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FDIC Consumer News - Summer 2018
25th Anniversary Edition

[1999] Don't Get Mad, Get Answers

man and woman typing on computer

Excerpted and updated from “Don't Get Mad, Get Answers,” Summer 1999.

Got a complaint involving your financial institution but you're not sure about the best or quickest ways to resolve the matter? Here are suggestions.

First contact the institution. Experience has shown that the quickest way to resolve most banking problems is to work directly with your bank. Ask who you should direct your complaint or question to and if the institution has any procedures it wants you to follow.

If your bank is local, you may want to consider making an appointment with a manager or officer there. A face-to-face meeting to share information and discuss differences often will clear up misunderstandings, on both sides, and reduce the frustration that can result from exchanging letters.

If you report a problem to an institution in a phone call, follow up with a letter that restates your concerns and asks that the situation be looked into. This part is very important, because written notification is often required by the consumer protection laws. If your call results in a verbal commitment, such as an agreement to refund a certain dollar amount, include in your follow-up letter a request for a written confirmation of what was promised over the telephone.

Keep your tone as positive and professional as possible. If you're upset, allow yourself to calm down before calling or writing. You'll be much more effective in getting the institution to see your side of the problem, and you'll probably remember more details.

If you still feel there is a problem or that you're being treated unfairly, write to the institution's primary federal regulator. To find out who regulates a financial institution, you can call the FDIC toll-free at 1-877-275-3342 or go to BankFind, the FDIC’s online directory of FDIC-insured banking institutions.

If you write to a government agency, include all pertinent information.  Provide your name, address and telephone number; the name and location of the institution; a brief description of the problem and your efforts to fix it (including the names of employees you contacted); and what you'd like the institution to do to correct the problem.

Also attach copies of any supporting documents, such as account statements and letters to or from the institution.

Of course, prevention is the best cure. Read all the information that comes with your accounts, and keep it in a safe place. Check your account statements frequently and contact the institution immediately if there are errors. Mistakes are easier to straighten out the earlier they are found, and some consumer protection laws have limits on how long you have to file a complaint.

Finally, read the notices mailed with your account statement, because they may include changes in your account's terms or conditions.