JPMorgan Chase, “valid” $39 overlimit fees, and humanity

In addition to running Parse.ly, I also run a small consulting business, Aleph Point, Inc. In the course of working on client jobs, I sometimes have to make business purchases, which I always pay in full at the end of every month. I have never carried a balance on my credit card and I never intend to.

When I signed up for a business checking account at Chase, the branch manager who I worked with (and who now no longer works there) encouraged me to sign up for a business credit card, as well. I thought, hey, why not — I’m just going to use it for small purchases like monthly hosting fees and the like.

Recently, I made a relatively large purchase at Best Buy for a client, which I was going to be reimbursed for. It was about $200. I already had a balance of $350 on my account, and a few days later my account was closing for the month.

When I looked over my account information a few days later, I found a strange charge. $39 OVERLIMIT FEE. What’s that, I thought?

Well, I went to my branch to find out. The branch manager explained that my credit card had a credit limit of $500. Wow. That’s a low credit limit. I explained that I sometimes make reimbursed purchases of more than $500, so this was quite strange value to pick. Further, I already had multiple other credit cards with much higher limits, so I don’t get why they would choose such a small limit for me. “Oh”, the branch manager said, “that’s because we’re picking $500 limits for all new business customers.” Hmph, fine… seems strange, but fine. (The engineer in me thinks, “Couldn’t they have done an analysis of my cash flow to figure out a more reasonable limit? Of course not — this is a bank, after all. That’s expecting them to be smart.”)

“OK,” I said. “So I have a $500 limit on the account. But why is there an OVERLIMIT FEE? Shouldn’t it just be declined? What is that about?” She says, “Oh, unfortunately, I can’t explain why that was charged. You’ll have to call the number on the back of the card.” I say, “Really? Why?” She says, “Unfortunately, we can’t discuss credit card fees at the branch.” This strikes me as a very strange policy, probably just put in place as a deterrent for people actually contesting their fees. Very sneaky little bastards, these Chase guys. But fine, for now I’ll follow the policy.

A couple days later, I call up the number on the back of the card. I ask about the fee. He says, “Yes, sir, that is a completely valid fee.” I reply, “Valid? Who cares if it is valid? Any fee you guys put on my account is ‘valid’. The question is, why was it put there? And is it justified?” He replied, “It was put there because you went over your $500 limit.” I asked, “Why did you let me go over the $500 limit? If I have a limit, shouldn’t I get TRANSACTION DECLINED when I go over? Isn’t that the whole point of a limit?”

The guy on the phone laughs. Literally, he laughed at me. “No, Chase provides overlimit protection as a convenience to our customers. So that if, for example, you’re taking a client out to dinner, you won’t be embarrassed by going over your limit.”

I didn’t respond for a couple of seconds, because I was parsing his sentence. “So, this isn’t so much a fee, as much as a convenient service Chase is providing me. You guys are saving my embarrassment for the mere cost of $39. I get it now.”

“Yes, sir.”

Apparently, the guy didn’t get my sarcasm. “Here’s what I think,” I continued. “I think you guys are just ripping me off. There is absolutely no reason not to decline the transaction, except that in allowing the transaction to go through, you now assess a fee. It doesn’t cost you anything for me to go $50 over limit, as I did. And I paid down the account in full through my automatic payment system just a few days later. So, I think you guys just figured — hey, here’s an easy way to make free money off our consumers. Here’s another fee we can invent because we are greedy bastards.”

He seemed a little taken aback, and then said, “No, sir. Chase does not rip off its customers. Chase is here to serve its customers.”

“OK,” I say. “I’ve been your customer for more than a decade. So since you’re in the business of serving customers, I suppose you’ll have no problem removing this fee, which is completely unjustified.”

“Unfortunately, sir,” he responds, “I cannot remove the fee.”

“What do you mean? Of course you can remove it,” I say, incredulous. “Just pull up my account and press delete on the line that says, OVERLIMIT FEE.”

“No, sir, I cannot. It is a valid fee. Valid fees cannot be removed.”

“There’s that word again. Here is another example of a valid fee: $500 for transferring money between my checking and savings account on a Wednesday. If you guys had that policy, that would be a valid fee.”

“We don’t have that policy.”

“Listen,” I’m revving now. “It would be one thing if you guys charged $1 for going over my credit limit. But you charge $39. You know how you guys came up with the number $39?”

“This fee is set by the executives of the banks.”

“Wow, I wish I had just recorded that to send to Congress! No, really –“, I interrupt. “I don’t care who came up with the number. But I’ll tell you how $39 was picked. It was picked because after rigorous market testing, they found that if the fee were $40, people would grab their kitchen knife, run out in the street, and kill every fucking Chase banker in sight.”

He was silent.

“So, the executives decided — better make it $39.”

He didn’t laugh this time. No sense of humor. “Listen, just let me speak to a supervisor to get this issue resolved.”

He insists, “Sir, no supervisor can remove this fee. The executives mandate that we cannot remove it.”

“Who can I contact to appeal the fee, AND the policy that does not allow it be removed, AND the appointment of the executive who instituted it?”

“You can write a letter to business services in Delaware,” the representative says.

Frustrated, I end with a rant. It was long-winded and I won’t produce the whole thing here. It talked about my prior blog post, which pointed out how Chase ran an insecure document exchange system. It talked about how there are currently 21 Chase customers who are “mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore”, ranting on my site about how crappy Chase is. And I discussed how even after contacting Chase about this issue, even after pointing them to a significant problem with numerous angry customers, they do nothing. Just like they are doing nothing now. A company that is like a black hole.

“And as a systems engineer,” I conclude, “the fact that you guys can’t remove this fee just makes me so god-damn depressed, I can’t even express it to you. We have managed to put a man on the moon, but JPMorgan Chase bank cannot hit delete on a fucking spreadsheet. How pathetic is that?”

I resignedly ask for the complaint address. I write it down. And I end the conversation with, “Listen, I know you’re just doing your job. But I want to make it clear to you that your company does not deserve a single god-damn dime of my money. Neither the money in my personal checking account, nor in my business checking account, nor any of the money my representatives awarded you in that $25 billion bailout that saved your company’s greedy ass. It’s not your fault — it’s your company’s fault. But for the love of everything good and just in this world, man, why the hell do you work for these clowns?”

That bit of humanity connected with him, just a little. I could hear it in his voice. “I hope things turnaround for you with Chase. I really do. But there’s nothing I can do for you at this time.”

I hope things turn around, too. In the meanwhile, I’ll sharpen my kitchen knife.

19 Responses to “JPMorgan Chase, “valid” $39 overlimit fees, and humanity”

  1. Cary Says:

    Whomever set you up at Chase had no idea what your needs were (or perhaps you needs were rapidly changing). As long as you don’t have excessive credit lines elsewhere it shouldn’t be a problem to raise the limit and reverse the fee. This is done all the time. If an account is setup correctly, things should operate completely smoothly and fees only get generated in extreme circumstances when warranted in advance (like not paying your bill).

  2. pixelmonkey Says:

    Cary,

    I see it differently. I think “overlimit fees” are a way consumer credit card companies — and banks that have credit cards — simply rip customers off daily. $39 is small enough that many customers will see the fee and not even bother to call to complain. Of those customers who call to complain (like me), many will give up when faced with a phone rep like I was. Only because I am so god-damned pissed off, I am going to charge into my branch one of these days and demand the fee removed, OR ELSE. (… where “OR ELSE” will be me closing every single one of my Chase accounts.)

    But that’s just me. Meanwhile, I have no doubt that hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of consumers have $39 overlimit fees that they do not contest, and that this makes the credit card companies and banks tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

  3. Beth-LOL Says:

    This site is so funny. Here you are having a rant because you overspent your limit because you are unable to run your business correctly.! If you don’t know your credit limit you shouldn’t have a card, period.

  4. Mister X Says:

    Cary is astroturfing for Chase, and Beth is just a pathetic Troll.

    Chase dings me on my Debit card for $33.00 if I go over “my limit”.

    Yes, it’s a total rip-off, and I moved my accounts to a local credit union.

  5. Anna Says:

    I got dinged for 35 dollars over the limit over, wait for it, being 27 cents over! I guess my account was credited for a return but not for the entire amount. They also told me they could not remove a valid fee. I explained it was over by 27 cents; he was polite but insisted there was nothing they can do to remove the debt. I got this when I was “late” by a half hour (wrong time zone.) I told them I did not need their puny credit limit that badly and to close my account. I am so dinged up by balance chasers that my score can only be raised with a bankruptcy at this point. Since it was small CL, they are lucky that they will get paid…unlike others who can sit and spin.

  6. Saurabh Says:

    hello pixelmonkey,

    I had the exact same problem and it went about the same when I called the customer service. I did talk to supervisor but she was adamant enough not to revert the fee. I have the complaint address noted down. I will send them a mail. I actually want to mail this incident to a higher executive because I am pretty sure when the customer representative called me to offer this credit card, I was never told about this fee.

  7. Avani Says:

    Exact same problem and exact same response. I am pissed and will put in a complaint too.
    Has anyone heard back after the compliant?

  8. pixelmonkey Says:

    I haven’t heard back after the complaint yet, which is par for the course for Chase, apparently.

  9. Pep Says:

    I am foreign (from Spain, Europe) and I am working for a University from USA. It happened exactly the same to me with a Chase Credit card. I was really frustrated about this fee, to me look a clear “legal” way to steal you. Why you have a credit limit, if you can go over it? Answer: to charge you a new “valid” fee. Here I have seen the worst credit card policy that I have ever experimented, it is full of hidden fees, it is incredible! I will cancel my credit card from Chase for sure, these Chase’s guys are extremely sharp, and they probably have been make numbers, and the balance between passive guys that accept this steal and the angry guys that change to another bank is positive.
    Let’s turn the statistic! Don’t be an asshole: complain! and if don’t get your money back: change to another bank (let’s hope to find a better politics).

  10. Aaron Says:

    Thanks for your post, pixelmonkey. I too have a Chase credit card with a $500 limit and got the exact same $39.00 fee. I called today to complain and the first guy i received said that currently there was nothing he could do due to the new credit card legislation being enacted, i then called a second time seeing if i would get a different response and received the same lines you were fed. However, i called a few days ago and the guy said that once my balance is paid in full they may consider removing it if i call again–my account was paid in full today before i called.

    It angers me because i only went over by a small amount AND my other Chase credit card had $1,600 AVAILABLE at the time of the “over-limit” fee. I have automatic payments enabled and ALWAYS have paid IN FULL and ON TIME!

    I am also considering writing to the very top Chase executives to complain—more out of principal than the fee itself!

    My question to anyone reading this is whether or not the new Credit Card legislation enacted by congress (CARD ACT) which explicitly denies credit card companies the right to charge over-limit fees without first getting permission from their customers—by default the over-limit transaction would be denied–whether this will make a difference in trying to get back the over-limit fees that happen prior to when the act takes place on February 22nd 2010. My guess is any fees charged before February 22nd will not be effected–but perhaps after that date they may be more lenient with removing the fee?

    By the way, the woman i talked to at Chase today said that there are no provisions in the new credit card legislation effecting late fees—that of course, was a flat out lie.

    Please keep us updated on any new developments!—i will check back periodically.

  11. Chase Absolutely Stinks Says:

    Just got dinged for the same thing. They should just decline the transaction, pretty simple. Once I complained they said they would change my card to now decline instead of trigger the overlimit fee.

    Reading the thread, what planet is BETH-LOL from? The issue here is Chase sets an arbitrary low limit that is well under what you actual spending capabilities are.

  12. Cindy Says:

    I had the same problem, over the limit fee!!! I called and asked that they remove it and they advised me that late fees and over limit fees can not be removed. I canceled my card. I then called and checked my balance to mail in the whole balance and saw they had assessed me a second over the limit fee the day after the statement closing date. I hadn’t even gotten the bill in the mail yet when the had assessed the second fee. Rotten Business Practice!

  13. Lucy jing Says:

    Exactly same thing happened on me. this is the most unlawful institution I have even seen. I was charged 78 usd in two month. If I did not looked carefully into my Bank account , this fee would not be discovered. If they have 20 million members. And each one is charged 150 per year, it would be 3 billion. what a fxxx.

    I will cancel my card. Can anybody tell me where to complain this unlawful institution? thanks

  14. Bruce Says:

    This site is so funny. Here you are having a rant because you overspent your limit because you are unable to run your business correctly.! If you don’t know your credit limit you shouldn’t have a card, period.

  15. Brandi Says:

    Hello everyone – I have constant issues with Chase; the best way I get my problems resolved is by emailing the CEO directly. Typically I receive a PHONE CALL from Mr. Dimon’s secretary to let me know she has spoken with him and he is escalating the issue for me…..my problems are usually resolved within 48 hours. His email address is: [email protected] – best of luck!!

  16. William Says:

    I got hit with the same thing. Talked to the lady, brought up the law, claimed that I have never opted-in. After going back and forth for about 10 min. She waived it off. I mentioned the following ACT and it seemed to have worked. However, there is a loophole in the ACT if you read it carefully, it applies only to “open end consumer credit plan” which means personal/household credit cards, not business credit cards. She told me the ACT does not apply to business card but she waived it for me anyway.

    Frankly I don’t know why the lawmakers left a hole here. Seems to me small businesses should be protected from these guys as well.

    Anyway, try argue using the Credit CARD ACT of 2009 (in effect as of 2/22/2010).
    TITLE I, Section 102, item k.

    Good luck!

    Here are the related paragraphs:

    SEC. 102. LIMITS ON FEES AND INTEREST
    CHARGES.

    ‘‘(k) OPT-IN REQUIRED FOR OVER-THE-LIMIT TRANSACTIONS IF FEES ARE IMPOSED.—

    ‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—In the case of any credit card account under an open end consumer credit plan under which an overthe-limit fee may be imposed by the creditor for any extension of credit in excess of the amount of credit authorized to be extended under such account, no such fee shall be charged, unless the consumer has expressly elected to permit the creditor, with respect to such account, to complete transactions involving the extension of credit under such account in excess of the amount of credit authorized.
    ‘‘(2) DISCLOSURE BY CREDITOR.—No
    election by a consumer under paragraph (1) shall take effect unless the consumer, before making such election,

    received a notice from the creditor of any over-the-limit fee in the form and manner, and at the time,

    determined by the Board. If the consumer makes the election referred to in paragraph (1), the creditor shall

    provide notice to the consumer of the right to revoke the election, in the form prescribed by the Board, in

    any periodic statement that includes notice of the imposition of an over-the-limit fee during the period

    covered by the statement.
    ‘‘(3) FORM OF ELECTION.— A consumer may
    make or revoke the election referred to in paragraph (1) orally, electronically, or in writing, pursuant to

    regulations prescribed by the Board. The Board shall prescribe regulations to ensure that the same options are

    available for both making and revoking such election.
    ‘‘(4) TIME OF ELECTION.— A consumer may
    make the election referred to in paragraph (1) at any time, and such election shall be effective until the

    election is revoked in the manner prescribed under paragraph (3).
    ‘‘(5) REGULATIONS.— The Board shall
    prescribe regulations—
    ‘‘(A) governing disclosures under this
    subsection; and
    ‘‘(B) that prevent unfair or deceptive acts or
    practices in connection with the manipulation of credit limits designed to increase over-the-limit fees or

    other penalty fees.
    ‘‘(6) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in
    this subsection shall be construed to prohibit a creditor from completing an over-the-limit transaction,

    provided that a consumer who has not made a valid election under paragraph (1) is not charged an over-the-

    limit fee for such transaction.
    ‘‘(7) RESTRICTION ON FEES CHARGED FOR
    AN OVER-THE-LIMIT TRANSACTION.—With respect to a credit card account under an
    open end consumer credit plan, an over-the-limit fee may be imposed only once during a billing cycle if the

    credit limit on the account is exceeded, and an over-the-limit fee, with respect to such excess credit, may be

    imposed only once in each of the 2 subsequent billing cycles, unless the consumer has obtained an additional

    extension of credit in excess of such credit limit during any such subsequent cycle or the consumer reduces

    the outstanding balance below the credit limit as of the end of such billing cycle.

  17. Jade Says:

    You can cancel your ‘Chase Debit Card Coverage’ which authorizes Chase to pay overdrafts at their discretion.

    Sure when a payment comes in when you are low (like gas stations sometimes take up to a week to come through) you will be charged an overdraw fee which is acceptable. Bad management of funds which is your own responsibility and stuff happens at times.

    Since we got it removed we maybe got hit with a fee twice last year (due to hard times) instead of most months if not twice or three times over a long weekend. Chase has been good to us considering we moved from Fifth Third which really screwed us over.

    This was the only problem we had and it became manageable once we cancelled their ‘not really covering anything but giving us cause to fine your account with our good intentions of not helping you at all to make money’ coverage. 🙂

  18. Jade Says:

    Ps. If you do not have the funds in your account when you go to buy something you will get a card declined message.

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