WaMu and Chase Still an Unhappy Couple

After billions in bailouts, the computers don't work.
After billions in bailouts, the computers don't work.
Flickr user: Heather Mladek

Those of us who grew up with online banking and debit cards have been more than a little unsettled by the bank failures of the past several months. We're accustomed to dealing with faceless, computerized corporate giants that text us with account updates and give us free airline miles for every dollar we charge to our Visas. Finding out that these anonymous companies are actually run by greedy, pale-skinned Wall Street goons who care more about their Connecticut mansions than our 401(k) plans has not been pleasant. And it certainly doesn't help matters to discover that, after pocketing $700 billion in bailout funds, some of these banks have forgotten how to function.

Last September, Chase acquired Washington Mutual after the smaller bank's much-publicized failure. Nearly ten months later, the former rivals still can't get their computer systems in Florida to work together.

In April, I reported that Chase customers in South Florida were having their deposits snail-mailed to a processing center in Kentucky, because local WaMu branches were not equipped to accept them. Chase spokeswoman Nancy Norris explained that this system was just temporary and would be resolved this summer when a "computer conversion" would be complete.

Well, we're still waiting.

Toward the end of June, a Chase teller in Boca informed me that the great transition was complete. WaMu branches were now ready and willing to accept my Chase deposits. He was wrong. Two different WaMu ATMs in Delray refused to accept my checks. So, in a moment of insanity,  I decided to slip my deposit envelope into a WaMu after-hours depository.

Immediately, I regretted my decision. Sure enough, three days passed and the money never posted to my Chase account. I called the WaMu branch to inquire. The woman who answered the phone stammered, promised to call back, and never did.

Then I emailed Chase's customer service center and got this alarming response: "The branches and ATMs [for depositing] in the state of Florida have not been converted to the Chase system, and your funds will not be posted to your account."

My money was gone. In a panic, I searched online and discovered I was not alone. The Consumerist reported that a WaMu customer had encountered the same problem. A slew of commenters urged him to find a new bank.  

Unwilling to admit defeat, I drove to the WaMu branch and complained long enough for them to track down my deposit and ensure that it was posted to my account. The WaMu customer-service rep then tried to comfort me. Her branch's conversion to the Chase computer system is scheduled for July 27, she said.  After that, all of these deposit troubles are supposed to disappear.

Right. I guess I'll believe it when I see it. Until then, do you have a number for Bank of Merrill Lynch America?

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