Are you a Bank of America (BOA) customer? If you are, your share of the $100 million due you from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB’s) action against BOA for breaking federal laws that apply to financial products, including accounts and credit cards, is moving forward as promised.
And those millions are just the start. The bank is also required to pay an additional $90 million fine that will go to the CFPB victims relief fund.
What can be expected
You can expect payments from Bank of America if you fit the descriptions below. No action is required and there are no hoops to jump through, either. Payments have already been received by some customers and separate mailings are planned for former customers.
Customers who were overcharged for insufficient funds in their bank accounts
The CFPB’s hammer went down hard on Bank of America for its practice of “double-dipping” on deposit accounts with insufficient (NSF) funds. When a check or withdrawal didn’t go through because a customer didn't have enough to cover it in their account, BOA didn’t shy away from those cha-chings. Nor did it stop, either. The bank purportedly continued to reject a single transaction over and over again, charging a $35 fee each time.
Where things stand now is this: The CFPB reports that Bank of America stopped charging all non-sufficient funds fees last year and supposedly refunded tens of millions of dollars in fees to affected customers. The agency says that means customers who were charged multiple fees may have already had some of the money returned to their bank accounts.
What happens next: “Double-dipping” should be officially dead and buried as far as Bank of America customers are concerned. The bank has to write $80 million worth of checks to those customers, too. If you are one of those current customers, the refund will be made directly to your account. On the other hand, if you’ve left Bank of America, you should receive refunds in the mail.
Neither the CFPB nor the bank disclosed exactly how much those checks will be, but the bank has set up a special line to handle questions from people who have been overcharged for NSF fees. If you call them, be ready with your account information and details about how you were affected. The toll-free number is 1-855-729-1764. You can also reach them by e-mail at NSFinquiry@bofa.com or by mail at P.O. Box 25118, Tampa, FL 33622-5118.
Were you promised rewards points and cash bonuses that never appeared?
Another thing that bit Bank of America was advertising bonuses and rewards to consumers but failing to follow through on delivering those perks. There were also snafus for signup bonuses to some new customers, such as making the rewards available only to people who signed up online.
Where customers stand now: Rewards and bonus points have been credited to many affected customers already.
Going forward: In order to advertise and promote its rewards/bonus offers effectively, Bank of America must clearly state who is and isn't eligible. It is the bank's responsibility to credit people's accounts with the correct points and rewards if they haven't been provided yet.
If you didn't give authorization
For more than a decade, BOA employees were reportedly pushing credit card offers down the throats of its customers. Good for the employee because they got rewarded when they met goals for opening new credit card accounts.
Bad for some customers, however, because the CFPB found that some overzealous employees opened credit cards for customers who never even applied for – or agreed to – the new accounts. Those customers might have been hit with fees they didn’t anticipate or had their credit reports dinged negatively as a result.
Where do customers stand now? Bank of America has halted its sales incentive program that encouraged employees to break the law. In some cases, the bank has already reimbursed customers' costs.
What happens next: Bank of America is supposed to stop opening unauthorized accounts as part of its agreement with the CFPB. It must also remove anything negative that shows up on the credit reports of people who BOA opened accounts for without their permission.
In order to make payments or refunds to harmed consumers, the bank must submit a plan. If the CFPB approves the plan, the bank must provide refunds within one year after it approves it. The agency expects the plan to be ready by no later than the end of August.
How to resolve problems with Bank of America or other financial institutions
This whole Bank of America thing is a mess. So is the Wells-Fargo debacle that seems to have a never-ending life of its own. And having to deal with either one can be a nightmare, but the CFPB says that if something similar happens to you – be it at Bank of America, Wells-Fargo or any other bank – your best first step is to try to resolve the issue directly with the financial institution.
If the problem doesn’t get resolved, then it’s time to submit a complaint to the CFPB. To submit by phone, call (855) 411-CFPB (2372). The agency will forward your complaint to the company and work to get you a response. Most companies respond to complaints within 15 days.
If you are aware of problems because you are an employee or former employee of a financial company, you can alert the CFPB by sending an e-mail to email@example.com. It says it reviews every submission.