Chase Bank and Me

Laser Burners / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

JP Morgan Chase can lose $13 billion and hardly bat an eye. But when it comes to a $2,000 domestic wire transfer from one Chase account to another, they can be vigilant to the point of absurdity.

Having damaged my smartphone by dropping it, I asked the daughter of my Dominican landlady, who works in a computer store in NYC and knows how to ship stuff here, to buy me a new phone and laptop battery. Her mother then asked me to include money for her daughter’s school fee when I wired the money. She had other options, but her daughter faced a deadline and time was short. Since we both have Chase accounts, we expected it to be quick and easy.

But after I wired the $2,000, I learned that the daughter could not get it. I inquired and learned that the Fraud Department was suspicious and had blocked the transfer. I called and after ten minutes, the third person I talked to started asking me a long list of questions to verify my identity. Then she wanted to know to whom I was sending the money and why. I told her it was money from her mother and money for an electronic device. She replied, “If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of electronic device?” After some more stupid questions, she said everything was ok and that I could sign in again and re-send the money, which I did.

Hours later, I went downstairs and discovered that the mother and daughter were on Skype while the daughter was on hold with Chase, for she once again couldn’t get the money. She had been told there was no record of my earlier call. When the agent returned, she told him I was on the line and could verify what had happened. He took my social security number and other information and placed us on hold, only to come back and tell us that I had to call again because my account had been frozen.

I did and the transfer finally went through, but altogether the hassle cost both the daughter and me about an hour of our time.

Though I doubt it, perhaps they had red-flagged my account and were giving me a hard time because several months ago I sued Chase in Small Claims Court and won a settlement. In reporting on it here, I’m violating my promise not to discuss the case publicly. I wonder what the penalty is.

Before going to Mexico earlier this year to sell my property there, my local Chase branch manager told me I would have no problem depositing a Mexican cashier’s check in my account. But when I returned with the modest-sized check, after making me wait almost ten minutes, she told me that she could not deposit it and we would have to send it to headquarters for approval. I gave her the check and signed a document that said when they gave me my funds, “the rate of the day will apply.”

They then sent the check to headquarters, who sent it to Mexico to verify that it was legal, all of which took 15 days and caused me cash-flow difficulties. When they finally deposited funds into my account, I checked the rate of the day on the Internet and calculated that they gave me $1,300 less than they should have. I called headquarters about it and they said, “Oh, we’re our own investment bank and we set our own conversion rate.”

Unpersuaded, I sued them. Several days before the court date, their paralegal called and gave me the same song-and-dance about Chase being its own investment bank and said they could send their representative to the court to explain that. I replied, “The document I signed said nothing about Chase’s rate. And when I googled ‘rate of the day,’ I got the number I’m using.”

He then offered to settle. We haggled and I settled for $650, half of what I was entitled to. But a bird in the hand…., and time is money…. I then had to sign one of those famous non-disclosure agreements, which I hereby violate.

I put most of my money in a credit union, but I kept my Chase account for convenience. Some convenience!

But at least we can rest assured that Chase in now on the case, helping to make banking safe.

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