Daniel Ganziano
© Stacey Wescott / Chicogo TribuneMelida Ganziano and her 18-yera-old son Daniel Ganziano
Daniel Ganziano went from having $4.85 to owing more than $200

The bank account was supposed to teach 18-year-old Daniel Ganziano about fiscal responsibility.

In the end, the McCullom Lake teenager said he learned just one thing: Don't trust banks.

Ganziano's tough economic lesson began last year, when his mom urged him to set up a savings account with the TCF Bank in the nearby Jewel grocery store.

At first things went smoothly, but as the money in his account dwindled, he began to ignore it. By fall, Ganziano had just $4.85 left in the account - too little to withdraw from an ATM - so he let it sit.

He had all but forgotten about the account until he received a letter from TCF on Oct. 12 saying six days earlier, it had charged him a $9.95 "monthly maintenance fee" because his account had too little money in it.

The $9.95 charge made his account overdrawn by $5.10, which triggered another fee. At TCF, any account overdrawn by more than $5 is charged a $28-a-day overdraft fee. The net result: Ganziano was $33.10 in the hole.

By then, his nascent savings account was in a downward spiral. At $28 a day, the charges were adding up quickly.

When he and his mother went to the nearest branch that weekend to close the account, they were told they would first have to pay the accumulated fees, which totaled $229.10.

His mom, Melinda Ganziano, was livid. In less than two weeks, without making any purchases or withdrawals, her son's $4.85 savings account had turned into a $229.10 debt.

The elder Ganziano said she asked for the fees to be waived, and was told TCF would eliminate just one of the $28 charges.

She argued her case to other bank employees, but was told there was nothing they could do. Defeated, Melinda Ganziano paid the $229.10 and shut down the account. She said she asked to speak to a regional supervisor and was told one would call her back.

By mid-November, after receiving no calls from TCF, Ganziano fired off an angry email to What's Your Problem?

She said she was most upset that her son's overdraft charges were triggered by the inactivity fee, which she thought was just plain wrong.

"I try to raise my children the right way and if my son would have overdrawn this account because of spending money he didn't have we would have made him take care of it," she said. "But what TCF did is not right. Money is tight right now and if this is their way of making money, they need to be stopped."

Ganziano said the entire goal of setting up the account was to teach her sons how to be smart with their money.

"When they get zapped this way, why would they trust a bank?" she said.

The Problem Solver called TCF Bank spokesman Jason Korstange on Friday.

Later that day, a TCF representative called Melinda Ganziano and agreed to send her a check for the $229.10.

Korstange said TCF recently switched from charging people $35 for every overdraft to $28 per day for up to 14 days when an account has insufficient funds. The fees kicked in because a computer saw Daniel Ganziano's account was $5.10 below zero - 10 cents over the $5 threshold.

"If we had done it by hand, someone probably would have said, 'Oh it's just 10 cents, let's not worry about it,'" Korstange said. "But we process millions of transactions a day, and there has to be a cutoff number."

Korstange said TCF Bank has roughly 8,000 employees, and if the Ganzianos had gone to another branch, a different TCF worker might have refunded the overdraft fees on the spot.

"We're learning from it too," Korstange said. "We hope not to make these mistakes again."

Melinda Ganziano said she expects to see the check within days.

So what lesson did the younger Ganziano learn?

"He just said, 'Mom, I can't have a bank account,'" Ganziano said. "I said, 'You can Dan. We just need to find you a good bank.'"