Million Mile Headaches: SunTrust

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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.”

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