This is an opinion piece, take as you wish, but I think Washington Mutual is predatory on what economists would call a micro level. (They may be predatory in other ways as well, but I experienced it on a very "micro" level.)
While I'm at it, I also think they have lousy customer service and could care less about improving. (We'll see how they respond to this post.) Over the years, while working as an Arizona mortgage broker, I have had many clients tell me that they've had negative experiences with WaMu, both on the mortgage side and with smaller issues, such as credit and checking accounts. I never thought too much about it, even though Washinton Mutual seemed to come up more regularly than other banks.
I never thought much of it, that is, until I opened a checking account three weeks ago.
I have my primary checking account with Bank of America, and I honestly do not recall ever bouncing a check with B of A or ever incurring a fee for insufficient funds...let us say for at least as long as I've been married (7 years). I know I did it a few times in college, but that's pretty much it.
I've incurred over $200 in bounced check charges since I opened my account with WaMu earlier in May. I also opened it with a starting deposit of two thousand dollars.
How did this happen? I have no idea. But I can tell you this much: WaMu ain't coughing up they money they took from me. I just have to close my account and accept it and move on. Do that a few million times, and WaMu is in the money. Nice quarter fellas!
Wamu's Predatory Advertising: Trapping The Hand-To-Mouth Crowd
I was watching television a few weeks ago when a Washington Mutual commercial aired. You may have seen it; it is aired pretty often. Basically, WaMu presents a spokesman who brags that Washington Mutual will waive one bounced check fee per year. Behind him are "angry" bankers who are upset about the awesome deal he is offering.
That's it. That's the entire theme of the commercial. Washington Mutual was bragging about reversing one bounced check fee per year for their beloved clients. At first I thought it was weird, but after my husband mumbled "predatory" under his breath, I realized that the commercial was predatory in the most basic definition of the word.
The whole purpose of that commercial was to get people to sign up for a free checking account at Washington Mutual, but not just any people-- they want people who bounce checks. Think about it, the only demographic the commercial appeals to is the demographic that bounces checks. The commercial didn't appeal to me at all, because I haven't paid an ISF fee in years. It pretty much went in one ear and out the other. But if getting one bounced check fee per year is enough to make you change banks, and matters just that much, WaMu wants you.
It doesn't really seem like a desired demographic, does it? But they know they are going to milk those people for so much more. They give you $34 for one reversal, and you pay for six more that year. (I don't actually know the average amount of bounced checks per year.)
How They Ripped Me Off
I needed to open a new checking account. WaMu is the bank on the corner and it seemed as good as any. I opened my account with a $2000 wire transfer. That is, I supplied my Bank of America routing and account numbers for what is normally an instant transaction.
Instead, Washington Mutual put a three-day hold on my TRANSFER. This was not a personal check, this was not even a payroll check; this was a transfer from my Bank of America account. Even better than a paper cashier's check as far as I knew.
Because that is incredibly stupid and makes no sense, I wrote six checks against the account. Although I showed a "balance" in my account, WaMu bounced all six, for a total of $204. I've even bounced more since then, with equally ridiculous explanations.
Yes, I have closed my account. And remember:
Be especially wary and cautious of those businesses that advertise to those who may be less fortunate in our society. (Payroll cashing, title loans, payroll loans, Washington Mutual Free Checking)
Usually, most always, they are bad news on every level.