Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bank of America: Bank of Arrogance

Bank of America CEO and President Kenneth Lewis proudly claims, ""Bank of America helps build strong communities by creating opportunities for people — including customers, shareholders and associates — to fulfill their dreams." As an unemployed citizen of the U.S. and a longtime customer of Bank of America, I decided to see if my bank could help me get by during this tough time in my life. Rather than fulfill my dreams, Bank of America inspired a nightmare.

My credit card statement arrived in the mail this week. My balance reflects a debt I've been carrying over five years. Presently, I charge about $50 a month on the card - all Internet and email service charges. Other than that, I do not use the card. Even though I have been out of work since July 2009, I manage to make my required payment of $150 or more every month.

I've been with Bank of America since 1974, held several mortgages with them and have had numerous checking accounts. I imagined for a split second that my customer loyalty might mean something to Mr. Lewis and his employees. So I called their 800 number.

My goal? I wanted them to reduce my interest rate for a short period of time while I am unemployed. I am paying 10.9% and I was asking my bank of reduce the rate by a point or two to lower my monthly payments. After all, Bank of America received a hefty bailout courtesy of tax payers like myself. Couldn't they extend some help to a loyal customer? I wasn't asking for a bail out or a reduction of the principal I owe. I only needed a small reduction in my interest rate to lessen my monthly amount due,

When I called B of A, I asked for a supervisor. I explained my situation and he informed me I was receiving the lowest interest rate. I know that's not true. If I transferred my balance to another bank and then came back to Bank of America, they would offer me a very attractive lower rate as a lure. Liars!

The supervisor proceeded to ask me every possible question about my financial situation: how much I was receiving from unemployment insurance, my monthly rent, utilities, car payment, insurance cost, grocery expenditures and my meagre savings. He was trying to justify that I cold qualify for a hardship program provided by Bank of America.

After spending twenty minutes on my cell with this bank supervisor, he informed me I do not qualify for any help since I cannot guarantee them I would be able to make my monthly payments. I asked what guarantee did Bank of America give the taxpayers they could pay back the bailout money we gave them. I was shocked. Guarantee? In this age and economy?

My best guarantee is my track record of making hundreds of payments to Bank of America over several decades. I informed the supervisor that I cannot guarantee I would be alive tomorrow but if I am, I will make my credit card payment and it would truly help if he lowered my payment by $20-30 a month to lend a hand. This is the bank that wants to make my dreams come true.

The supervisor would not budge. He was robotic and read from a script. I was irate, "You really don't care about your customers, do you? Here we bail you out by giving you billions of our money, and you can't reduce my interest rate by a few points?" He kept repeating his "guarantee speech."

I kept pushing, "This is an interesting scenario. If I got to a place where I could not make my credit card payments, you would turn me over to a collection agency who in turn would pay someone's salary to harass me. Then your bank would be willing to hire attorneys to go after me to collect my debt. Right? You're willing to spend thousands of dollars in case I default on my payments, but you won't reduce my monthly payment by $20 to make sure that scenario never takes place. What kind of a bank are you?"

The bank official repeated his mantra about guarantees. I told him to stop reading his script. Quickly I mentioned the name Ann Minch, the woman who started Debtors Revolt and is going after Bank of America for hiking up her interest rate to over 30%. "Do you know who Ann Minch is?" He said he did. "Well," I continued, "there are more people like her who will tell the public what kind of bank you really are. You don't care about your customers." Ann Minch has hit a nerve with her YouTube video sharing her nightmare encounter with Bank of America.

When I mentioned Ann Minch, the supervisor slammed down the phone. The message is clear: Bank of America does not care about their clients and they're not happy that B of A customers are speaking out. I'm one of them. I am prepared to pull all my money and debt out of Bank of America and make my statement that this is one bank that is not "for the people" and they have no intention of making any of your dreams come true.

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