14 January 2008

A Bank Tries to Help Out

I got a call from Midwest Financial Credit Union -- it seems that someone in management read my blog post. We had a long and interesting conversation and I ended the conversation a much happier customer. For now, we are going to keep our accounts, and I am happy that they are doing some things to try to keep our business.

Among the details:

The hold on deposits was part of their anti-fraud measures in place automatically for the first 30 days of a new account. Apparently this is when they get hit with the most fraudulent deposits. A warning at the time we deposited the check would have helped us out.

The $100 limit of check card transactions applies only when using the card like a credit card, as opposed to a debit card. So I can still use it as a debit and make reasonable-sized purchases. The staff member I spoke to agreed that the $100 limit is unreasonable for any real-world use and is going to try to get it raised. It would have been really helpful to be warned at the time the cards were issued, or better, beforehand, that this limit was going to be in force.

So, why such a low limit?

The conversation was illuminating. In recent years I have put in some effort and a lot of money to try to clean up my credit report. This included starting payment on some debts that were dormant for many years.

The largest of these was a medical bill for a single night in the hospital. I was fully insured at the time, or so I believed; the hospital I presented my cards to told me that they accepted my insurance; but yet I would up owing somewhere north of $5,000 because my insurer did not want to pay what the hospital wanted to bill. The hospital was not one of the insurer's "preferred" providers.

Ultimately my insurance provider paid almost nothing, but also revealed to me the collusion that goes on between hospitals and insurers -- the individual line item fees the hospital charges to their supported insurers are in some cases as low as 10% of the same item as it is billed to someone with no health insurance. But that is a rant for another day.

I ignored this bill for many years more out of disgust and anger at the insurer and hospital than out of the inability to pay, but last year contacted the credit agency that owned the debt and started paying it down. It's now about 3/4 gone.

I also had the interesting experienced of getting sued for an ancient phone bill. The bill was real, but I had become so disgusted at AT&T's refusal to accept any payment plan other than immediate payment in full, and their dogpile of additional fees and charges, that I vowed they would not get a penny from me.

Well, they did, but not willingly. The debt was sold, and sold again. I wound up paying an attorney to come up with a settlement for me, and paid the settlement. It was again highly illuminating to find out that the agency in question completely ignored several written settlement offers that I tendered, but as soon as an attorney's letterhead was involved, settled for less than I had offered. I have a piece of paper in my file that says the bill is paid.

They say that no good deed goes unpunished, and it appears that settling one debt and nearly paying off another has damaged my credit rating, because both debts are now listed as currently "in dispute" instead of just hanging on as old debts. So, it is time to write some letters. There are procedures to go through to get items on a credit report corrected. But I refuse (again, on those damned principles of mine) to pay to receive my credit scores, so instead I will have to rely on the free annual reports I'm entitled to. Paying the rating agency for my scores seems too much like extortion, as if I had to pay eBay to improve my seller rating.

So, on balance, I'm much happier with the Credit Union, but much less happy with the creditors who are screwing with my life. And I have more crap to deal with. But I guess that's what you need to do in order to play the banking game.


carnaman said...

One of the things you can try (before you pay) is to get a letter stating that upon receipt of "XX.XX" from you the company will remove the item from your credit report. Sometimes you have to dangle the carrot in front of them. The other thing that you can do is to bury them in dipsute requests on accounts that have been paid. If the creditors do not respond back to the credit reporting agency within a short time period the item is removed from your credit report.

Paul R. Potts said...

Hi carnaman,

Thanks for the suggestion. I am aware of my right to dispute an item on the credit report, and probably will do that (just more damned paperwork) but had not considered "bribing" the creditor. It might be a good idea to talk to the credit first, and if they won't give me satisfaction, dispute the bill with the reporting agency. If I have to come up with all the documentation indicating my payment of the debut, I can probably do that, but what a pain.

I'm not too pleased today, since apparently there is still a $100 daily limit on my debit card, and last I spoke to them they were going to at least consider removing it. So yesterday I had the experience of being able to buy a tank of gas but then not being able to spend an additional $70 on groceries, even though there was almost $2,000 in the account in question...