I’ve long been a fan of my credit card’s cash back system, so when my dad started touting his bank’s rewards program, he piqued my curiosity. Then, just a week later, I got an email from my bank advertising the very same rewards program. It felt like a sign from above, urging me to learn more about it. So I did.
The bank rewards its account holders for doing business with it, everything from automatic online bill payments to cashing a check at the ATM. Since I do all of these things on a routine basis, it sounded like an easy way for me to put a little extra money back in my pocket – my bank’s rewards calculator showed that just by following my usual banking habits, I’d nab about $50 in cash back each year. Not bad for doing something I already do.
So I signed up for the program, excited to start earning my cash back rewards. Then I logged on to my online banking account, and saw a $40 annual fee for the program.
I’d read all the fine print for the rewards program, so I was baffled as to why I was charged the annual fee, which would wipe away the majority of my cash back – and basically make my participation in the program worthless.
I called my bank’s 1-800 number, and was transferred from person to person, trying to get an answer to my question: why had I been charged the $40 annual fee, when I was pretty sure my upgraded checking account qualified to have the charge waived. When I finally spoke to a (knowledgeable) human, they gave me the answer: a few months back, the balance on my checking account had temporarily dipped below the minimum threshold required to maintain the upgraded account, so my bank automatically switched me to a standard account. They also didn’t change me back to the upgraded account once my balance was restored to the acceptable level (we were only below that so-called threshold for about 72 hours, over a holiday weekend). They’d notified me electronically, via my online banking account, due to my contact preferences. However, I’d never seen the message (I’m pretty bad about reading the messages that land in my online banking inbox, as they almost always are promoting some service I don’t need).
Long story short, the bank was in the right – I no longer qualified for the waived fee on the bank’s rewards program. I asked the bank to refund me the $40 fee and unenroll me from the program, which they did. Although I would have netted about $10, over the course of the year, I figured I had other ways to make that $40 “grow,” so to speak.
So the moral of my tale… whenever enrolling in a program that affects your finances, be sure to read ALL the fine print, and know exactly what you’re getting into!