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How to complain to the bank

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In a perfect world, we would never run into any issues at our bank. In reality, many of us will face a problem that needs to be resolved. Whether you run into a mistaken fee or a more serious issue, you can take matters into your own hands by complaining to the bank.

Not sure how to complain to your bank? Here’s what you need to know.

Gather documents that are related to your complaint

Before you move forward with a complaint, gather all of the documents that prove your point. A few documents that might help could include:

  • Paper checks
  • A copy of your statement
  • A bank notice

Make a note of any relevant dates that you may need to provide to the bank representative. Once you have the documentation in hand, move forward as quickly as possible — you may only have a limited amount of time to complain about the problem to the bank.

Call the bank’s customer service line

A call to your bank’s main customer service line should be your first stop. You can find the 1-800 number of the bank on your debit or credit card or on the bank’s website.

After dialing, you’ll find a representative that is ready to handle the issue — the number is designed to field inquiries and complaints. If he isn’t able to help you directly, he’ll likely point you in the right direction.

It is important to note that you should block out some time for this phone call. Depending on the customer service experience at your bank, it could take quite a while to resolve an issue over the phone.

Use a digital service

You might be able to lodge a complaint through a mobile banking app to report standard issues. For example, you could report a mistaken overdraft fee by communicating with a bank’s chatbot while logged into your app. There are also fintech services that will fight fees on your behalf, including Trim and Truebill.

More serious issues will likely require additional information through another form of contact.

Email or text the bank

Although not all banks will allow you to email or text a complaint, some will. This can be a quick and efficient way to relay your complaint without being put on hold. Plus, there are benefits to putting your complaint into writing.

“Not only does it serve as a way to keep a record of the complaint for you and for the bank, but it also gives the bank an incentive to solve the issue,” says Justin Nabity, CFP, wealth management adviser at Physicians Thrive.

Every bank has its own procedure for complaint submissions. Check to see if your bank accepts texts and emails.

Submit a complaint to the CFPB

If you have a complaint of a serious nature, then take the time to report the issue to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Although this complaint process can be more time consuming, it is important to report any problems to this government agency.

If you want to submit a complaint to the CFPB, then here’s what you need to do:

  • Head to the Bureau’s website. You’ll find the option to start a complaint there.
  • Let the CFPB know what the complaint is about. You will answer a quick series of questions about the product you are complaining about. The questions will expand based on your previous answers.
  • Outline the problem. Next, the CFPB will ask about the type of problem you are having and whether or not the company has tried to resolve the issue.
  • Describe the situation. At this point, you’ll be asked to describe the issue in full. Make sure to include dates and actions. But don’t provide any personal information in your written complaint. In addition to a written description of the issue, you can include what would be a fair resolution in your opinion. Finally, you can attach documents to support your complaint.
  • Provide the company name. You’ll need to provide the company name. With this, the CFPB can forward the complaint to the company and ask for a response to the issue.
  • Who is involved? The last question of the complaint is who is involved in the issue.

If you have your documents ready to go, this process should only take a few minutes. For resolution, however, it will take longer.

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau often liaises between consumers and the bank or financial institution they’ve lodged a formal complaint against,” says Jim Pendergast, a senior vice president of altLINE, a division by The Southern Bank.  “Generally, complaints are reviewed by the CFPB within 12 to 15 days of being filed. The CFPB is obligated to then forward your incident to the institution, [which] then has anywhere from 15 to 60 days to respond. From there, your complaint is recorded in the CFPB’s database.”

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Written by
Sarah Sharkey
Contributing Writer
Sarah Sharkey is a contributing writer for Bankrate. Sarah writes about a range of subjects, including banking, savings tips, homebuying, homeownership and personal finance.