How to File a Complaint Against Your Bank (Step-by-Step)

Banking
Updated: 21st Jul 2021
Written by Kim Pinnelli
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Banking
July 21, 2021
Written by Kim Pinnelli

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Banks make mistakes, and usually, they make good on it, but not always. If you feel like a victim of fraud or errors the bank won’t fix, it’s time to file a complaint.

The process is simple once you know who oversees your bank – as not all federal agencies oversee all banks.

Especially with the rise of online banks and neobanks, it is more important than ever to know your options when filing a bank complaint.

Find out who controls your bank and file your complaint against your bank with the right agency to get results.

Here’s how to proceed.

Can You File a Complaint Against Your Bank?

You can always file a complaint against your bank. If you feel you are being treated fairly or fraudulent activity occurs on your account with no resolution, it’s time to file a complaint.

In most cases, the bank can resolve your issues without you filing a complaint, but sometimes the resolution doesn’t occur, and an intervention is necessary.

When Would You File a Complaint Against Your Bank?

There are many reasons you may file a complaint against your bank. Any type of unfair treatment or unfair charges is a reason for a complaint.

Here are a few other common reasons:

  • You were charged a fee that isn’t legit for your situation
  • You have fraudulent charges, and the bank isn’t doing anything about it
  • The bank committed fraud
  • Your bank won’t close your bank account despite your repeated requests
  • You have a problem with the bank’s credit card, and they aren’t resolving it

Ideally, you only file a complaint against your bank after trying to resolve it with them. In a perfect world, the bank would resolve the issue for you, and you wouldn’t have to go any further. There are times, however, it must go further. Here’s what to do.

How to File a Complaint Against Your Bank

Step #1: Talk to Your Bank First

Like we said earlier, talk to your bank first. Try talking in person and in writing. Take careful notes of who you talked to on what dates and their response.

If you communicate in writing (recommended), keep a copy of all communications if you need to reference them later when you file a complaint against your bank.

Step #2. Know Where to File a Complaint

If the bank doesn’t resolve your issue, it may be time to file a complaint. Don’t feel bad about doing it – others may be in the same situation, and hearing from multiple people will cause government agencies to take action. Here’s where you should file complaints.

  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): This should be your first stop. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has an online system to file complaints. With the right information, you can complete it in seconds. The bank has 60 days to respond to the claim, but most respond within 2 weeks.
  • Office of The Comptroller of the Currency: If your bank is controlled by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, you can also file a complaint with them. The process is online but takes slightly longer than the complaint process with the CFPB. Like your complaint with the CFPB, though, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has 60 days to investigate the issue.
  • The Federal Reserve: If you aren’t getting what you want from the above two agencies or you want to flex the ‘big guns,’ file your complaint with the Federal Reserve. Before you do, you can let your bank know where you’re headed with your complaint. Chances are they will resolve your issue in the hopes that you don’t file the complaint. If you do, expect to wait up to 60 days for a response.
  • State Government Agencies: If you want to keep your complaint at the local level, find the state government agency that oversees your bank and file a complaint. It may take a little research to find out exactly who to contact, but you may also get more personal service at the state level.
  • FDIC: If your bank isn’t a part of the Federal Reserve System, the FDIC insures them and is another resource. You can either submit a complaint as a guest or register and check the status of your complaint as you wait for an answer.
  • Your Bank’s Online Portal: If you want to keep your complaint within your bank, consider writing a letter, calling, and submitting a complaint via the online portal. The squeaky wheel gets the attention, so the more attention you bring to the issue, the more likely you are to get a resolution.

Step #3: Write a Complaint

No matter who or where you complain, put it in writing. Include as much detail as possible so the entity can get to the bottom of the issue quickly. In your complaint include:

  • The reason you’re complaining
  • Exact details of the issues you experienced
  • Dates, dollar amounts, and any other exact details you can provide
  • The name and address of the bank you’re complaining about
  • Names of all people involved

Step #4: Make Sure Your Complaint is Documented

Once you send your complaint, follow up to make sure it was received. If you mail a letter to the bank or an agency, send it with tracking so you can verify receipt, keeping the proof with your documentation.

Remember, it can take up to 60 days to receive an answer, but you should at least know that the complaint was received and documented.

Step #5: Follow-Up with Agency or Bank

If you haven’t received a response in 60 days (it’s usually much faster), follow up with the bank or agency you sent the complaint to and find out the status. Don’t leave the situation unresolved until they tell you there is nothing they can do.

In the meantime, it’s best if you change banks. As much as it can be a hassle if you’ve filed a complaint because you don’t like how they do business, it’s not worth taking a risk with future transactions.

>> Next Steps: How to Open a Bank Account Online

Can You Report a Bank to the FDIC?

You can report some banks to the FDIC. To find out if you should focus your complaint there or another agency, call 1-877-ASK-FDIC. They will direct you to the right agency, so your complaint is heard by the right people.

What Agency Investigates Banks?

Many agencies investigate banks. Most national and federal savings associations are under the Federal Reserve, but only if the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency oversees them. You can use this tool to find out if this is the case. If not, contact your bank to find out which agency oversees them.

Will Someone Actually Read My Bank Complaint?

If you contact the right agencies and include the necessary information, someone will read your bank complaint.

It’s important to include as many details as possible, including the bank name, address, the staff you spoke to, and the details of the situation, including any resolution the bank did or didn’t offer.

Bottom Line: How to File a Complaint Against Your Bank

It’s not pleasant filing a complaint against your bank, but sometimes it’s necessary. By filing a complaint, you not only help yourself but also anyone in the same situation.

You may even prevent it from becoming a situation in the future. Start with your bank and see if they’ll resolve the issue, but if they won’t, don’t be afraid to take it higher.

Kim Pinnelli
Kim Pinnelli
Kim is a personal finance expert with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has been freelance writing for 13 years for a number of large publications. Kim thoroughly enjoys helping people take charge of their personal finances.