Banking Frustrations and Mental Health

Like most marriages, mine has a division of labor depending on what each of us is good at.

I am the more outgoing of the two of us, so I am the one who makes the phone calls, sets appointments and deals with the outside world. My husband is the organized one, so he keeps our calendar, remembers birth dates, and cleans the house. Seriously, he cleans everything but the bathrooms.

I’m the one who gets the oil changed, puts gas in the car and usually, handles our banking. We have a joint account in a state where either of us can use that account equally.

But that doesn’t always mean that I can do everything I need to do with regard to the account.

Putting a Travel Advisory on His Debit Card

We are getting ready to help his mother move to Florida which means we are traveling to Florida. So while I was at the bank today, I took out cash for the trip and let the bank know that our cards might be used in three different states while we are traveling, in addition to here at home.

I made a significant withdrawal from our accounts. In the past, I have upgraded our accounts to get better interest rates, transferred money between accounts, and deposited checks in both his name and mine.

But today I was not able to add his debit card to the travel advisory because that card is associated with his name and not mine.

Um, what?

The money all comes from the same accounts and literally the only difference is the physical debit card. But because I do all the in-person and online banking, the only way to add a travel advisory to his card is for him to call and do it.

Sounds easy enough, right?

Well not if you have many forms of mental illness.

For my husband, the reason I handle most of the in-person interaction is his crushing social anxiety. Even with his own parents, he prefers not to talk on the phone. I handle it because it’s easy for me and he does things that are hard for me. It’s a balance for our partnership.

And in the past, the way we have gotten around such things is for me to make the call and then hand him the phone long enough for him to verify his identity and then say, please talk to my wife.

We can do this that way as well.

But should we have to? The presumption in society that everyone can do all things equally is mistaken. Some of us simply cannot do the things others do easily.

So why do we punish people for their mental illness or disabilities?

Assisting my Mother-in-Law with Banking

In a similar, but different issue, my mother-in-law is intimidated by online banking. She’s 68 and worries that she will expose herself to fraud or mess up her accounts. She generally uses a computer almost not at all.

She doesn’t have a smart phone, doesn’t know how to text and has some difficulty balancing her own checkbook.

After my father-in-law died, she asked her bank to add my husband and I to her account so that we could help her keep it straight. They said sure, all we had to do was come in and sign signature cards.

Did I mention she lives in Illinois and we’re in Pennsylvania and it was in the middle of a pandemic?

Her bank has no branches near here and when we asked about sending notarized forms or working through another bank that has a local branch, her bank’s response was pretty much “no.”

Because she’s moving and because of the lack of customer empathy in her current bank, she is changing banks. So we got her new account set up and tried to create an online transfer from the old account to a new one.

Her bank blocked it.

They went through the effort to verify the new account, but then removed the transfer from her account, without so much as an email telling her they were doing it. When I tried to reinstate the transfer, they said that she had to call and verify all the information done through her online account on the telephone.

Um, no?

We work very hard to teach our elderly relatives not to give their account information out over the phone, but her bank was so worried that their own security for her online account had been breached that they tried to get her to do it all over the phone.

So later today, I get to do a merged call between her and I and the bank to try to get this resolved. But that might not work because the last time I offered to merge a call, the bank’s phone support said they could only talk to her if they called her directly or she called from her phone.

She has no idea how to merge calls.

They also said she can’t simply give them permission to talk to me because I’m not on the account.

If we aren’t able to resolve it ourselves, my bank, which is also where her new account is, has offered to get this done for us. But there has to be a better way for banks to deal with people who are older, mentally ill or disabled.

We are lucky in that we have people who can help us, but there is a great fear that a bank might pull something like they did to Wendy Williams and deny my mother-in-law access to her own funds.

What Needs to Happen

The problem with many things in our society, and this is definitely one, is that the laws are not keeping up with the technology.

We need to find a way for legislation to keep pace with changing technology.

Further, we need to find a way to protect the mentally ill, disabled, elderly and temporarily incapacitated from illness or injury that does not involve removing their agency. Wendy Williams should not have to fight to access her own money. My mother-in-law should be able to have people she trusts help her with her finances.

I understand that the law Wells Fargo used to keep Wendy Williams from her accounts was set up to protect people, but banks and unscrupulous people have twisted the intent. We need to do better.




Lucinda Gunnin is a commercial property manager and author in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She’s a news junky, sushi addict, and geek extraordinaire.

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Lucinda Gunnin

Lucinda Gunnin

Lucinda Gunnin is a commercial property manager and author in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She’s a news junky, sushi addict, and geek extraordinaire.

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