SAN FRANCISCO (Circa) - If you’ve been hit by your bank with late fees or overdraft charges, then this bot’s got your back.
Fee Fighter is a chatbot being launched by San Francisco-based company Cushion. It can contact your bank for you to negotiate the reversal of things like ATM fees, interest charges, wire transfer fees and standard monthly services fees.
"This is something that most people don’t do, because either they don’t know that banks fees and credit card interests are negotiable, or they just don’t have the time or the resources," Cushion CEO Paul Kesserwani told Circa.
I was invited to try the service to see how it worked. To let cushion do its thing, I just had to go to its Facebook page, send it a message and then follow the link it sent me to sign into my online banking account.
Though, obviously, Cushion gets access your banking and credit card transactions, it doesn’t store your sensitive login info on its servers. And rest assured that Facebook, which is, for now, the chat service of choice for Fee Fighter, can’t see any of your banking info.
After combing my account for fees in mere minutes, the bot let me know that I had a few monthly service fees that it was confident it could recoup the money on. So I told it to give it a shot, which authorizes Cushion to either send a secure email or series of chats to my bank on my behalf to request the fees be reversed.
A number of hours later, I got a message saying the negotiations were a success and all of my fees, totaling $36, would be reversed by my bank!
Though not every fee negotiation with Cushion is a guaranteed win, I was fortunate to get all my money back. The company says, of its more-than 2,000 test users, 75% of those who had reversible fees got at least some the their money returned. On the other hand, my "found money" bounty was skimpy compared to some, which, in some cases, reach into the several-hundred-dollar range.
Of course, I could still see some more money come my way yet. My fees were incurred because I was keeping less money over in my savings account than I was supposed to be. Whoops. But now that I’m signed up for Cushion, its bot will be on the case in the event that I mess up again.
During its testing phase, Cushion will be free. And if you have a Wells Fargo, Chase or American Express account, you can sign up at its website for a chance to try it. After it adds support for more financial institutions and launches officially, it’ll be charging 25% of what its bot gets you back.
That’s the same rate asked by other fin-tech bots like Trim, which offers automated bill negotiation for things like broadband, cable and cell phone services.
Cushion plans to eventually add other automated savings tools like those in the future, after it tackles costly bank and credit card card fees.
"The whole theme of our company is use data science to find the issues and then use automation to do the work on your behalf," Kesserwani said. "So that you’re truly going about your life knowing that cushion has your back."