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Why I hate Fleet Bank.

Let me preface this by saying that I did not voluntarily choose Fleet Bank as my bank. I had been a customer of Shawmut Bank prior to their merger deal. My checking account and bank loan were then assumed by Fleet after the merge. Also, I didn't always have problems with Fleet. Before Derek and I moved to Australia, I hadn't really had any quarrels with them at all. I didn't have a lot of money, but I made sure that I had enough in my account to cover the various auto-debited bill and loan payments each month. Keeping up with the bills was tough, but I managed it for the most part. My troubles weren't to begin until later...

Tale of woe

My tale of woe began in 1997, after moving to Australia to begin a two-year stint of living and working in Sydney. The Australian dollar was strong when we arrived at the beginning of February 1997, its worth fluctuating between USD$0.78 and USD$0.80. It took me a few months to find a permanent job, but I did find a pretty well-paid job by Australian standards, which was worth a few thousand dollars more, in US terms, than my previous American job in human services. I thought I was doing pretty well. That was before the great Asian currency crisis gripped the Pacific Rim.

Around the end of northern summer (it was winter in the southern hemisphere), as I recall, was when the Asian currencies began to plummet, taking the Australian dollar down with them. The AUD reached a nadir of USD$0.56 before slowing inching its way back to a plateau of around USD$0.64. My American purchasing power contracted accordingly; as you may well imagine, it's really hard to keep up with the bills when your salary is paid in a currency worth only around 60% of the currency in which your bills are charged. I'm sure you can begin to form a mental picture of the financial chaos which resulted. This is when all my problems with Fleet began. In many ways I'm still reeling from the impact all this had on my finances. I will go into more detail below, but first I want to explain why I've decided to share my saga.

The catalyst

My resolve to create this document was solidified from idle bitching into action after I received this letter from Fleet's Adjustment Department in Utica, NY on September 3, 1999. It thanked me for my deposit on "May 12, 1999 in the amount of $3,140,531.07."

Yes, you read that correctly. Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself. It further stated: "A review of this deposit shows that one check, which was listed as $647.58, was actually $8.70. We have charged your account the difference of $639.09." They didn't even get the difference right! (The actual amount would be $638.88.)

After receiving this, I naturally went to an ATM to check my balance. In fact, my balance was shown as -$659.28, because of the abovementioned adjustment. Now, I was very low on money before this, because I'm temping and had recently spent time in England, time when I wasn't getting paid; also, I had just had nearly $200 auto-debited to service my Fleet loan. And to add insult to injury, I just received another letter from Fleet on September 10, 1999, informing me that I've been docked a further $25 for being overdrawn!

Not the first time

As I've mentioned, this is not the first time that Fleet has screwed with me since they took over my account from Shawmut, but it is probably the most spectacular instance of it, vying for first place with the time that my ATM card was eaten in an ATM in Queenstown, New Zealand and they told me that the card had been reported lost (it hadn't) and that they couldn't (wouldn't, more likely) do anything to help me immediately, leaving me stranded 9000 miles from my home branch with no access to any money. I was living in Australia at the time, so there was really no way I could force them to resolve it. Good thing I wasn't travelling alone, or I would've been shit outta luck.

Other examples of what they did to me while I was overseas:

  • Closed my account twice and failed to notify me either before or after; each time I only found out 5-6 weeks later because I had called about a completely different issue. This had to do partly with my financial difficulties resulting from the abovementioned Asian currency crisis. After the first time I called to explain what was going on, and they agreed to reinstate my account after I explained the situation, however...

  • I kept writing checks on that account after it was reinstated. I would get periodic notices of bounced checks, which I didn't understand, because I was sending money to my Fleet account. I had chalked it up to delays resulting from the distance and time difference. However, after the second time they closed my account, which I found out when calling on an unrelated issue again, I then discovered that the reason my checks had been bouncing was that...

  • ...they'd changed my account number. Note that they never advised me of the account number change, never told me I needed new checks (it's a checking account), never offered to send me new checks, or anything, despite the fact that I had been in contact with the bank many times over a variety of issues. Naturally, given the lack of info, it never occurred to me to check the account number on my statements. More the fool I for trusting them.

  • In connection with the above, failed for months to send me a new ATM card. I had a PIN, but I'd lost the slip in my apartment, and then they failed to send me a new PIN for about 7-8 months, even after repeated requests.

  • Repeatedly failed to get my address correct, even though I must have corrected them about 10 times over 2 years in Australia. Mail from them frequently arrived 2-4 weeks late, often stamped with stuff like "Missent to Manila".

  • A more recent example of the above: In late May 2000 I received a letter postmarked 5/18/2000 from Hartford, CT. The letter was addressed to me at "4/2 James St., 46 Adams St., Medford, MA 02155-0000." The first street was my last address in Australia, where I haven't lived since the end of 1998, and the second street is a place where I haven't lived in over a year. All this despite the fact that I've corrected them repeatedly. Amazingly, the post office still redirected the letter to my current address on 5/24/2000. What was in the letter? "Important information about your Fleet IRA."

Now, I am the first to admit that I am not the ideal bank customer. I don't have a lot of money, and I've had substantial financial difficulties in recent years. Still, that's no excuse for the way they treated me for two years. I feel like I can't be silent about it, because they're now the largest bank in New England. I couldn't stop the merger, and I'd be amazed if I ever got any sort of written apology or remuneration for the overdrawal charges. But if a few people choose to avoid Fleet or end their dealings with them because of what I've shared, I'll be happy.

But don't just take my word for it...

Read the stories of other people who have shared their own Fleet-related travails with me after reading my saga.

Do you have your own saga to share?

I know that I am not the only person who has had problems with Fleet; several friends and family members have also received poor treatment at their hands. If you have a Fleet horror story that you would like to add to my site, please feel free to contact me. Requests for confidentiality will be respected.



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