Never bank with Washington Mutual

So, to get you in on the loop: in looking for our marriage certificate (in order to apply for our new 300% more expensive health insurance, which sucks in its own right) I ran across two old bank booklets. Originally opened with Home Savings of America, they were evidence of a forgotten savings account and a cd account, opened in 1991 and 1997 respectively. I’d like to find out if there’s anything left in the accounts at all and roll whatever IS there into a cd or something. Or maybe spend it on replacing our one room of filthy 80’s carpet. Whatever. Point is, it’s my money and I’d like it back.

I just got off the phone with Washington Mutual after trying to get things figured out for two hours. Two. Hours. I have never had such a frustrating phone experience in my entire life.

Turns out the old accounts Home Savings of America were bought by Washington Mutual. I called the only number that Washington Mutual provides, 1-800-788-7000, and guess what? You can’t get through to talk to a representative unless you already have a valid account number and pin. I tried all the options and finally found out that if you pretend to open a new checking account you can get through:1-800-788-7000, option 3, then opt. 1, then opt. 1 will get you to a person.

The checking person sounded stupid. She didn’t understand the concept of bank booklets and kept asking me if I was talking about a canceled check. She soon forwarded me to some other unspecified department, where I talked to Edward who was equally unhelpful (and just as -ahem- challenged as the first lady, as he asked me twice if Maryland was in California). He couldn’t pull up any of my information anywhere. He searched by name and account number, but that was all he could do. He did find my dad’s name (co-owner of the cd that was a gift for my high school graduation), but no accounts at all with my name on them, so he couldn’t give me any information on my joint cd account. He also couldn’t pull up any information on the account labeled “XXX and XXX, as co trustees for [my name here]” (my recently deceased grandparents had saved up this account as gift upon my high school graduation in 1997). Nada, zip, nothing on the account numbers or the names. And he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, suggest any further steps for me to take… so we were at a stalemate. “So what should I do?” “I don’t know. I’m sorry. If you have information I will definitely bring up information on your account, I can give you access, but I’m sorry that information you have is not, so account being joint I cannot bring information to you.”

I finally got so frustrated that I asked to speak to a supervisor. Mr Shaun (or something) was no more helpful, though he did speak English better (when he spoke at all – he didn’t seem to be too fond of answering questions with more than single-syllable words or volunteering any answers of his own). He went through all the same passes that Edward had, and was absolutely and insultingly unrepentant that he couldn’t find my money or any trace of my accounts.

I had to really bug him and dig about what to do next, and he just dismissed it as “well, have your dad call with his social security number and maybe we can try to find something that way.” I asked him if there was a direct number to reach him. He gave me the main line, the one that DOES NOT CONNECT WITH A PERSON UNLESS YOU HAVE A VALID ACCOUNT. I explained to him why that wasn’t going to work since the whole problem was that I didn’t have a current account number and told him I needed a number that would go directly to a real live human being. He gave me a number and said something about it being my branch, and to push option 2 for customer service. I could barely understand what he said and trying to get information out of him was as hard as trying to open a clam with my fingernails and just as painful. At this point, I hate to admit it, but I just gave up.

Their phone system was remarkably horrible, with a noticeable and quite irritating time lag and enough static that it was impossible to understand and I usually had to ask them to repeat every sentence two or three times. I do use a cell phone and not a land line so that could have contributed to the problem – but I’ve had the cell phone for over four years now and have never had a conversation that hard to understand. So I’m pretty sure I was talking to people in India.

Apparently even though my name is on both accounts, Washington Mutual won’t deal with me personally. They won’t give me any information about the account my grandparents opened for me, either, unless we first send a copy of the death certificates to their Correspondence (or “resting?” I couldn’t understand most of what he said) Department. Even though I’m listed as the trustee? That’s right, apparently… though it doesn’t seem right to me since I am 1 month away from being 30 and both my grandparents are deceased.

The supervisor said that none of their departments had a fax number, or an email that I could send a scan of the bank booklets or a copy of the death certificate to. Hm. Somehow, I find that hard to believe.

I asked over and over what the next step would be – how should I follow through? What should I do to find this lost money? Who would be able to help me, maybe access inactive accounts?

Silence. Silence. Silence. A few times I had to ask “Hello? Are you still there?” as he just wasn’t talking to me. I don’t know how that guy made supervisor, but it sure wasn’t for his customer service.

After trying for a very long time (my cell phone had nearly run out of batteries and was very hot by that time) I finally said it was extremely hard to understand what he was saying and I thought maybe I”d try just going in person to a branch office, would that be a good idea? He said “Have a great day” and hung up. Just like that.


I will NEVER open a Washington Mutual account. EVER. And it’s just my civic duty to warn you to stay away, too.  I can’t believe they’re so dismissive about having lost so much money and have such amazingly awful customer service.

4 Responses to “Never bank with Washington Mutual”

  1. Liz Says:

    Hey D.-
    Wash. Mutual has been in bad shape this year, if memory serves. However, this is no excuse. I would copy this entire story into an email to any customer service address you can find on their website, and include a line that you fully intend to report it to the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Reports, any similar financial watchdog agencies, and possibly even a news outlet. Mention that you are also considering taking legal action. They don’t know whether it is likely or unlikely, but they probably won’t be thrilled about the bad publicity at this juncture. Emphasize that if you do not receive a personal, satisfactory response within the week, you will take action. What’s the worst that could happen?

  2. Peter Says:


    I wish I could say that your experience is out of the ordinary. Almost five years ago, after my own frustrating experience with WaMu, I started to share my and other people’s WaMu experiences. The truth is, they were bad even before they were siezed by the FDIC, but that process and being taken over by Chase has only made things worse, much worse. It seems that Chase has some special disdain for WaMu customers and tends to treat them like dirt. I think they ultimately wanted the WaMu branches, but not the customers. In any event, if you go to my website, there are some executive team numbers you might try calling listed if your visit to the local branch doesn’t work out. Also, check Yelp to find out if there is a WaMu or Chase branch that might actually have a good rating. Despite the overall horribleness of the organization, some local branches ARE staffed by competent people.

    Good luck.

  3. diana Says:

    Wow, Peter, thanks for your thoughtful reply. I will definitely check out your website, and thanks for the tip about Yelp. It’s so frustrating – turning what should have been a nice surprise (look! Forgotten money! Amassed interest! Yay!) into an awful experience slathered in execrable customer service from disdainful minimum wage employees with no accountability.

  4. coakl Says:

    The most logical explanation is that the account co-owners closed out the accounts, kept the money for themselves, and didn’t tell you about it. But they forgot to throw away the old bank booklet, thus causing you plenty of anguish today.

    The other possibility is that the money isn’t there at all. Per state law, your money was turned over to your state’s unclaimed property office after a few years of inactivity.

    Washington Mutual bought Home Savings in 1998-99. If the money really did move over to the new bank and it was left dormant, state law requires banks to turn over the dormant funds to the state. It’s regarded as “unclaimed property.” Here in California, just 3 years of inactivity will cause this to happen. By 2009, your accounts (if they were moved over to WaMu), would have been inactive for over 10 years.

    It’s even possible they were inactive at Home Savings too; in that case, Home Savings, not WaMu, would have turned the money over to the state.

    Here’s why Chase couldn’t help you. WaMu’s computer system had a menu to convert account numbers from the acquired bank to its new WaMu account number and vice-versa. It’s a special standalone database. But it wasn’t moved over to Chase’s system.

    However, even with that converter, there would have been no sign of your accounts if they were turned over to the state BEFORE Chase took over WaMu.

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