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AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL FOOLS REGARDING CHASE AND FLEET BANKS

Let all Fools beware Chase and Fleet Bank. Here's why…

For several years, I have had a consumer loan out with Chase (as in "With Chase, the right relationship is everything.") Like so many other consumer loan customers (as in "the customer is always right), I have taken advantage of electronic payments through Fleet's (as in "We're ready when you are") web page.

Let me say that I firmly believe in taking full advantage of the Internet; that's why I'm a Fool. However, as I have long suspected and now found out, some institutions simply aren't as "up to speed" (as in the case of Fleet) or as scrupulously communicative (as with Chase) as they need to be in order to function effectively on the web. Look at the Kafka-esque drama in which I'm currently embroiled. . .

At the middle of October and November, I made e-payments to Chase from my Fleet account and assumed that they would, as in years past, arrive at Chase in a timely fashion. Brother, did I have a lesson to learn there!

One day prior to Thanksgiving, I received a call from Chase's credit office informing me that I was now over 45 days delinquent in payment of my consumer loan and that this could seriously damage my credit rating. Threat taken and with only my own computer generated history to protect me, I phoned Chase and told them that payments were made on the 15th of each month whereupon I was sweetly told by the lady on the other end (in Dallas) that all I had to do was prove this and they'd essentially stop bothering me. You read this right, Fools, I (customer), who had done everything correctly was being obliged by Chase (vendor) to prove to them that my money was in their account.

After losing my cool, I phoned the Fleet's Electronic Banking Operations office. These people, by the way are very nice, courteous and reasonably efficient. I was informed by them that payments had, in fact been released and that their electronic "check" number was ########. This is where it really gets rich. I then phoned Chase (in Dallas, not in New York, where the loan originated) and gave them this information. They (Dallas) didn't seemed phased and repeated that I owed them for two months plus penalties. I also told them the check number and then they asked the following "Sure, just fax us a copy of that check," as though there were ever any "paper" involved in the transaction. This is when I really lost it. I phoned Fleet back and related exactly what I had been told by Chase. They responded by saying that an inquiry would be forthcoming.

Today, I have a letter from Fleet informing me of exactly what both of us already knew plus one key piece of information that Chase forgot to tell their customers: Their consumer credit division had "stealthily" been moved from God-knows-where to Dallas and no one else seemed to know about it, including Fleet who did, in fact send my funds out to Chase in a timely manner; but to a now defunct address! Oh yes, and lest I forget, they were also dunning me for another payment in September made timely to a Chase branch by check! Imagine, being dunned for one institution's failure to communicate a piece of key information to the rest of the world! As we say here in NYC, didjuh evah?

In all fairness, however, Fleet does cover its "tail" by saying that there could be up to a five day delay in payments. However, my October 14 e-payment went through to Chase on November 2; a bit more than 5 days, wouldn't you agree? As of December 1, to my knowledge, they still hadn't made my November 14 payment for me, AND Chase was now dunning me an additional $24.38 in late fees (nearly double what they would be entitled to IF I were in the wrong). This doesn't give me a great deal of confidence in Fleet - one of the more expensive banks for the individual banker.

Why, you might ask, do I bring all of this up? Simple, I don't want other Fools to fall prey to Chase and their sneaky, uncommunicative practices. Moreover, I would also caution against Fleet bank, since they clearly aren't up to speed when it comes to efficient processing of electronic payments.

This message is, I admit, rather lengthy, and I apologize, but those are the facts. I welcome your comments and your suggestions. I plan to take my checking account out of Fleet but I could use some info from any New York Fools who have found good, reputable institutions (if such things exist anymore) in which to do their banking.

Bill Burt,

Fool

cc: Fleet Electronic Banking Operatons
Chase Consumer Credit Operations
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