My Chase Bank High School Checking Account Nightmare

Banks and "customer service"
Banks and "customer service"

UPDATE: It's one thing when banks screw me, quite another when they screw my son. I wasn't going to let this stand, so this morning I went back to Chase, dressed head to toe in black. I took a tape recorder, and I was ready for a Chase banker to explain to me how they thought it was okay to steal money from children by misleading their parents about a supposedly safe high school checking account.

And it turns out the tape player wasn't necessary. A Chase employee named Kate could not have been nicer or more helpful. She waived the overdraft charges and I guess all's well that ends well. She really couldn't have been more different than the jerk who got me to open the account in the first place. Not only did that guy lecture me on the phone when I called to complain, but he also never did anything about waiving one or more of the fees, like he said he would do.

Also, when I opened the account, he made some crack about the dishonesty and trickery of liberals. WTF is that? Even if I was a conservative, which I am not, it's highly inappropriate to talk about crap like that with customers you don't know well. Especially liberal ones you are about to attempt to screw over...

So last Friday I had a couple of banking transactions on my plate and headed up to Chase's downtown Gilded Palace of Sin. I had to talk to a personal banker, and these people are very good at drawing you out. I told him I had a high school-aged son, and the banker suggested that I open him up a high school checking account.

"Don't worry about overdrafts," the banker told me. "If he doesn't have the money, we'll just decline the transaction."

It seemed like a great way to teach my son about banking and personal finance, and I had just Pulsed $80 in cash out to give to my son later that night, so I accepted.

Well, it has turned out to be a great teaching tool, only not in the way I expected...

The trouble started even before we got the damn thing open. While the banker had told me opening the account would take about five minutes, it wound up requiring a bike trip back to my office to fetch my son's social security number, so all in all, I'm guessing it took an hour.

The problems continued into the night. While my son loved it that I had opened an account for him, he was dismayed to find that the temporary ATM card he had been given did not work, despite the fact I had opened up the account with cash. So, I had given them the money that was supposed to be going to my son, and they had simply made it vanish...(My son's card didn't work until the next day. My son took it on himself to call customer service, where they all pointed fingers at other people, so I guess he can count that as lesson #1 in dealing with banks.)

Lesson #2 came when I opened up my online banking page a few minutes ago. My son's account was about $70 in the red, and that deficit had been taken out of my checking account.

I opened his account, and discovered that despite the assurances to the contrary I had received, he was not protected from overdrafts. That only applied to bricks and mortar transactions. My son is an eBay wheeler-dealer, and he has no protection when making electronic purchases.

And, after a $45 sale he had made failed to be deposited into his account in time, he had made two that were in the red -- one for $4, and another for $1.

And instead of simply deducting those piddly sums from my checking account, Chase charged me $34 for each of those transactions.

I called my bank to speak to the same personal banker who had talked me into opening this damned thing. After opening my son's account, he chortled aloud about his PayPal purchases. And then he told me that they didn't cover electronic transactions.

Yeah, 'cause kids certainly don't make any of those.

And then he told me I could have been protected if I had linked his checking account to my savings account. Since my savings account is nonexistent, that was a non-starter, even as a shoulda-done.

He told me I could link it to my credit card, but I don't see that as a very safe option. Do you?

"Listen," I told the banker. "One of the reasons I did this was so my son could learn about banks. I'd have to say he sure is learning about banks, wouldn't you?"

This dude then had the nerve to tell me I should lecture my son on watching his balance.

Well, he's right there. I should tell him that banks always instantly debit your expenses and slow-pay your credits, as apparently has happened in this case.

The guy mumbled something about possibly getting one of my $34 service fees paid. Stay tuned.

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