It was recently my birthday, and I got some wonderful gifts from family and friends.
I have to say, though, they couldn’t compete with Bank of America.
My creditor since 2006, the bank surprised me this September by dumping more than $3,000 into my credit card account, zeroing out my debt and refunding me more than $2,600 in cash.
Turns out, it wasn’t because they wanted to say “Happy Birthday,” but actually because of something their customer service representative called an “interest error correction.”
Which means that really I paid for this gift myself.
I found out about my accidental savings account when I made my monthly payment. A little background, here: I had closed this card around 2010 and made payments on it every month since then—often just minimum monthly payments.
As busy as I was, I always said I’d devote more attention to that credit card the following month. I vaguely suspected that my interest rate was too high, but figured there was probably nothing I could to about it anyway. This was before the Credit Card Reform Act of 2009, when banks would often penalize one late payment with a year-long annual percentage raise increase.
To be fair, I did have my share of fun thanks to B of A’s line of revolving credit. I mean, this card was a big part of my 20s spent working in the motorcycle industry in Southern California. I likely racked up my debt on overpriced drinks, Mexican food and aftermarket motorcycle parts.
At some point I was late on my monthly payment, and sure enough, Bank of America set my APR to right around 23 percent. Apparently, they forgot to drop the APR back to the normal rate.
I’m embarrassed to say, I never noticed.
I see two lessons here.
First, the obvious lesson, the one my mom tried to teach me when I got my first checking account at age 12, but which I had to learn the hard way. Don’t be a distracted consumer. Don’t trust banks or credit card companies to be correct.
Secondly: before you end a relationship with a banking institution, you should carefully examine your account to make sure everything adds up. Because once you pay off a card and close your account, it may become more difficult for the bank to find you.
In my case, I came close to paying this card off a year ago, just because I had the spare cash and liked the idea of one less monthly payment. But I didn’t do it, and I’m glad I didn’t.
After all, how would Bank of America have contacted me? I moved from Pittsburgh to York County this year. I wouldn’t have updated my information with Bank of America, since I would have had no more accounts with them.
Betty Riess, a Bank of America spokeswoman, said that “there are circumstances when we need to locate a customer (for example, dormant deposit accounts) and we will go to great lengths to locate them if there is a need to communicate about an account.”
I don’t doubt that they would try to do so. But then, they got the interest rate wrong in the first place. Who is to say whether they would have been able to get a hold of me?
There are resources for checking in various institutions to make sure they don’t owe you money, but if you’re not careful you could end up on a scam website or one that charges a fee to search for unclaimed money.
I’ve included links to websites that are either official government sites or sites endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. None of the sites charge a fee.
Hopefully some of you out there will discover that you, too, have an accidental savings account courtesy of your creditor.