PNC nightmare: Bank charged me fees for its own screw-up

PNC Bank sign

Have banks forgotten how to be . . . banks?

PNC has.

In November, I opened an online savings account with PNC.

I've been thinking about switching my checking account to a new bank. So why not test out PNC with a simple savings account for my tenant's security deposit?

I'd had PNC checking in high school and college but switched because PNC didn't have bank branches in Florida. Back then, I'd never had a bad experience.

Now? A nightmare.

There was a mix-up with sending me my PIN. Even though I wasn't getting a debit card tied to the savings account, I still needed a PIN to set up online deposits beyond the initial $25 I put into it.

So I contacted PNC's online customer service, which directed me to a number to call. The phone tree didn't allow for someone who had an account number but not a PIN, so I was disconnected. Twice.

After hitting zero 12 times, I finally got through to someone. The entire process to get another PIN? An additional two weeks.

In the meantime, PNC charged me a $4 fee for not maintaining the minimum account balance -- despite its system preventing me from depositing said money (and if there was an option of going to a PNC branch about the matter, no one told me about it -- another customer service failure).

I didn't think I'd have a problem getting the fee refunded considering the documentation regarding the PIN mishap.

I was wrong. PNC told me there was no way to get back my $4, and when I said I wanted to close the account, I was then informed I'd need to pay an additional $25 fee for closing the savings account within 180 days after opening it.

This is the only time I have cursed at a customer service representative. Ever.

So PNC screwed up, was hard to reach about said screw-up and charged me a fee that was a consequence of the screw-up.

And now, because I'm having a terrible experience, I either have to stay with a bank I now hate or give it $25 more.

How has PNC gone from what used to be an easy-to-use, community-oriented bank to a conglomerate that won't refund a customer's $4 fee that results from its mistakes? And then impose a policy of holding that person's money hostage for half a year?

Because banks like PNC aren't banks anymore -- at least not competent ones.

Over the last decade, banks been so focused on being stockbrokers, financial advisers to the wealthy, securitizing mortgages and, in PNC's case until 2010, funding the environmentally wretched practice of mountaintop removal coal mining that they stopped being banks.

It's thrown over the small- and medium-size guys who just want a place to keep their money that offers someone who will answer the phone if there's a problem, and it's turned into a nightmare.

So I'm stuck with this bank until May. But on day 180, I'm out of there.

I already have the online banking account -- which doesn't charge fees -- set up. I've got it marked on my calendar.

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