September 14, 2010 letter to Citizens Bank

September 14, 2010

Stephen R. Woods, President, Massachusetts
Citizens Bank
28 State Street
Boston, MA 02109

Dear Mr. Woods,

My Citizens Bank checking account number is ___.

This letter constitutes a 30-day demand letter as per Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93a. In this letter, I describe unfair and deceptive trade practices engaged in by Citizens Bank and my demands for remedying the harm I have suffered as a result. I will file suit against Citizens Bank, requesting triple damages as permitted by Chapter 93, if you do not respond to my satisfaction within 30 days.

My wife and I traveled to Israel in July and August. Before our trip, I called Citizens Bank and the issuers of all our credit cards to determine the most cost-effective way to make purchases in Israeli sheqels during our trip.

The Citizens Bank telephone representative with whom I spoke said I could buy sheqels for free at a bank branch; the normal fee, she said, would be waived because I am a Citizens Gold customer. She also told me that the fee for withdrawing sheqels from an ATM in Israel would be 2% of the transaction amount. I made it perfectly clear that I was trying to determine the least expensive way to obtain Israeli currency, and she made it perfectly clear in response that because there would be no fee for exchanging dollars at a bank branch, that would be the cheapest method.

Unfortunately, everything she told me was wrong. This is unconscionable.

In fact, Citizens Bank charged me a 10% mark-up, hidden in the quoted exchange rate, on each of the exchanges I made at a bank branch, and the ATM fee was 3% rather than 2%.

I made three large currency exchanges ($700 on July 16, $500 on July 19, and $2,000 on August 2) on three different dates at the One Financial Center branch in downtown Boston. I dealt with multiple people on the phone and in person to execute these exchanges. At no point did anyone say to me, “Did you know it’ll be much cheaper for you to withdraw cash from an ATM in Israel or use your credit card?” This, too, is unconscionable.

I began to suspect that something was amiss when I ordered the final currency exchange, so I asked the teller about it when I picked up the sheqels. She told me at that time that the rate I was being charged was “about a dime higher than the market rate, so for example, if the Euro exchange rate is currently $1.39, we’ll charge you around $1.49.” This, too, was wrong. In fact, you do not charge “about a dime,” but rather, as noted above, a full 10% mark-up. The fact the the teller executing the exchange gave me incorrect information about the rate when asked directly about it is also unconscionable.

It is worth mentioning that I searched extensively on your Web site for documentation of your currency exchange rates before calling your customer service department, and I could find nothing. The damages I’ve suffered are not due to lack of effort or due diligence on my part, but rather due to my being overtly misled by Citizens Bank employees.

The only reason I exchanged any dollars for sheqels before my trip was because I was told explicitly and directly by a customer service representative of Citizens Bank that it was the least expensive way to obtain cash. I would not have exchanged a single dollar before my trip if I had been provided with correct information at any step along the way. Instead, the Citizens Bank employees with whom I dealt provided either incorrect information or no information at all, despite my direct, explicit inquiries.

Furthermore, since my two primary credit cards both charge a 3% foreign currency fee and offer 1% cash back on all purchases, if I had known that the actual ATM rate was 3%, rather than the 2% I was incorrectly told, then my wife and I would have used our credit cards for virtually all purchases in Israel, at a net cost of 2%, rather than making many cash ATM withdrawals.

Therefore, I demand that Citizens Bank refund to me a portion of the fees I was charged, as follows:

  • Since the 10%, or $320, I was charged to exchange $3,200 for sheqels would have been only 2%, or $64, if the same purchases had been made by credit card, I demand a refund of $320 – $64 = $256.
  • Since the 3%, or $150.09, I was charged on ATM withdrawals totaling $5003.03 during our trip would have been only 2%, or $100.06, if the same purchases had been made by credit card, I demand a refund of $150.09 – $100.06 = $50.03.

In sum, I am demanding a refund of $306.03 of fees I paid only because of the unfair and deceptive practices engaged in by Citizens Bank.

I should also mention that I sent a letter to the manager of the One Financial Center branch on August 8, raising the issue of the currency exchange rate but not the ATM fee (since I was not yet aware of it), and he or she never responded. This, too, is unconscionable.

I look forward to your prompt response.


Jonathan Kamens

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3 thoughts on “September 14, 2010 letter to Citizens Bank

  1. Bryon

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  2. Pingback: Bye Bye, Citizens Bank « Something better to do

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