Marco's Blog

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What happened with my Wells Fargo debit card?

2006-04-21 4 min read marco

What do you do if in Hawai`i and in need of cash? Lots of cash? Well, of course, you go to the local branch of your bank. Wells Fargo. I got my loan from them, let’s just go to their local branch, no?

The phone book lists a Wells Fargo branch in Hilo: I call her up, and Phil (whom I knew from dealing with the Home Mortgage arm) tells me there is no branch. I can though get a cash advance from any bank, up to the limit set on my card, as long as the bank is willing to do that. All the way up to $7,000!

There is a catch: I have to increase my ATM card limit. So I dutifully call the bank and get the ATM limit raised to its maximum ($1,000), and they tell me I can get the cash advance up to $7,000.

I check out the neighborhood, and the closest branch that looks like a real bank is the First Hawaiian branch on Kilauea. I go there, ask them whether they could give me a cash advance, and they say: sure, no problem! How much?

Let’s go for the sum I need: $5,000. The lady behind the counter (extremely friendly) comes back and says: “Sorry, sir, but your bank denied the amount. Should we try it for $4,000?” Sure, I say, and the same thing happens.

At this point I am already unhappy with my bank. I call them up, and they say that the previous operator had not actually raised the ATM spending limit, but that this one would do it. And now we are forwarding you to the fraud department.

Huh? Well, sir, you have tried to use your card to get $5,000 in cash from Hawaii – that’s obviously fraudulent! After all, we have you living in San Francisco!

Never mind. I get passed to a fraud department operator who resets my card and tells me they have told me the wrong number all along. Instead of being $7,000, my limit is $3,500.

Back in the branch, a gorgeous day, I get to run the card again. $3,500 is denied. $3,000, too. Guess what, the card is locked again. In full frustration, I remember that I have this chintzy credit card I use only for online purchases because of its tiny spending limit. I call up my credit union, explain the situation, and voila! I’ve got the cash.

Of course I should have known that Wells Fargo would have an issue with me wanting to get access to my money. After all, it’s mine!

There is a nice coda, of course. Knowing my card was locked, I called the fraud department proactively, answered the usual multitude of questions, and was unlocked again. In addition to resetting the card, the operator asked me how long I was going to stay in Hawaii, so that they’d be prepared for strange expenses.

Next day, I go to the grocery store (actually Malama market in Pahoa). Run the debit card – denied. The message on the screen intimated the card must not be accepted, with another cautionary message that seemed to indicate I am a professional thief. Fortunately for me, in Pahoa that’s probably more the norm than the exception…

I call up the bank, this time infinitely upset. They tell me they had done the reset only on one side, and not the other, but that the card would work fine now.

I asked a friend that worked at WF, and he mentioned that combined credit/debit cards were actually two cards to the system. When they reset my credit card, they didn’t reset the debit card.

Now, did I really have to go through all of this, only to get to my money in a place where my bank has no branches? I understand them requiring all sorts of documentation – which they didn’t, by the way – but not just telling me a bunch of things that the next operator would laugh at!