Before you demand a refund, check your bank statement

Where’s Dannielle Beasley-Bundy’s refund from DirecTV? Is the check really “in the mail”?

Question: I’ve been trying to get my overdraft fees back from DirecTV for almost three weeks, and I’m hoping you can help me. DirecTV caused my bank to charge a $70 overdraft fee at the beginning of the month because someone signed me up for auto pay without my knowledge.

A DirecTV phone agent asked me to send over my bank statement and my account information. I faxed the info over the statement the next day.

I was told I had to wait 7 to 10 business days for someone to contact me. No one has ever contacted me.

I’ve called DirecTV every day of this month and keep getting the runaround and false information as to when the money will go back into my bank account.

This is my last attempt at getting my overdraft fees paid. My next step is court. I’ve been nothing but patient with DirecTV and I have had enough.

Dannielle Beasley-Bundy, Philadelphia

Answer: It shouldn’t take DirecTV three weeks to process a refund. If the company promised it would pay your overdraft fees, it should have done it right away, and especially in a situation like yours.

Clearly, based on the number of calls you placed to DirecTV, and the fact that your bank charged you an overdraft fee to begin with, every day counts. Stringing you along is no way to make you a loyal DirecTV customer.

DirecTV doesn’t address refunds on bank fees on its website, but like all companies, it covers the fees when it withdraws funds from one of your accounts in error (say, it double-charges you for a monthly bill, overdrawing from one of your accounts). Most companies are extra sensitive to those kinds of situations, because they can put the livelihood of their customers at risk, leaving them with no money in the bank.

I’m not sure about the specifics of your situation, but it shouldn’t have mattered. DirecTV should have quickly fixed the overdraft problem, not waited weeks.

Repeatedly calling the company wasn’t working. I always recommend that you put your grievance in writing, starting with a brief, polite email through the website and then following up with a manager. I list the names and phone numbers of DirecTVs executives on my consumer advocacy site.

I can’t help but throw in a little personal-finance advice, too. If I were in a situation where overdraft fees might be a problem, I’d toss the dish and start saving money. Premium TV is a luxury, not a necessity — at least for me. Then again, I don’t own a TV, so take that for what it’s worth. End of lecture.

I contacted DirecTV on your behalf. A representative said you’d already been contacted and that the reason for your delay — a federal holiday — had already been explained to you. Interestingly, the company claimed that on the very same day you contacted me, it had refunded your overdraft.

Wow, that’s some coincidence, isn’t it?

If you’re the trusting type, then here’s your takeaway: Always check your bank account before you ask for a refund. It might already be there.

If you’re not the trusting type, you might want to call a consumer advocate before checking your bank account.

Either way, your $70 has been refunded.

Did DirecTV drag its feet on a refund?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus

  • foggybear

    An unusually large heating bill or extra medical expense can cause a one-time cash flow problem. Sometimes income changes unexpectedly after a contract is signed, and
    monthly payments are easier to manage than large termination fees. The OP’s reasons for her low bank balance and satellite subscription are none of your business. Don’t offer financial advice unless it’s asked for.

  • Mikael Mik

    DirectTV’s political candidacy is in full swing. Read our Lips: We refunded the money BEFORE a consumer advocate’s involvement. Trust Us. Consumer just “Happened” to contact you and “Coincidently” the money appeared the same day.

    B.S. Meter Needle is running full throttle for those that believe DirectTV.

  • backprop

    Another side takeaway, for me anyway, is to never give your bank account information to a company, particularly a cable or phone company. Never let them pull money from your account. Once money’s gone, you have an uphill battle should there be an error that’s not in your favor (and what error ever is?). The burden will always rest on your shoulders once the company performs that debit.

    This doesn’t mean you can’t do electronic bill pay. But set it up as a push from your bank, so that you control the money.

  • Mikael Mik

    Agreed. I never understood why people setup autopay on the biller’s side. Money is easy distributed, but refunds are not equally seamless. Think of paying a roofer before the job’s done. If something goes wrong, the money has exchanged hands, and leverage is lost.

  • Alan Gore

    In fact, using your bank’s online access facilities eliminates the need to allow billers to pull money out automatically. It is now easy for you to see your current balances and pay bills exactly when you want to, so there are no surprises. Many banks will let you set things up so they text you when deposits come in or when there’s an overdraft. If you are going to be out of touch for long periods of time you can still set up autopay from your end of the transaction, which you can cancel at any time.

  • Don H.

    “DirecTV caused my bank to charge a $70 overdraft fee at the beginning of the month because someone signed me up for auto pay without my knowledge” Sorry, I’m not buying it. It’s hard to believe that the OP didn’t know she had set up an auto-pay from her checking account without her knowledge. More plausible is that she messed up her cash flow, and that the overdraft charge was legitimate. In addition the overdraft fee was at the beginning of the month, when most people have their mortgage or rent payment due.

  • backprop

    That is a good point….My bank recently started showing my bills – by pulling them directly from the merchant/vendor/utility company – and “reminding” me when they’re due.

    I actually don’t like it. I want a complete separation between my bank and the bill. I don’t want the bank to know what’s due or when, because the next step seems like they’ll start “auto-paying” for me as a “convenience.” In fact, I like to pay most bills when they come in, not on the due date. My bank didn’t recognize that when I paid a bill early, that I no longer had to pay on the due date. I couldn’t stand it and had the bank turn off the “feature”. It’s not user-selectable, unfortunately.

    But it certainly could be a convenience if I did not have access for several weeks or more. That’s becoming less and less common though.

  • $16635417

    I agree that Direct TV failed to live up to its 7-10 day promise, but I don’t see the issue with them issuing a refund the same day the OP contacted Chris. Now…had the refund been issued the same day Chris contacted Direct TV…now I’d be on board. It’s not quite clear from the story if Chris contacted them the same day he was contacted.

  • Mikael Mik

    True. I took the story to imply Chris contacted and “Pop” went the refund. I might be wrong in that the Op received a refund the day Chris was contacted, BEFORE Chris had intervened.
    Please clarify as there’s some ambiguity in reading the article.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I find it easy to believe. When I still had a landline, my phone company would try to get me to sign up for electronic delivery of bills every time I went online to check my balance. It was actually fairly difficult to prevent myself from opting into the electronic bill delivery.

    I can see the op signing up for what she believes is on demand debiting and being switched to auto debit for her “convenience”

  • S363

    I’d personally NEVER set up an autopay from my checking account. Autopay on a credit card is fine – I’ve got lots of those, but there’s some protection there (not to mention I’m getting FF miles). Similarly the credit vs debit card question, in any dispute, with a credit card you keep the money while you fight about it, while with the direct debit they keep the money while you fight about it. There are a few bills, like electricity and propane, that I can’t pay with a credit card (or they surcharge), and for those I use my Credit Union’s billpay service (free). And I do pay the credit card bills (in full every month) via debit from my checking, but I initiate those, not the credit card company. I don’t like giving someone the keys to my accounts!

  • Mark Cuban

    If you’re less than $70 away from zero in your account you have more problems than your TV service. It was good advice, if you’re that close you probably have better uses for your money.

  • Mark Cuban

    Never give a company or individual access to your bank account, period.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I’ve also seen those sneaky “options” and had to fight with my mother’s bank to allow her to view her checking account statement online without being required to receive all statements electronically in the future. But how did DirecTV get the routing and account number to the OP’s checking account?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Never mind – figured it out by going to DirecTV’s website. It looks like they store payment information. You can choose to make a one time payment or automate all future payments. My guess is that’s what the OP did – paid her bill one time from her checking account, but pressed the wrong button and enrolled herself. Based on the layout, that looks fairly easy to do. See the link below, which has text and screenshots. Replace the “dot” with a “.” to navigate.

    https://support dot directv dot com/app/answers/detail/a_id/3017/related/1

  • MarkKelling

    I rarely keep more than $100 in my checking account. That doesn’t mean I don’t have more money elsewhere to put into it when needed.

    I would be equally upset and probably also have an overdraft if someone started taking money out of my checking account that I was not expecting.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    It’s not always a shortage of money, but rather an issue of where the money is at any given time. For example, I have money in business accounts where some payments come out of there and much of the rest comes out as dividends. The account is nothing more than a temporary parking place for the money. If another payment showed up unexpectedly it could cause a situation just like the OP had because that account was never intended to hold a lot of “extra” money.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Agreed. The purpose of a checking account is to pay for expenses until the next infusion of cash, e.g. paycheck. The remainder of your money should be in interest bearing accounts. Keeping tons of money in a checking account is not prudent.

    The overdraft might simply be a fee for transferring money from a savings account.

  • DavidYoung2

    Even better, when possible bill it to your credit card (and earn POINTS on your airline loyalty card — just kidding Chris) It’s far easier to dispute an unauthorized charge on a credit card than hassle with your bank over an unauthorized debit.

    Now, as others have said, if $70.00 bucks causes an overdraft, maybe putting things on your credit card isn’t such a crash hot idea……

  • Joe_D_Messina

    That was the part of the story I didn’t really understand. If the OP had never authorized direct payment, how did the company get the info to initiate it? Does the company get that info if you make electronic payments?
    EDIT: Looks like Jeanne below discovered they save payment info and it’s as easy as hitting the wrong button when making a payment to end up on auto-pay.

  • MarkKelling

    That seems to be an extremely high transfer charge. $70 would probably be for 2 overdraft charges @ $35 each. If my bank charged that much for a transfer to cover a single overdraft, I would definitely be looking for a different bank.

  • backprop

    It really is a great way to get points!

  • Cybrsk8r

    If money is tight, you can ditch DirectTV and get quite a few stations, now in digital quality, over the air with a (gasp) antenna. Your picture will be at least as good as DirectTV, if not better. But if your termination fees are equal to or greater than your remaining monthly payments, then just ride the contract out and cancel at the end.

  • Mark Carrara

    Several posters have said something to the effect ‘never give you bank info’. Never is a very strong word. To me life is a series of risk-reward decisions. You need to weight the risk of a wrong/fraudulent charge against the convenience of auto pay. Just make sure you are aware that there are risks in any decision.

  • Mel65

    When we signed up for DirecTV (new home, new neighborhood, only option; don’t judge me!!) they took my payment method over the phone and I’m pretty sure I was signed up for auto pay at that time because I don’t remember ever actually taking any action to do it. Now I’m just counting the days until we’re off contract… Sigh.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Same situation for us, originally. We also had satellite, since we couldn’t get Internet any other way, and my husband wanted to watch the Nebraska Huskers. Cable isn’t any more fun to deal with, trust me. But it was fun taking the dish to the electronics recycling site! Keep that image in mind; it will make the days until the contract ends just that little bit sweeter.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    With my bank, debits are immediately posted, either with the full amount or with a $1 place marker. But credits don’t show up until after midnight of the day posted. Funny how that works, isn’t it (she said, ironically).

    I believe DirecTV, that it was just a coincidence. The time frame fits. It was a first of the month problem (probably occurred on 2 consecutive days, since overdraft fees aren’t $70, but more like $35), lag time until OP was notified (because that way the bank can rack up even more overdraft fees!), plus 7 to 10 business days, we’re now to mid-month, where we encounter Washington’s Birthday Holiday (aka President’s Day).

    I’m not an industry shill, nor do I have DirecTV. Just an observer.

  • bodega3

    The bank stopping asking me about my large bank balance. Our interest bearing account is located at a different institution and it costs me more in gas to drive there to make a deposit…they don’t take transfers. At the low interest you get, it just isn’t worth the time to worry about a few cents interest.

  • MarkKelling

    Having worked in banking in one of my former lifes, I can explain why that is, but that’s for another topic unless you really want to know :-)

  • MarkKelling

    Amazing how easy they make it to get set up for auto payment but then make it impossible to get off that option. Similar thing happened to me with my cell phone. Had to quit the company to get auto payment to stop.

  • $16635417

    I have an uncle in his ’80’s who insists on receiving a paper statement each month. In fact, he recently switched banks when his old bank stopped sending a statement punched with three holes! They still sent paper but now he would have had to deal with his three hole punch each month to put it in his binder. He felt that was bad customer service and left them for a bank that insists they will keep sending statements pre-punched with three holes.

  • MarkKelling

    And most people forget that every time they write a check to anyone they are giving out everything that person or company would ever need to drain your account.

  • $16635417

    Agreed, I’m curious as to why Chris feels this is a coincidence, unless he contacted Direct TV the same day he was contacted by the OP as well. That may very well be the case, but I’m not reading it that way.

  • $16635417

    …and if you get your internet via your cable company, you may very well find you get the basic channels included as well. (Although they probably wont tell you that up front.)

  • MarkKelling

    That was true on my cable for a while, but now everything is scrambled so that you need a decoder box or you can’t see anything. How rude by the cable company! ;-)

  • omgstfualready

    I agree. I’m pretty savvy and yet when I received an email after accessing my Wells Fargo account online thanking me for signing up for paperless statements. I did not recall doing that and still don’t know what I clicked for that to happen. I signed right back in and searched until I finally found where I could put my settings back to where they were.


    Funny how we all have different experiences. I ditched cable for satellite 17 years ago and have been pleased ever since. (We have DirecTV.) Constant cable outages, not nearly the number of channels we had on cable in Omaha of all places and simply better service.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Well, if you’re from around Omaha, you’ll understand why we switched – weather. When it snowed, we lost our connection. When it was raining hard we lost our connection. When we got high winds, we lost our connection. Since those events happened far more frequently than we lost our land-line phone service, we figured cable couldn’t go out any more frequently, and we were right. I don’t have a clue as to the comparison between numbers of channels, but my Internet is lots, lots faster. :)

  • Helio

    $70 was the overdraft fee. OP never mentioned how much was the real overdraft amount.

  • omgstfualready

    As an aside, I wish people would know more about the ACH rules that govern auto deposit/withdrawals from your bank accounts. Banks MUST follow NACHA guidelines and a single complaint to the bank, not the vendor, gets it all in motion including the credit and research process they have to follow. I’m just putting it out here for anyone that may want to look into it more. is the site.

  • omgstfualready

    And a check has your home address too! But auto withdrawal and storing your credit info on the vendor’s server is lazy and risky.

  • omgstfualready

    Unrelated – sorry in advance.

    Well folks – I may be contacting Chris for help! I have a hotel reservation for tomorrow for a certain amount and I just looked at my reservation online and the rate is different…..I always print my own reservation so we’ll just see what happens at check in! I’m kinda excited to see how this goes!

  • Mel65

    Good Luck. I’ve had this happen, where my “special corporate rate” was actually higher than an advertized or walk up rate and 90% of desk clerks were very nice about accomodating the change.

  • Mel65

    I actually don’t mind the service itself (although, dear God the sheer number of channels that are nothing but Informercial or Golf are ridiculous) and we do lose connection for weather more than I’d like, but my bill changes constantly and with auto pay it’s annoying and frankly I can’t read my bill. The number of credits I get and the number of weird charges and how they figure it all… make this poor blonde’s head hurt. Anyone have an opinion on U-verse?

  • AH

    i think you may have got it right there… they saved the payment info, and when she attempted to pay a bill, accidentally clicked an auto-pay option.
    as many times as i’ve tried to NOT have my phone/internet company save my credit card info, they do it anyway. i want to make a one-time payment using a credit card, but when i log in to pay the following month, they’ve stored my payment information without my permission.
    all of the other companies i use specifically ask if i want to store the payment information, and when i choose, “no”, they don’t. but not that company. and their payment options are such that you really have to read carefully or you can easily end up signing up for auto-pay.

  • omgstfualready

    All went fine – the rate was correct on their side when I got there so all was well. On check out the parking was billed at $525 instead of $50…….quick correction but always read your bill carefully!