Do You Have a Complaint about a Bank or Credit Card Company?

If you have been mistreated by a bank of credit card company, or have had difficulties resolving an issue it is in your best interest as a consumer to initiate a consumer complain with the federal agency regulating the financial institution in question.  While it may feel like a waste of time to do so, be assured that every complaint submitted by a consumer does make a difference.

The first step in filing a complaint about a bank or credit card company is figuring out where and how to submit it. There are a variety of agencies that regulate financial institutions and figuring out which agency to contact can be a challenge.

Two easy ways to determine who to contact are listed below:

  • The FDIC has published an easy-to-use, searchable database of financial institutions. This online tool will provide you with the primary regulator you should contact, as well as other useful information. >>Visit the FDIC Institution Directory now.
  • If are still unsure, or are not able to access the FDIC’s database, call the Office of the Comptroller’s  Customer Assistance Group at 1-800-613-6743. Their representatives are there to help consumers like you find out the correct agency to contact with a question or complaint. The Federal Reserve can also assist with this. You can reach them toll-free at 888-851-1920.

Some of the possible agencies you will be reaching out to include:

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency – The OCC regulates national banks, federal savings associations and thrifts. This is the agency you want to contact if the financial institution’s name includes the words “National Bank” or “N.A.” or against a credit card issued through a national bank such as Chase, KeyBank, National City Bank or Huntington Bank.

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau – On July 21, 2011, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the Bureau) took over responsibility for handling certain consumer complaints against the nation’s largest financial institutions. To learn more about the Bureau and its responsibilities, click here.

The FDIC – Regulates state chartered banks that are not members of the Federal Reserve system. The FDIC’s Consumer Response Center is responsible for investigating all types of consumer complaints about FDIC-supervised institutions and responding to consumer inquiries about consumer laws and regulations. You may call and speak to a Consumer Affairs Specialist about your concerns. However, in order for them to investigate or review your issues, they must receive your complaint in writing.

The National Credit Union Administration – the NCUA regulates federal and state-chartered credit unions.


Submitting Your Complaint

1. Prepare the information the financial institution will need to take action.  

A complaint must include, at a minimum, your name, address and account information.  You will also want to include your phone number and/or e-mail address for future communications. In your complaint, include a detailed description of what occurred and explain why the situation is unsatisfactory. Whenever possible specify dates and names of any company representatives you may have dealt with.

2. Gather documentation or evidence

Be sure to have any backup documentation , such as a monthly statement from the bank or your loan agreement, or any evidence needed to prove your claim. The burden of proof will inevitably be on you. Also include a detailed description of how you want the company to resolve the issue. Be as specific as possible. Include as much as you can with your initial complaint.

3. Submit and Follow-Up

Once you have written the most thorough complaint possible, submit it using the recommended method(s) specified by the agency. Keep a copy for your personal records. Be sure to follow up with the agency if you do not hear back from them within 2-5 business days.

Some helpful tips:

  • If you are dealing with a state bank, be aware that the bank may also fall under the supervision of a state banking regulator.
  • In addition to submitting your complaint with the regulating agency, we also suggest you submit one via the Better Business Bureau.

New students should look closely at college-sponsored bank accounts and shop around

New students should look closely at college-sponsored bank accounts and shop around

If you’re a student starting college for the first time or transferring to a new college, you may be busy meeting new roommates and going through orientation. During these first few weeks, you may also need to get a checking or prepaid debit account.

On campus, a bank account may be marketed to you that is co-branded with your college’s logo and may be attached to your campus ID through a debit card. But remember, just because an account has been sponsored by your college, it doesn’t always mean that it’s a good deal for you.

Since we launched our Safe Student Account Scorecard project earlier this year, we’ve been talking with students, colleges, and financial institutions to better understand what students need to know before they pick an account. Many colleges partner with financial institutions to sponsor banking products. In some cases, companies pay colleges millions of dollars in exchange for exclusive marketing arrangements. Colleges may also negotiate with companies to offer products that have lower fees or better terms than what students could get if they asked for the same deal on their own. However, a report by the Government Accountability Office revealed that many college-sponsored accounts were no better than what students could find themselves after shopping around, and in fact, were sometimes worse. To spur greater transparency, we have called on companies to publish their arrangements.

We know that it can be time-consuming for you to understand all of the details in the student account offered through your college. Keep these three things in mind so you can set yourself up to make a smarter choice:

  • 1. Just because an offer looks like official mail from your college, you don’t have to accept it. Some colleges take steps to promote products through official email and mailings, and sometimes are compensated by banks for their efforts. For example, a college might use its official email communications with incoming freshmen to promote a sponsored account by encouraging students to use the “hot new” campus ID from its bank partner. A college may also choose to use printed materials at orientation or other official communications in order to highlight a banking partner, or may offer an official session at orientation to be presented by the financial institution.

  • 2. Some staff on campus may work for your college’s banking partner. It’s always okay to ask questions when you’re deciding whether to open an account. Officials at your college can help you understand product terms and features in order to make an informed choice, but you should also ask questions about who you’re talking to. For example, a bank might provide in its contract that it will lend bank employees to staff the student ID card office. Your college may also rely on bank employees to promote an official campus student ID that can be linked to a checking or prepaid debit account during new student and parent orientation, allowing bank employees to market their financial product in a role traditionally filled by college administrators.
  • 3. Your college may get paid when you open an account. We’ve heard that some companies may pay colleges a fixed amount for each student that opens and uses the college-sponsored account. You should ask questions about how your college gets paid and keep in mind that if you feel rushed or pressured into opening a college-sponsored account, it might be because your college wants to sign you up to maximize its revenue under the deal.

How could this impact the fees you pay while in college?

As we have warned students in the past, the financial products you use can contain high fees. In fact, other banking regulators have fined and required that restitution be paid by providers of college-sponsored accounts for alleged unfair and deceptive practices over fees charged to students, including an over $11 million settlement between the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the largest provider of college-sponsored accounts.

Ultimately, the account you select can support your saving goals and help you avoid fees. Many banks offer programs to help you manage your spending and saving. Taking advantage of free account alerts through email or text message can help you avoid overspending, as can simply keeping track of your purchases and withdrawals and monitoring your account balance regularly.

If you have a problem with your student checking account, you can submit a complaint. If you just want to share your experience with student checking accounts and debit cards, tell us your story and select “campus debit card” under the “Tag your issue” field.

Check out our checklist for opening a bank or credit union account. If you have more questions about student checking accounts, check out Ask CFPB, our online, database of frequently asked financial questions and answers.

Help other students by sharing this post on Facebook and Twitter.


This Month’s Complaint Report: Credit Reporting Issues

When you make student loan payments on an income-driven plan, you might be in for a (payment) shock.

This month’s report puts the spotlight on credit reporting. Credit reports play a big part in major consumer lending decisions, including mortgage loans, auto loans, credit cards and private student loans. The largest three nationwide credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) maintain credit files on nearly 210 million U.S. consumers.

In the past month, credit reporting complaints showed the greatest monthly percentage increase compared to other products the CFPB accepts complaints about (including debt collection, mortgages and credit cards – to name a few). Check out this month’s report to see trends across all consumer complaints.

Credit reporting highlights

  • Incorrect information: This is the number one complaint from consumers submitting credit reporting complaints. Incorrect information on your credit reports could cause a lender to offer you an interest rate that is less favorable than it otherwise could be. Watch this short video about Jorge, who tried unsuccessfully to remove an outdated bankruptcy from his credit report, before he got the help he needed from the CFPB.
  • Access to credit reports: Another common complaint is that rigorous identity authentication questions are preventing consumers from accessing their credit reports. See how to request a free credit report from each of the credit reporting companies.
  • Problems disputing errors with credit reporting companies: Consumers also report problems disputing errors directly with credit reporting companies. In particular, victims of identity theft often state they feel victimized a second time by their inability to correct inaccuracies in their reports with both credit reporting companies and lenders. See how you can spot identity theft and read how to dispute an error on your credit report with the credit reporting companies.
  • Here’s one complaint from our Consumer Complaint Database: “I had a credit report pulled with my financial institution and there was a social security number on it that does not belong to me…now his number is on my credit report from [credit reporting company]. I tried to call [credit reporting company] about this and only got a recording. I would like this person’s number off my credit report.”

If you have a complaint about credit reporting or any other financial product or service, you can submit a complaint to us online. We’ll forward it to the company and work to get you a response.

Geographic spotlight: Los Angeles

This month, we put the spotlight on Los Angeles, California. As of August 1, 2015, about 94,000 complaints (14 percent) of the 677,200 complaints we have handled have been from consumers in California. More than a third of those are from the Los Angeles area!

Look out for our next monthly complaint report

Our Office of Consumer Response hears directly from consumers about the challenges they face in the marketplace, brings their concerns to the attention of companies and assists in addressing their complaints. Next month we’ll highlight another consumer product and U.S city. Stay tuned!


Managing Someone Else’s Money: Virginia

Managing Someone Else’s Money: Virginia graphic

Have you ever been asked to manage money or property for a loved one who is unable to pay bills or make financial decisions? Millions of Americans are facing this responsibility, which can be very overwhelming. But it’s also a great opportunity to help someone you care about, and protect them from scams and fraud.

Virginia residents: There’s a guide for you!

To help financial caregivers all over the country, we released the Managing Someone Else’s Money guides in 2013.

But now we’re providing additional help: state-specific guides and resources for people managing money for older relatives and friends. Today we are releasing a set of several Managing Someone Else’s Money guides specific to the state of Virginia. These state guides will make it easier for caregivers to follow Virginia’s unique rules and to find help close to home.
The Virginia guides are easy-to-understand booklets for different kinds of caregivers.

See our guides for:

The guides help you to be a financial caregiver in three ways:

  • They walk you through your duties—and give you tips on Virginia laws and procedures.
  • They tell you how to watch out for scams and financial exploitation, and what to do if your loved one is a victim.
  • They tell you where you can go for help from agencies and service providers in Virginia and elsewhere.

You can also order free print copies (including bulk orders) online.

Following the release of the Virginia guides, the Bureau has plans to follow up with similar guides for five other states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and Oregon.

Also, we’ll make it easy for legal and aging experts in other states to adapt the guides for their states, by providing tips and templates for doing so.

We’re working hard to empower older Americans to have a secure financial future. Sometimes family members, caregivers and others in the community must pitch in. We’re here to help you, too.


When you make student loan payments on an income-driven plan, you might be in for a payment shock

When you make student loan payments on an income-driven plan, you might be in for a (payment) shock.

Earlier this year, we asked you to share your #StudentDebtStress story. More than 30,000 of you answered, telling us about payment processing problems, servicing transfer snags, customer service confusion, and obstacles for borrowers in alternative repayment plans. You can check out the comments that were posted.

For borrowers who are experiencing financial distress and looking for a way to pay back their federal student loans, income-driven repayment plans can be the key to helping you make ends meet. But for some borrowers seeking to tie their federal loan payment to their income, we know the road can be rocky. You’ve told us about problems related to enrolling in income-driven repayment plans that ended up costing you hundreds of dollars in unexpected payments. These problems include delays in processing your paperwork and incorrect information from customer service personnel.

We’ve also heard about detours and dead ends that prevent you from keeping your payments affordable under these plans, even when you’ve filled out the required paperwork. One borrower told us:

I submitted the required documentation for the 2015 [income-based] repayment plan 8 weeks before the expiration of my previous IBR application, and within the time period [my servicer] indicated. Due to [my servicer’s]delays, my IBR application was not processed timely. While waiting for them to process my application, [my] monthly payment jumped from approximately $200 a month to $1400 a month, causing me to go into overdraft on my checking account. [My student loan servicer] failed to process my application timely even though my application was complete and no documentation was missing and failed to communicate the huge increase in payment.

Filling in the gaps

As the Bureau and other federal agencies consider ways to improve the student loan repayment process, stories like these focus our attention and raise new questions about how common these problems may be. That’s why we’re sending a letter to student loan companies asking for more information about how they make sure student loan borrowers have the information they need stay on track.

The most common income-driven repayment plans are Income-Based Repayment (IBR) and Pay As You Earn (PAYE). Each year, borrowers in income-driven repayment plans are required to submit information, generally an income tax return, proving that they still qualify for an affordable monthly payment (known as “recertification” in student loan-speak).

We’d like to learn more about how well the process of recertifying works for most people. Because student lenders and student loan servicers are not required to release this information publicly, we don’t know how many borrowers fail to recertify on time. When borrowers don’t recertify on time, their payments will snap back to the amount they would have owed under a standard 10-year repayment plan—a jump of hundreds of dollars per month, in many cases. This can be a shock to those already struggling to make these payments.

Earlier this year, the Department of Education released the first public information about recertification rates, noting that more than half of all borrowers in its sample (57 percent) missed their deadline to recertify and had their payments snap back.

What you need to know

We’ve put together some helpful advice and information for borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment plans.

Why it’s important for your recertification to be processed on time each year

If you’re having trouble affording your federal student loan payments, getting enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan may be an important first step to staying on the road to repayment. These plans help you get a payment you can afford. If your recertification is not processed on time, it can:

  • Cause the amount you owe each month to snap back to a payment you may not be able to afford. When your recertification isn’t processed on time, even if you tell your servicer you still want to keep your payments affordable, you will probably have a gap where you are required to pay an amount that doesn’t reflect your financial circumstances. You may not realize that things aren’t going according to plan until your bank has processed an automatic payment at the higher amount or you’ve been hit with surprise overdraft fees.
  • Cost you thousands more over the life of your loan. When you enroll in an income-driven repayment plan, you may pay less each month than the interest that accrues on your loan. This means that your loan balance can grow over time. But these plans do offer an important protection for people who recertify on time each year and continue to qualify for a lower payment— any unpaid interest does not get added to your outstanding principal balance (so you don’t have to pay additional interest on the interest) unless you choose to leave the plan. But, if you miss your deadline to recertify, you lose this benefit. For some borrowers, this can cost thousands of dollars over the life of a loan.
  • Delay the date you’re eligible for loan forgiveness (and may cause you to make unnecessary extra monthly payments). The two largest income driven plans, Income-Based Repayment (IBR) and Pay As You Earn (PAYE), feature loan forgiveness after 25 or 20 years of payments, respectively. This means that if you have high debt or low income over a long period of time, you may still have an end in sight, even if you are only making low payments. If your recertification isn’t processed on time and you need to use forbearance while your recertification is being processed, you can’t count those months toward loan forgiveness.
  • Reduce the amount of interest that the government will pay on your behalf. For borrowers with subsidized federal loans, income-driven repayment plans feature another important benefit. For three consecutive years (36 months) from the time you first sign-up, the government will waive any interest charges your monthly payment does not cover, as long as you demonstrate partial financial hardship. Because the clock on this benefit starts running immediately and won’t pause even if you don’t recertify, you are giving up a benefit every month after your payments snap back.

Next Steps

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to keep working with leaders at the Department of Education and the Department of the Treasury to figure out how to address problems like these for student loan borrowers. Check back here for more information about what we’ve learned through our public inquiry and what comes next.

If you have questions about repaying your student loans, including questions about income-driven repayment plans, check out Repay Student Debt to find out how you can tackle your student loan debt.

If you have a problem with your student loan, you can submit a complaint online or call us at (855) 411-2372.

Seth Frotman is a Deputy Assistant Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Acting CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman. To learn more about the CFPB’s work for students and young Americans, visit consumerfinance.gov/students.