Thursday, May 17, 2007

US Bank

I recently went on a trip out of the country. I used some services of my bank, US Bank, that I have not previously used. I am usually pleased with the overall service US Bank gives me – I appreciate the overdraft protection credit account they gave me (and the increase of the credit line after using the service for a year); I was able to easily set up and manage my accounts online; and I have usually been treated well at the several branches I have visited – however, recently some things have irked me about US Bank.

In order to secure the money I would take with me on my trip, I decided to get some travelers checks. When I looked for more information about travelers checks on US Bank’s website, I could only find reference to the U.S. Bank® Visa TravelMoney® Card. It was touted as a save “an alternative to cash or travelers checks,” so, being of the paperless money generation, I decided to get one instead of outmoded travelers checks.

The description page mentions that for a nominal fee you can load a TravelMoney card with funds from one of your US Bank accounts. They also mention how you can add more funds to the card, up to three times before it expires. What they don’t mention, though, is that for no amount of money can you put that money back into your account. That is, unless you go to an ATM, withdraw the money, walk into the branch and ask to have the cash put back into your account. The process is a bit of a roundabout with no real reason why. This is not really that big of deal, but if these cards are “the smart, convenient and safe way to carry your travel funds” (emphasis mine), then I should be able to, like I can with a travelers check, go to the counter of my bank, sign the checks, and ask the teller to deposit the amount into my account.

Furthermore, when considering getting the TravelMoney card, I noticed that there is the option of getting up to two secondary cards to give “a travel companion, or keep one in a safe place, for use if your primary card is lost or stolen.” But when I asked about this, I was told that I could receive only one card. I am not sure why this discrepancy between what is stated on their website and what is offered in their branches, but this takes much of the safety and convenience out of getting the card. If I can have only one card, then I must wait (Who knows how long? Days? Weeks? My vacation would have been over by then.) to have the card replaced if it is lost or stolen. In the meantime, I could have been stranded somewhere without any means of payment.

Another issue I had was not being able to exchange my pesos back into US dollars. I went to two separate branches (The teller at the first one looked confused and pointed me in the direction of their main Kansas City branch.) and was told first that I could not exchange foreign currency, then told that I could but they would have to mail it off, it would take three weeks to be exchanged, they couldn’t change coins, and I had to have a minimum equivalent of $200 to be considered. I was OK with not being able to exchange the coins (Who wants to mess with changing 5 pesos to $0.50?), but why should I be prohibited from exchanging 750 pesos into nearly $75.00? The explanation I got was “that’s just the way they do it.” Well, thanks for all the help. I had no trouble pulling money (in pesos) out of my account (in US dollars). Shouldn’t it stand to reason that I should be able to do the exact same thing only backwards just as easily?

I realize that these are pretty minor grievances compared to the general contentment I have with my overall banking experience at US Bank. Still, little things add up. And if I’m entrusting my money to their business, shouldn’t I expect US Bank to be reasonable, honest, and competent?

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