Million Mile Headaches: SunTrust

Background: Million Mile Madness was the mad quest to earn a million points in one month. Throughout March, I did everything I could to earn as many points as possible while keeping within my ethical boundaries. During the month, I tracked all of the points that I expected, and I declared victory when the expected total topped one million.

Final tally… not yet

Yes, I succeeded in earning a million points in one month, but there was another aspect to the challenge: my goal was to keep my net costs below $1000.  That meant that when I bought items to earn points and sold the items to earn back my money, there was very little room for error.  At this point, I still have some items that remain unsold, so I can’t yet give a final tally.  Did I succeed in keeping net costs below $1000?  I don’t yet know.  From my latest projections it looks like it will be close one way or another.

Million Mile Headaches

I’ve written before about some of the challenges I had during Million Mile Madness: A setback from Sears and Bumps in the road.  Some issues, though, popped up late in the game and I haven’t previously had a chance to report on them.  Sometimes bad results can be just as instructive as good ones.  Here’s my SunTrust story…

SunTrust Plan

SunTrust offers a debit card that earns one mile per dollar spent on all credit or debit transactions.  This is pretty amazing since very few cards offer rewards for debit transactions and those that do tend to offer much smaller rewards. 

I signed up for the SunTrust card on March 7th with modest goals for Million Mile Madness.  I wanted to earn the 5K sign-up bonus, and I intended to make about $10K in debit purchases for a total of 15K Delta SkyMiles.  This would have made a small, but positive contribution towards my Million Mile Madness quest.  My real reason for wanting the card, though, was for tax payments beginning in April.  Pay1040.com charges a flat fee of only $2.99 for tax payments made by debit card, so this would have been a great (and very easy) way to earn miles while paying taxes.

Signup Process, March 7

To sign up for the debit card, I visited suntrust.com, clicked “Open an Account,” and then clicked “Chat Now” to bring up an instant messenger style chat window.  I told the rep what I wanted, and he setup the new account for me.  He told me that they needed $100 to start the account and that I could pay by debit card.  I tried using a Visa gift card for that purpose (before gift cards had PINs), but I got a call a few days later saying that it didn’t work.  So, I used my Mio debit card instead.

First Contact, March 20

After the sign-up process, I waited eagerly for my new card to arrive.  The first sign that anything was happening was an email on March 20th saying that my online banking enrollment had been activated.  The email included instructions for competing the activation, which I did.  I didn’t yet have the debit card, though.

Funds Transfer Initiated, March 24

A few days later, on March 24th, I received an email stating that I could transfer funds from external accounts.  I logged on to my SunTrust account and initiated a transfer of $7000 from my CapitalOne360 account (formerly ING Direct). 

Card Received, March 25

On Monday, March 25th, I finally received my SunTrust Delta Debit card.  It was the last week of my challenge, so I was glad that it finally arrived!  I was also glad that I had proactively transferred in some funds so that I could use the card soon.

Transfer Stopped, March 26

On March 26th I received an email from CapitalOne360 informing me that SunTrust had initiated a $7K withdrawal.  The same day I received the following email from SunTrust:

For security reasons, your funds transfer request from ING Direct, Savings account to SunTrustBank, Checking account has been stopped.
As a policy, we need to review the transaction. Based on the results of that review, we will either cancel the transaction, or the funds may take a little longer to reach the destination account. We will notify you of the status of the transaction by email.

I thought that was odd, but I figured that they would finish up their investigation quickly and credit my account as expected.

Account terminated, March 27

The next day I tried to log into my account to see if the transferred funds had been deposited.  I only had a few more days remaining in my challenge so I really needed to start using the debit card!  Unfortunately, the system told me that I had entered an incorrect ID or password.  I reset my password and tried again but received the same error.

I called SunTrust.  At first, the rep I spoke with tried to help me with my password, but eventually he noticed a note on my account: SunTrust was closing my account and terminating all business with me.  No reason was given.  I asked why this happened, but the rep was unable to give me an explanation.

Crap.  I had to find other ways to earn 15,000 miles before the end of the month.  Luckily both Amex and Chase came through for me with big retention bonuses (see “Million Mile Madness: Easy points“).  Whew.

“Show me the money”, March 29

On Friday, March 29th, I logged into my CapitalOne360 account and noticed that the $7K I had transferred was still gone.  Crap.  I called SunTrust.  They claimed that there was no record of a transfer into my SunTrust account.  “But, I initiated the transfer from suntrust.com” I exclaimed.  Sorry, they said, but most likely the money will be automatically re-credited to my Capital One account in about 5 business days.  I had no choice but to wait.

No, really, “show me the money!”  April 8

On the first week of April I went on vacation and tried to forget about SunTrust (UnTrust?).  On Monday, April 8th, SunTrust reminded me of my dilemma by sending a box of checks.  Huh?  I distinctly remembered telling them that I didn’t want checks when I signed up.  And, if they terminated my account, why send checks anyway?  Had they re-established my account?  Maybe they realized that the account closure was a mistake and reinstated it?  I tried again to log on, but with no success.  I checked my Capital One account and saw that the $7K was still missing.

I called SunTrust and told the rep my dilemma.  The account was still closed.  Supposedly I had ordered checks in the middle of the month and so my account that previously had a $100 balance was about $14 poorer (I don’t actually remember the exact amount).  They still couldn’t explain why my account was closed or where my $7K had gone.  They couldn’t even re-credit my account for the checks I hadn’t ordered because my account was frozen.  They said that I could get my balance returned to me after my account had been frozen for 30 days and finally terminated completely.  It was still unclear if I would get back the money for the checks, but the bigger issue was my $7000 dollars!

I called Capital One and they offered to open an investigation.  I filled out and faxed a form describing the issue.

Capital One comes through!  April 9

To this day, I still have not heard about the results of the investigation, but on April 9th I logged into my CapitalOne360 account and found a wonderful sight:

  • 04/09/2013 Withdrawal Reversal    7000.00

Great!

What happened?

I still do not have the $100 used to fund the SunTrust account, nor do I have an explanation of why my account was terminated.  My best guess is that they figured out that I don’t live in one of the States that they serve.  Of course, they knew that when I applied for the account in the first place!

On May 1st, I received a letter from SunTrust’s Enterprise Fraud Management department.  The letter read as follows (bolding is mine):

SunTrust continually reviews its products, markets and client relationships to ensure that we are able to provide the best possible client service while also meeting our corporate business objectives.  There are circumstances where the company will identify a specific account relationship that no longer meets these criteria.  In the interest of our clients and SunTrust, the company will request those accounts be closed.

When you opened your account with SunTrust, you received a copy of our Rules and Regulations for Deposit Accounts, our contractual agreement with our depositors.  The Rules and Regulations stipulate that SunTrust may close an account for any reason without advance notice to the client.

In accord with these Rules and Regulations, and as a result of information we have received after the account was opened or the unsatisfactory handling of the account, we find it necessary to discontinue our banking relationship immediately.  If the account is overdrawn, the overdrawn amount is a debt owed to SunTrust, and we require payment of any such debt within 30 days of the closing of the account.  If the payment of the overdraft is not obtained within that time action will be taken to collect the debt.  You will be responsible for all items, along with any associated fees, that are presented against the account after closure.  If there is a positive balance at the time of closure, SunTrust Bank will make a determination on the disposition of the funds.

We regret that we will not be in a position to continue to provide you with banking services, however this decision is irrevocable.

In other words, “We can do what we want… na, na, nuh, na, na.”

Learn about Million Mile Madness:

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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Comments

  1. Seems odd. My guess is an over zealous phone rep allowed the account to be opened and they later found out you live in a state that they can’t do business in due to various banking regulations so they shut the account down and you are a victim of how a large banking system can’t handle weird situations like yours. The good news is someone (most likely both banks) got short term interest on your $7k.

  2. Wow.

    If you owe us money, scary languague scary languague pay up in 30 days or else.

    If we’re holding your money, settle down, hang tight, we’ll decide what we’re going to do at some point.

    Cajones!

    (FYI, interesting, differentiated content like this is why you, and not one of the notorious link-pimpers got my click for the AMEX Biz Gold yesterday)

  3. I had a very similar experience with suntrust. I had opened an account for both myself and my wife, and funded with 10k. When I closed my account, I had to make several calls and wait over a month to get my money back. My wife had to make 10+ calls and we didn’t get her money back for over 2 months. Not worth the hassle!

  4. Happy to not see 75,000 AMEX in the title of your post today. Hard to find real content in the sea of CC links. Glad you got your money back–eventually.

  5. I had some serious problems with opening an account too, however mine ended a bit better. I opened with a transfer from Bank Direct of $100. Then after the account was setup I transferred $8k more from bank direct. Then I went to Peru…. I tried to check on the transfer with their mobile app but it didn’t work. I ignored it and didn’t try to check on it until I was back state side but my login wasn’t working. Tried over and over, resetting my password and making sure I was doing it right. To called and they told me they had to verify my identity. I asked why and they said it looks like it could have been activity from another country. Of course that must be my attempted login from peru! …. Turns out there are no branches in Texas. They told me I had to FLY to Mississippi! I offered to fax or even video conference to avoid this. Nothing… My $8k had been taken already. They said “it’s really no problem, you can still bank like normal through any branch, but your online account is permanently disabled and there is nothing we can do”. (Mind you this means going to Mississippi to make deposits!). I posted to their Facebook page and had all of my complaints deleted (big no no!!) and emailed them. Called more. Took a few days but the head of the Fraud Dept you mentioned called finally and explained that it had nothing to do with Peru, but that Bank Direct had sent some very suspicious info with the ACH transfer of $8k which flagged my account as an immediate huge fraud issue. No idea how… I explained to the guy the issues with deleting my Facebook posts and how I was blocked from posting even! And how ridiculous it is for CSRs to tell me to fly to another state with no other options. Finally everything for worked out, unlike your case, but suntrust has some major balls in the legal and fraud departments with the way they handle things. And CSRs are seriously trained very badly….

  6. The same thing happened to me last year, only my transfer was considerably less, it didn’t take as long, and their fraud department told me that my account was cancelled because I didn’t live in their “footprint”.

  7. SunTrust’s Enterprise Fraud Management is just another alias for The Spanish Inquisition. From your story I would say they did an excellent job using their two best weapons – surprise, fear and ruthless efficiency.

    Obviously, you were not using the Sun Trust debit card or checks as intended so you deserved to be shut down.

  8. Miler,

    Thanks for sharing the story. My only comment is I got your back with these guys…….

  9. I hate big banks. I had a situation with Wells Fargo where one division was sending me loan payment invoices and another division, the one I was supposed to talk to, told me I did not have a loan with Wells Fargo.

  10. Clarification: I hate actually banking with big banks. I adore big banks with robust credit card points-earning opportunities.

  11. This reads, verbatim, like my own experience with SunTrust (almost to the day). I ultimately had to call my banks to get the deposits pulled back because I could not trust that SunTrust would send a check. They were abusive, nasty and downright dumb in the phone calls with them. When I asked for the $75 back for the Delta card (which I was able to use for a grand total of ONE transaction), they said that they could not issue a credit because I had cancelled the account with THEM. Complete idiots. Supposedly, they are refunding the $75 too, but only after a load of bitching. I truly hope the company sees bankruptcy and I wish them the absolute worst.

  12. I have been making significanly larger transfers every month for the past year, don’t live in their “footprint”, and have never had a problem. Although, for every online transfer I am required to answer several “public information” quesetions.

  13. When will you realize that banks share information and you are already blacklisted because of previous abuses, so nobody wants business from you?
    There is more to shared financial information than simple credit reports. You went overboard, and now you get cancelled accounts by financial institutions several times without any explanation… when are you going to realize you are in a (shared) blacklist?

    • Fred: I guess I’ll “realize that” once there is some evidence to back it up. For now, though, no other bank has blacklisted me and SunTrust even admitted that there were no derogatory marks on my file.

  14. I live in a Sun Trust area and fly Delta so it seemed to be a perfect match and a way to get me out of Bank of America. Went in the branch and opened account. They took a check from Bank of America no problem to fund account. I asked if there would be a hold and if so I would walk across street and take out the $5K in cash to fund account. No sir, all good. My debit card arrives a week later, go to use it and declined. CHeck online with B of A and funds cleared that account THE DAY I OPENED THE ACCOUNT. Checked on Sun Trust site and sure enough a hold placed and still in effect 10+ days later. I patiently waited until it cleared and my bonuses had posted to Delta before I want back in branch to cut up my card in front of VP of bank. Took remaining funds in cash and walked out. Sun Trust sucks.

  15. Thanks for the heads up on this, FM. I’m going to steer clear. Between the fact that they’re paying out in Sky Pesos and your experience, I’m not goofing around with this one!

    You rock, FM

  16. I’ve had SunTrust for going on 2 years now and never had any issues.

    I opened my account online as they don’t have a branch in my home state but the whole process was relatively painless.

  17. Thanks for sharing this story, as a good cautionary tale. I certainly won’t be doing business with SunTrust after reading this post.

    The only alternative I’m aware of is the BankDirect Mileage Checking Account that gets American Airlines Miles. Although they’ve recently changed the rules to give fewer miles than before.

  18. It took me almost two months to get our Delta Debit Card account setup. It was a huge, huge hassle!!! We weren’t out any money, only lots of phone calls and emails. I would recommend that you go into a branch to open the account if possible. We finally had to do that to get everything taken care of. On a positive note, I just checked and all the Delta points just posted a day or two ago from our taxes in April.

  19. Well sooner or later this was going to happen, happening more often than reported; Citi is becoming a leader in account closures, point forfeiture and customer blacklisting as well. Enjoy your points, and if possible take it easy for a while even if you have to make up more stories about points, spending and lending… ah love the Kiva lending ones !

  20. If you read blogs or FlyerTalk, you could make a great drinking game by taking a shot every time you see Aloha Dave Kennedy say ‘Spanish Inquisition’ or ‘Cardinal Fang’

  21. Suntrust is my bank and I have never had any problems (knock on wood). I actually worked for them for a year a few years ago. They did not pay great but they were ok to work for. Two quirks working there. They will not fund a direct deposit to another financial institutions and there are no Pepsi products in Suntrust buildings. A former part of Suntrust was the original lender to Coke and the Coke formula is in a vault in Atlanta in the main Suntrust branch I have been told. Suntrust owns a large amount of Coke stock so no Pepsi is allowed. I heard that in main corporate office people get yelled at for having a Pepsi can on their desk. My office was not that strict but they did not sell Pepsi products in the cafeteria or in the vending machines.

  22. Maybe they read the blog?! Starting to think blogs should have a sign-up screen that testifies the reader is not from a bank or credit card company!

  23. I’m going to call foul on you, you tried to open the account with a Visa gift card for that purpose (before gift cards had PINs), but I got a call a few days later saying that it didn’t work. So, I used my Mio debit card instead. This is why it didn’t work for you, period. If you had fund it with your capital one 260 account, you wouldn’t had a problem. When the bank tried twice to fund your account, and it didn’t work, the bank saw you as a threat and closed the account. Now I signed up for a suntrust account, fund it from my checking account, transfer went through, money deposited, Debit card arrive, been using it without a problem and YES, I live in a state where there are no sun trust banks, but have no problem… BTW, I have done 5K of manufactured spending so far on the card and no problem. Next time do not use a GC to fund an account and then you wont have a problem. BTW, you are the only blogger to have an issue with SunTrust.

  24. With opening this sucktrust account, did they take a hard pull on your credit report?
    Thanks. Glad that headache is gone!

  25. I had exactly the same experience. SunTrust claimed they never got the $3k I transferred after the initial $100. It was out of my PNC account. Many phone calls later, I had success having PNC track it down. Best I ever figured was the “footprint” issue mentioned in the string. I’m not in one of their service states, though, of course, their web site let me open the account.

  26. I think I may have some insight into FM’s difficulties, based on the opening process in our household last year.

    We are not in the ST footprint, and opened the accounts online (not via chat). I funded mine with a direct transfer of $6k from a current checking account, set up online account access just fine. After receiving my debit card, I went online to check the account, but wasn’t able to access. I called the 800 number, and remember being put through some verification process with ‘security’. After that was done, online access opened up, and it’s been incredibly smooth sailing ever since.

    Mrs. msp2anywhere: opened online, minutes after mine, but attempted funding with a GC. No dice. And, there’s no method in the process to convert to funding with a transfer if the first method doesn’t work. Week later the debit card and account paperwork show up, followed the next day by a letter saying ‘we do not want your business; no ifs, ands, or buts’.

    Lessons learned: fund with a direct transfer from an existing bank account, and an amount that shows you have have some serious $$ to deposit; likely that’s what they are after.

  27. @msp2anywhere that is what I said in my post…. Fund straight from a checking account, I never had any problems access my account at all… It’s been a great little points maker for me..

    • @Frequentmiler in regards to my theory, if you look at the people who had problems opening their accounts in this thread they did so with a GC, then tried to transfer money into from a regular account. The ones who were successful open their accounts with a transfer from a regular checking account. There are times when GC aren’t the way to go.

  28. Suntrust is one of the worst banks I have seen myself. We dealt with them a number of years ago for a business acct. The branch we used became terrible. At one point they went through so many manager and there was not actually a manager at the location, it was covered by somebody overseeing a few branches. You are on their blacklist..LOL I love your blog BTW.

  29. From http://www.deltadebitcard.com/details.php:
    Qualified Purchases: Only PIN Point of Sale and signature-based purchases (including small dollar purchases that do not require a signature), Internet purchases, phone or mail order purchases or automatic bill payments qualify for mileage earnings. Cash advances, cash portion of a PIN POS sale with cash back, ATM transactions, payments for stored-value cards, wire transfers, money transfers, money orders, cashier checks, quasi cash, traveler’s cheques, purchase of monetary instruments or a PIN POS/signature transaction that contains either in whole or part of one or more of the previously excluded transaction types do not qualify.

    Based on the above, I think this could go either way. You could say that tax payments are an automatic bill payment (this is an option on pay1040.com), or you could say it’s a money transfer. Has anyone actually had success paying their taxes using this debit card?

  30. I have been swindled out of thousands from Sun Trust bank. I intend to file with the Federal Reserve and I suggest all of you do the same as soon as possible.
    Here is the link:http://www.federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov/?District=13

    SunTrust pretty much states whatever they want even if it down right illegal because they depend on allot of us not knowing where to report such things. Now that you have the link do something about it. Stop letting banks like this continue to use its customers like cash cows.

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