December 3, 2013
A couple of weeks ago, my Mio card changed to a MyVanilla card and my account was promptly frozen. I reported my predicament in the post “MyVanilla grabs my money and won’t let go.” Its not unusual to have a prepaid card account forcibly closed, but in those situations the card company will send you a check upon request (or, at least, they’ll say they’ll send a check – some people have found that those checks can take a very long time to arrive). In my case, my account wasn’t closed, it was frozen. As such, they wouldn’t let me get at my money — not even by closing my account.
The only option I was given to unfreeze my account was to send in proof of identity and “load receipts” which included receipts of my Vanilla Reload purchases and scans of the front and back of the cards. Since, in the past, I always tossed out receipts after loading cards successfully, I couldn’t comply. I also had no way of knowing which Vanilla Reload cards had been used to load this card vs. my (or my wife’s) Bluebird card. At the suggestion of a manager, I sent in proof of identity and a letter (as an email attachment) explaining why I couldn’t provide load receipts. I also separately filed a complaint with the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) against The Bancorp Bank (which is the issuing bank).
What happened next…
The CFPB complaint was useless. As of yesterday, the complaint still had the status “received”. That means that no one has picked up the complaint to try to do anything about it.
I called MyVanilla last Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving) to make sure they received the documents I had sent. My account was still frozen and the call center agent told me that I was missing the load receipts. Yep, I knew that. I tried in vain to explain the situation, but was told again that load receipts were the only way to get my account cleared.
I put the whole thing on the backburner over the long holiday weekend. Then, yesterday morning I called again. I was shocked to discover that my account was active! My submission of documents without load receipts must have worked! I promptly told an agent to please cancel my account. I was put on hold for a long time, but was finally promised to receive a check for the balance in “up to 4 weeks”.
I know that some will say I should have kept my card. There’s a theory that once a card has gone through review, it is safe from then on. That may be true, but honestly I simply do not want to deal with this company any more if I can help it.
Other options for resolution
In response to my original post about this issue, I received many comments and emails with helpful suggestions about what I should do (thank you everyone!). Without any judgment about which ideas are good or bad, here is what readers suggested:
- File in small claims court. This was by far the most often mentioned option.
- File a complaint with the FDIC. This was the second most often mentioned option.
- Contact your state’s Attorney General’s office.
- Call and demand a 24-48 hour window to access funds.
- File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
- Contact Incomm’s General Counsel.
- Contact the National Association of Consumer Advocates.
Since I didn’t actually do any of the above options, I can’t say which if any would work if you find yourself in a similar situation. Hopefully, like me, you can get your funds released without having to escalate the issue too far.