Pennies prove problematic for Wells Fargo customer

August 27, 2010 7:48:52 PM PDT
You might think that 4 cents couldn't possibly cause trouble. But for Elaine Peat, four little pennies were enough to start an avalanche of problems.

Peat couldn't keep the minimum balance required in her Wells Fargo savings account. So, she withdrew the last $100 and closed it down -- or so she thought.

It wasn't until nine months later that trouble surfaced. A collection agency called, claiming she owed Wells Fargo $44.96. It couldn't say why, so she marched to the bank to find out and received an unbelievable reply.

"The agent said there was a 4 cent balance on my account when I took out the $100. I said, 'Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you give me the $100.04?'" Peat said.

Sure enough, 4 cents was left in the account from an interest payment Peat didn't know about. The bank never closed the account because the 4 cents were still there. Instead, Wells Fargo began charging her maintenance fees on it. They added up to $45 minus a credit for the 4 cents.

"It was so unbelievable to me. I said, 'Why don't you just keep the 4 cents,'" Peat said.

Peat contacted Wells Fargo corporate offices and said an agent kept grilling her about why she could not remember the date she closed the account.

"She said, 'There's nothing we can do for you, you will just have to contact the collection agent and make arrangements for payment,' I said, 'I'm not going to pay $44 over 4 cents,'" Peat said.

Because the fees were sent to a collection agency, Peat began to worry about her credit rating. She kept pleading with the bank.

"I said I would gladly give them the four cents," Peat said. "They said, 'We can't do that because it belongs to the customer.' I said, 'You'll destroy my credit and you'll do everything else to me but you won't take my four cents?' I got so angry I finally said, 'I'm calling 7 On Your Side.'"

7 On Your Side contacted Wells Fargo Bank and it took action. The bank immediately reversed the charges and promised the incident would not appear on Peat's credit report.

"Wells Fargo reviewed this matter and believes there was opportunity to better assist Ms. Peat. While there's more to the story, we must respect the privacy of the customer. If Wells Fargo makes a mistake we strive to make it better," said Wells Fargo in a statement. "In this instance, we reversed the fees for her. Thank you, 7 On Your Side, for bringing this to our attention."

Peat, too, is grateful that the saga of her four pennies has been resolved.

"You just get so frustrated because you don't know where to turn. I'm very grateful to channel seven for this wonderful service because I would be like everybody else, not knowing what to do," Peat said. The lesson here? It's not enough to withdraw the remaining money in an account. You should make it clear to the bank you are closing it.

Wells Fargo tells us customers should not go to a teller, but to a bank officer for each account closure and specifically ask that it be closed. That way maybe you can avoid this kind of hassle.


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