Time to admit that banks hate me

By Mir
August 24, 2007

I am beginning to think that I am just not very lucky when it comes to finances.

Oh, I don’t mean that it requires luck to manage your money. I’m all about personal responsibility when it comes to one’s finances and such. I’m fastidious about such things, to the point where I should probably be medicated or at least someone should assist me in yanking this enormous stick out of my butt. But in terms of general money karma, if you will, I think there is a measure of luck involved.

I have a friend who faces an unexpected home repair WITHOUT FAIL any time she comes into a bit of extra money. That’s bad karma. And me, well, I’m fine as long as I don’t have to deal with any actual banks.

You may recall that I thought my bad banking days were over, recently, with the discovery of Small Local Bank and its unique approach of actually treating customers like human beings. I KNOW! I was surprised, too, but I think it’s a very interesting system that may really catch on. We laughed, we cried, we danced a waltz here at the local office, and I gave them all of my money.

Well, some of my money. I keep my little OH MY GOD WHAT IF IT WAS THE APOCALYPSE AND I STILL NEEDED TO PAY MY MORTGAGE fund over at ING Direct, because I am overly fond of the color orange. (This will be important in a minute.)

Small Local Bank and I have been conducting our love affair with nary a hitch, until this week.

Last week, I FINALLY received the money from selling my STUPID CAR which was supposedly sold TWO MONTHS AGO. (No, I’m still not ready to talk about it.) This money came in the form of a large-ish check, as large-ish sums of money are wont to do. Let’s pretend the check was for $11,000, for the purposes of illustration.

I took said check down to Small Local Bank last Thursday and deposited it. The teller and I chatted, sang a song together, french kissed for a while, and then I went on my merry way.

On Friday I checked my online banking. The deposit still showed as being “in process.” Oh well; I had made the deposit late in the afternoon, so that was to be expected.

On Saturday I checked my online banking again. Still “in process.” Oh, right. Being a Small Local Bank as they are, perhaps they don’t update over the weekend. No matter!

On Monday I checked my online banking again. My deposit had cleared; this particular online banking interface displays both my “Available Balance” and my “Ledger Balance,” and these two numbers were EXACTLY THE SAME, indicating that my funds were free and clear.

I went over to my ING Direct account and initiated a transfer of $11,000 from Small Local Bank to ING.

On Tuesday I made ANOTHER deposit at Small Local Bank.

On Wednesday I checked my online banking to make sure that my Tuesday’s deposit had cleared.

Guess what I found?

My $11,000 cleared deposit was GONE. In its place I had TWO deposits, one for $4,900 and one for $6,000, both bearing long complicated alpha-numeric “Processing Codes” and both now listed as PENDING.

Given that the combined balance of all my accounts at Small Local Bank now came to LESS THAN this now-missing deposit, I popped up a window for ING Direct as fast as I could to CANCEL MY PENDING TRANSFER which was about to BOUNCE.

But GUESS WHAT! I couldn’t cancel it, because it was already “in process.”

I did the only logical thing. I FREAKED RIGHT THE HELL OUT.

I called Small Local Bank to ask them what was happening. A very nice young man explained to me that checks over $5,000 are routinely held and take a week to clear unless manually approved by a manager. (How would I know this? No one had told me, and I rarely—um, never—have a check for over $5k.) I stopped breathing into the paper bag between my knees long enough to point out that my deposit had already been CLEARED and he informed me that that must’ve been an error.


When I inquired as to the bizarre splitting of the deposit—the sum total of which was now $100 less than the actual amount—he explained to me that they’ll clear $100 right away, and then the amount up to $5,000 takes another week, and—HOLD ONTO YOUR HATS, because this is my FAVORITE PART—due to the PATRIOT ACT the remaining balance above $5,000 is held for THREE WEEKS. Unless manually cleared by a manager.

I stopped hyperventilating long enough to burst into hysterical laughter. Yes, I am going to overthrow the country. With $11,000. WHO’S WITH ME?? The revolution begins with us storming the White House on… ummm… Razor Scooters. Sorry, I couldn’t afford anything else.

Small Local Bank was VERY cool about the whole thing (I mean, if you’re willing to overlook the asinine deposit handling in the first place), and had my funds re-cleared within the hour, which was awesome. I had visions of ING trying to push the transfer through and all of my Small Local Bank accounts being emptied AND all of my checks bouncing, so I’m glad THAT didn’t happen.

But DAMN, don’t you think it’s time I stopped having Very Distressing Banking Crises? Sheesh.


  1. Leandra

    You are *totally* due at least a month of hassle-free banking! Dude, you’ve experienced enough problems lately to last most people a lifetime.

    In defense of the bank (because I used to work there and really love it), ALL banks have that rule. And it is completely asinine. BUT (before you chunk something at me), the teller should have told you they were placing a hold on the funds. In fact, I think it’s required that he/she do so.

  2. Divrchk

    The teller totally should have told you that your money was not yours for a few more weeks.

  3. diane

    I think they are blowing a little bit of smoke – while the Patriot Act clearly adds regulations governing verification of identification for new accountholders, all that stuff about holding the funds etc. is *bank policy* – otherwise it could not have been overridden by the manager. If all transactions over $5K were held this way, banking in this country would slow to a standstill.

    ((hugs)) Maybe a good mattress (to hide your money under) would be a good investment?

  4. Wendy

    I am totally confused. We routinely make deposits over the $5000 mark and never had any problems. We are with a major bank, but wouldn’t the Patroit Act still apply? And besides, don’t most terriorists launder their money? I mean they don’t go to the bank with a little passbook that is titled: Money to take over the world. This is why we can’t find any of these terriorists we are too busy hassling people who make large deposit after selling a car.

  5. carmen

    We were given a large check in a similar amount as a bonus once. The bank not only held it when they said there would be no hold, they then sent us a letter a week later, saying that they held it because they were suspicious that it wouldn’t be a valid check. Despite the fact that it was drawn on their bank with a major account holder.

    I HATE banks.

  6. LadyBug Crossing

    WEEKS?? Excuse me?? did you say WEEKS??
    How absolutely ridiculous!
    It’s funny how they hang onto our money and don’t give us interest while they hang onto it… hmmmm…

  7. Woman with Kids

    I once deposited a nice sized check, and ran out shopping. Only to have my debit card declined in front of my new boyfriend.

    I’m an idiot.

    Forget overthrowing the government, let’s overthrow the banks.

  8. saucygrrl

    I’m with Wendy. We routinely make deposits with checks over $5K AND we use a small local bank without fail. It takes two or maybe three days for them to clear and become available. Then again, we live in a place were people steal TVs and computers from Real Estate offices and then the next night bring it all back.

  9. Kimmie

    Just reading that gives me a stomach ache. This is why it’s taken me so long to pay bills online……

  10. Stephanie Chance

    I’m thinking somewhere in between singing Kum-Ba-Yah and playing tonsil hockey with you, the teller could have mentioned, oh, yeah, we have this ‘policy.’ You’re not going to be needing this money anytime in the next few months, are you?
    My husband gave me this wonderful advice: cash your check first, and then turn around and deposit it. Cash transactions are posted immediately. It may have required a manager to cash such a large amount, but you would have had your money that day.
    I think they use those cute little tellers who can’t really do anything but take your money and smile to distract from the fact that they are doing all they can to keep your money as long as possible and then charge you for ‘their’ inconvenience.

  11. Crisanne

    We’ve had similar issues with checks being held whilst rent payments were due. Thankfully our agent was understanding. The teller absolutely should have told you about the hold. But now that I think about it, I don’t think our teller told us either. I think one of us happened to notice it on the receipt.

  12. Chuck

    When I sold my last car, I left the check on the bus. No, I can’t believe I was that dumb, either. Fortunately the driver kept the folder it was in and I got it back when the bus looped around again. But I didn’t have any trouble with the check clearing right away, and it was for over $5000.

  13. Aimee

    I work in finance. Wendy and saucygrrl, the key word in both of your replies is “routinely.” Mir said she doesn’t usually have checks over $5K, and probably some over-zealous banking person saw it and freaked out. I have clients who have that problem. But it is also true that they should have told you immediately if there would be a hold, not days after the fact. And there’s also no reason for the hold to be that long, unless you were routinely bouncing checks. I have a client with that problem, too. :)

  14. foodmomiac

    This is why it’s good that you’re anal about money things. If this were me, I would have found out about the bizarre deposit process when my ing deposit bounced.

  15. Karen


    My life works just like yours. You are not alone.

    I sold my car through a nationwide car reseller, thinking I would have none of the hassles of selling to an individual. They paid me a fair price, and I left with check in hand.

    Only it wasn’t a check. When I got to the bank, they explained that it was a “bank draft,” which apparently had to go through several levels of approval over the course of — get this — 15 business days. I was on my way to vacation and had bills to pay and fantasies of spending money. I was not happy.

    In another strange banking incident, I opened a new account with a national banking chain. I deposited $500 and was told it would take 3 to 5 days for that balance to become available. I made additional deposits after that — all of which showed up almost immediately. But the first $500? That took 22 days to become available.

    Needless to say, I don’t bank there anymore. I am with a regional bank and you would have to torture me to change banks. Because that’s what you’re in for. Torture.

    Oooh! I love the Orange, too.

  16. Sasha

    Banks have too much power. I’ve had smaller deposits clear and then be taken out for my checks and POS transactions to go through as NSF and THEN redeposit my deposit.

    For example, Make deposit on 1st, wait until the 3rd. Pay bills online. Check Online banking…deposit no longer there. Check again…still looks the same…check the next morning. All online bills cleared and deposit redeposited with the date of the 4th. No money left in account because each transaction was $27 a pop.

    The kicker, there’s nothing I can do about it but pay some of my bills late and pay those fees which are smaller.

    I feel your pain.

  17. Tonie

    I have to say that was indeed the most exciting banking tale I have ever heard. I am sorry it was such a disaster..glad they worked it out. But, I have to admit I really did enjoy the story.

  18. Summer

    I knew about the Patriot Act blah blah blah because I’m a business owner — technically, I suppose, I’m the wife of a business owner but since I’m sitting at a desk all day working for said business it’s pretty much all the same. We get a lot of checks in every day, sometimes quite large, but usually we have a handful of checks in the $150 – $400 range, and I’m under strict instructions to put together bank deposits of no less than $1,000 (because otherwise it’s not worth the hassle of trying to park in the way-too-small lot at the bank) and no more than $5,000.

    We’ve been known to make multiple deposits in the same day, on the same bank trip, even, because somehow making multiple deposits that add up to more than $5,000 doesn’t trip the same sensors as a single deposit of that much. Stupid? Yeah. Big Brother-y? Yeah. But we deal.

  19. tammy

    The terrorists only bank there because of the free mugs.

  20. YetAnotherKaren

    I kept waiting for something to happen with the color orange. Oops. Did I miss it?

  21. Not The Mama

    Ugh, that is ridiculous. I’d never heard of the $5000 rule either. I would have panicked.

    Apropos bad banking luck, our bank recently LOST our deposit. It was both of our bi-monthly paychecks, so a substantial deposit. And two days later when we checked our balance online it wasn’t even shown as pending. I called the 24-hour hotline and they had no record of a deposit being made at all. Thank god I had my receipt.

  22. mar

    Grr – I hate that. We run into that a lot – we pay our subcontractors, but we get paid from our clients in one big check. I have to wait at least a week from getting paid to pay myself. I agree w/whomever above said to try and cash the check first (you should be able to cash it at the issuing bank, albeit w/a bunch of ID checks!), then deposit cash.

    I will say, Big National Bank that I deal with always prints when the funds will be available on my deposit ticket. Dates, how much, etc. Not sure if all banks do that or not – at least I know how long they are holding my money hostage!

  23. Beth R

    I think banks use the Patriot Act to excuse lots of weird stuff they always wanted to do anyway. If not all banks do it, then it’s not a Patriot Act requirement, it’s just something they want to do IMHO.

  24. becky

    banking rules seem arbitrary and unreasonable to me. i’m not a big fan of financial institutions. hey, if i could pay my bills using the jar in the back yard, i’d be tempted. but it’s so damn hard to stuff that jar in those little payment envelopes they send you!

  25. Jodi

    Don’t even get me started on the idiocy of the policies of our current administration, K? Really, my head will explode and goo will run down the computer screen.

  26. Pave.Gurl

    Having worked in finance for a stupid long time, I can explain this a little bit.

    Short version: most banks will hold funds for 7-10 days because that is how long the delivering institution legally has to recall those funds in the event of fraudulent activity (read: money laundering). Therefore, your bank wants to make sure they have those funds available in the event they are recalled, or it comes from their bottom line. The override comes into play because the manager of Small Local Bank can call the delivering institution, verify that the funds are good delivery, and allow the funds to clear for your use/ removal.

    Sucks, but there is logic behind it.

  27. Pave.Gurl

    … and I reckon I should’ve mentioned that those rules are, in fact, part of the Anti-Money Laundering portion of the Patriot Act. I had to do multiple courses on it every year, so believe me? It really is the law.

  28. My Buddy Mimi

    We had the same thing happen with another small local bank when we were closing of our house a few years ago. Also, because my husband had been added to my checking account less than 30 days earlier, he could not do any transactions other than using the ATM. Even though they had the signature card on file at the branch office they had to wait for the paperwork to be mailed to some centeral processing office before he was officially on the account a month later.

    As soon as we closed on the house we switched to a large national bank, which has treated us well so far. Knock on wood.

  29. udge

    My goodness, how lucky we are that the Bush government is protecting us so well from terrorism! Bah.

  30. ScottsdaleGirl

    I have my money split between two large banks and one small local credit union. Because I am apparently masochistic.

  31. MomCat

    Yeah, I’m ready for the revolution. I have $14.85 to contribute to the fund when my last check clears. Could we have matching hats with our scooters? I like hats.

  32. Lisa

    Clearly, this was a sign you should have invested that money immediately- like on shoes or a couple of purses instead of putting it in a bank. I hope you learned your lesson.

  33. bad penguin

    Three weeks? THREE? Not that I run around making $11,000 deposits, well, ever, but if I did, I’d be pissed about having to wait for MY money for three weeks.

    On a side note, do you like the ING account? I’ve been thinking of opening one.

  34. Chris

    I just escaped the banking trade (yeah!), but what your bank told you is not entirely accurate. First, banks do have the right to hold funds until they have payment IF they put that disclaimer in their funds availablity policy that they are required to give you when you open an account. RegCC allows a bank to hold deposits over 5K, if said deposit meets one of the RegCC requirements, for up to 7 business days; however, they must make the first $100 available. The hold must be removed when the funds are collected and the depositor must be notified in writing that a hold will be placed. With the advent of Check 21 most checks clear same day, so it doesn’t take so long to find out if funds are bad. The last subsection here is that many banks routinely hold deposits on accounts newer than 6 months and, again, they must state this in the FAP. Fraud is most likely to occurr in the first 6 months or after 5 years. Go figure.
    The PATRIOT Act comment, was complete bull.

  35. jesusita

    Until recently, I worked at a credit union. There is a “number” for reporting federally and it’s not $5000 (although I think they aren’t talking about federal reporting but their own policy on holds). The amount of a deposit hold per check depends largely on bank or credit union’s own regulations and, according to what I was told on the job (of course, it could be different for banks, as they do have some differing legislation, etc.), each bank or credit union’s board decides what their own particular hold amount will be. We weren’t allow to give out the information for criteria to customers for security reasons (for example, if they knew we held checks over X amount for whatever reason, people could launder money by writing checks for X – $1 instead or cash fraudulent checks for a smaller amount), but it was based largely on what was available in the account at the time (as a basis for recouping monies if the check turned out to be fraudulent, which happens several times a DAY. Even paychecks or bank checks bounce sometimes, and many people mistakenly deposit or cash checks that cannot be covered on the check writer’s end without the depositor’s knowledge of anything being wrong with the check) and what would probably be available in the future (direct deposits, etc.) and even average balances or NSF history. Newer accounts with little or no history had automatic holds on them pretty regularly (which could be overridden with a manager’s approval).

    We had to assure member’s repeatedly that the hold was not directed at our assumption that THEY were doing something wrong, but rather at the assumption that any check can bounce. People can be and regularly are duped by phony checks, fraudulent money orders, and even really well-done but rubber cashier’s checks. We put holds on anything we couldn’t verify with the bank or CU on the check (a lot of places won’t verify funds on a check) and on any large amount over X amount (not to be disclosed for security reasons) that couldn’t be covered by our particular criteria.

    If that makes any sense…

    But, yes, the Patriot Act has made banking harder on BOTH sides of the teller window. If you think it inconveniences you, imagine how we tellers feel doing and explaining this stuff fifty or more times a day when people feel slighted. We commiserate. We’d want our money, too (and we placed holds on employee’s incoming checks the same as any other member), especially if it were an insurance check for car repairs, etc. We do understand. We’re just bound by rules and laws.

    At our CU, though, we attempted EVERYTHING we could to not put a hold on a check for a member—checking EVERY possible criteria and going to a manager WITHOUT the member’s needing to ask us to do it. It was just a normal part of the deposit to us to attempt to make it as easy as possible for the member. It’s a risky thing to do, especially considering the possibility for loss to a non-profit CU, but we wanted to make member’s happy.

    I’m glad your small bank was willing to assist you with that as well. Oh…and we were required to tell member’s (either verbally or on their receipts) that a hold was placed and when the funds would entirely be available.

  36. RuthWells

    I work in Finance. Some years ago, a client in the U.K. paid us in USD via a check drawn on a non-US bank. Guess how long it took to clear, go on, guess!

    If you guessed 3 months, you win.

  37. Elleana

    Totally happened to me – just change the names of the banks, and you’ve got the same situation. I was so angry and panicked and frustrated. I’m glad it worked out well for you.

  38. jean

    I think you need to have some more of that bacon stuff you bought. With a side of chocolate.

  39. Sara

    Is it weird that I am totally enjoying the picture of people storming the White House on Razor Scooters?

  40. Susan

    This is why I take all my large checks directly to the shoe store and trade them for pretty ballet flats. So much easier.

    Ha ha! Kidding! Or at least you HOPE I’m kidding!

  41. Sheila

    All these smart people with their bank knowledge are making my vision cloud over and my brain hurt. I’d like to go back to a kinder, friendlier time when we paid for stuff in sacks of cornmeal or fence-painting.

  42. Pamela

    Excuse me, which part of the world is this bank from ?
    Sometimes, technology does not make our world better but more complicated. Parents need something simple.

  43. Sarah

    I used to (and still do, actually) get my stipend checks on big quarterly amounts, and these were all over $5k, which meant the Big Name Bank routinely held them for extended periods of time, generally until shortly after I needed to pay rent or whatnot. Great fun. John had to actually go in and yell at them that this was going to happen regularly and they had better deal with it, which they eventually did once I created a history of such deposits. Gah.

    And yes, in the long run, all it took was for a manager to clear it! We actually had the teller tell us that they couldn’t do this, at which point John (who was in retail at the time), said call it in and check if it’s a good check. Because let’s face it, my university is NOT going to bounce a check. She claimed they couldn’t do it, my head exploded, and John wouldn’t let the issue go. Eventually a manager came over to find out what the fuss was, and ended up clearing the check with one click of the keys.

    That was, thankfully, the last of that, but I was about ready to go find another bank. Glad you got it sorted out, and also very glad you don’t have to do it on a regular basis like we did. Took almost a year to sort it out! If you want company in your revolution, just let me know!

  44. Andi

    My bank holds all deposited checks for three days before clearing it and putting it into my account. However, I can cash my paycheck on the spot and deposit the cash – which is immediately available. How stupid is that?!

  45. Brandy

    Normally I lurk, but I had to say that we had this happen once, this year, with my husbands student loan money. We tried EVERYTHING to get the bank to release a least SOME of the funds early, even talking to a manager because the money needed to go RIGHT BACK to the college that issued the check. *sigh* No one would help, we finally had to call the college and tell them that the money for his next class might be late, but that it wasn’t our fault. We even gave the bank and the college each others numbers. Evenutally it all worked out, but it was a PITA. And no, when my hubs originally deposited the money, no one told him it would be split and held. And this was a major national bank, as in Bank of blah-blah-blah.

  46. jenn

    Yep. Until I had son #1 three years ago and became a stay-at-home mom, I worked in customer service at a large national bank. (If you called the 800-number on your statement, I was the one who answered the phone. BTW, the bank’s nickname is Walk-all-over-ya.) It’s hard to remember all the regulations like RegCC and that stuff, and I think some of it’s changed since then, but dumb crap like this used to happen all the time and infuriate customers. Hope things are ok with small local bank from now on!

  47. Jen

    To really show my age, when I was in college 20 years ago, I worked in the small town bank. $10,000 was the magic number for getting all kids of info from people to make sure that they weren’t laundering money. It’s been policy for a long time, the Patriot Act just gives it a fancy new name.

  48. Cele

    I watch my online bank numbers all the time, I like you would have trusted them. At that point, it would be there mistake. But what it does show me, is I need to print off certain things (which I’m really good at) because I (like you) bank with good faith.

  49. Randi

    Well, stop taking money from foreign agencies! :)


  50. Jen

    I’m not sure I understand – checks (we call them cheques) can clear immediately in the US? Here in the UK, cheques take about 5 days to clear. I have a no-frills bank account because of my credit history, and with them it takes a full SEVEN working days for a cheque to clear. Meanwhile the banks are raking in the interest from our money that they are holding onto. Not fair! Your banking experience sounds very very familiar to me….

  51. mama speak

    I didn’t read all the posts, so maybe someone already said this, but this is the exact reason I generally only make deposit for less then 5K. I know, not an option since you had one check, but if you ever have a group of checks, break them out into multiple deposits so you can get your money faster. They say a week, but it can take longer. AND the patriot act thing I think is a 10K amount, (I believe I came by this info via the Daily Show,) cause the terrorists won’t figure out to split their deposits.

    And, of course, if we can get our money right away (when we need it) the terrorists win.
    Banks suck, it’s not you, don’t take it personally.

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