Wells Fargo charges elderly woman nearly $200 late fee over $2 error

When Frances Merritt, 85, underpaid her credit card bill by just $2 this summer she had no idea that mistake would cost her nearly $200 in late fees. 

"I feel very bad. I mean it's not right. I don't feel it's right," said Merritt. "It doesn't make sense to me."

Merritt, who is on a fixed income, and pays her bills on time every month, thought a bill for $58 was for $56, she said.

"Which is real easy," she said. "Because the letters are small."

That small mistake snowballed. Over the next three months that missing $2 turned into a nearly $200 penalty in late fees and interest, bank records show. 

"I can't afford it," said Merritt. "I told the woman that I talked to first that I could not afford, she said, 'You can't get one of your children to pay?'

"It's outrageous," said Tom Bartholomy, the president of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont and Western North Carolina. "I would say a situation like this yeah it's unfair."

Bartholomy recommends checking your bank statement each month for mistakes, double checking all bills and understanding the terms and conditions of your bank card.

"Errors happen," said Bartholomy. "But sometimes errors can be very costly depending on the terms and conditions that the bank set up."

She says she called Wells Fargo, to protest the penalty but got nowhere, so FOX 46 contacted them and got results from Merritt.

"We have reached out to Ms. Merritt to answer her questions and resolve the situation," said Wells Fargo spokesman Josh Dunn. "We encourage customers to contact the number on their monthly statement as soon as they have questions about their statements or accounts."

We went back to see Frances, who was so excited she had to call her daughter.

"And darn if the woman didn't call me back an hour later to settle it," she said, smiling, on the phone.

"Isn't that good? Oh I'm tickled to death. FOX 46 and the guy came out yesterday, his name is Matt, and oh they were so nice."

Within hours of FOX 46 calling Wells Fargo, the bank called Merritt, and waived that nearly $200 fee, she said, adding the bank assigned someone to personally look over her account. 

"She said, 'I'm very sorry Ms. Merritt. It should not have happened," said Merritt.

A relief. But Frances says she'll be taking a much closer look next time. 

"FOX 46 did the job," Merritt told her daughter. "If I hadn't gone to them I don't think it would have ever gotten settled."