Wachovia Bank April statements are now arriving in customers’ mailboxes. Some customers are in for a surprise. The bank is now charging a $5.95 service fee for many account holders who use Microsoft Money or Intuit Quicken’s “direct connect” feature to download transactions directly into the software (without visiting the website). The fee is listed as “PFM Online Access,” leaving many customers confused about the debit.
I knew this was coming as far back as February because the bank sent a warning notice earlier this year. I promptly removed my settings in Quicken so the software would never try to connect to Wachovia again. When I’m ready to reconcile Quicken with the bank statement, I now go to wachovia.com and download the statement directly.
Some customers were still unaware that Wachovia would start charging for this feature. Here’s a recent comment from R. Hash:
The $5.95 just showed up on my statement with no warning whatsoever. I called Wachovia to find out what PFM was and the agent said it was Microsoft Money and Personal Finance Manager. She said the charges were from Microsoft and I have been on a wild goose chase until just now to find out who and what this was all about. This misleading info what worse than the charge itself. I have wasted over an hour trying to find out what this was. Now that I know I am really ticked. I will download on my own and get a refund from Wachovia. This is just sad all the way around.
In this case, it’s the customer’s fault for not reading the bank’s communication. But there is a catch; Wachovia is still being sneaky. Here’s an email from a frequent visitor, showing how Wachovia may be extending its pool of affected customers, followed by some instructions for having the fee removed if it should not have been assessed:
You may want to let your readers know about an idiosyncrasy I discovered with the Wachovia online access charge. I just had to call yesterday and got the $5.95 “PFM Online Access” charge erased from my account. I didn’t expect to get the charge because I’ve only tried MS Money out once back in January, but apparently on the basis of the fact that I had once downloaded my account information, they decided to consider me a regular downloader and “enrolled” me (their words) in the monthly extra charge plan, even though that plan just went into effect recently.
How deeply annoying of them. Luckily I caught it and got it pulled, but everything I’d read about the charge led me to believe it would only affect transactions after the fee implementation date, not before. I bet hundreds of people who used to use Money or Quicken but stopped are now going to be unknowingly paying every month.
This customer used direct connect only once, before Wachovia announced they’d be implementing the fee. In fact, the warning letter indicated the fee would take effect after April 1. Shouldn’t that mean that only customers who used direct connect after April 1 would get hit with the fee? Apparently not.
If you’re a Wachovia customer, check your statements for the “PFM Online Access” fee. If you have any of the following types of accounts, you should not be charged, even if you do use direct connect with your software. Call the bank any time, any day at 800-WACHOVIA and ask nicely to have the fee removed if you should not have been charged.
These accounts are exempt from the online access fee:
* Crown Select
* Crown Classic
* Crown Banking
* Crown Access
* Crown Regular
* Crown Interest
* Custom Banking
* Performance Banking
* Command Asset Program
As some commenters have noted recently, you may wish to simply move your accounts to a local credit union. I think we’ll start to see more of these online access fees as Microsoft and Intuit charge the banks to use their technology. This banks will simply want to pass an increasing amount of these expenses to the customers.
Updated September 24, 2015 and originally published May 12, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.