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I'm trying to close a US bank account and they won't take my no for an answer. I've called many times and they say something like "we're confident that you'll want to come back, and you have our word that we won't start charging fees". I keep saying that I want my account to be closed and they won't do it.

Is my only solution to deposit $9,999 several times and trigger that one money laundering law where they have to close it?

  • 13
    Note that SoFi is not a bank. – RonJohn Dec 12 '19 at 23:42
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    If you make apparently-structured cash deposits to a US financial institution, they are not required to close the account, but are required to file a CTR or SAR (or maybe both) on you with FinCEN, which is more likely to make matters worse than better. – dave_thompson_085 Dec 13 '19 at 6:13
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    So, you removed SoFi from the question - are you actually asking about how to close your account with SoFi, or how to close a bank account? With the question as it is now, you're getting answers to the latter. – AakashM Dec 13 '19 at 9:05
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    In some jurisdictions (like most of Europe) you have a legal right to demand that companies delete data about you they don't need anymore. In other places, you don't. – Philipp Dec 13 '19 at 9:33
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica it used to, which is I why I asked asker to clarify intent – AakashM Dec 13 '19 at 13:10
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Write them a letter demanding (no whining or pleading) that they close the account, and send it via certified mail (thus demonstrating that you sent them the letter and that they received it).

Retain a copy of the signed letter and any replies they send. If at some point they start charging you service fees, sue them in small claims court, and show the judge all the correspondence.

Yes, it's a hassle, but that's life.

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    One thing I don't understand about certified mail: how do I prove that the copy I have retained is indeed a verbatim copy? What if the bank claims they got a Christmas card instead? – Dmitry Grigoryev Dec 13 '19 at 8:15
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    @DmitryGrigoryev Then they have to produce the Christmas card in court and swear under oath that it’s what was in the envelope. Since they could go to jail for that, they don’t do it. – Mike Scott Dec 13 '19 at 8:26
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    @DmitryGrigoryev It doesn't. Depending on the country, there exist other (more expensive) types of correspondence, in which you sign the letter in the presence of a certified notary, who then organises a trusted emissary to personally hand it over to the recipient, and who can testify in court that they have delivered the original and that the OPs copy would be identical. I forgot what this is called but I looked into this when I had a landlord dispute. – gerrit Dec 13 '19 at 9:26
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    @DmitryGrigoryev what on earth are you talking about? How many cases have you litigated? Seriously. No, what happens is the judge says "bull****. Why on earth would plaintiff do that, when it would be cheaper to just send the letter as claimed?" This would do more harm to defendant's credibility than plaintiff's. I could even see the judge saying "Show me the letter and envelope right now, or I'll find you in contempt." – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 13 '19 at 13:24
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    @DmitryGrigoryev The problem with that way of thinking is that it opens up the floodgates. If parties can easily claim the contents of the envelope were different, then they can also easily claim that any non-certified letter was not sent, any document is a forgery, etc. and courts would be overwhelmed with such claims. For this reason, judges will be highly sceptical of any such claim and will want to see solid evidence. There has to be a general principle that evidence is prima facie accepted, otherwise the entire justice system would be a nightmare. – JBentley Dec 13 '19 at 14:21
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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau states:

... state law generally requires banks or credit unions to close your account in a reasonable amount of time...

You can find your particular state's bank regulator (and a direct link to file a complaint) in this CFPB list. The mere threat of such a complaint may shake loose a recalcitrant bank, so consider that first as the quick option.

3

Depositing more money with an institution who is already not letting you close an account is not a good idea. You're then giving tens of thousands to an entity known to be untrustworthy and doing so in a way that may draw legal attention. Don't invite the man into your life.

Withdraw as much money as possible from the account. You will need to review if withdrawing below a certain balance would incur fees. You also need to ensure that there are no direct withdrawls or outstanding checks that would further reduce the account balance. Deposit this money in your new bank account or other secure place.

Once you have done that follow the other advice about contacting relevant regulatory or consumer agencies for assistance. Document everything. Be firm but never rude nor hostile.

If you already have good relations with a lawyer, that would also be a good contact. A lawyer writing and sending a stern letter isn't that expensive and can motivate recalcitrant vendors.

2

Escalate your conversation to the next level of support. Repeat if needed.

If you do not have a local branch available to you, and must do this over the phone, you should ask for the supervisor and then repeat your request to that person. If the supervisor balks, then request to be transferred to a superior and repeat the request. An alternative to this is to simply stay on the phone with the one who initially took the call, simply do not hang up, and repeatedly ask that the account be closed. Many call centers have quotas on number of calls and/or maximum call times and are also required to not hang up unless the caller is abusive. So just staying on the line may make it more beneficial for the employee to close your account and get you off the line as opposed to whatever incentive they may receive to retain open accounts.

A better option would to be visit a branch in person (idealy the one the account was opened at). Ask a receptionist or teller to speak with someone about closing an account. You may get the same initial statement and encouragement to not close your account. In this case you can also escalate to management, but your physical presence across the desk and a willingless to simply sit there until the account is closed should go a long way to convincing them to close your account.

In any case, do not verbally abuse or otherwise threaten anyone as you are doing this.

  • In my experience, no matter how many times an entity ignores a reasonable demand, as soon as they get a letter with “CC: attorney general” on the bottom, they get in a big hurry to be able to say “already resolved” when the A.G. calls. – WGroleau Dec 14 '19 at 2:41
1

Get a call recorder on your phone, call your bank, tell them you're recording the conversation and ask them to repeat that "you have our word that we won't start charging fees" part. They can't charge any fees on an empty account in a way that's not immediately visible to you, and if they do it in an explicit way, you'll have sufficient proof that you were promised not to be charged.

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    There are lots of places in the world where recording a phone conversation without consent of both parties is illegal. – Philipp Dec 13 '19 at 9:35
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    @Philipp in the US, in every state as far as I'm aware, continuing a conversation after being informed the call is being recorded is considered consent to record. This doesn't exactly answer the question, since it doesn't get the account closed, but it is good advice. – gatherer818 Dec 13 '19 at 10:04
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    @Philipp let me guess. You've heard it so many times that you sleep through the part that says "this call may be recorded for quality and training purposes". That notifies all parties that the call is being recorded. You don't need to give a second notice if you also record it; that would be redundant. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 13 '19 at 13:10
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    @DmitryGrigoryev this doesn't work, every time I have told a company I'm recording the call they hang up immediately. They don't have to consent to being recorded and can simply hang up when you tell them (which they do). Corresponding with them in written form is the only way to retain a copy – Matt Dec 13 '19 at 15:10
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    If the company then tried to argue that it's routine for them to not record calls, but yet, every customer should have the expectation/assumption of being recorded, but yet still, the company should be secure from being recorded if it chooses not to record itself -- that argument is spinning into oblivion. It is asymmetrical and inherently unfair. If the company claims the privilege of being ambiguous about recording, the customer also gets that privilege. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 13 '19 at 17:00
1

Most banks have an account closure procedure listed in their "Terms and Conditions" (or equivalent). It's typically an address to which you have to send a formal written notice. Since you mentioned US Bank, their "Deposit Agreement" can be found here.

They have a section called "CLOSING YOUR ACCOUNT" on page 12, but it's surprisingly sparse in details. It explains potential problems with closing your account, but the only thing it says in terms of procedure is:

If you intend to close your account: If you intend to close your account with us, you should tell us; simply transferring all the money in your account and reducing your account balance to $0.00 is insufficient notice and may result in additional fees charged to your account.

Since they're not very forthright with details, you have a couple of options.

  1. Go into a local branch and talk to a teller or a banker. When you called you likely got transferred to a "customer retention specialist". They don't generally have those in branch offices, so it's unlikely that they'll give you the runaround. Branches will almost always give you better service than the call center. As a bonus, you can withdraw any remaining funds at the same time. The last time I did this, it took all of 5 minutes for a teller to verify my ID, close the account, cash me out, and have me sign a form.

  2. Write a letter stating that you wish to close account number XXX immediately. Include signatures from all names on the account, plus instructions on what to do with any remaining funds. Banks will have an address where such "account management" letters can be sent. US Bank doesn't seem to make their address easy to find for some reason, so you might have to call a branch office and ask for it. Don't call the 1-800 number, directly call a local branch office.

  3. There's a section on page 11 of the the Deposit Agreement titled "DORMANT ACCOUNTS". It says that an account is considered "inactive" if it has had no activity for a year. It also says that if your account has a zero balance, they reserve the right to close it. Transferring all of your funds and then not touching the account again might result in it being closed eventually. Be careful though. If your particular account type carries fees for low balances or dormant accounts, then those fees will reset the timer every month and you'll never actually go inactive. At some point the account will be turned over to the state (see the escheat section) regardless of any fees being charged, but in some states that can require an account to be abandoned for years. I'd consider this particular option a last resort. It's unlikely you could pull it off without incurring a lot of fees.

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