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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chasing the Wild Goose

An ongoing banking concern we have had in planning for our travels has been branch availability wherever we might be. Yes, I do bank online, Yes, I do have national banks but have you ever tried to make a cash deposit in a town where your bank has no branches?

Also, if there is a problem, it usually crops up on Friday evening or a holiday weekend and trying to get it settled out of your mind is impossible until the next “banking” business day… whenever that might be.   I don’t do well with angst on my mind.

We do shop at Wal-Mart, a lot. We get the value we demand and the convenience we need and never have a hassle, other than their being out of a product that we want to refresh in our pantry.  Therefore, Woodforest National Bank seemed to be the perfect merger of the WalMart convenience and my banking availability that I want.  They are open every day but Christmas and that is the kind of access window I really expect from anyone standing between me and my money.

So, before leaving NC we opened an account at Woodforest National Bank. Along with waaayyyy too much paperwork, we received instructions on how to get $50 for free by going online and participating in a little training session about how banks work for you.

The tutorial was actually informative and at the end, we each got a certificate to print out and take to a branch to receive our $50. Actually, it was $25 for each of us and to be credited into a sweep savings account (which is newbank speak for a savings account that backs up your checking account if the latter tries to go overdrawn). The money in the savings is “swept” over into your checking to prevent an overdraft and they get to charge you $2 for doing it.

But I digress. The point was to get the $50 that lay at the end of this rainbow.  The manager at the WFB where we opened the accounts told us (erroneously) that we could go to any WFB within 30 days of opening our checking account, present the certificates and get our savings account opened with the $50 in it.  The “ANY” is the important part. The 30 days is the deadly pendulum.

As all this happened 6 days before we had planned to leave for Florida, we figured we had plenty of time to get ‘er done before departure.  As usual, I missed the catch-22 in this…. We had to participate in the tutorial and THEN print out the certificates before we could get the $50…. and Hurricane Irene decided to brush by us a couple of days later, drop a tree across our bow (actually, across 2 cars) and leave us dangling between insurance talk (sorry, not available on weekends) and the truck’s windshield wiper motor dying just as we pulled out of the driveway to escape Irene (sorry, parts department is closed until Monday).

The back burner the $50 performance piece got put on was in the next county but we confirmed with the WFB branch that we could do it “at any Woodforest National Bank branch”. …

Days later, after finally getting settled down in St Augustine, Florida, we found that Florida only has 3 WF banks and the nearest is in Ocala, 80 miles away! 

We stewed and fumed about this for two weeks then decided to go ahead, take the Smart car over there (cheaper on gas) and get our free $50 (which would now cost us the price of the gas and our time… but I am trying to not be negative.

There were a few stops along the way (another story, another time) and we arrived there about an hour before closing, presented our certificates and the confused look we got in exchange said “Uh-Oh!”.

Turns out, you can’t do that from here. They have to be turned in at the bank branch that opened the account!  Ok, so red is not a favorite color of mine but that was about all I could see in a flash!

Mer quietly put her hand on my thigh as the flustered bank employee got up to seek the branch manager.  Eventually, he came over, extended his hand, his name and a big smile and said “We can’t do that from here”.  “You have to go back to the branch where you opened the account.”….. Clearly, his gasoline was not helping my fire one bit.

The short end of this is that he saw our plight, contacted the branch manager back in Raleigh and arranged for our signing of the signature cards that they needed and faxed them back to Raleigh.  Apparently, the forms were different than what the Ocala branch uses and it took a second call to the Raleigh branch manager to get them properly filled out.

Finally, we had it done, our $50 would be in our account the next day (today, and it is!) and we could drive the 80 miles back to St Augustine knowing that we had scored a juicy deal (hear the sarcasm?)  The trip cost about $19 in gas and had there been a psychiatrist available, I am sure his bill would have been a lot more.

You will have to read tomorrow’s blog to see why we ended the day knowing that this had been a good thing to do, today.

ttfn

Budd

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