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2016 was the year of banking complaints. Were you one of those impacted by the more than 2 million phony accounts at Wells Fargo?
Often, it seems inordinately difficult to resolve what should be a simple problem with your bank.
The process can be emotionally draining as well as time consuming. Next time you are stuck arguing with your banker just know that you are not alone. One study found that one bank customer in three has complained about a problem without reaching a complete resolution, and that 72 percent of customers required at least two interactions with the bank to fix a problem. And last month, a bank complaint study analyzed more than 175,000 complaints made against the largest financial institutions.
Clearly, banks are far from perfect when it comes to resolving complaints. Here are four tips that can help you get the satisfaction you deserve:
1. Come Prepared
Two types of preparation are necessary.
The first is emotional – it’s a bad idea for everyone concerned for you to go seeking justice from a bank when you’re in a rage. As righteous as your cause may be, a calm attitude will get you a lot further than will a hostile demeanor.
The second form of preparation is to research your problem to the extent you can before calling or visiting the bank. Gather documents and know your facts (including dates). If you have what seems to be a common problem, you can do a little Internet research to see how others have resolved it. Know your rights when you deal with the bank, but also understand which problems are out of its hands.
For example, regulations may require a bank to take some action or charge some fee, even if it doesn’t want to.
2. Reap What Ye Sow
A “good” customer, that is, one with few if any bounced checks or other types of problems, is more likely to get a sympathetic ear.
This means you should always try to keep your banking straight, just in case you do have to make a complaint later.
If you do have a clean history with the bank, don’t be shy about pointing that out and using it to your advantage – you’re not the kind of person who flies off the handle, complaining all the time about petty things.
3. Be Persistent
Not all customer representatives are equally effective.
Sometimes you get a lemon. You may not be able to turn the situation into lemonade, but you can be persistent when necessary. Rather than get into a death match with the customer rep when the situation turns dicey, step away and escalate.
Speak to a more senior representative, or perhaps a supervisor. You may have to re-explain your entire saga, but it’s worth the extra effort if the new representative is more receptive to your complaint. If you’re dealing with a call center and things are just not clicking, file what’s called an “executive complaint,” directed to a part of the bank that handles complaints made to the top officers.
4. Go Outside
No, we aren’t suggesting that you stand outside the bank branch gesturing angrily at the tellers.
We mean that you should go to an outside agency for help in resolving the complaint. Your first and best choice is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has handled over a million complaints from consumers. Normally, the CFPB will forward your complaint to the bank, and 97 percent of consumers get timely replies when CFPB complaints are forwarded. The Bureau must be doing something right, since more than 27 million consumers have received close to $12 billion in relief.
The CFPB website has a page specifically dedicated to complaints about bank products or services. The complaint form helpfully provides you with different categories of complaints, including account management, deposits and withdrawals, and problems related to late fees, overdraft fees and bounced checks. You can enter a complaint and attach electronic copies of your documents, including contracts, statements, letters and receipts that will help the Bureau understand the problem. The complaint should include:
- A narrative of what happened
- A description of the resolution you desire
- Information about yourself
- Information about the bank product or service
After you file the complaint with the CFPB, the Bureau will forward the information to the bank, which has 15 days to respond to both you and the CFPB. Only the most complicated complaints should take more than 15 days to resolve. After reviewing the bank’s response, you have 60 days to provide the CFPB with your feedback. If the CFPB feels another government agency would be in a better position to tackle the problem, it will forward the complaint. All the complaint-related information is kept in the CFPB Complaint Database (with some personal information redacted) so that the Bureau can share the data with other regulators, both federal and state, who oversee financial services and products. The database is also available to reporters and researchers.
About the Author:
Nate Matherson is the Founder of LendEDU. He enjoys helping Millennials efficiently manage their finances. Nate has a dream that one day every State will require personal finance education at the high school level.