Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Why I Bank at a Credit Union…

A fine Day from Hell in every way: at five in the morning, temp on the back porch in the 90s and air so thick you need a spoon to breathe it. It rained during the night, so that did cool things off. But. Ugh.

First order of the day’s business, once business establishments opened, was to run up to the credit union and try to find out why all my accounts are scrambled.

Ugh, indeed!

You’ll recall that to reset my grip on the finances, I decided to use Costco cash cards and my existing credit union cookie-jar accounts to create an “envelope method” approach to budgeting. Purchases at Costco would stop when the current cash-card was used up ($300, though I may drop that to $200). And (as usual) set-asides for 2019 taxes & insurance, for incoming Medicare and Medigap reimbursements, and for an emergency fund would be doled out, monthly, among three credit-union savings accounts.

These accounts have always existed. You can make as many savings accounts as you choose at my credit union, plus your checking account. So I’ve always had an account called “Emergency Savings,” one called “Mayo” (for the medical reimbursements), and one called “T&I” (for tax & insurance).

At the time I make this decision, I figure I’ll live on my 401(k)’s Required Minimum Drawdown (or try to), and transfer all the Social Security payments into “Emergency Savings,” an account whose balance had dwindled to a little over five dollars. To accomplish this, I get on the phone and talk with a credit union’s CSR. I ask this person how I can arrange to auto-transfer the gummint’s monthly electronic deposits from checking to the account branded “emergency savings.”  SS payments come in unpredictably, roughly depending on what cycle the bureaucrats use to send them to you. Mine arrive sometime between the first and about the 12th of the month. I explain that I’d like this money set aside to build an emergency fund and I’d like not to have to do that manually whenever the SSA gets around to sending the money. She says she will make it so.

Good. Days go by.

Now I do some more budgeteering — and I realize that there’s no way I can possibly live on the RMD alone. While I probably can avoid suctioning up all the SS income, I’m going to need at least $500 a month of it. Probably more. When I go online to arrange an automatic transfer of $530/month, I’m astonished to discover the “Mayo” savings account has disappeared, and the chunk of dough set aside in there to pay the Mayo’s next bill has disappeared with it.

The money to cover medical bills has been moved over into my regular savings account (which I’d dubbed “Emergency Savings,” but which has been renamed “Share Savings”).

When I go to double-check the scheduled transfer of the SS funds, I can find exactly no trace of it.

So. You know better. I know better. We all know better: Never do your banking over the phone.

This meant I had to drive to the credit union, collar a manager or assistant manager, and find out WTF is going on.

  1. What happened to the scheduled transfer of the monthly Social Security deposit into Emergency Savings?
  2. If it didn’t get arranged, why not?
  3. If it did get arranged, why doesn’t it show as a scheduled transfer? Where did the transfer that was supposedly arranged go? Is that monthly deposit going to disappear into limbo?
  4. If it did not get arranged, can we arrange it? Can we be certain that we’re not duplicating a scheduled transfer that doesn’t show even though it  supposedly was made?
  5. Can we arrange an auto transfer on the 20th of each month from Emergency Savings (holding the SS deposits) to checking, enough to make ends meet?

Oh, those lucky people! We need to start a U-Tube Video series: Here She Comes Again!

So I get up there and discover…

  1. If a scheduled transfer was made from the CU’s environs instead of by you, you can’t see it in the online “scheduled transfer” function. (Naturally! Why did I ask?)
  2. He doesn’t have a clue what happened to the “Mayo” savings account.
  3. He suggests it would be simpler to transfer the difference between the total SS monthly deposit and the amount I need  into the “Emergency Savings” account. Keep whatever is needed in checking and transfer the rest to the savings account.
  4. He will rename “Emergency Savings” as “Mayo,” leaving the amount for the medical bills in that account rather than transferring them around.
  5. And he will create a new “Emergency Savings” account to hold a little over half of incoming Social Security deposits, leaving the rest in checking to cover cash flow. We hope.

Sounds OK, right? He says what I see at home is different from what he says on his monitor. He suggests I send him a screenshot, after I get back to the Funny Farm, so we can check that all this is working.

And so, off I go to retrace the 8.2 miles of my steps back to the house: it required driving 16.4 miles and about 90 minutes of my time to accomplish this.

A check-up revealed that we had it almost right. We ended up with…

  • a checking account  (Balance: one year’s worth of RMD plus a few bucks)
  • a savings account (“Emergency Savings, 00.” Unfunded)
  • a savings account, (“Taxes & Insurance, 60.” $8408)
  • a savings account (“Taxes and Insurance, 61.”  $538.95)

So what has happened is that the set-aside account to cover medical bills was redundantly named “taxes and insurance” rather than “Mayo.” But at least we have an account into which to stash Medigap and Medicare payments.

Gaaaahhhhhh! So I had to get on the email, send him the desired secreenshot, and ask him to rename account 61 in such a way that I can distinguish it from the real tax-&-insurance “envelope” at a glance.

Jeez.

Long as I’m wrestling with money online, I decide to check to see how much AMEX thinks I owe it as of this minute, to be sure it jibes with the $130 I believe I’ve charged up.

Well. No. AMEX’s website says I owe that fine outfit $682!!!!!!

WTF??????? Have they not received the seven-something I sent them when the last statement came in?

Go back to the credit union’s site and find that they have indeed paid last month’s bill, as directed. AMEX should have received the money on or about the 5th…four days ago.

Get a chat rep online at the AMEX site. After endless waiting and screwing around with typing out the question and explaining that it was paid electronically and should have been received, I learned that yea verily it had been received. It would take another 24 to 48 hours  before that fact registered on their website.

Ducky.

Q. So, I ask: how much have I charged up on the card in the current billing cycle — that is, how much do you see owing right now?

A. About $126.

That’s four bucks less than my records say I’ve charged — probably because this card applies an automatic cash kickback to eligible transactions. But at least their conception of reality is now close to my conception of reality.

What a bitch of a morning! And early afternoon.

Coulda been worse, though. Just imagine if all those cookie-jar shenanigans had been happening at, say, Wells Fargo.

Needing to pick up some one-pound bags of chlorine shock treatment this morning, I serendipitously discovered a Leslie’s about six blocks from the campus (where the CU office resides). And even more serendipitously, right next door to the thing was a Fry’s grocery store….where I could buy another breakfast melon, some grapes, and a few tomatoes to restock the larder.

And at the Leslie’s, I discovered that eight pounds worth of shock treatment in bags costs about $14 less than the same amount of the same stuff dispensed in bulk. Jeez. Such a deal.

 

 

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9 Comments

  1. I’ve been playing tag with my credit card company the last few days – last week, while checking online to see that a refund at Target had gone through, I noted an unexpected charge on the card – to the tune of $904.40!

    Someone had apparently used my card number to purchase tickets at the MGM Theatre in Las Vegas to go see the Cirque du Soleil show KA. Presumably, since the most expensive such tickets are about $150, they bought a whole bunch and scalped them on the street corner.

    I dutifully called Citicards and spoke to some dude whose English was not very good, who walked himself through his script – but eventually managed to close my account, submit a request for a new card (yay) and submit the dispute on the charge.

    Of course, days later, the disputed charge had NOT yet been reversed – so I tried using their online chat function to confirm that the dispute was in place – THAT was an exercise in futility – the person I spoke with could not keep a single factoid straight – he kept contradicting himself.

    So today I called during North American business hours in the faint hope of reaching someone who learned English as their first language – and was passed around through THREE different people. Although the automated phone system DID confirm that the transaction IS under dispute – so at least – if I believe the computer – that part has happened.

    The last guy I spoke to claimed he could see the credit was put on my account on July 6th – but that I should wait till Thursday before expecting to see it on my side.

    • Generally, a disputed credit card charge will not be reversed until the issuing bank has completed its investigation. Many investigations are completed within a few days, but it can take up to 30 days depending on how quickly the merchant responds. Large merchants usually have systems in place to quickly complete investigations, but smaller merchants who do not routinely encounter these investigations may take longer to complete the investigation. During the investigation period the disputed charge (and any related interest) sit in a purgatory. If at the end of the investigation the disputed transaction was determined to be unauthorized, the charges will be reversed.

      • While they’re investigating, they should at least relieve the credit-card holder from paying the disputed charge and accruing interest on it, right?

        Some credit-card companies seem to be on top of these things. I’ve had AMEX reps call and ask: “Did you buy four tires at a gas station in Florida?” When they see an unusual charge that appears to come from someplace far from where you live, it seems to trigger their internal fraud alert.

        Citibank, though, is problematic. I found their customer disservice department particularly difficult to work with. That’s the specific reason I refused to accept Costco’s new Visa card, which is issued thru Citibank. I’ll never deal with Citibank again.

      • The borrower is not responsible for paying for a disputed charge while it is under investigation. How that is presented will vary by bank during the investigation (e.g. some banks may include the disputed charge in the total balance, but not include it in the current balance due/interest calculation while others may remove it entirely from the account balance/current balance due/interest calculation). No matter the presentation, the end treatment is the same. The disputed charge and any related interest are fenced off until the investigation is completed. At the end of the investigation, if the disputed charge was unauthorized the bank will remove the charge from the account. If the disputed charge was authorized, the fence around the charge is removed, and the charge (and any accrued interest) become part of the amount due. (Yes people charge stuff on their card and then try to say they didn’t to avoid the bill, or spouses with joint accounts accidentally report a transaction authorized by the other person)

      • ” (Yes people charge stuff on their card and then try to say they didn’t to avoid the bill, or spouses with joint accounts accidentally report a transaction authorized by the other person)”… Chortle! I’ll bet they do! 😀

        Which of course raises the question of how you prove it’s unauthorized. Obviously, if you have a job and your boss can say you were on the job at the time someone was buying Cirque du Soleil tix in Vegas, you’ve got an alibi. But if the buy happened on a weekend (say), about the only way you could show you were in your own town would be to have charged something on the same card at about the same time. Unless you were in the hospital or some such.

      • I cannot give away the specific investigative techniques the banks use (and I’ve been out of the industry for a couple years so there also undoubtedly new ones as well), but in the broadest sense, unless the merchant or bank can show it was you who authorized the transaction, it will get reversed.

        The big question of whether it is the bank or the merchant who has to eat the cost of the transaction is governed by the merchant agreement (eg VISA, Mastercard, Amex, Discover). Prior to chip cards, the banks generally were responsible for the cost of unauthorized transaction. Now, it is generally the party with the lesser technology that is responsible for covering the cost.

  2. You probably should call the police. I think it makes some sort of difference (in your favor) if a police report has been filed. Also find out what state the credit card company operates in and file a complaint with the attorney general’s office in that state.

  3. WOW….I will share that speed, effectiveness and precision of “problem-solving” at the Credit Union is almost totally dependent on the person/staff member that serves you. You can get three different answers from three different people for the same “problem”. I always try to get the same person who is familiar with my “shenanigans” to help me and always get a receipt as well as a printed…dated ….statement after every transaction…The peace of mind is “priceless”….

    • Just now our CU has pretty uniformly excellent staff. At the local banks, I’ve found exactly the opposite: uniformly dismal staff.

      When I got in touch with yesterday’s guy — amazingly, he actually gave me his email! — he reported that he cannot change the name of an account on his end without my sign-in info, and since I didn’t have that (every password and username for every site I use is different, and there are 18 single-spaced pages of them!), I would have to be the one to change the one account’s name back to “Mayo.” He sent detailed instructions on how. So…one of today’s chores will have to be wrestling with that. Alternatively, he said, if I’d like him to do it, I could drive back up there (another gallon of gas consumed!) with the sign-in data so he could get at the thing.

      Heh. This of course doesn’t explain how the phone rep who disappeared it managed to accomplish that. You’d think if you couldn’t even change an account’s name without a username and password, you couldn’t disappear it, either. But…whatEVER.