SANTA CRUZ (CBS 5) – Some Bank of the West customers are complaining that checking accounts that were supposed to be “Free for Life” are no longer free.
Alexis Culp of Santa Cruz is one bank customer who was caught by surprise by the switch. The engineer said when she signed up for her checking account in 1996, the ads promised a “lifetime of free checking.” But back in April, Culp started noticing fees were being deducted from her account.
“I looked at where those fees came from and they came from my no-fee checking account,” Culp told ConsumerWatch.
Culp said when she contacted Bank of the West, the bank told her that her free account had been converted to another kind, one with a fee. It also told Culp the fee would be waived if she got direct deposit or maintained a $1,000 balance. The change was something that struck Culp as unfair.
“I asked them to explain what is the difference between lifetime free checking and me still being alive right now,” she recalled.
Dozens of other Bank of the West customers are complaining about the same thing in an online petition. After all, a promise is a promise.
So, Culp contacted CBS 5 ConsumerWatch, and we contacted Bank of the West.
The bank researched Culp’s complaint, and restored her “truly” free checking. According to spokesperson Lily Ruiz, the free checking for life offer was as a special promotion offered back in the 1980s and 1990s.
“While we no longer offer that promotion, we stand behind our promises and have made no changes for these specific types of accounts,” Ruiz said. She also said the bank will “work quickly to resolve these matters” with its customers.
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