Photo: ABC KGO-TV
Look closely at the biggest banks in the country and you’ll find they’re a lot like those little Russian dolls – pop one open and you’ll get a smaller bank, then a smaller bank inside that one, and on and on till you wind up with something like teeny-tiny Virginia National Bank. That’s where Robert Whitten, 57, took his business more than 40 years ago to sign up for a lifetime-guaranteed free checking account, he told ABC’s KGO-TV.
(Bear in mind, this was in 1971, before the era of free checking became the era of ‘fee checking.’)
But time passed and the bank was eventually scooped up by another bank, which was acquired again and again until finally, it wound up in Bank of America’s lap.
That was right around the time Whitten realised he’d started incurring minimum balance fees on his account ($14/month), he told ABC’s KGO-TV. His account had dropped below BOA’s $1,500 fee-free cap and he wasn’t making enough direct deposits.
When he called BOA, “They said, ‘Well yes you did have free checking for life, but that expired,'” he said. “But I thought it was free checking my life, not the life of the promotion. I decided to see if I could fight it.”
In the end, BOA decided to honour the agreement he’d signed four decades prior, telling KGO-TV they usually honour legacy cases like Whitten’s. He took home a $168 refund and the bank added a permanent fee waiver to his account.