Mad at your bank? Answers (but not solutions) are here

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Yesterday, after waiting and waiting, and then waiting some more, for the postal service to bring me a paycheck -- such is the glorious life of a freelance writer -- I finally received a nice, big, fat check for some magazine articles I had written. It could conceivably pay for about a month's worth of bills, which is good.

Not so good is the fact that, despite having written plenty of magazine articles, accounting departments have been hanging onto their money, and it's been a few weeks since a check last arrived.

So imagine my surprise and joy when my wife called me from her cell phone to inform me that our bank was holding our newly arrived paycheck for an entire week because the check was too big. I was especially surprised because while I knew that banks sometimes hold checks over $5,000, my own bank hadn't held funds earlier this year on the one or two occasions I deposited similar amounts from the same publishing company.
At least I had some fun making up some new curse words. Still, I know I'm not alone in wondering what the heck is going on at my bank. In fact, with fees rising and ever-evolving, and bank mergers and fears of retirement accounts imploding, I imagine a whole lot of people likely have questions and complaints about their own bank. Which is why I thought I'd mention the web site, HelpWithMyBank.gov.

It's run by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), a part of the U.S. Treasury that charters, regulates and supervises all national banks. It claims on its website to have the "answers and solutions" to all your banking questions.

I'm not so sure about the solutions. It seems to have a lot more answers than solutions, and the straightforward, fairly in-depth answers probably won't make many people feel better, but they should make anyone feel more knowledgeable after spending some time here.

Fortunately, if you're really ticked off at your bank and feel that you have a leg to stand on -- yeah, that's the catch -- you can file complaint at the OCC. Or, of course, you may want to complain to the OCC about the OCC, since federal law permits banks to do much of what they do, like when a bank charges a customer for making a deposit with a teller instead of at an ATM. Or when a bank holds a large paycheck.

Geoff Williams is a freelance writer and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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