This Credit Union is SO Fired

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I’ve been shopping for a credit union lately, and my experience with one particular CU has escalated my teeth grinding to a level that is worthy of being documented.

Inexplicable item number 1: This credit union offers an online bill pay system and like all such systems, there’s a login/authentication experience the customer has to go through. Now, you’d think such a system would want to be built on the most secure, reliable technologies possible. So what does this credit union use for authentication? A Flash app. Rilly? Flash? Flash has a reputation for being so insecure and crashy, pretty much the first extension I install in a web browser is something that disables Flash. Scarcely a day goes by that I don’t read about a new security vulnerability found in Flash. And this is what the credit union chooses to use as the gatekeeper for their online banking? Sheesh. I’d sooner trust Visual Basic.

Inexplicable item number 2: To belong to the credit union at all, each member must have a basic Savings account. Huh. That’s a little weird, but okay, whatever. As it turns out, I carry a moderate balance in my accounts, and the CU has an “Instant Access” savings account that pays interest on my balance. Sweet, that’s what I want! Okay, that’s easy enough. But I am still required to maintain the Basic Savings as well. Wha? You’re telling me, even if I was to carry a balance of several thousand in a different savings account, I still have to maintain $5 in the Basic Savings account? Whatever.

Inexplicable item number 3: Frankly, the one feature of a bank I use the most is the online bill pay. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a check, stuffed it in an envelope, stamped it and mailed it to pay a bill. Okay, so I have two (grumble, grumble) accounts at this bank and it’s time to start using the online bill pay, right? Nope. This credit union doesn’t let you do online bill pay from any of their savings accounts (even an account optimistically titled “Instant Access”). Nope, I have to open yet a third account, a checking account, which holds the money I would use to pay monthly bills. Really, a third account? And I have to manually manage periodically sliding money from my “Instant Access” account to my Checking account to make sure I always have enough to pay bills? Sheesh!

A sidebar on bank accounts: The whole division between checking accounts and savings accounts feels positively antebellum to me. From the customer’s perspective, who cares? Let me explain the ideal, from a customer’s perspective. Just give me one account where I can park my money, and let the rules of the account dynamically change based on how I do my banking. If I carry a very low balance (below some fixed threshold), maybe there’s a monthly service fee for the account. And if I carry a balance above that threshold, perhaps my account is free and has no monthly fee. And if I carry an even higher monthly balance, pay me some interest. The higher my monthly balance is, perhaps I get even higher rates of interest. But why on earth do I need separate accounts for all this?

Okay, so I’ve gotten annoyed enough at this stage, that I’ve decided to investigate other options. No hard feelings guys, but I’m gonna move on. Time to close my account(s). Oh but wait, there is one final indignity to endure, trumping all of the preceding.

Inexplicable item number 4: I call the bank to close my membership and have a check sent to me for any funds I have in my three (grumble) accounts. I provide the customer service rep with my account number, and then for security she has me provide my name, address, social security number and date of birth. Okay, fine. Then she proceeds to tell me that because my balances are so large (What? I don’t have that much on account with them!), she has to ask me a series of other questions, “drawn from public records”. Weird. Okay, fire away. First she asks me “Which of the following addresses have you lived at in San Diego County?” Really? I lived in southern Cal for all of 18 months, about 18 years ago, and you want me to remember my street address from back then. Hrm, okay, I’ll try. Then she asks me, “In what city does David Caruso live?” Uhh, the teevee actor, David Caruso? No, apparently I’m supposed to be friends with someone named David Caruso. Nope, sorry, I guess I fail that question. Okay, so then I’m asked “Which of the following addresses have you lived at in Knoxville, Tennessee?” OMFG, you must be kidding. You’re asking me about addresses from over 20 years ago? I actually looked up all of the addresses she listed in Google Maps; no I definitely didn’t live at on any of the streets she cited. Great, another question failed. So then she asks me about what city some other person lives. Hey, at least this person has the same last name as me! But it’s still no one I know. Another question I’ve “failed”. And so, because I couldn’t answer enough of these “public records” questions correctly, she can’t close my accounts over the phone. I actually have to go to the bank in person to close my three (one last grumble) accounts.

If I had any lingering hesitation about closing my accounts, this sealed the deal. First Tech Credit Union, you are so fired!

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