Merry Christmas: Bank of America charges overdraft fees on pending charges

I've been a longtime Bank of America customer, ever since I left my job at crosstown rival First Union (now Wachovia Bank) and moved to a city without a branch. Now both my husband and I have accounts, and we often transfer funds between them because we're not yet masters of total financial communication. I have a love/hate relationship with the bank: I love the online banking, and the staff at my local branch. I hate the way the company charges overdraft fees in a way that often seems bent on exploiting the type of customer who lives from paycheck to paycheck (which is totally me, though I am working hard not to be).

Though we've had some stupid financial management practices in the past, we've recently become disciplined at checking our accounts every day to make sure we haven't screwed up and spent too much in one. Bank of America is generous in approving transactions beyond what's available in the account; so if you don't have it down to the penny, or bestow a tip you've forgotten to notate, sometimes you have a few pending transactions that send you into the negative. No worries, I've always thought: I'll just transfer some funds from my account to my husband's, putting us into the black and avoiding fees.

Not so fast, Sparky. Evidently, sometime this summer when I was going into labor with my baby boy, Bank of America sent us notification that we're to be charged fees on pending transactions that cause a negative balance; even if a deposit is made before those transactions clear.

It was supposed to be effective October, evidently, but Merry Christmas! For us, it was effective December 21st. We were charged three overdraft fees for $105 total, for transactions that didn't clear (and the bank didn't have to provide funds to the merchants) until the next day, after which I'd transferred money from my account, and deposited a check for far more than the negative into my husband's account.

Bank of America's point of view? "We told you so." The company, I'm sure, didn't expect its customers to read those statements, especially after so many notifications of new privacy guidelines (I've got so many I've stopped reading them). Our point of view? We suck at managing our money, granted, but thanks for sucking us into having to use the last of our Christmas money for diapers.


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