someone sighing in line behind me as this happens. If you're going to have a high-tech check scanner, get a decent one.

Maybe that loud dinging is supposed to remind me not to leave without taking my card. But I've left my card behind at a dinging ATM's twice. It happens because I loathe the noise so much that I can't get out of their fast enough. I grab my cash and leave the card. 

I had some encounters with BoA customer service a couple of years ago. I wanted to know that maximum amount one could withdraw from an ATM at a time. I was doing legal money-laundering for a friend who was too broke to have a bank account. He was selling his possessions, so buyers (mutual friends) would pay him with checks made out to me. I'd deposit them and give him cash. I hunted everywhere on the BoA site for info about withdrawal limits. It's nowhere. So I e-mailed BoA to find out how much I could withdraw. Their reply was longer and smarmier than this, but here's an excerpt:

> Thank you for your inquiry dated 3/11/07 regarding maximum daily 

> withdrawal.  We will be happy to assist you.

> Because your account security is our highest priority, we are unable to 

> process your request through unsecured e-mail.  We are only able to 

> perform account maintenance or discuss confidential information through 

> a secure method of contact, one that requires you to enter an Online ID 

> and Passcode such as Online Banking.  These methods of contact allow us 

> to verify that a request is from the account holder and not an 

> unauthorized attempt to change your account.

> If you have access to Online Banking, please access your account on 

> Online Banking through our home page at and go to 

> the Customer Service tab to submit your request.

So I did that. It didn't work. So I replied: 

The information I am requesting is not personal, confidential or classified. I am requesting a statement of one your banking policies. Please JUST TELL ME what your rule is regarding maximum withdrawals from checking accounts.  It has nothing to do with my privacy or account information.

This is an excerpt from their reply:

> Thank you for your inquiry dated 03/12/07 regarding your withdrawal 

> limit.  We will be happy to assist you.

> We apologize for any inconvenience this matter may have caused.  As 

> reiterated in our previous communication because your account security 

> is our highest priority, we are unable to process your request through 

> unsecured e-mail.  We are only able to perform account maintenance or 

> discuss confidential information through a secure method of contact, one

> that requires you to enter an Online ID and Passcode such as Online 

> Banking.  These methods of contact allow us to verify that a request is 

> from the account holder and not an unauthorized attempt to change your 

> account.

> If you have access to Online Banking, please access your account on 

> Online Banking through our home page at and go to 

> the Customer Service tab to submit your request.

I was fed up. I knew I could call them, but I would rather have torn my own head off. I surely don't have to tell you what a wretched and futile endeavor THAT is. Life is too precious to waste on hold with BoA's utterly inept customer service crew, who seem to be off in faraway lands (or newly arrived from them) despite working for Bank of America. So I replied:

Hello again,

As I reiterated in simple English in my previous communication, I am not requesting information about account maintenance or anything that is the slightest, teeniest, eensiest bit confidential.  So just answer my question in an e-mail.

I loathe the very idea of getting onto your site and struggling through page after page, trying to find the right place to request this information. Your site is just awful. I've had a long career in e-commerce and Web design, so I know what I am talking about. You people should be ashamed; your site must have been designed by leftovers of the Soviet regime.

So again, for the third time, I MERELY want to know your GENERAL POLICY regarding the maximum amount ANYONE can withdraw from a checking account, IF one wanted to withdraw the maximum from a checking account (and I no longer do; thanks to your extreme lack of helpfulness, I withdrew the money from my Fidelity account instead.)

Just send me a PDF chart or something and I'll figure out what information pertains to me. Just tell me about all of your various account limits in general, okay? Come on, how complicated can this be?  Does it vary that much from person to person, depending on say, their birthday or favorite color?  Or don't you have a rule?  Does your CEO make up the amounts depending on the general corporate mood on a given day?

You could reply to my email and give me this simple, basic information by filling in the blank of the following sentence:

The maximum ATM withdrawal limit for one day from a basic checking or savings account is USD $______.

If you keep this up, I'm going to withdraw all my money and switch to Wainwright.  You aren't planning to acquire them any time soon are you? (or do you need my ACCOUNT NUMBER to answer that question, too.?)

I'm also going to post your response on my consumer blog.  This is getting to be quite entertaining.  Look forward to hearing from you.  


That got me a reply from a human, albeit a banker who can't spell "withdrawal." And an answer, sort of:

Dear L. Thomas,

Thank you for your inquiry dated 3/14/07 regarding withdrawl limits.  We

apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced and we will be 

happy to assist you.

Please be advised, withdrawl limits are based on many things, including 

but not limited to the following:

 - how funds are being withdrawn (transfer via ATM, Banking Center and 

Online Banking)

 - type of account 

Most ATM's allow $300-$700 per day.  Banking Center's generally allow 

withdrawals up to the balance in the account.  Online Banking will allow

you to transfer the entire balance between your own accounts, to others 

there is a limit of $1,000.00 per day and $2,000.00 per seven days.

We value you as a customer and appreciate your business.  If we may be 

of further assistance, please contact us again by e-mail.  Thank you for

choosing Bank of America.


Cari Grey

Bank of America

I had an answer, but it was useless. It seems that the maximum withdrawal amount is based on... who knows? How much cash they can stuff into the ATM? The ATM's location? (Can you withdraw more cash on Beacon Hill than you can in Southie?) Bank manager's whim? Your favorite color? I gave up. Rather than gamble on BoA, I went back to Fidelity, which has an office on Boylston Street. When you're at their ATM, it's comforting to know that there are usually at least two well-informed, well-dressed humans working at the counter 15 feet away from you. And when you ask a question, you get a polite, correct answer. They don't give me opportunities to display my capacity for outrage or sarcasm, and I can't make (empty) threats about my blog (no, I didn't have a blog in 2007; I procrastinate, but I'm finally making good). But I'll take it.

1 comment:

  1. awesome. best thing i have read all day. fuck that bank. i just spent a long time searching for the same info. hahaha


Spam goes right into the trash but I appreciate relevant comments from non-spammers (and I can always tell the difference). I do my best to follow up if you have a question. ALL spam, attempts to market other websites, and anything nasty or unintelligible gets deleted instantly. The cats and I thank you for reading — and please feel free to comment on what you read.