Experience Files: Bank of America

Over my professional and personal lifetime, I have probably posessed or worked with about all the major credit card companies. One of my favorite cards was my Platinum MBNA Visa. Until, that is, they were acquired by Bank of America.

After 18 years with my MBNA, I was concerned that the great service I'd experienced with would be interrupted by the Bank of America acquisition. I was eloquently assured by my Platinum rep that they'd keep providing the same stellar customer experience I'd had in the past.

After five rounds with Bank of America, this has proven to be a lie.

ROUND 1

Back in October of 2006, I was planning my wedding. At the time, I had an *ample* credit limit, and charged up to about 80% of my available credit for things like photographers and other expenses. During that time, I was busy getting married and selling my house – and I goofed and my check was misdirected to the wrong account.

I spent time on the phone correcting the issue, which was a hassle. It took a few weeks to fix things (and late fees, etc.), but they assured me it would have no impact in the future. I had had one late payment that year (it missed by 2 days!) so I breathed a sigh of relief.

ROUND 2

After selling my house, I paid down the MBNA/Bank of America card down to less than 45% of my credit limit. I had done this before and maintained an ample credit limit with MBNA with no problem. It was a comfort to know I could access this line of credit any time for trips, business expenses and travel.

Well - Bank of America's response to my large payment was an unexpected reduction in my credit limit to less than half the original limit! I didn’t get it! Nothing in my credit profile had changed, outside of the fact that I’d paid off my mortgage!

As a result of this move, my “paid down” balance was about the same as my available credit. Thus, instead of raising my credit score because I'd paid down the card significantly – Bank of America's move actually worked to lower my credit score.

This was a nice reward for 18 years of customer loyalty, for a really solid track record of payments! When I called to complain, the representative agreed to raise my limit again - not quite as high as my previously ample limit, but placing me at 60% available credit to debt ratio. It wasn't enough to repair my credit rating and the sour taste in my mouth lingered.

ROUND 3

Just a few months later, I paid the card down another 50%. My happiness over becoming more debt free was dampened by Bank of America's response. They immediately lowered the credit limit, AGAIN.

Now – I’m no expert, but I had the same income. I did get married – thus combining and increasing our annual incomes. However, we both had great credit ratings… so I was confused that they now viewed me as some kind of credit risk. It was weird, but I didn’t call because I planned to pay it off completely and rid myself of the card and Bank of America.

ROUND 4

Keeping my cash is always a temptation. I rationalized keeping the card because it I had a very small balance at a low interest rate. I went online and set up a recurring payment in my online bank to make sure the card would be paid monthly.

Unfortunately, three weeks later, I found out that my recurring payment never went through. After hours and days of research, I found out that the day I set it up, my bank's service provider did a system upgrade - and there was obviously some kind of technical problem that impacted my recurring payment setup.

Bank of America responded by jacking my interest rate to 32.99% and assigning a $45 late fee to my account. I called to advise them of the situation. They unapologetically told me I needed a letter to reverse the rate increase and charges, and all but scolded me for 3 late payments in a one-year period. (Remember my history here – one late payment by 2 days… one account # misallocation, and my bank error). I immediately paid off the card to avoid paying the crazy interest.

Determined to get reimbursed for the interest and late fees that accrued as a result of my bank’s error, I spent time on the phone fighting to get a letter proving the error was not my fault. I did this while preparing to deliver our first child. Pleasant. Not!

ROUND 5

After the birth of our son, the letter from my bank arrived, and I called Bank of America and offered to fax it to them. The representative stated that they didn’t need to see the letter (!!??). I was so glad I'd gone through the hassle.

Then she said she’d reverse the interest charges and remove the late fee assessed - but stressed that they "could not" return my interest rate to the previously low rate I had. I was appalled.

After protesting, she offered to reduce it to 24.99%. I laughed out loud. The representative went on to inform me in a very STERILE manner, that they were allowed to jack up my rate because I had been late three times within the allocated period. I asked her to review my account history, which would show that only ONE late payment was actually my fault.

She responded by saying something very close to this: "I realize your last late payment was due to a bank error, but the error is still not our fault and we have no lower rate to offer you at this time." She was like a parrot who’d memorized a script.

The easy translation was this: "We're seizing this opportunity to jack your rate because we can. We realize you have been a loyal, interest paying customer since 1991, but frankly, we don't want your business, and we don’t care about you as a customer."

Well - I laughed in disbelief and closed the account immediately, asking the representative to snail-mail me the refund. She agreed in an equally sterile manner. She expressed no regret, and no appeal for my business. Nuthin!

KNOCK OUT!

In the end, Bank of America lost a very loyal, 18-year customer without giving so much as a sideways glance. POOF. gone. And never to return, I may add.

As the recipient of such treatment, I MIGHT have felt like some kind of credit loser… being rejected by a bank. I MIGHT have been upset by their rejection…

Thankfully, I know better!

As I thought through this article, I realized how important it is to pay attention to all those “worth” attachments. Money is personal and valuable. Banking an entirely PERSONAL thing… so when the bank screws up the experience it can be intensely personal. I guess that's why I wouldn't ever be a brand evangelist for Bank of America. Ever.

This is something Bank of America (and all the rest) should remember as they place profits over people … especially with the coming economic storm.

When I hear Bank of America's slogan ("Bank of Opportunity") that they need to revise it to "Bank of Opportunists". I believe, no matter how BIG they are that in the long-run, they will lose by doing business like this.

1 comments:

Anonymous said...

Our church is doing Dave Ramsay's financial freedom course. He says the credit card companies are only out for themselves and likens them to sharks that are out for blood - they will screw anyone... Good for you for closing the account. Close them all and get debt free! Why would you want to be a slave to a company like Bank of America?

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LEIGH DURST

LEIGH DURST
I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.

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