The continuing saga of my banking woes

(I say continuing, but really have never – that I recall – mentioned them before. Just so we’re straight.)

On December 12th I was mugged. My purse and car were taken. The car has since been replaced, which is nice because I like the new car a lot but annoying because the old one would have been paid off in a few months and now we have something obscene like six more years of car payments. But I digress. After I called the police I immediately called my bank to cancel my debit card. I also called my credit cards, but with less urgency as I figured I’d have more hassle if I needed to contest charges on my checking account. Anyway. Washington Mutual sent out a new debit card which arrived, remarkably, only a week later (either the 19th or 20th, I don’t remember for certain). It was one of the new ones, which either means my old one was a debit Mastercard and this one was Visa or the other way around. I activated it by phone right away, and the recording told me it would be active in 24-72 hours. I thought the additional wait was a pretty huge pain in the ass, but hardly the end of the world considering that the cops weren’t looking for my car and wouldn’t take a detailed description of my assailant, and also considering that my husband has a debit card that works perfectly. Still, it was the week before Christmas.

On Thursday, the 22nd, I attempted to use my new debit card and it was denied. I figured this was because it hadn’t been quite 72 hours yet, and didn’t worry.

That was my first mistake, unless you want to count the fact that I bank with Washington Mutual in the first place, which I am really regretting now.

On Friday, December 23rd – two days before Christmas and one day before my in-laws with whom I have a strained relationship arrived – I attempted to use my new card again, this time to buy a tree. You know, for Christmas. Yes, I was running a little bit behind. Shut up. I bought pretty tinsel trees that will last forever. My card was denied. Three times. So I called the bank and asked them to please fix whatever was keeping my card from working so that I could have Christmas. I spent an hour on the phone with a very nice gentleman who could not find the problem but kept doggedly trying. I don’t know if everyone in the south is that nice or if all the nice ones go into telephone customer service, but I have had some very nice experiences with reps from the south. Unfortunately, he tried every trick he knew and I think one or two that he actually read from a manual. The poor clerks at Party On La Cienega rang up and voided my purchase about a hundred times. They talked to my nice southern gentleman. Finally I was transferred to a manager-type.

The manager-type told me there was no reason for my card to not be working. Gee, thanks. So why have I been here for over an hour? This went on for quite some time, and at one point he even disconnected with the promise to call me right back – which, remarkably, he did, though in the meantime I had to look at party crap and gender-specific baby junk (I don’t know if I’m having a boy or a girl and I can’t find anything that is non-gender-specific and cute). I don’t know what he checked, but he pretty much just kept telling me that he didn’t know what was wrong. I finally asked him to stop wasting his time and just send me a new replacement card. He agreed and promised that it would arrive in ten business days. I called my husband and asked him to please come pay for my damn trees, which he did because he is great.

Fast forward to February. I have not received a replacement card. I have given up on calling customer service. In fact, I have given up on the bank, who have charged me overdraft fees for “non-sufficient funds” on some online payments that went through four days after I made a deposit more than sufficient to cover them (I’m still fighting the bank on this one) and whose running balance is significantly lower than mine (I never got that resolved because I couldn’t find the error on either side). I receive a letter that cheerily tells me I’ll be receiving a brand new debit card soon, as they are switching from Visa to Mastercard (or the other way around). At this point I am accustomed to carrying cash and think nothing of it.

A few weeks ago (probably closer to a month at this point, but who knows – I am so detached at this point that I no longer pay attention, plus I’ve had this cold for so long that my brain is no longer trustworthy) I got a new debit Mastercard (or Visa) in the mail, addressed to my maiden name. While I still use that name (it’s the name on this post, in fact), I did legally change it to my husband’s name and that’s been reflected on the bank account since approximately three weeks after our wedding. Which was in 2004.

I finally got the bank on the phone last week, primarily because the checks I’d ordered (January-ish) had not shown up and I was completely out. While I had them on the phone I explained the debit card situation and asked if they would mind terribly sending me a card to replace the one that needed replacement, rather than one that had been cancelled altogether and had the wrong name on it.

The checks arrived and so did the new card. The checks are not what I ordered, exactly, but have the correct names on them so I don’t care. The debit card has been activated (with no waiting period that I was told about) but I haven’t tested it out yet. I haven’t been able to get the non-suffient funds charges overturned, because every time I call the “system is down,” which I don’t find the least bit suspicious. I still haven’t figured out where several hundred dollars of my money disappeared to, and they won’t talk to me about it unless I can suggest a vague timeframe at the very least.

It is entirely possible that I am just incompetent. Accounting has certainly never been my strong suit.

But just in case, I would like to get the hell away from Washington Mutual. As nice as their customer service reps are, they have never actually serviced me. Not even when I used the five blade razor.

I can’t believe that anyone has read this far (who knew I needed the rant that badly?) but I could really use recommendations. Citibank and Bank One won’t have me. I don’t know about anyone else. If there are any credit unions open to the public, that would be my first choice.

Where do you keep your money? Are they nice? Do they keep your money safe? Will they keep my money (such as it is)? Please help.

13 Replies to “The continuing saga of my banking woes”

  1. CalNational has been pretty good in my experience. Smallish chain, friendly staff and management, dealt with an identity theft issue with the minimum drama and cost. They don’t have a ton of branches, but I find it’s worth the bother to use them.

  2. I’d suggest checking out Wescom Credit Union ( They’re not huge, but they have a network off ATMs you can access with no fees. I’ve had various accounts with them for close to 10 years (though not checking) and the relationship has been nothing but positive.

  3. I don’t have any advice, but I just wanted to tell you that I was horrified at your experience – not just at the bank but that you were a pregnant lady mugged the week before Christmas. I’m glad you’re OK; so sorry this happened.

  4. SWEET! i just lost my card on my way to texas. WAMU has been annoying about it so far but I CAN’T WAIT for the fun i’m about to be in for when I call them back today to try to get a new card.

    thanks for the heads up.

  5. You can’t fail with a credit union. Usually much smaller and less unweidly than the big banks. May not be FDIC insured, but they have another one, and I don’t think we’re gonna have another “Bank Panic” like happened so often in the late 19th century :P

  6. Everyone who knows me has heard my WAMU story but you all don’t know me so I’m going to repeat it because I want everyone to leave WAMU.
    Back when I had WAMU, I moved and needed my address changed. This was earlier in the online banking days.
    I went online and changed my address there, everything went fine, online banking showed my new address. However, my statements were still going to my old address.
    I’m thinking okay, maybe their online system isn’t that great, I’ll try calling them. I called them twice to change my address, both times, they said it was changed and all was dandy. So why were my statements still going to my old address?
    So I finally think, maybe I should go into a branch and get my address changed and I need to order new checks anyway.
    So I go into a branch, order new checks and get my address changed.
    My new checks come to my new address, statements are still going to my old address.
    It was literally impossible to get my address changed. I think it was tied to a law of physics or something. If my address was changed, gravity would reverse itself so they couldn’t do it.
    Good thing the old address was still occupied by friends of mine.
    I never got that address changed, I finally just moved banks. For all I know, they are probably still sending mail to that address with account balances showing $0.
    I’ve been very happy with Bank of America so far even though everyone else seems to dislike them.

  7. Sad to hear your tale of woe. So, even in USA? I have only ever had trouble with driving licence office here in UK. It seems people nearly as sloppy as me work in all these places. Before I retired I messed all my jobs up, even the voluntary ones. It is

  8. we have a personal account and a business account at Comerica. Not sure if they are in your area but they have much better customer service then wells fargo BofA and wamu.

  9. We had all our money with Merrill Lynch and then we tried to buy a car and actually get our money out in a reasonable time frame they jerked us around and actuallly said “well, we’re notreally a bank, we’re a financial services company.”

    So we have accounts at WAMU and BankofAmerica.

    They are both good online banks. WAMU has been slightly better about “special requests” and is getting us a better deal on a HELOC but there’s still something unsettling about WAMU that I can’t put my finger on that makes me want to consider going with the Credit Union (Glendale Area School FCU) even if they are a pain in the butt with paperwork they do have lower rates.

    But I’m with you–I have been ranting about banks since last fall as well, and I wasn’t even mugged! (I really don’t think you should carry cash around.)

  10. Um, why on earth shouldn’t I carry cash? In case I am mugged again? I refuse to behave like a victim, and anyway, what are the chances? (No, really, I’d love to know if there are statistics.) Besides, it isn’t as though I am carrying around hundreds of dollars at a time. It’s usually much closer to $5 actually, or however much I need for a specific purchase.

  11. I use Bank of America. Sometimes they do something crappy and charge me for something they shouldn’t. Then I call and complain and they fix it to my satisfaction. I have a lot of success in that avenue.

    I don’t think they are, like, the Best Bank Ever, but I really like their free online banking service a lot. I am pretty much obsessed with it. I’ve been known to call Dwayne on his cell and say, “What did you spend four dollars on this morning?” I’m not sure if he loves it like I love it, you know?

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