Open letter to BECU and Chase Banks

Dear Policy Setters at BECU and Chase,

Most of the time, I don’t think much about banking, what banks we put our money in, that sort of thing.  It’s just one of the things we do as adult citizens, right?  You put your money in, the bank lends out a portion of it to finance people’s homes and businesses and whatnot, and they keep a certain percentage of it on hand for when you need to use it.

We maintain accounts at both BECU and Chase bank.  We prefer the service and stability of BECU, but since they don’t have teller services near us, we keep one of our old checking accounts at Chase active.  Our Chase account was opened nearly two decades ago; the BECU accounts are more recent.  Our savings accounts are at BECU; we use the Chase account primarily for paying a couple of bills each month.

At the beginning of July, we had the opportunity to purchase a tractor for our new farm.  It was one of those opportunities that shows up out of the blue and won’t last long, and so we went for it.  It was a Saturday, so the only BECU branch near us with teller services wasn’t open… but Chase was.

I went to a BECU branch in Lake Stevens that has account representatives and got a cashier’s check made out to myself, and took it across the street to the Chase branch to cash it.  I had my infant son and toddler with me, so this was no minor undertaking.  I remember thinking, “Why do we keep our money in two separate banks, now that WAMU has crashed and Chase took it over?  We’re not worried about Chase crashing… why don’t we just keep all the money in one place?  I’ll have to think about it after I get this check cashed and the tractor purchased.  Who needs BECU, anyway?”

But… Chase wouldn’t cash the check.

I talked to the manager.  She said that it was not ‘guaranteed funds’.  I pointed out that it was a cashier’s check – did she think that BECU couldn’t cover it?

She said that I might have altered the check.  I asked her to call over to the BECU branch and talk to the rep that had just issued it not ten minutes ago, and confirm that it was valid.

She said I might put a “stop order” on it, and then Chase would be out the funds.  I’d have to wait for it to clear before they’d cash it for me.  I asked her to take a look at my account record – it goes back nearly 20 years! – and pointed out that I’d been a reliable customer for a very long time and had never pulled any such monkey business before.  Plus, they know where I live.  If I were going to pull a criminal act like that, I sure wouldn’t do it for such a small amount.  She was adamant.  Cash that check She Would Not.

Back to BECU I went.  In the parking lot, I called my husband, who said that the tractor’s owner would take a cashier’s check if he couldn’t have cash.  The BECU employees were very helpful; they didn’t charge me anything to reissue the check in a different name, and were gratifyingly upset that Chase wouldn’t honor their check.

So – here’s where I’m at.  BECU treated me like royalty.  They were very patient with me and my children, even when my baby melted down at the account rep’s desk, and when I had to come back and get a new check right at closing time… they were terrific.  We purchased our tractor with no more glitches, and have been getting all sorts of work done.

Chase, on the other hand, did everything they could to alienate a long-time customer.  Way to make me feel like a criminal, Chase!  I mean, it isn’t enough that I’ve had an account at your bank for, hello, going on 20 years, and have been a reliable customer with money in the bank and no funny stuff going on?

Nope – let’s face it:  I tried to cash a check for well under the daily reportable cash limit that was, like it or not, guaranteed funds, and your rationale for not providing that basic banking service was that I MIGHT be a crook even though you knew I wasn’t.

To make it even richer, I received two different solicitations from Chase yesterday and today: one for a car loan and one for ‘free cash’ if I’d just open a savings account there with a significant balance.  Why would I entrust any more of my money to Chase?  They obviously don’t trust – or even value – me.

Who needs Chase, anyway?

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About dep31

I am a farm-raised homeschooling mom. I take great joy in making nutritious food that inspires people to take seconds. Thirds, anyone? We are a God-fearing, Christ worshiping family that enjoys good friends and good eats. If the kitchen is clean and the living room carpet is visible, then that's a nice bonus.
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7 Responses to Open letter to BECU and Chase Banks

  1. Darrnell T says:

    Thought I would pop in and shed some light. I have been in banking a long time and I too as well Have both a credit union account and a for profit bank account. Cashier’s checks and money orders unfortunately are NOT guaranteed items anymore and that can be very frustrating. The reality is that they have become a top item for fraud especially around the beginning of school quarters and income tax time. As technology has gotten better for us consumers so too has it for the real criminals out there and unlike the smaller credit unions the major banks actually have a greater exposure to this type of potential loss.

    It is my experience that the credit unions will look to jump all over the major banks when it comes to this even thought they clearly realize the risks. They should do the right thing and explain to their customers why banks (as well as credit unions) don’t guarantee those items anymore. It is easy for BECU to look the good guy because frankly they don’t cash any checks unless you are at 1 of their 2 locations that handle teller transactions.

    The problem here is that you couldn’t get cash from BECU. That’s why you need Chase.

    • dep31 says:

      I appreciate that there is opportunity for fraud with cashier’s checks. However, this could have been very simple for Chase to make into a customer service win instead of a fiasco. It would have been very easy for the manager of the local Chase branch to call the manager of the BECU and confirm that the check was valid. This isn’t unheard of; Chase (and previously WAMU) has for years offered their customers the ability to check to see if funds are available for personal checks. It would have been very simple – and secure – for the Chase manager to make that call, especially in light of the length of time we’ve had our accounts with them in good standing. If it were a brand new account, or if we’d ever committed fraud, then I’d understand it if the manager had declined – but given the circumstances, there was no reason whatsoever for the manager to treat me like dirt and refuse to even work with the scenario. Making that phone call would have clarified any chance that the check was fraudulent pretty remote.

      It’s like when my daughter was born – I switched hospitals and Ob-GYNs because my previous doctor wouldn’t take good care of my firstborn. He allowed hospital policy, which in this case was causing actual physical harm, to trump his good sense and good medical care. When I inquired as to his plan if the same medical issues occurred the with my second child, he indicated that he’d follow the same procedures, regardless of whether they caused harm or not, because adhering mindlessly to hospital policy was more important to him than providing proper medical care. (Although he didn’t like it when I clarified it that way; he said, and I quote “I wouldn’t say it that way myself, but you are correct.”)

      The problem is, when you deal with people, you will occasionally have a situation arise where you need to allow for wisdom and flexibility. Years ago, I worked for WAMU. Under WAMU, managers were chosen, in part, because they could be trusted to exercise that wisdom and flexibility. That’s why, if you have an overdraft charge and a good reason to have it rescinded, you have to talk to a manager, not a teller. Either Chase eliminated that flexibility for managers after the takeover, in which case Chase is a corporation of automatons and not worthy of people’s loyalty or business, or this particular manager needs to have some additional training or be demoted back to teller for not having the wit to deal with a customer service opportunity.

  2. Darrnell T says:

    I agree, you should be able to call BECU and clear the check but unfortunately BECU does not list individual branch numbers, you cannot call your favorite personal banker there if you have an issue or concern and you cannot receive cash transactions. This is true for a lot of credit unions. Don’t get me wrong big banks definitely have some downfalls but flexibility at the larger institutions is light years ahead of credit unions and BECU directly.

    If you can find the local number for the Lake Stevens BECU I would love to have it but it does not exist. Look at their online store locator. Every branch comes up with their (1800#).

    So how would that Chase Manager call to clear that cashier’s check? (Again not defending but it is a fact that your request of Chase would only be prevented by BECU.)

    *** Bank of America will not do check verification at all per policy even if you call in. I know for a fact Chase has a dedicated option when you call to verify their checks via their 1800#. I’m just saying that when you dive in you will find that your local credit unions and some major banks actually make it difficult for their own customers.

    • dep31 says:

      LOL – BECU in Lake Stevens is (206) 439-5700
      . I didn’t think to look at the check for the number, but it was easy to find online. I’ll grant you, it wasn’t on the BECU website, which is definitely an oversight BECU needs to fix. But it came up under Yelp and Yahoo. As a side note – when I worked for WAMU, we had not only the direct phone numbers for every bank in our town, most of the time our manager had the direct line to those branchs’ managers as well.

  3. Darrnell T says:

    Side note, your credit union again looks like the hero because they will call to clear a check but their ability to call and clear the check depends on the bank listing its individual branch phone number or having a national option both of which Chase has. I keep using Chase as the example because that is who you dealt with btw. No other particular reason.

    • dep31 says:

      Well, BECU isn’t perfect. They need to have branches with tellers available, although they do bend over backwards to make the ATM system work when we go into the branch with specific needs and talk to an account rep.

      However, when I was in the banking industry it was standard procedure to keep all the other local banks’ (and title companies’, mortgage companies’, and building inspection firms’) direct phone numbers on file with the loan reps and the managers, since business was done with them daily concerning mortgage payoffs and other loans.

      I suspect BECU doesn’t list their individual branch phone numbers on their website because 90% or more of their phone inquiries are for things that their technical support people should be answering, not account reps at the branch who need to be available face-to-face for customers who drove in. I’ve never had a problem getting a direct phone number for specific people when I’ve had a need for it, such as when we set up savings accounts for our kids and needed to call in information after the fact. To be fair, years ago when we did the same at WAMU, the account reps gave us their direct line info then as well, so that’s probably an industry-wide policy.

      At any rate – I am reasonably certain that not only did the Chase manager have the local BECU branch direct number, she probably knew the BECU manager by name and voice, and worked with them regularly every week coordinating particularly tricky loan payoffs. Certainly that was the case when I worked in the industry, and that was BEFORE the mortgage meltdown crisis.

      In addition, those numbers were used to communicate between branches when there was a rash of fraud that involved multiple banks. One scheme that came up at least once a quarter when I worked for WAMU was when people would float checks – they’d write a check on an account at one bank, cash it at another bank, drive to another bank the same day and write another check on the same amount, cash that… so on and so forth. If tellers called to verify funds, it would come up as covered since the paper checks hadn’t actually hit the system yet. I know that they’ve sped up that process considerably these days with current technology, but there’s always some new fraud coming down the pike.

      In my day, the various bank managers would be in contact with each other when it was in their best interest to do so. We always knew when there was an armed bank robbery anywhere in a 100 mile radius long before it every hit the news, for example. Usually it was a heads-up from our own bank’s internal security, but a time or two it was because the word was spread between the local banks.

      So – it might take slightly more digging for a customer to get a local branch’s phone number (but again, not much, if it’s on the second and third items returned on a search on Google) – but I would expect that a local branch manager would have that in her computer already due to normal daily business.

  4. John Drake says:

    I’ve dumped both Chase and Bank of America because of similar poor customer service relations issues. I was originally a SeaFirst Bank customer (remember them) until BoA took over that user-friendly bank. Chase acquired my home mortgage from another mortgage holder. I was a 20+ year customer of SeaFirst/BoA. Through a series of poor customer service experiences from Bank of America, I was becoming increasingly dissastified with this organization. Their purchase of Countrywide Mortgage was the last straw for me. This was a terrible mistake by BoA in my opinion. The result: They tried to squeeze a loyal customer for more and more fees. With a significant balance in their 0% passbook account, I did not appreciate this treatment. After finally unplugging all auto bill payers from BoA, I closed my account. The final insult: BoA wanted to charge me for an ACH transfer of my balance to BECU. Even the local banking representative did not know BoA started charging for ACH transfers.

    BECU has always treated me with respect and given good answers, or worked hard to find the answer. “Too large to fail” banks, like Chase and BoA, by alienating their customers, will fail. I won’t miss them.

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