I've got my eye on you, WaMu
What happens when you try to transfer funds to or from any account having to do with WaMu? Nothing good, apparently (thanks to Consumerist for that link). For all their talk about customer service, WaMu hasn't done too well for my husband and I over the last month.
There's a long back-story, but I'll try to keep it short. Before we were married, he had a checking account with WaMu and a credit card elsewhere. Said credit card had muy high interest rates, so we were going to pay it off last summer. Then, he found out that he could transfer a balance to a WaMu credit card with 0% interest for 1 year. That sounded like a good deal, so he did it, mostly because it allowed us to put our liquid assets toward our wedding and pay off the balance once we were married. It wasn't a matter of not having the money, but of it being a lot easier to deal with once we knew what our budget looked like.
Fast forward to the beginning of February. We chose to make my checking account our joint one, because I'm with a credit union that I like. We got him added and my name changed, and wanted to close his old account. We kept just enough money in there to pay off the credit card, since intuition said that it would be easier to just transfer the money between WaMu accounts than take it out, deposit it in the new account, write a check for the WaMu card, and wait for it to post.
So, about two weeks before the February payment was due, husband-o-mine called WaMu and scheduled the funds transfer. He set it up for a couple of days before the due date, and that was that. Or so we thought.
When WaMu tried to take the money out of his checking account, they couldn't find it. That's right...couldn't find his checking account. So they sent him some form email saying that it didn't go through. Fab husband, not being a rabid internet-monger like I am, checks his email once a day if we're lucky. In this case, it was several days, and by the time he got the email, the payment was late.
He called WaMu's credit card number and set up the payment to go through again. They didn't know what happened, as they could find his account just fine (and there was much relief at that). Then, he asked for a refund for the late fee, being that the mistake was theirs. They hassled him. He got upset. Finally, they agreed to refund the late fee, but gave him a lecture about making payments on time (in spite of the fact that they acknowledged that he'd tried). In addition, they wanted him to call back for the official fee-waiving after the payment he'd just arranged went through, so he didn't end up with a positive balance on his card (heaven forbid!).
The second payment was supposed to go through about a week after the phone call. Instead, he got another email saying the payment couldn't be made. This time, his checking account showed that the money had been withdrawn and then re-deposited into his account, even though they were saying they couldn't find it. In addition, he was charged a "Cancelled check fee," implying that he had stopped the payment.
He called the credit card people, rather put out. They claimed a computer problem and told him to go to the bank or call back in three days. They also said they couldn't take a payment over the phone. He went to the bank. They were more helpful, but didn't want to issue another payment because the funds weren't showing up at all on their computers. That's right...over $2000 had totally disappeared. And they weren't worried. They told him to come back the next day, or whenever the funds posted again. However, they did refund the cancelled check fee, but only he challenged them to tell them which check, precisely, had been cancelled.
We went to bed frustrated, but feeling like maybe this would be over by the next day. However, before he could do anything the next morning, his phone rang. It was the credit card people, demanding a payment. OVER THE PHONE. Yes, that would be the same phone they had previously denied being able to take payments over. They kept telling him that he was late, that the fees were waived in good faith, etc., and so he needed to pay. I think that was where his infinite patience finally gave out. He got so angry with them that they put a supervisor on, who tried to say the same things again. Eventually, they let him go with a "warning" (to what, be sure to not try to pay off the account ever again?)
Finally, he went back to the bank. They made the payment for him. It posted to his checking account. It still hasn't posted to his credit account, but he called today and they told him that it was in their system but may not post for up to seven days, but would then be pre-dated to the day he made the payment. Whatever.
- Credit card companies don't want you to pay off your balance. They make money when you don't, and don't when you do. This doesn't mean they did any of this intentionally, but they certainly didn't go out of their way to help.
- What seems like ought to be easier (transferring the funds directly instead of depositing them in our joint account and writing a check) isn't always. Banks are like the rest of us--sometimes they do better with actual, physical pieces of paper.
- Just because a credit card has a bank's name across it does not mean that their computer system is linked with the bank's in any way, and that paying through that bank will be any easier than paying some other way. It also does not mean that they coordinate with the bank in communication with you.
- Vigilance is key! If you make a payment, watch to ensure it goes through. If it doesn't, call immediately. If necessary, pay the old fashioned way (with a check or a money order).
- Financial institutions (like banks and credit card companies) don't trust the customer. If you're right, you have to prove it. Keep all your emails, letters, etc., particularly when you're trying to work out an issue. Without them, you're up a creek.
- Don't bank with WaMu until they get it together. Seriously, these sorts of errors are simply unacceptable in banking today. Their automated transactions need to work. If they don't, there's not much point in banking there, particularly when there are alternatives that work.
Beyond that, well, just this: I've got my eye on you, WaMu!
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.