Monday, January 31, 2011

Are You An Under Banked Who Has Experienced This?

Never in a million years would I consider myself unfit for tradional banking! I possessed a well paying job, very strong work ethic, a good education.. But I made a poor mortgage decision, had a divorce, a turn in the economy, and then my two year old Nissan was Tboned by a teenager, I became a member of a growing class: the under banked.

According to Wikipedia: The underbanked are people or businesses that have poor access to mainstream financial services such as banks and so rely upon alternative financial services targeted at poor people such as cheque cashers, loan sharks and pawnbrokers.They may be distinguished from the unbanked who have no banking facilities at all.

While I experienced temporary misfortune like so many others, I needed a banking alternative to Bank Of America. I had seen those prepaid Green Dot cards in Walmart. It seemed like a decent alternative as my paycheck could be direct depoisted into Green Dot's Synovus' bank.

I feel embarrassed writing about this but perhaps it will help someone out there! Are prepaid cards like Green dot taking advantage of those with under banked people like myself. Will this be the banking industries new niche? If an educated, English speaking, very persistant woman cannot get her monies out of her pre paid card, specifically a Green Dot Card, Synovus, then what does that me for an even more vulnerable person?

To make a long story short, for over 10 months, I was without a car living as a single mother of two young children. We live ten miles outside of Las Vegas. This means a two hour bus trip to the Strip where I work “On Call”. “On Call” means I work as needed, often crazy hours taking buses as early as 2am. Fortunately, I am a New Yorker at heart and the bus did not really faze me. Fortunately, I am blessed with several friends who helped me through this time.

In the fall time, it became almost impossible to keep up with the buses, the work, the kids. Thankfully, I had almost full time work, so finally it was time to “rent” a car.

On November 16, I rented a Ford Focus from Avis. At $195 a week, it is very steep; but with everything going on with work and my kids it became a real neccesity. I kept the Ford for 36 days, every week Avis would “hold” $195.80 on my Green Dot account. I returned the car on December. 20, 2010. The charges were $1065.00 for 36 days. All of this money had been “held”. So when my paycheck was deposited into my Green Dot account on December 24th, I could NOT understand why I had NO money. Avis had held or authorized amounts owed every week. Green Dot debited me the whole amount and continued to hold almost $600 in pending authorizations.

After my first call, the agent assured me these funds would soon be released to me. That it was common for Green Dot to hold the funds for a few days, even though the car had been returned and paid in full. That first call took place on December 27, 2010 and to this date February 1, 2011, they continue to hold roughly $390.00. Yes, 195.80 one weeks hold was released (2 weeks ago) after I threatened a You Tube video!

I have made countless calls to Green Dot in the last five weeks! They required a release from Avis which was signed by the owner-agent and faxed over to Green Dot on at least three ocassions. Green Dot blames Avis saying they did not fax it or the name was not printed etc... Every excuse in the book. My last conversation with Green Dot took place on Tuesday, January 25. The agent said that one of the 60 day authorizations was up on January 27th . I would have $195.80.

I spoke with at least 10 different supervisors over the last five weeks. They were all very pleasant and eager to assist me. I was almost beserk with frustration. My feeling is that it is not their fault. On any given day, a supervisor could not access or view certain information about my account. Sometimes they could see the pending charges from Avis, sometimes not. Sometimes, I could see the pending charges from Avis, and they could NOT. Even when I gave them the authorization codes, they had trouble locating my money. I find it very doubtful that my very modest account had some sort of securty clearance with supervisors. It leaves me with an unsettling feeling that these small sums could not be readily accounted for.

At some point, the money may show up! In the meantime, this whole experience has left me wondering if this has happened to anyone else. I know that there are many other under banked and un banked people out there, as I see them In Walmart. I work with them. My kids go to school with them. Whether or not, we like to admit it, we are everywhere. Only who wants to talk about it? This is a safe place for you.

If you have any experiences with Green Dot, Synovus, or any other pre paid cards, please feel free to leave your comments. This blog with be translated into Spanish at my earliest convenience.

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