Johanna deposited a financial aid check from her university into her Chase checking account. She’d done this before without incident, but this time something went wrong.

On Wednesday the 22st, I deposited a financial aid check from my university for $3,193.00. I had a balance of $33.03 in the account. I deposited through the bank’s ATM machine, and the slip told me there might be a hold on the check AFTER I’d already deposited, but it did make a small sum available to me in the meantime. I wasn’t happy with that, but there was nothing I could do, the ATM already had my check so I went home, resolved to spend as little as possible until the check went through.

The next day, the 22nd, I stopped by an ATM to check my balance, because I couldn’t remember how much the bank was allowing me to have until the hold could be removed from my deposit. It told me I had access to the full amount. Delighted, I took out the $300 I needed to pay my electric bill from the ATM and went on my way.

As the day progressed, I used my debit card for things like gas and lunch. All told, about 6 small transactions. Today, I made a large grocery list, thrilled to be able to eat something other than the student staple of ramen noodles I’d been enjoying for the last week, and headed out the door.

Surprisingly (or not) when I used my debit card today it didn’t go through. I went down the street to my neighborhood Chase branch and checked my available balance. I was NEGATIVE $390! My heart stopped, as I wondered what could have happened to all of my money. I went into the branch and asked to speak to someone regarding my account. I explained all of the above. They told me that the ATM receipt I had showing my balance was only showing my ledger balance and not my available balance, and that I should have known from my deposit slip that there was a hold on my deposit. Fair enough, I said, but that distinction isn’t made on my balance statement, and anyhow, why would your ATM dispense $300 to me if the funds weren’t there?

The rep (who wasn’t wearing a name tag) said “Oh, the ATM will forward you the money, if you’re willing to pay the fee”. And this is where I pretty much loose it “how would I know I was getting hit with a fee if the ATM didn’t tell me that? It just gave me the money! So the bank knew I didn’t have the funds, gave them to me anyway, then charged me an NSF fee without telling me. I can understand this sort of thing happening with a debit transaction, but this is your ATM!”

The rep tells me she agrees with me, so I ask her if she can take off the fee. She tells me she can’t do that, that the only way that fee is going to come off is if the bank determines after my deposit “goes through” that they made a mistake, then THEY will contact ME for a refund. Ha!! The worst part is, that because of this, I got hit with 6 NSF fees for that day. The first two transactions could have been covered by my old balance of $33.03 but since Chase has a policy of covering transactions by order of amount from greatest to smallest, that $33 went to pay their ATM’s NSF fee! Convenient, isn’t it?

I ask if there’s anything they can do to remove the hold on my check, since I’ve deposited checks from my school with them before. The rep tells me that’s not an option either, because I deposited into a new account, which is true. I’ve been a customer of Chase for 4 years and had both a checking and savings account with them already, but I opened a second account with them about 2 months ago. When I explain this, she tells me that it doesn’t matter how long I’ve been with them, that’s just policy for all new accounts. So I ask her how much longer before the hold comes off, and she tells me it won’t be for another 7 days! So not only have they stolen $200 of my money in mistaken NSF fees which they caused, but they also stole my last $33. I have a quarter tank of gas and nothing to live on for the next week, not to mention a lot of bills that need to be paid before the end of the month.

I’ve never had a problem with Chase before this, but it was so frustrating how they seemed to have an answer to everything and where completely able to deflect responsibility for their screw up. The final insult came as I walked away, when the rep hollers after me to “have a nice day!” I stopped in my tracks and turned around and yelled out “not likely lady!”.

I’m so angry. I can’t even see straight.

Johanna, we applaud you for not yelling “Go @$#@ yourself” at that sarcastic banker. You are obviously a very nice person who deserves better treatment than Chase is able to provide.

We think the best thing for Johanna to do is kick this issue up to the top. Launch an EECB (executive email carpet bomb) on Chase and ask that your fees be waived and your money released. Here’s some contact info to get you started. For more information about launching an EECB, click here.

(Photo: epicharmus )

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Consumerist.