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The thoughts and theories of a guy who basically should have gone to bed hours ago.

I know, I know - what's the point? But look at it this way - I stayed up late writing it, but you're reading it...

Let's call ourselves even & move on, OK?


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Saturday, January 14, 2006

JPMorganChase - Not-So-Free Checking


I've had bank accounts of one kind or another since I'm a kid, and this is the first time I'm genuinely pissed off at my bank. Seriously pissed off. As in "will seriously considering closing my accounts and going elsewhere after 11 years of hassle-free service" pissed off. Here's the scoop:

I have Checking and Savings accounts with JPMorganChase, but I prefer to use Quicken for online banking, rather than their online banking site. In late November, I received an e-mail telling me that they were replacing their online services vendor with an internal Chase system, and I needed to make a few changes within Quicken to accommodate them. The instructions they sent me, while detailed and well-formatted, left out several major steps and left my online banking environment unstable for several days while I dealt with tech support on numerous occasions to get it right.

But that's not why I'm so pissed off.

The only noticeable impact of the change on my end involved the way Quicken processed online checks. Before the change, if I told Quicken to send Mastercard a check for $500 on January 17th, a debit entry appeared in my checkbook register on January 17th, and Quicken would wire the money so that it arrived at Mastercard on (or very near) that date. At that point (on or near January 17th), the money would come out of my checking account and go into some account at Mastercard. Which, of course, is exactly how I expected it to work.

Not anymore. Now, if I tell Quicken to pay $500 on January 17th, the debit entry appears in my checkbook register for January 12th. This reflects the date Chase will send the check/wire-transfer to the vendor (a wire transfer takes 3 business days to process, and there's a three-day weekend in there.). When I saw this, I called tech support back and asked about it. They assured me that Mastercard would still receive my check on the 17th as I instructed. Quicken was just recording a different date in the register. This was mildly annoying, because it meant I couldn't just glance at my account balance and know how much money was in the account. I had to mentally move the checks down to when they'd reach their vendors and recalculate.

This is also not the reason I'm so pissed off.

Here's the reason: I found out today (a date between January 12th and January 17th) that the January 12th date actually is important. When I instruct Quicken to send Mastercard $500 on January 17th, Chase actually TAKES THE MONEY OUT OF MY ACCOUNT ON JANUARY 12TH!!! EVEN THOUGH MASTERCARD DOESN'T RECEIVE THE MONEY UNTIL JANUARY 17TH!!! They're basically holding the money for 5 days (and, no doubt, earning interest on it at the same time).

Meanwhile, the reason I dated the check January 17th was that my direct deposit paycheck arrives on January 13th. So because of this new policy, I came very, very close to bouncing a check (another vendor didn't cash a large check they received last week, so I got lucky).

But wait - it gets worse! The due date on the Mastercard bill is January 18th. So even if I were willing to play math games in my head, and figure out that I need to date the check January 20th in order for the debit to occur after my paycheck hits, I'm still screwed, because in that scenario, Mastercard gets its check late and hits me with a late fee and a finance charge.

This is no longer a checking account. It's a debit account. The checks I write online are being treated like cash that I stuff in an envelope and mail to people (as soon as I mail it, I no longer have the cash). The whole point of checking accounts is to allow you to hold on to your money until the other person gets it. In other words, had I written a good old fashioned paper check, dated it January 17th, and sent it to Mastercard, Chase would have left the money in my account, right where it should be, until Mastercard cashed the check - on or after January 17th. That's how checks have worked for decades. It's how online checks worked until a month ago.

It's also how online checks work at other banks.

JPMC seems to have forgotten just how unimportant the actual bank is to the process of banking these days. I never walk into the bank anymore - I do all my banking through Quicken and ATMs. One visit to a different bank and a few clicks of a mouse are all I need to do to make the change. Apparently, the right relationship isn't quite everything (as they claim in their ads).

But wait! What would a story like this be without an ironic epilogue: When I called them today, the customer service rep had absolutely no idea why it worked this way, and transferred me to technical support. The technical support person told me they changed the policy because too many people were post-dating checks and not managing their money properly, causing them to bounce checks. So this policy is to prevent check bouncing. Using as much self-control as I could muster, I pointed out to her that this "anti-bouncing" policy just came within inches of causing me to bounce my first check in eleven years. She agreed to log my complaint in the customer service database. Thank God for small favors...

posted by Brian at 12:46 AM


1 Comments:

  • The tech support story is hogwash, of course. This is all about making millions of dollars on float, and quite likely making a million or two more on $30 NSF fees. You've got the kind of relationship with both your computer and your bank that you can call and bitch, but some non-negligible percentage of their customers won't.

    That being said, if I remember correctly, the legislation that allowed banks and credit card companies was passed by a Republican majority over Democratic objections last June. Perhaps you didn't notice because it was part of a bankruptcy bill and you're not planning on filing for bankruptcy. So if you're pissed at how Republican policies are making your life more difficult -- and you should expect to see this at other banks shortly, Chase is probably just the ones with the fastest programmers -- then you know what to do.

    By Anonymous jeff Porten, at 7:02 PM, January 25, 2006  


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