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Archive for July, 2009

In the midst of writing a dissertation and fighting a frivolous SLAPP suit filed against me by a pet shooter, I must take a brief moment to express my dissatisfaction with a truly shady bank: BBVA Compass.

When I started grad school, I picked Compass over its competitors because they had a branch right across the street from my old apartment.  This was a lazy, stupid reason for choosing a bank, and I will never again open a new account without doing my research.

Compass made and still makes a fortune off the poor.  This is accomplished through a series of tricks and traps, which are perfectly legal.  All banks hardworking citizens are better equipped to overcome poverty if they are informed about the forces working against them.

Initially, my main issue with Compass was its unique overdraft policy, which feels like it was designed to keep people upside down.

I had a few years where I was pretty much living paycheck-to-paycheck.  To avoid paying ATM charges, I used Debit and Credit cards for most of my in-person transactions.

With all my previous banks, if my account was empty, my Debit card got declined.  So I’d reach into my wallet and use a Credit card instead.  No big deal.

Rather than inform its customers when they’re out of money, the policy at Compass is to let the transaction go through (“to avoid causing the customer embarrassment”).

Thank you Compass! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I spend a lot of time worrying about the opinions of gas station clerks.  Thank GOD I’ve never had to have one of tell me my card was declined. Same with the high school kid who answers the Pizza Hut phone, and strangers from Missouri who sell used textbooks to me online–if any of those folks ever knew I had no money in my bank account, my life would be over.

In exchange for the bank’s willingness to save us from such paralyzing humiliation, Compass charges a small fee of $40 bucks. I’m serious. And not just once per pay period either; that forty-dollar zinger applies to each individual transaction.

Suppose you get paid on Friday.  After work you (1) get a haircut. Then you (2) fill your car with gas and (3) order Chinese takeout. While you’re waiting for your food, you (4) pick up a movie rental next door at Blockbuster and (5) a bottle of wine to enjoy with your significant other.

Five relatively inexpensive purchases, except that you used your Compass Bank debit card. That means your money won’t be made available to you until next week, due to their sneaky floating game that Compass also plays with your money.
(1) Cha-ching!
(2) Cha-ching!
(3) Cha-ching!
(4) Cha-ching!
(5) Cha-ching!

$40.00 x 5 = $200.00

So next Tuesday, when Compass Bank finally acknowledges the existence of a paycheck your employer sent them five days ago, the bank gets to keep a nice little chunk of your hard-earned money for themselves. And the more you are struggling to make ends meet, the harder it is to ever break out of this predatory pattern.

Chris Novoa explains what it’s like to be a Compass customer:

Gas transactions are another noteworthy thing regarding the $1 approval on pumping with credit as payment type. In my experience, specifically with Compass Bank, the practice is to let expenditures clear BEFORE deposits, so say I pump $20 with only $5 in my account as credit – well aware this is not a good thing to do, I have in mind to make the deposit the same day, so it’s only a matter of convenience.

Compass (specifically), will allow – days later showing as rearranged transactions – the gas transaction post against the amount available AT THE TIME of the transaction regardless of a deposit having been made 10 minutes later and will then post retroactive overdraft fees days later after everything seemingly has settled which can then easily become a $300+ problem if one doesn’t notice the activity within a day as their daily overdraft fee adds up very quickly, it seems very intentional that this end of the business has an negative feedback loop quality to it as deposits are slow, but expenditures are fast.

Compass Bank, now BBVA Compass is exceedingly money hungry when you’re in a pinch to a should-be-illegal extent.

(Read other complaints from angry customers victimized by this NSF charge here and here).

About a year ago Compass was acquired by BBVA.  For some reason BBVA is in a huge rush to plaster their brand all over the old Compass junk. It should be noted that Compass Bank sucked long before BBVA took them over; maybe that’s why BBVA’s being so pushy about divorcing itself from it’s crappy predecessor.

Recently BBVA sent me a new card in the mail, indicating that I was REQUIRED to activate the new card, thereby voiding all my financial account info. It just seemed like a hassle to me; I didn’t want to change it, as all my Direct Deposit stuff and eBay/PayPal accounts, etc. are saved under my prior account #. Sure enough though, the jerks over at BBVA Compass gradually whittled away the functionality of my old account. First, they revoked my right to buy things online; then they took away my ability to sign for stuff (so I could only use my card as a Debit card).  And finally, sometime around last Thursday now–heading into a holiday weekend no less–they cut off ability to use my Debit and ATM.   So all weekend my assets were frozen, which meant I was basically on house arrest for the 4th of July.  I’m afraid my rent check is going to bounce as well–those pricks!  I feel violated!

And supposedly all of this harassment is for my safety.  If my safety is in jeopardy by being able to obtain my money whenever I want and request it, and then spending it as I see fit, then I long to be endangered.

BBVA Compass is officially my ex-bank!

Sure, I probably still have the new card they mailed me laying around my house somewhere; and simply activating it will be exponentially less annoying than finding a new bank, transferring all my funds, updating my records, and wasting a morning answering stupid questions.  But that’s not me–out of principal alone, I not only have to sever all financial ties to this shady bank, but also see it as my civic duty to warn others: Think twice before you doing business with BBVA Compass!

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