How to Handle a Dispute with Your Bank

Don’t let your complaints go unanswered or inadequately addressed.

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A bank dispute that wasn't worth the financial investment for an attorney was one Gnitecki had with a bank over a $300 sign-up bonus. Gnitecki claims he was entitled to the bonus after he made the two direct deposits of at least $500 that were required, but says the bank lost his original voucher, which he was subsequently told was required to redeem the bonus. "I suppose I could have 'sued,' but that would be silly over such a small amount," he says. 

[See 50 Ways to Improve Your Finances in 2013.] 

If things don't go your way. You always have the option of changing banks, but moving isn't easy. You may have to refinance out of your current mortgage if you want to change lenders or cancel automatic bill pay or direct deposit. It's a "cumbersome" process, says McBride. "Picking up stakes and changing banks is doable, but it's not as easy as picking a different lunch place next Friday," he says. 

Nonetheless, the hassle of switching banks shouldn't stop you from getting out of a bad situation. Papadimitriou says to an extent, consumers tend to be more willing to be "abused" by a financial institution, as opposed to being poorly treated at a restaurant. But like filing a complaint, placing a "to-go order" at your bank may be the best decision.