Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Returned Check

Checking my online bank accounts today, saw a charge that immediately looked odd. There were two charges in my checking account, actually: "Returned Check" and "Returned Check Fee." My initial reaction was that someone had tried to cash a check I wrote, and I had insufficient funds in my account. However, I also knew I had overdraft protection on the account and my account balance was not near $0. After thinking about it for a minute and calling my bank, I realized that a personal check someone had written to me for $14 was "bad" (the check writer had insufficient funds in his account), and so the two charges to my account were a debit of $14 (which had initially been credited to my account) and a $5 returned check fee. This made me unhappy for a few reasons. First, I hate to lose $5 (and this fee was clearly outlined among the credit union's fees, so I knew it was no bogus). Second, I hate to lose money and get punished for someone else's mistake. Lastly, I only accepted this check because I was out at lunch with this guy and a group of others, and the guy didn't have any cash on him. I agreed to cover his tab in cash and he wrote me the check.

Ultimately, after I thought through the situation, I determined that the banks themselves have little to do with the situation except handling the details of the transaction. Ultimately, all that matters is that one guy owes me money and that he hasn't paid me. I guess if the amount were $14,000 instead of $14, I could take the guy to court and sue him, but obviously this won't come to that. I suppose I've learned the value of getting a certified check or money order or some other guaranteed source of money when dealing when larger transactions (and not relying on a personal check being "good").

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