Last week, I ended my 14-year relationship with Citibank on 7th Avenue in Park Slope. When we moved to Park Slope in 1997, my husband and I opened up a joint checking account, savings account and line of credit. In 2008, when I started my business, I opened a business checking account, savings account and line of credit. In 2011, I opened a custodial savings account for each of my two children. I was given two new Citibank coffee mugs in appreciation of my loyalty.
Each year, I deposited their birthday money into these accounts. But I did not keep close tabs on the balances because, well, the whole point of a kids’ savings account is to put the money in and forget it.
At one of my annual deposits along the way, I noticed that my daughter’s account was shrinking. I looked at the past few transactions and noticed that she was being charged a $15 service fee. I looked at my son’s account balance and he was not being charged, so I assumed that there was a minimum balance (unusual for this type of account) and simply added money from my checking account so she had as much money as my son.
This was lazy, of course. And I acknowledge that I should have kept closer tabs on things. But I didn’t think I had to. I had opened two identical accounts and by adding money to my daughter’s (who is younger and had therefore accumulated less in the way of birthday money), I thought I was fixing the issue.
Then, this year, I again noticed that she was being charged $15 per month. I looked back at my records. It turned out that, several months after I opened the account something inexplicably changed and Citibank began pulling the $15 per month. My daughter, now 6 years old, had been charged every month since 2012 for a grand total of $510. So I went to one of the friendly bankers at Citibank and he started an investigation.
That was in August. While the investigation was pending, they took another $15 out of her account. In September, with some prodding from me, the banker followed up and was able to refund $200 to my daughter’s account. But he told me to close the account immediately because it was an old product and they would keep charging her if I kept it open.
I admit that I lost my mind on that poor guy. It wasn’t pretty. Fortunately, it was over the phone and he eventually put me on hold, never to return.
I collected myself and went into the branch to speak with the Branch Manager on a Friday in September. After all, this is my “community bank.” It’s the branch where my kids each went on a field trip in first grade when they were learning about their community. Those mugs of appreciation ought to mean that I could count on the branch to value my loyalty and fix this mistake.
The branch manager explained that, at the branch level, they were limited to a $200 credit. However, he was outraged that the bank had taken this money from my daughter. And he agreed that a custodial account is not something that should have to be closely monitored. He asked me to send him the statements so he could request an investigation beyond the branch level. He told me to keep the account open and said that he would be in touch on Monday with a progress report.
That was it. I emailed the statements. I emailed to make sure he got them. I emailed to remind him that I would pull all of my accounts, including the credit card I have had since 1991, if this was not resolved. I called and left voicemail messages. No response.
They took another $15 in October.
I went into the branch and cornered the manager who said he had not heard back about his request. There was no use in pressing the matter, he said. They would get back to him when they had an answer.
I closed the savings accounts to stop the $15 draws. And I started the process of switching banks. It took more than a month to switch all of the direct deposits and withdrawals set up over 14 years, but today it is done.