Questioning Bank Fees
(November 24, 2019 letter to Eaton Federal Savings Bank)

Jesus often used parables to teach the point He was trying to make. There are times when the use of a story form can help us to clarify our position as well. I am adding this five years after the fact because I thought it might be beneficial to share it anyway. The text is self-explanatory.


November 24, 2019

Eaton Federal Savings Bank
Grand Ledge and Charlotte, MI

To whom it may concern,

On November 12, 2019 a charge was made against our checking account number [removed] in the amount of $89.94 that we were unaware of. This triggered a $50 NSF fee for two checks which arrived at the bank November 18, 2019, that were supposed to be covered by those funds. The $89.94 charge was from a company offering a free trial of an herbal product online for shipping and handling of only $6.94. I called to cancel any pending shipments upon learning of the charges, then sent the company an email containing the following excerpts:

“I just checked your site again. The 15 day cancellation period is not prominently displayed anywhere. The highlighted terms and conditions link below the information boxes did not work. I finally found a link at the bottom of the screen. That was the first I saw the actual “free” scam you are running. Neither the order confirmation, nor the shipping emails you sent, mention the 15 day terms & conditions, or even allude to them. The obvious conclusion for all these omissions is you do not want people to become aware of them until it is too late to do anything about it.  I became aware of the problem only because of two NSF $25 charges showing up on my checking account when your $89.94 debit cleared before two legitimate charges . . . .

. . . . While I am sure you consider yourself functioning within legal business parameters, I see you now as nothing but a cheap scam. You as much admitted it yourselves when your customer service agent tried to justify your misleading ways by telling me in no uncertain terms, 'you should have known there is no such thing as really free.' As a former business owner, I corrected her, that there are indeed any number of legitimate companies with good products who offer a free sample of something because they have faith in their product, and its ability to generate interest in a legitimate purchase without being tricked into anything . . . . “

The $89.94 was credited back to our account on November 21, 2019. 

When we stopped at the bank on 11/19 to do some routine banking, the person taking care of my wife asked if she was aware our checking had a negative balance. We immediately transferred $90, from our Special Use account, which typically has a balance of around three thousand dollars, to cover the shortage. I identified the issue immediately and shared it with one of your associates. She did not mention I should be aware there might be NSF charges. I only became aware of them when I went online 11/20 to transfer money for a two hundred dollar check I was writing for having our van repaired. I saw a negative balance again, and thought it might be the less than ethical company, until I saw the charges that had placed my account in jeopardy again were from you. 

I went into the Grand Ledge branch the following day to ask if you thought the $50 charge was reasonable considering you basically loaned us $89.94 for less than forty-eight hours, and why you had not bothered to send me an email, or text message, either time my account was put in jeopardy. I was asked if I had had fees refunded before. I said 30 years banking with you was a long time to remember. She indicated the question only referred to recently. The question felt quite demeaning, as if I were a person who was sloppy in my financial affairs, or routinely delinquent in my accounts. She informed me she could give me a “courtesy” refund of $25, leaving a $25 charge. She also asked if I wanted overdraft protection which would have cost only $5 per transaction. On my way out, I stepped into the branch manager’s office to inform him that I would be removing $2500 of the $7500 CD I had maturing on 11/28/19, and taking it elsewhere.  

When I returned home and told my wife, she asked why I was only doing $2500. That started me thinking about the reality of the circumstances. I concluded, that if I had gone to a friend of 30 years. Told him I had been tricked by an online company that left me short $89.94 temporarily. And, asked could he possibly loan me $89.94 for 48 hours, if I were willing to put up $10,000 worth of collateral to show I was good for the money. If he responded it would be no problem and he would only charge me $50, which was less than a stranger would, I would be perplexed. If then he told me as a “courtesy” he would reduce that to twenty-five, I suspect the “customer appreciating” financial experts at Eaton Federal Savings Bank would advise me I had a loan shark for a friend, and it might be time to look elsewhere for a new one. 

Then I thought about the overdraft protection offer. In this case it would have cost me $10. I can transfer money online from one of my accounts to another for free. I can come into the bank and have you transfer money for me from one of my accounts to another for free. But if you see I am in need, and you transfer money for me without my being there, it would cost me $5 per transaction. Even $10 on $89.94 for 48 hours translates into quite an annual interest rate, let alone $25, or the original $50. Of course, this is not interest, these are routine bank fees. Still, people are becoming more astute as technology offers more information and options. I wonder how long some banks will survive holding onto Neanderthal banking ways in a twenty-first century world? 

As it happens, I actually have another friend. When you had nothing affordable to offer me as a small business many years ago, I got things set up with Michigan State University Federal Credit Union. I ran this scenario by them 11/22, as I was setting up a new account with them. There is no charge for overdraft protection, and it can even be multi-tiered. And, though they have higher $30 NSF fees, “since I did not go on a buying spree with complete disregard for my balance” (their words) all NSF charges would have been immediately removed upon the explanation of the actual circumstances. 

Thirty years, and $10,000 of collateral was not enough for you. I like Eaton Federal Savings Bank. I like the corporate structure of a mutual company (much like a credit union). I like that it is not a huge impersonal national bank. But, none of that helped us out through the course of events last week. We cannot afford a bank that thinks a $25 charge is reasonable for covering $89.94 when we have $3000 on deposit to easily cover it, and $7500 backing that up. 

Maybe in this week of Thanksgiving, I should be thankful for the “courtesy” refund of half of the $50 fees. However, it still seems disproportionate to me. Therefore, this letter is to inform you not to renew the certificate [number removed] I set up a year ago which will mature November 28, 2019. The maturing balance of $7,613.16 can be electronically transferred, if there is no cost to us, to MSUFCU bank routing and transfer number [removed] account number [removed]. Otherwise, just place it back into our special use savings, and I will come in Friday, or at my earliest convenience thereafter, to close out that account to take to MSUFCU. If you opt to electronically transfer (with no cost), we will still eventually be closing the special use savings, and the checking after everything clears. That will leave only our smaller household savings account at Eaton Federal.    


[Signed copy delivered to Grand Ledge branch in person.]

William E Gibbons Jr. 


The branch manager left a voicemail message on our phone saying he thought the letter made some very good points, and he would be refunding the second fee as well. We received this simple email confirming this. 

From: Ken Seelman <>
Date: Tue 11/26/2019 4:25 PM
Subject: fee

Per my vmail this afternoon, that 2nd fee is back into your account.

Kenneth T. Seelman
NMLS #423500
Customer Owned, Customer Focused
Branch Manager
Assistant Vice President
Grand Ledge Office
Direct: 517-213-7049
Fax: 517-627-9524

This E-mail transmission and any attachments to it are intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed and may contain confidential and privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient, your use, forwarding, printing, storing, disseminating, distribution, or copying of this communication is prohibited. If you receive this communication in error, please notify the sender immediately by replying to this message and delete it from your computer. Thank you.


When I originally went to the bank, I had asked to see the branch manager, but was taken instead to see someone who I was told could take care of my issue. As a business man all of my adult life, I would not think that turned out to be true for them considering the $25 she deemed appropriate lost their bank $10,000 we had deposited there. And, could have potentially lost a 30 year customer. But, when the branch manager was finally involved, and refunded the second $25, we decided to keep one small savings account, and one checking account with what is today Eaton Community Bank. It was not that difficult a decision. The savings still gets a monthly retirement direct deposit we use for grocery money. The tithe (10% for charitable giving) from that amount is automatically transferred to the checking. We simply write donation checks from it, nothing else. No debit card, or other use, is made of the checking, so there should never be a recurrence of this scenario. Fees are still a part of the ECB way of doing business. I do not know if anything changed as a result of my letter, but in our circumstance it felt like justice prevailed. 



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