I try to keep things positive here, but this time I’m really mad. My bank lost a $2,000 deposit, and it’s been weeks with no resolution. I go through this kind of crap so you can learn from it. You’re welcome. LOL Honestly, things like this happen all the time. Let’s get you prepared, shall we?
I know some of you started following me to see pretty closets, organized pantries, get help with clearing the dining room table and all that jazz. You’ll see plenty of inspiration over in our Clutter-free FB Group, and you are invited to a fun holiday organizing event via Zoom on December 8 from 7-8 pm (pre-register here), but THIS is the kind of organizing that truly makes a difference in your life.
What happened exactly? Five weeks ago, I made a deposit at the bank counter, but the deposit was never logged at the bank. I didn’t catch it right away, but a couple of people started asking when I was going to cash their check. That’s when I knew something wasn’t right. I contacted the bank, which had no record at all of a deposit.
It should be no surprise that I keep excellent records, and I was able to send copies of both the deposit slip and the deposited checks to my bank. Now, these aren’t faceless people at a call center. The tellers at my neighborhood bank know me well enough to know that they need to listen when a professional organizer tells them an error was made. If you are a known customer at a neighborhood branch, it might help a bit, but they’ve still got to follow corporate procedures, which take time.
Bank Mistakes Happen
Why am I telling you this? Because errors like this aren’t all that uncommon. In the last fifteen years, I’ve had checks that were supposed to go into checking mistakenly deposited into my savings account.
I’ve seen my deposits go into someone else’s accounts entirely.
Another bank lost not one, but two mortgage payments by depositing them into the wrong accounts over a year before I found the error!
This is on top of the fraud that I find too often on credit cards. That’s a different issue, and I’ve written before about how to protect yourself from identity theft and financial fraud.
All of these situations happened at different banks and credit unions, by the way, so it can happen anywhere.
It happens. People make mistakes. It’s how you and the bank handle the mistake that matters.
What should you do to protect yourself from bank errors?
Keep excellent records.
At a minimum, keep files of your banking activity. Don’t keep every random receipt, and don’t keep every piece of paper forever. But do stay organized with files you can research if needed. We organizers have a saying: it’s only useful if you can find it. Keeping receipts in a messy, mountainous pile will not help you in a situation like this.
If you own a business, keep even better records.
One crazy thing I do is keep a copy of every check that comes through my office. Check copies get stapled with the deposit ticket, and then they all live in a folder. Yes, I even print out online deposit slips. Just because it happens online doesn’t mean I don’t keep solid records. Some may think it’s overkill, but I have those records when I need them. Like, now.
Open your mail.
Open all your mail. All the time. Most people don’t love opening their mail, but that’s where you find many of the errors. When you get something in the mail that looks wrong, check it out. When you receive checks in the mail, cash them right away, before they go stale. Look at your credit card statements every month and research any charges you don’t recognize, which could turn out to be fraud.
Balance your accounts.
Looking at your account balance online is NOT the same as balancing your accounts, also known as reconciling your accounts. When things don’t balance, you know there’s a mistake. Nintey-nine percent of the time, it’s your mistake, but when it’s not, you need to be the one to find the error. Your bank won’t come to you.
When you find an error, notify your bank in writing.
In writing. Attach copies of your records. Keep copies of those emails and physical letters you are sending. That paper trail is going to be important if the resolution isn’t quick.
It takes time to chase down bank errors.
At this moment, I’ve had to contact my bank four times over two weeks to get any action at all on this missing deposit. Plus fielding calls from people who are asking when I’m going to cash their check. I haven’t got “extra” time in my schedule to deal with this, but it has to be done. Sadly, I care way more about my money than the bank does.
Keep an emergency fund.
I’m fortunate that the missing $2K isn’t grocery money, but if it were, I’d need some emergency funds to get through several weeks of missing cash, especially as we head into the holidays. I’ve written before about what an emergency fund is and why it’s an organizing tool you should have.
Don’t get mad.
Right. Getting mad doesn’t actually help. If you have records, the money will turn up, even if it takes longer than you think it should. If you don’t get the help you want, you can work your way up the food chain within the bank, and you can contact your state’s banking oversight commission, which I’ve also had to do before. Keep your emotions level, make phone calls, backed up by letters and emails. In an age where we can buy anything instantly and fly around the world in hours, bank errors may take weeks to resolve, and you don’t want to lose your mind over it in the meantime.