Wednesday, November 18, 2015

present-day scrooge gets minor comeuppance

About fifteen years ago, a coworker at the company I worked for then was singing the praises of Commerce Bank. We dropped in one day, and they prospected me for an account: no fees, low minimum balance, plenty of locations and ATM's. "And our change machine is free, even for people who don't have an account with us."

"Wait," I said. "You mean I can stand on your roof, slander you all day long, come down and use your change counter, even if I don't have an account?"

"Well," said the clerk, "we might have a problem with you being on the roof, but yes, you'd be able to use the change machine."

Well, I set up a checking  account, and, when we moved to our current condo, The Excellent Wife (TEW) and I set up a checking account for her, a joint account, and got a line of credit against the house, which we could access by writing a draught (of which they provided a pad; we used the credit line twice when we mistook the draught book for the joint account checkbook).

When I needed a quick transfer to buy a car, the Commerce Bank folks helped out for free. I really liked Commerce Bank. And for a while, thy kept growing.

Commerce Bank was taken over by TD Bank. And, little by little, everything went sour.

Despite the fact that there are TD Bank branches throughout New England, on a trip there, I found my account locked after I used a TD Bank ATM.

Then fees started to show up. Every bank charges a fee if you use their ATM and don't have an account with them. But TD Bank began also to charge a fee for using another bank's ATM, so the fee was imposed twice.

Then TD Bank imposed fees for ACH transfers, the ones that you can do on your computer with a couple of days notice. No humans need to be paid for these transfers; they are all mechanized.

The last straw was when a fee was imposed for our paper statement. If an announcement was made, we missed it; the fee was just deducted from out account one day. We found a local savings and loan that offered us terms similar to those Commerce Bank had initially offered (because they have few locations, they even reimburse fees imposed by other bank's ATM's), and moved our accounts there; all except for the line of credit on the house.

Several months ago, we got a note from TD bank offering us a $250 gift card if we would relinquish the line of credit. Partly out of concern for what it would do to our credit ratings, but mostly out of inertia, we didn't do it.

A few months later, we got an offer of a $500 gift card in return for giving up the credit line. Now, this was intriguing to me. How could it be worth $500 to TD Bank? I decided that, in light of the increased bank regulations and scrutiny after the fall of Lehman and the financial crisis, banks were unable to do the questionable, underhanded stuff they wanted if too much credit was outstanding. It seemed to me that I was costing TD Bank more than they had cost us in fees and inconvenience... we decided to see what happened.

A few weeks ago, we got a somewhat stern letter from TD Bank saying that the line of credit would be rescinded unless we provided them with a number of documents (and they were vague about what these documents are). We started to collect that stuff.

In today's mail came another offer for the surrender of the credit line: this one for a gift card valued at $750.

We're considering our options.

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