Posted by William Charles on January 27, 2016

Published on January 27th, 2016 | by William Charles


PSA: Don’t Call The Bank

A lot of what we write about on this site is about skirting financial institutions rules to maximize our profit (and time). One of the great things about financial institutions is that their back end is built on legacy systems that are extremely difficult (and expensive) to update, that makes things easier for us and harder for them.

I’m not naive enough to think that these financial institutions don’t read blogs like this (even if it’s via a simple google alert that informs them of any brand name mention) aren’t aware of these issues. That being said, I’ve seen an increase of people commenting saying that they have called to confirm that a work around they’ve been using has worked or not.

This doesn’t achieve anything at all, and all it does is notify the financial institution that you haven’t meet their requirements as specified. Let me give an example, recently First Tennessee has offered a $250 bank bonus that is nationwide and requires a direct deposit (no minimum specified).

It’s typically not easy for people to change their payroll for these bonuses, so a lot of people try to use an ACH transfer or similar to meet this requirement (when in reality First Tennessee want a payroll or government benefit). Because the bonus hasn’t been posting quickly (even though the terms state they have up to six weeks to post the bonus) people have been calling to see if their work around qualified as a direct deposit.

In reality, all you’re doing is letting them know that you haven’t meet the requirements as required. It’s likely that First Tennessee uses the same back end as a lot of these financial institutions and the bonus is automated. If you don’t call, there is a good chance the bonus will just post naturally. If you do call, they know that maybe you aren’t meeting the bonus according to their terms and that could lead to your account being flagged.

Furthermore, having staff handle these queries is expensive and if they see a lot of people calling they might decide the cost to upgrade their systems to differentiate between these transfers is worth the cost and effort. Obviously this is just one example, but my general rule is as follows:

  • If I’m skirting the rules, there is no point in calling the bank as all I’m doing is alerting the financial institution to that fact.

Obviously I’ll happily call the bank if I didn’t skirt the rules and my bonus hasn’t posted (and it’s been over the time specified in the fine print for the bonus posting). Same rule applies to other sorts of bonuses/tricks as well.

44 Responses to PSA: Don’t Call The Bank

  1. Josh says:

    Thanks. You should consider throwing this link on every future bank account bonus post

    • Skor says:

      I agree with this…

    • Dave says:

      Yes, please add this link to future bonus offers

    • Russ says:

      Consider? More like you *must* put it at the top of every post.

      It used to take a lot of digging to find these deals and new folks were bound to learn “the rules” along the way. DoC posts make it easy to jump on many deals without knowing the basics.

      You would be doing everyone a great service if you prominently included a warning with every post about do’s and don’ts in the spirit of keeping deals alive.

      • Kent C says:

        Well, you can’t change stupid. This is a highly trafficked blog where some people just look for the moneymaking part and don’t heed any rules. Details are irritating to them, frustrating in fact. Comprehensive reading is not their strong suit. You’re going to get your fair share of dummies who don’t have common sense.

      • If you read old FatWallet posts, you’ll see how untrue the learning the ropes thing is. I’ll be including this in our bank account bonus posts from now on, although I’ll probably put it at the end of our verdict as that’s what most people read first.

  2. mike says:

    Why is it that banks care so much about legit direct deposits besides them setting it as their requirement?

    • When banks offer bonuses, they are hoping that that account will become your primary checking account. Moving your payroll is a hassle and they know that if somebody makes that change they are more likely to keep it as their primary account.

  3. Bannister says:

    Very timely info as I’ve been waiting for a skirted balance to post and just this morning considered giving the bank a call or sending a secure message. Now I don’t think I will.

  4. Dan says:

    Definitely need more posts like this.

  5. Credit says:

    I wrote to serve asking why they closed my account and if they don’t provide me good explanation filing a CFPB complaint that they are trying to push me to fee paying versions of the card. Burning bridges?

    • wwllmm says:

      Fee paying versions where also axed.

    • Burning bridges, the sooner you accept that it’s over the sooner you can move to greener pastures. They are within their rights to cancel your account for any reason.

    • Kent C says:

      Good example of where acting on immediate emotions can lead you down the wrong path. Thinking logically isn’t fun, I know. Like William said there are other pastures out there, maybe even greener, that’s the right way to look at it.

  6. Darv says:

    It is easy to get greedy. I have been guilty of that in the past. If it is not clear, it should be obvious to all involved in this game what “direct deposit” means. Traditionally this has meant payroll deposits. I understand the ACH system and why a bank might miss non-payroll ACH transfers and have these bonuses auto posting. But that’s not their intent. They want new customers and getting somebody to set up payroll deposits is another way to ensure a sticky customer.

    I always use payroll deposits for the checking bonuses but my employer makes it easy to split payroll deposits, as I enter the accounts information myself. As greedy as I am, I still have not tried setting up a checking account based on non-payroll ACH transfers (if the terms require “direct deposit”).

    We get paid a lot of money for this stuff and it would be nice if people just didn’t get too greedy. I may call a bank to ensure eligibility for a bonus but I am not going to call them about the bonus posting until they’re late. I agree with Doc, their staff time is valuable, expensive.

    For what it is worth, I use every opportunity in this game to give these banks a legitimate shot at my business. It’s been eye opening to see some of the worst online interfaces, some of the best, and then customer service and other factors. I will probably use one of the credit unions for a loan later this year.

    Thanks to this website and the community. I feel good about what I am doing and even when closing accounts, give feedback to the CSRs about what was good and bad and often take free surveys. It’s the least I can do.

    • gphx says:

      There are many reasons for skirting direct deposit requirements. Self employed and others may have no means to set up a direct deposit. Sure some people are just greedy but others just have a different situation, no need to judge.

  7. JamaicanReefer says:

    A good reminder and a quick summary:

    The bonus is automated. All a CS can do is only confirm terms of the bonus and that the bonus is attached. The call is always recorded. Therefore the only time a call needs to happen is if the bonus requirements were met (double verify if it is so) and the entire time period passed (i.e. bonus will be awarded in up to three billing cycles, 60 days, 6 weeks and such) and the bonus still did not show up. If the bank made a mistake, they will always track it back.

  8. J. Grant says:

    According to someone I know that called Key Bank, the bank rep stated that Bluebird direct deposits count since small businesses sometimes pay salaries using bluebird. That person has maybe read this blog once and they will most likely never read this post.

    There are thousands like him out there calling to verify. The bank decision makers aren’t dumb – they’re letting us get away with this hoping we’ll stick around. It’s their cost of aquiring customers – every business has such costs. The bonuses will not go away as long as the interest rates are near 0. No need to panic about the callers…

  9. Tory says:

    Thanks DoC, and I can’t believe this isn’t obvious to more people. Sheesh. Learn some patience!

  10. barrytuneup says:

    I have been using WF 5% card for 2 months. Buy mostly VGC in Stop&Shop/Shoprite/Hannafords and no problem with 5% being paid. Bought 1 500.00 VGC in a Acme near my home. Only got 1% on card. Knowing never top call, i solved the problem. I don’t buy VGC at Acme!!. problem solved. And thanks for the valuable info throughout this site, DOC!! (But Amex does code this same Acme at 6% on Blue cash preferred.)

  11. Barb says:

    I think it also bears repeating NOT TO CALL and ask when is the earliest time to close account after receiving the bonus? Hopefully, those who called to ask will realize why they shouldn’t do this in ANY of bank deals.

    • Kent C says:

      Since we’re on the subject of dumb things to do, can people not call the banks anymore and say William Charles from Doctor of Credit at said it would work if we did these steps, sir.

      Besides adding the link as people suggest, how bout this disclaimer as well:
      “As always, should you or any of your force be caught or killed, the DOC will disavow any knowledge of your actions”

      If you choose to go on dangerous missions well, you are on your own. Protect the DOC.

  12. Gary says:

    Thanks for the post, DoC. I saw this problem on another site you were kind enough to help out with. This is really the ABC’s of the game, which people don’t seem to realize or get. If it’s against the T&C’s, and you have a workaround, DON’T CALL about it.

  13. Sue says:

    I have often called a bank prior to opening the account for the PROMO when it indicates DD & ask if an ACH transfer is acceptable. Often times it is. If not, then I don’t open the account. Do you consider this practice unwise as well. In other words, should I just not go for ANY PROMO that says DD?

  14. rjdwigg says:

    As a beginner to this process I certainly appreciate any information like this that helps. However, when ready the different blogs they all have information for newbies but I have consistently found that they information is outdated and thus not trustworthy. It is my suggestion to update the newbie information and remove comments older than a year.

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  21. Jeff H says:

    While this suggestion to leave the bank CSRs alone has a legitimate place in the placement of your choice, I also recommend it get a main posting of it’s own. IMO, It is a valid topic of it’s own.

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  28. JGS says:

    If you have asked the bank about transfers vs. direct deposits (in my case Santander), then is that an almost-certain that they’ll flag my account and block the bonus?

  29. John says:

    Like I learned from “The Master” about a year ago….DON’T ASK, just do it. I have had only one turned down… amazing (BTW it was Chase). And in answer to your question, I doubt it, but like we’ve be told, & he is correct “Just do it!”

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