How I Saved $50 With Two Phone Calls to my Banks

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Two potential inconveniences that come with savings accounts are monthly limits on withdrawals and minimum account balances.

I use Ally Bank for my online savings account. Just like any other savings account, they only let you withdraw money from your account 6 times per month. For a nice explanation of why this limit exists, check out this post from Jim at Wallet Hacks

I had never experienced a problem with this limit before, but I encountered it’s wrath for the first time yesterday. I logged into my Ally Savings account and noticed this at the top of my Transaction History:

transactionFee

A $10 Excessive Transactions Fee.

The main reason I use Ally is because they offer a 1% 1.05% annual interest rate. Year to date I have been paid $8.87 in interest. This $10 fee essentially wiped out all the interest I had earned!

As I have written in previous posts, my Vanguard brokerage account automatically withdraws $150 every week from my Ally account to invest in index funds. Normally this means I only use 4 withdrawals per month, but occasionally I use 5. This was one of those months. No big deal, 5 is still less than 6.

But this month I set up a Venmo account (as an easy way for my tutoring clients to pay me), which deposited and withdrew 2 small amounts in my Ally account to verify it was mine. It turns out those 2 withdrawals from Venmo were counted as my 6th and 7th transaction for the month, which triggered the $10 Excessive Transactions Fee.

I immediately called Ally and explained the situation to a customer service rep, who then explained the situation to his manager and came back in less than two minutes and said “Okay sir, we’ll refund that $10 to your account, thanks for calling us.” It was by far the easiest $10 I had ever saved in my life (I swear I’m not an Ally sales rep, their customer service is just that good).

Persist. Always Persist.

Getting a refund from a bank isn’t always this easy though. About a year ago I transferred almost all my savings from my First Financial Bank savings account to my Ally Savings account. I left around $100 in my First Financial account just in case I needed it for any odd reason.

What I didn’t realize was that First Financial Bank has a $250 minimum balance requirement for savings accounts. Each month your account is below the minimum they charge a $5 fee. Now, not all savings accounts have a minimum balance (Ally doesn’t have a minimum – again, swear I’m not a sales rep), but some do. 

Honestly I had completely forgotten I even had a savings account with First Financial until I happened to look at it one day and saw that I had lost $40 over the course of eight months in fees because my account failed to have the minimum balance in it each month. 

The phone call I made to get my refund was a little trickier and time consuming in this case. I explained that I wanted a refund because I unaware that there was a minimum balance requirement.

First Financial Bank rep: “Hmmm, let me see what I can do for you.”

*puts me on hold*

“Yeah, it looks like unfortunately we can’t give you that refund, I apologize.”

Me: Well I would just like a refund because I didn’t receive a notification or anything that I was receiving a fee each month.

FFB rep: “Right, right. Okay let me see here….yeah it looks like unfortunately we can’t do anything about that.”

Me: I would really like a refund though, may I please speak with your manager?

FFB rep: “Of course, one moment.”

Manager: “Hi sir, I just reviewed your situation and unfortunately we can’t do anything about it.”

Me: I have been with First Financial for several years and this is the first time I have had this issue, I would just like a refund.

Manager: “Let’s see…one moment sir”

*puts me on hold for a few minutes*

“Okay sir, it looks like we can refund you the $40, just please be aware of the minimum balance requirement in the future.”

How to Play Hardball

This is a typical tactic most customer service employees are taught to use. They’ll explain that unfortunately they can’t do anything for you, but if you persist for long enough they’ll often give you exactly what you want.

The secret to getting refunds in situations like this is to be polite, but assertive. Word choice is important. Instead of asking “Is there any way I can get a refund?”, say “I would like a refund.” The latter is always more effective. 

It’s important to remember that banks want to keep you as a customer. Acquiring customers can be costly. For the bank, it’s almost always more profitable to give you a refund than lose you as a customer. Keep that in mind.

These two phone calls quickly saved me $50 with my banks, but they’re a great example of how to get a refund from almost any company that offers a service. Whether it’s your internet provider, cable provider, Amazon, an online bank, or whoever else, companies recognize that it’s better to refund a customer than to lose them to a competitor.

Now go get some long lost refunds 🙂


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