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August 11, 2009

"I Live With My Cat..."

"...but he doesn't pay the bills."

Hands down, my favorite excuse for not paying your credit card bill. Second only to "I took 2 $2500.00 cash advances to play the slots at Vegas, but since I lost all of the money, I don't think I should have to pay the 2% transaction fee."

From the same woman, naturlich. There are days when we wonder whether there is any intelligent life on earth? Stories like this don't exactly fill us with an infectious sense of bonhomie:

You gotta love banks. They bring the American economy to its knees peddling crap mortgages, only to be bailed-out en masse by the taxpayers, and now they're making a killing by charging customers ridiculous overdraft fees.

Hmmmm. Let's think about this one for a moment:

1. Patrons who can't be bothered to ensure there is money in their account before proceeding to spend it.

2. Think it's "too hard" to sign up for an automatic overdraft account, just in case they forget to pay the attention bill.

3. Apparently, can't be bothered to read the disclosure statements banks constantly send out.

Yep. Those nasty banks are pretty unreasonable. What are the odds that someone who's broke, proceeds to spend money that doesn't belong to him and then squeals like a stuck pig when the bank charges him (generally called 'interest') for borrowing other people's money without asking first might just default on such a loan?

Yeah, we know. Stranger things have happened:

Keyboard CatKeith Griffin was charged Wednesday with 10 counts of possession of child porn after over 1,000 illegal images were found on his computer, and he claims it's all the work of his kitty.

Keith Griffin The 48-year-old Jensen Beach, Fla., man told cops he would leave his computer on and the cat would jump on the keyboard and just like that, the images would appear.

Cops weren't buying Griffin's tale, and busted him in his home. He's being held in Martin County Jail on $250,000 bail

Of course some folks might have said that letting your cat use the computer in the first place was a big clue.

Posted by Cassandra at August 11, 2009 08:21 AM

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Was the cat looking for kitty porn? :)
**Someone had to say it**

Posted by: ziobuck at August 11, 2009 10:47 AM

Yeah... I was counting the minutes :p

Posted by: Cassandra at August 11, 2009 11:05 AM

What you fail to understand, and the Speaker of the House has chosen to demonstrate on a daily basis, is the fact that being a moron has suddenly become a constitutional right. And that means, as constitutional rights have come to be understood, somebody else pays the tab.

Posted by: RIslander at August 11, 2009 11:34 AM

Not only that, but it is a constitutional right to promote general welfare by having other people pay for your mistakes. Basic tenet of socialism.

Posted by: Cricket at August 11, 2009 12:00 PM

The *other* basic tenet of socialism is that, once other people have paid for your mistakes, they must pay for everything else, too.

Posted by: BillT at August 11, 2009 12:40 PM

Big swing-and-a-miss here. I closed a bank account last month. I explained that in this Internet world, there were parties who had been given the bank account against which to impose monthly charges - minor stuff, to be sure - and that, when those charges came in post-closing, I would hear from the disappointed creditors (by automatic email, of course) and promptly give them a new bank account to look to.

Guess what?

The bank continues to accept the charges - not deterred by my closing of the account, in person, at the bank, last month - and now charges me $39.00 for each such "overdraft".

Because, my dear, that's what banks do.

Posted by: Everyman at August 11, 2009 05:09 PM

Did you get your money back?

Posted by: Cricket at August 11, 2009 10:00 PM

If typing monkeys can write Shakespeare [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_monkey_theorem], why can't a kitty find kiddie porn?

Posted by: I Call BS at August 11, 2009 10:01 PM

A few observations, many of which have nothing to do with you (and which I offer in case they are helpful to anyone else):

1. I have worked for a few banks in my time :) Not sure what the relevant law is anymore, but I remember back in the day that simply closing the account wouldn't prevent new charges from coming in. The bank I worked for was a credit card issuer - not sure how this affects checking or share accounts.

2. Being in the military, I have closed accounts at quite a few banks in numerous states over the years. The terms were different at each bank but I always left a few hundred in there for a year just in case, unless I knew for a fact that every single check had cleared and I had destroyed the remainder.

3. Sadly, if you give access to an account to anyone else, you are usually responsible for any charges they make. We used to get panicked phone calls from parents, lovers, friends, etc. who gave a credit card to some untrustworthy person and then had a falling out with them. You have to physically get the card back from them to stop them.

This is why you should NEVER give a child your credit card. EVER, EVER, EVER. Open a SMALL line of credit IN THEIR NAME, but try not to cosign and if you do, make sure the credit limit is something you can live with if they charge it to the hilt. Because kids who aren't paying their own bills do just that. All the time. They have no sense of duty or accountability. I never "gave" my kids a credit card - credit is something you earn, not a right. We didn't get credit cards until we could afford them and were paying our own way - a good 3 or 4 years after we were married.

Before that, if I needed to buy something on time, I took a share secured loan. This is a great way for young people to build credit and the loan is secured by their savings. When we were still fairly poor, I "borrowed" money from my parents, deposited it in my account, used it as collateral, then set up automatic payments to get the lowest interest rate. When I paid the loan off, I withdrew my parents' money and paid them the principal back with interest. The interest rate I paid on the loan plus the interest I paid back to my parents was FAR below what it would have cost me to take out an unsecured loan.

4. Since I was 16, I've had the same checking and savings account at a credit union. I also have a $2000 overdraft account to handle miscalculations on my part. Haven't used it for at least a decade but it's there if I need it.

I have two credit cards - one I never use and one that is actually a debit card (a Visa) that I use for virtually everything.

My husband now has his own account with his own overdraft ($2000, again). It costs us nothing and is more than worth it in terms of peace of mind. His account is used for incidentals and about 3 times a year he runs out of money before payday - but never more than $2000 worth. That overdraft account has saved our bacon - I check the accounts every two weeks and if he's overdrawn I just transfer money into his account and pay off the overdraft. We never accrue finance charges.

Now the reason I suggest leaving money in an account after you close it is that in addition to bank fees, many stores charge horrendous fees if you bounce a check. It costs them money to come after you if your check doesn't clear.

Sadly, the bottom line is that whenever a legitimate demand is made on a bank account (legitimate meaning that you provided access to the account in some fashion, as opposed to identity theft - which has happened to me), there needs to be sufficient money there to pay it. If you provide access to 3rd parties (which, by the way, I do not suggest) you are liable for any charges they accrue.

That said, have you talked to a customer service manager? Most banks will reverse such charges if you complain nicely. They may also point out that the charge schedule was disclosed to you, but they generally will reverse the charges. I did that all the time at the two banks I've worked for.

It's worth a try - be patient and calm and persistent. What happened to you isn't uncommon but if you inquired and they failed to tell you, you have a better case - especially if their disclosure agreement doesn't spell the overdraft charge mechanism well.

Anyway, good luck :)

Posted by: Cassandra at August 11, 2009 10:07 PM

I hardly write checks anymore. I pay most all my bills online. However, I DO NOT give my creditors/whoever charge my bank account. I initiate the payment myself through my credit union's online bill pay. I don't want to give anyone the authority to draft my account....

One thing that does pi$$ me off is credit card companies (especially those who received bailout $$) jacking up their interest rates even though I always pay on time and haven't gone over my limit... I'm starting to think that going back to school (which necessitated not working full-time and having to use credit for unexpected expenses) was a big mistake, since - 2.5 years post-graduation - I am still not employed in my new field for which my degree has qualified me.... and it's looking like it will be at least 3.5 years, if ever, before I start seeing a return on that (misguided/bad) investment... I wish I could just tell my CC provide to take a long walk off a short pier, but I can't afford to do so...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at August 11, 2009 11:20 PM

If (hopefully when) they put the kitty lover in with the general population, he'll get what he deserves.

Posted by: camojack at August 12, 2009 03:58 AM

I have a custodial account which is near emptied every month, usually writing only 4 checks, all for same amount every month.

Imagine my surprise when I got a letter notifying me of an overdraft charge and requesting a deposit to pay the OD and the check. Of course it arrived on a Saturday, so all I can do is look at the account online.

There were three checks, totaling about $250 that I hadn't written and not only that, they were "electronically" paid so there were no copies to view. The person I hold this account for does not have any checks (and is 150 miles away) and I'm the only one authorized to sign.

By the time, I get a live person on the phone, I'm in a near panic, but I've also already transferred funds of my own to cover the overdrafts -- any mistakes on that account are my responsibility.

Finally, after talking with a very nice lady who was obviously new on the job (kept putting me on hold to ask someone else questions) it dawned on me that while there weren't check copies to view online, there were check numbers, and they were out of sequence.

Yeah, I'm slow :-)

So, this is what happened: When I was out of town, my husband ran out of checks and ventured into my office to see if there was another book. The first box of checks he ran across was the custodial account and he never looked at the names. Nor did any of the clerks who took the checks.

This was SO my fault (and my husband's -- he's not getting off the hook!) but the bank refunded the overdraft charges without me asking! And frankly, at that point, I was just glad they paid the checks on such a low-balance, low-activity account.

Since I have so many checks left for the custodial account, I'm ordering a different color for our account next time. And I'm labeling the boxes in big letters and storing them in different places.

Posted by: Donna B. at August 12, 2009 09:33 AM

I'm glad to hear that, Donna. My husband and I have experienced similar confusion regarding checks - we have two accounts, both jointly owned, and for most of our marriage his name appeared first on the checks even though one of the accounts was my checking/savings acct. that I have had since I was 16.

After 28 years of marriage, we finally switched the order of the names on my account to make it easier to tell them apart! That was my "feminism moment" when we first got married - his Mom was horrified that my name appeared over his. I didn't get it, but since I really do not care about such things (and I wasn't earning any money at that point anyway) I switched the order of the names :p

Aye yay yay.

re: the bank. Most banks are pretty reasonable about this kind of thing. The fees are there to allow them to discourage people who abuse the rules but bank staff are human. Generally, if patrons are respectful and offer any reasonable explanation whatsoever, the bank will happily refund the charges. You may have to get a supervisor on the line to make it happen, but I worked for one bank that didn't have the greatest reputation for customer service (they extended credit to what I'd politely term a risky bunch of borrowers). And even we were reasonable if there was a good explanation.

I've been in customer service in one form or another for most of my career. There's definitely an art to getting large firms to resolve problems, but the good news is that 9 times out of 10 the problem is either computers or a one-size-fits-all policy that works as intended in the aggregate but can produce bad results in certain cases. Everyone understands this, and most are happy to fix a problem if they can.

Of course, there are always stories (boy! could I tell you stories!) where everything goes wrong and it almost takes an act of Congress to fix the problem.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 12, 2009 09:47 AM

Please, Cassandra, no more acts of Congress!

Posted by: RIslander at August 12, 2009 11:26 AM