Investigating the Issues That Affect You Most

TCF Bank Under Fire for Overdraft Fees

Customers say new policy took them by surprise

View Comments ()
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    Customers at a major bank say they got hit with new fees that never disclosed to them. (Published Tuesday, Nov 15, 2011)

    A new TCF bank policy has some Chicago-area customers seeing red -- in more ways than one.

    Terms used by customers who reached out to NBC Chicago to complain about the bank’s new overdraft policy range from "predatory" and "unreasonable" to "ridiculous."

    The policy, which kicked in in October, changes the way a customer is charged for an overdrawn account. Instead of the former $35 fee per transaction, the bank now fines an overdrawn account every day for 14 consecutive days -- unless or until the customer brings it back up to zero. For some, that means $392 in fees for one overdrawn debit.

    Analiza Domantay of Chicago said she was shocked the first night she saw a $28 overdraft fee on her account. She said she went to the branch near her Bridgeport home the next morning to clear it up -- an error she said was caused by a bank mistake.

    "I can't afford 28 dollars a day. I mean, that's a meal," said the mother of four.

    But Domantay said the branch couldn't help, and sent her home with instructions to call an 800 number. While she appealed the charge, she says, the $28 daily fee kept accruing.

    When she did get a TCF representative on the line and explained her case, she says, "they wouldn’t budge." For her one overdrawn debit, Domantay says her account eventually racked up $392 in fees.

    That same amount hit David Prather’s account. Prather’s daughter, Lisa Maettaoui, says the fees ate up more than half of her elderly father’s Social Security check. When she first noticed the fees, she says she went in to the TCF branch in Melrose Park.

    "You're charging my father $28 every day and it's been seven days. And he goes 'Oh, but we can charge up to 14 days.' Fourteen days?!" said Maettaoui, who wasn't able to get relief from TCF.

    Brock Riebe of Chicago tells a similar account of his frustration with the new TCF policy, about which he says he was never warned.

    "I said this is ridiculous! I should have been notified of these fees," Riebe said. “They said it was a new policy. And I said, you know, you cannot just unleash these new predatory policies.

    The customers we talked to say TCF did not disclose the new policy, but the Minnesota-based bank says its customers "have been notified every way we could think of," including online and by mail.

    TCF spokesman Jason Korstange says the bank sees the new policy as a change for the better. He says customers in Michigan, where the policy was launched about a year ago, have come to appreciate it.

    “Most people think it’s a better deal," Korstange says. He calls the policy “transparent” and says the bank understands it will lose some customers over it, but expects it to be embraced in the long-run.

    Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a frequent critic of bank policies, questions TCF's new charge.

    "It's hard for me to understand how a bank like TCF believes this is good to attract new customers to their bank," Durbin said.

    Against the backdrop of “Occupy Wall Street” and growing anger at bank policies, Durbin says he backs a proposal to require banks to offer a standard disclosure form that will list all fees to all customers.

    "They just can't get by with the old ways and they can't do things behind your back and in hidden ways that are going to penalize consumers," Durbin told Target 5.

    As for customers who may come to appreciate the new policy, don’t count any of the Chicago consumers we interviewed in that group. Domantay complained to the BBB and got her fees reversed. She then closed her account. Riebe closed his account while still disputing his three days’ of fees.

    After our inquiry, TCF erased the fees from David Prather’s account. His daughter Lisa said she was relieved, after worrying her father would not be able to survive the month on his remaining money. She says she also plans to find a new bank for her dad’s account.

    Target 5: Investigating the Issues that Affect You Most