Yesterday I discovered something that I had NO IDEA even existed. Did you realize that under some circumstances, when you set up an electronic payment through your credit union’s or bank’s BillPay function, the bank may send a check — that’s right, a paper check — instead of direct-depositing the payment electronically?
WHY one would want a function like this escapes comprehension. If you wanted to pay your bills with checks that take eight to ten days(!!) to be delivered, you’d get out your checkbook, write a check, tuck it in an envelope, address and stamp the envelope, and drop the thing in the mail. It defeats the whole purpose of electronic BillPay.
Oh, well. There it is.
And there it was, lurking in my credit union’s online pages.
So now I go to deposit a slew of checks others have mailed to me. By serendipity, I happen to glance at the list of creditors that I routinely pay online and notice SIXTEEN-HUNDRED DOLLARS outstanding to Visa. Not only that, but last month’s bill, which should have been paid days ago, has not been paid, and Visa wants me to pony up $25 right this minute to avoid a late charge.
I call the credit union’s Visa vendor and ask WTF. The very charming young recent college graduate who answers the phone cannot figure it out, any better than I can, but she urges me to pay the twenty-five bucks. She says it can take eight to ten days for an e-payment to arrive. This, I reflect, seems to defeat another purpose: the purpose of specifying the date on which the bill is to be paid. In this case, I had set the electronic payment to hit Visa’s vaults a couple days before the due date.
We both study the system, but neither of us is really getting a grip on what is going on there and why Visa hasn’t been paid. She remarks that a check was sent. I say no check was sent: I arranged to pay electronically, as I always do. She says sometimes the CU will send a check instead of an electronic payment, and it says right there on the page that it takes eight to ten days to deliver a check. I say I never heard of such a thing, and what would cause them to do that? Neither of us can figure out what would trigger such a procedure. She seems to think it happens at random.
Holy mackerel!!! think I.
I jump into a pair of shoes, grab the car keys and a printout, and FLY out the door, headed for the credit union.
There I encounter yet another excellent young person. One thing you have to say about banking with a credit union: you DO get great customer service. And you get to meet quite a few admirable young men and women.
I explain the whole rigamarole again. New CSR agrees that the payment got made by check. She suggests that if Visa tries to gouge me for a late payment, I should come back, in person (ah, yes: another 40-minute drive!!), remind them of this side show, and they will forgive the gouge.
Just what I need to do with my time.
So I drive through the rush-hour traffic back to the Funny Farm, still puzzled. WHY would the CU randomly decide to write a check for an electronic payment? I most certainly DID NOT ask to have that happen. Making it happen requires a three-step hoop jump, and each step is very obscure.
First, you have to go to the section of your account — three pages into the website — to find the list of payments scheduled for the near future.
Next, you have to click on the yellow-pencil icon beside a current payment-in-waiting to allow yourself to “edit” the payment.
Then, you have to select “pay with check,” in the slot next to “type,” five lines down.
No way could you accidentally do this with a slip of the fingers. So I’m DEAD SURE whatever happened here was not a senior moment.
Whatever did happen, it surpasses annoying. It cost an hour or more of my time, driving through the homicidal rush-hour traffic to get not very much done. It may cost me a late-payment gouge and a ding on my credit report. And it got me freaking upset, no doubt pushing up the blood pressure. Again.
What is do be done about it? That also escapes me. If the CU can randomly decide, out of the blue, to convert an electronic payment to a snail-mail check payment, then that means I either have to schedule EVERY payment about 10 days in advance of the due date (which I can’t really afford to do: that will drain my checking account into the overdraft range before long), or else go online within a few days of EVERY scheduled payment to be sure it’s going to reach the creditor on time.
One thing’s for sure: I’m not giving Visa $25 out of this month’s living expenses as “protection” money against an unfair gouge. So that pretty much guarantees having to schlep back up to the credit union in another couple weeks. I’ll deal with that when it happens.
But it doesn’t make me happy…