My Personal Story with Bank of America
I wrote the song that I posted earlier this week as a tribute to Bank of America, not just for what it did to me years ago, but for its role in the illegal foreclosure class-action case that was just settled in the U.S. Still, I think its time I tell my own story with this nefarious bank.
The last time I banked with Bank of America
Mine was not a story of foreclosure as so many are now, but Bank of America lost a massive class-action law suit in my story, too. As the case was settling almost a decade ago, they repaid me a few bucks more than the $500 they owed me, but that $500 was the least of my damages due to their actions. What they didn’t do was restore my credit rating. I had many thousands of dollars in credit-card debt (largely medical) that had been riding along for a few years on introductory interest of 0%-5% by just rolling a card over to the next introductory offer when the interest went above that rate.
Bank of America’s action caused the interest on ALL my credit cards, regardless of which bank they were with, to go up to 30%. I was immediately buried in an avalanche of debt. All because of Bank of America’s illegal fees and my refusal to pay them. Prior to that, I had maintained flawless AAA credit ratings my entire LIFE with all three major rating agencies.
The cause of my credit crisis with BofA
It was the tiniest thing that caused my credit-card account with B of A to go into that penalty interest zone. They had set their “Minimum Payment Due” on their bills to be low enough that — if your card was up to its limit and you paid the “Minimum Payment Due” — THEIR INTEREST the next month would take the card over-limit again, even though you made no transactions after your payment. Every time you made their required payment and the card went overlimit the next month due to their interest only, they would charge a $30 over-limit fee. And they would make sure that the next “Minimum Payment Due” would leave you in the same place again.
Ka-ching! ka-ching! went their cash register every time their own interest sent you overlimit. Never mind that you had followed their instructions and mailed in exactly the amount they asked for and had made no transaction since. I didn’t see how this was happening right away and continued making the “Minimum Payment Due,” thinking I’d surely be fine the next month. After it happened three times, they jacked the interest up to their penalty rate.
Now, I think ANYONE would understand “Minimum Payment Due” to mean the amount you have to pay to be sure your card does not default between now and the next payment. (I.e., “Pay this amount, and we’ll be happy until your next payment.”) The courts obviously agreed with my understanding, since BofA lost the suit. I’m sure BofA also knew people would understand “Minimum Payment Due” in that manner and knew they would pocket some might nice fees on all cards that were at their limit AND would create a way to put those cards into default by their own actions so that they could charge penalty interest. They CERTAINLY should have seen that was what was happening once it started happening, if that was not their intent. And they certainly made no apology to me during my many phone calls for five months when I tried to work this out prior to the settlement.
What I hadn’t thought about when I stopped making payments on that one card in protest of their clearly unethical fees was the fact that other banks would also jack their interest rates up to the penalty amount because they all have that little clause tucked far into the recesses of the print that says, IF they see some other bank has raised your interest to a penalty amount, THEY CAN, TOO. All my banks piled on, and I was financially dead in the water. Some even demanded immediate payoff of their cards.
The results of trying to work nicely with BofA
I tried for months to get Bank of America to reverse all their overlimit fees, their interest on the overlimits, as well as late payments that happened when I stopped payment because I couldn’t afford the flood of payments they had caused and because I felt what they had done that triggered this avalanche was illegal. I also asked them to correct my credit report, since their actions had caused all this. To no avail. I received only arrogant answers from angry phone reps. and endless calls from collection agencies.
Finally, I told Bank of America I was going to file a class-action law suit against them. It was in the process of talking with an attorney to do this that I discovered that BofA was already in the middle of a class-action suit over EXACTLY this matter. In fact, it was just being settled. As soon as BofA heard I was filing my own suit, I started to get money back from them without explanation … here a hundred, there three-hundred hundred until they had, I think, paid me back nearly $600, which was more than they owed me.
HOWEVER, they refused to restore my credit rating. I suspect that was because that would require admitting they were wrong in wrecking it in the first place, and they were too arrogant to do that. I also suspect that, after months of denying all my requests, they only paid me back because they didn’t need reports of continued misdeeds emerging from the wings, just as the courts were settling their case. The judge had PROBABLY told them to cease and desist this activity during the case until the legality of it was settled out, and they didn’t need a new case emerging that showed they had not ceased at all. They lost their case, and I think the damages came to something like $20 Billion.
Why I wrote the song, Bank of America, How Are You?
My own low-end video is made with photos from the Great Depression, since Bank of America was born out of the ashes of the Great Depression and now presides over creating a depression equally as bad. While there is a little in my own song that relates specifically to my particular situation with Bank of America, I hope the song speaks with humor and some visual depth to the pain many feel from the various banks, which included Bank of America, that were charged by the U.S. Federal government with illegally foreclosing on their homes.
The song is my tribute to Bank of America for their role in making this a great recession for as many as possible. Bank of America even foreclosed on homes that had been paid for entirely in cash owned by people who had no mortage with Bank of America. BofA repossessed their home. They sued and won, but BofA refused to pay what the bank ordered for half a year. Finally, their wily attorney did something very creative and filed a seizure on the local Bank of America and legally confiscated the bank’s assets. The bank suddenly paid. (See YouTube video where the homeowners got sweet revenge.)