I have hidden the honest to God truth for a very long time. I usually tell the story in an abridged version, because in its totality I really was so very dumb, but this is the entire story…
In 2003 I graduated from high school and went right on to college. That choice wasn’t the best one for me, but it would take three years to recognize.
When I got to university I signed up for a Wells Fargo college credit account. My economics teacher in high school was fantastic, he made it very known that we should all establish credit as soon as possible, I did not however account for the fact that I would be a broke college student that didn’t have enough funding (actually I think it was credit) to even qualify for a credit card. The Wells Fargo associate did not inform me that I was not going to be getting a credit card; I suppose technology wasn’t quick enough then. So what I signed up for instead was a bank account with $50 down.
I already had a bank account with Bank of America, and I had had it since 1990 (kindergarten). I viewed the Wells Fargo account as backup.
As time went on, my B.o.A. account depleted considerably. I worked while in college, but I was making peanuts. I like many others was hardly able to pay for food; living pay check to pay check, just trying to keep a roof over my head.
One sad day my bank account was at $20, so I decided to buy only that which was necessary (at a bunch of different places) spending a $1 here and $2 there so as to last me the rest of the month. The only problem was I didn’t actually have $20 in my account. I never (still haven’t) balanced my check book, nor kept track of debit transactions. Now the internet loves me and it tells me all that I need to know. Back then it was almost a guessing game… though I also didn’t have my bank account loaded to an app on my brick phone that could hardly text message.
In the matter of one day at $33 a pop I racked up over $300 in overdraft fees, because at the time there was no limit to how many a person could get. Devastated and unable to pay that bill, I decided to rely on the Wells Fargo account as my primary account until I could make the money to pay of B.o.A. (who in no way would help me by taking off any of the overdraft fees). Unfortunately for me the account I had signed up for with Wells Fargo for some reason did not operate like a college student account (which is supposed to be free), instead it acted as a regular account, charging fees of $5 every month completely unbeknownst to me (more aggravating still, I signed up for Wells literally at the University).
The day I learned there was no money in my Wells account, I got out of school and walked to the corner store to get a water and some change for the bus. I waited in a line that was over ten people long, a woman behind me was juggled a child and her own purchases, and as I got up in the line I confidently handed over my card, only to hear “I am sorry, your card was declined.”
I can’t imagine how pathetic I looked. The woman behind me offered to pay for my water; I declined, maybe out of pride. I walked home with my tail between my legs.
Some time went by, with both accounts maxed out beyond belief (actually Wells wasn’t bad at all, less than $40). I went to Wells to talk to an associate because both Wells and B.o.A. were threatening to smear my good name for seven years or more if I refused to pay them. The woman at Wells had no sympathy or understanding for my situation. I explained that my account shouldn’t have been charged at all, I was a college student and the account was supposed to be free, but nothing I said helped. When we both finally concluded that I did not have a dime to pay her, she picked up my debit card and cut it into tiny pieces. I had no idea that was done in real life. I had no idea they did it with debit cards. Remembering it still makes me a little sad, and embarrassed.
I never asked my parents for help. I was not raised that way (though if my Dad knew he would be super pissed off even now that I didn’t turn to them in my time of need… but he is the one that raised me that way).
For a while I shared a bank account with my boyfriend, my money became “our” money… and we hardly ever had any because he drank most of it away. When he broke up with me, he took me off the account and did not pay me a dime of the money that was left over (that was mine). Just another lesson learned.
I began using check-into cash places which take a considerable amount off the top, until one day a friend asked me why I didn’t just go pay off the amount I owed to B.o.A. and reinstate my account. Before that I didn’t even know that was an option. If I had I would have done it years prior.
I paid back both B.o.A. and Wells; I still cannot sign up for another bank, but at the very least I no longer have to use check-into cash.
All of this was dead and buried to me; my little secret, my stupid choices, my anger and disappointment with the Wells woman cutting up my card (really how was I going to use it if it was over drafted anyway?). Until yesterday that is. I got a letter in the mail from Bank of America. Apparently I was not the only person to get overdraft fees. I was just one of the only people that didn’t bring it up again. Nothing was really explained to me, there was no reasoning given for the amount they sent, but I am now seventeen dollars and nine cents richer. If I could go back in time, that would be a whole lot of money!