Here’s How Much Bank of America Sucks

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Those of us in Hong Kong love to rag on HSBC and sure, they deserve it.  But they’ve never screwed me the way that Bank of America has.  Here’s what happened.

I have a joint account with my mother with Bank of America in the U.S.  I’ve needed the money in this account for my basic living expenses for the past six months.  I am unable to initiate wire transfers over the internet from this account so my mother has to go into the branch office and sign the forms so that the money comes to me.  It has always come to my account the same day she has sent it.

Until now.

Last week, she went into the same Bank of America branch she always goes to. The guy she sees there, the one who knows me personally and has handled all of the transfers, had the day off.  So she goes to another person there who fills out the forms for her.

BofA has never needed the SWIFT code to complete the transaction.  It goes through just fine with the bank name and a few other details.  But this person took it upon herself to be “helpful” and put a SWIFT code on the form.  The wrong code.  If you look up SWIFT codes for HSBC, there are dozens, if not hundreds of them.  And this person filled in the code for HSBC Investment Holdings Ltd, which is pretty far away from HSBC Hong Kong.

As such, the money left the U.S. but never arrived in my account.  5 days later Bank of America told us that they would inform HSBC and get the money transferred correctly.  One week later they have told us that HSBC cannot transfer the money to my account and can only send it back to Bank of America and that they have no idea how long that will take.

Bank of America insists that there is absolutely nothing else that they can do and have helpfully suggested that I should find some more money and transfer that to HK while I’m waiting for this mess to sort itself out.

I know this will never happen and perhaps I am being naive but it seems to me they should say, “We screwed up, we’ll send the money to your account and we’ll sort out the other money when we get it back. It was our screw up and we will do what it takes to make it right.”  But of course they’re not going to do it.

In the meantime I have bills that are about to be overdue and a doctor who needs to be paid this week to continue treatments that I need.

My mother wants to hire a lawyer but I’m not sure what lawyer would take this case given that it’s just been a week and, while the money may seem like a huge amount to us, in the grand scheme of things others might see it as a trivial sum.

Either way, it’s been one week.  She doesn’t have the money.  I don’t have the money.  It has vanished into the ether and it could be weeks until this gets sorted out.

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8 thoughts on “Here’s How Much Bank of America Sucks

  1. Private Beach

    The least you should do is insist that they pay interest on the money for the week it’s been gone. You might also check whether there is any banking regulator you can complain to (if it’s likely to do any good).

    1. Spike Post author

      So far all they’ve done is refund the US$45 wire transfer fee. Interest on that money for a week or two, given current interest rates, would be pennies at most.

  2. eric

    I often wire money from my Bank of America account here in San Francisco to WestPac Bank in Australia.

    After doing several transfers using the “form”, the BofA branch I use set up my wire as a “profile” in their system, and encouraged me to stop coming into the branch — and to stop having to fill out a form — and provided me with the phone number to call to initiate future wire transfers. Since the profile is set up, I just give them a password for validation and the amount I want to send, and it is done. It’s very cool that when I call them and they pull up the profile, they already know (and confirm with me) that I am sending money to that particular bank. I believe that a SWIFT code has always been required in the case with you and your Mom; they have just been entering it in themselves without you being required to know it. That was true my case, and since WestPac is BofA’s affiliate in Australia, they even knew that SWIFT code by memory.

    I hope that perhaps your Mom can get that employee who knows you to set up a similar wire transfer profile for your HK bank account and then she won’t even have to travel down to the branch to handle this, and it won’t get screwed up again. I was kind of hoping the “automation” of the profile would get me a lower fee, but all of my wires still cost $45 as well.

    Hope that helps Spike — perhaps for the future anyway…..

    1. Spike Post author

      My mother called them many times and went to the branch twice. She may be 91 years old but she’s still fierce. I tried calling them but never got a human on the phone. I think it was my tweet that got the attention of their help desk that finally got results.

  3. mumphLT

    I and several mates have had similar situations with TT’s.

    Bank makes an error – the money goes to the wrong place.

    Bank says they did nothing wrong.

    Paperwork presented showing error bank made.

    Bank says they can’t do anything about it have to wait for the money to come back….

  4. Sally

    Bank of America sucks. I initiated a fraud report when I realized that someone had got a hold of my pin number and was withdrawing money from my account up to three times a day. Stupid me for not realizing this right away. Well, BOA has denied my claim and basically accused me of stealing money from myself. Why BOA would I do this. I have several accounts, a mortgage and have been a long time customer. BOA hasn’t even looked at the video feed which would clearly show who was withdrawing money from my account. Does anyone have any suggestions? I need an actual person to contact, someone to complain to, not the robots they have answering the phones. Thanks

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