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Watch Your Back: Banks/Credit Card Companies Have Found Yet Another Way

As one door is closed to them, unethical banks will surely find another.
04/25/2009 11:32am ET | Updated November 17, 2011
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As one door is closed to them, unethical banks will surely find another. That's what I shared with my senators and representatives when writing to them today. I've been using banking cards for a very long time. And never has a bankcard allowed me to get money I did not have.

Well, those days are apparently over. My teen-aged son used his new card from his new bank account to withdraw money. When he accidentally attempted to withdraw more money than was in his checking account (but rather in his savings), the machine gave him money - and not just once.

The bank then charged him over and over before letting him know that he was overdrawn.
My son and I visited the bank. Do you think they were willing to give him his money back or do a simple transfer of funds to rectify the situation? They told us it would nearly take "an act of God" to help us out because they have their rules and processes and customers need to keep up with the changes, including the role credit card companies now play at bank machines that are out of bank control. I asked her who received the penalty money. "We did," she said. "Then you're in the loop" I replied. "And you're responsible." I then explained that my family has rules and processes too that include a bank operating with integrity if they are going to retain our business.

My son was given half of his money back, but they are insisting upon keeping the rest. We'll see.

If I were you I'd watch my back. They're obviously now trying to get the money from the little guys in new ways - even teenagers -- money their fat cats absconded with both before and after the bailouts. My bet is that banks like this are hoping that a lot of people low on their luck will be overdrawing and that by letting them do so, they'll be able to put these people further into debt with penalties. Then there are elderly or infirm people who may not keep their own records and don't know which account has money.

It's a slick and sick move. People assume they won't be allowed to overdraw - that the machine will refuse to comply. And it's that assumption, common and reasonable, that allow some banks and credit card companies to quietly steal from their customers.

So when your son or daughter opens a bank account and they happily give him or her a card, be wary. And if you assume that your bank is going to stop you from accidentally overdrawing from the wrong account or one without the amount of money requested, think again. Your bank might be counting on that assumption. If so, they don't care if you're a kid, if you had money to cover it in their bank or that you've been a great customer. You lose. They win. So watch your back.

Dr. Reardon also blogs at bardscove.