Entries Tagged as 'Finance'

Bait and switch rates?

Yesterday (Monday 6-Jul-2010) at 4:15pm I stopped by Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union to open up an IRA Certificate of Deposit; I’d been in the process of transferring money from one institution to another (and it took much longer than it should have — but since two institutions were involved, it’s hard to know which was responsible for the delay).

Anyway, I ended up having to wait 45 minutes to be helped; that gave me plenty of time to look over the posted rate board — and I’d decided that the 2.09% for a 24-month IRA-CD looked reasonable (I’d have preferred 18 months or less, but I wanted a reasonable return rate, and I don’t really expect the economy to start to rebound for several years).

The customer service representative that helped me (the “Financial Services Representative”) ask me which CD I was interested in and I told him — the 24-month 2.09% APR; he immediately said, that the 24-month IRA-CD was 1.97%, not 2.09% — that it had changed on Friday 2-Jul-2010 and they simply hadn’t gotten around to posting it on their rate board.

WTF?

I’ve long been under the impression that financial institutions understand the importance of posting accurate rate information — and I thought most any ethical institution understands the legal (even if they don’t understand the moral) implications of posting fraudulent information.

When I got home I filed complaints with the State of Florida Attorney General’s office (in Tallahassee, FL) and the National Credit Union Administration, Region III office (in Atlanta, GA) requesting that they investigate the business practices of Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union.



Post Note: The VP of Operations contacted me this morning (7-Jul-2010) and Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union will honor the rate as posted yesterday (for me at least).

Originally posted 2010-07-07 02:00:32.

US Auto Makers

The “Big Three” US automobile manufacturers are quick to tell you they’re not looking for a bail out, they’re looking for bridge loans.

Well… what’s the difference between a bridge loan to a business that’s likely to fail and giving them money for bad assets?

NADA!

It really doesn’t matter what the wording is, bail out, bridge loan, give away… it’s all the same.  The money from hard working American tax payers being given to companies that have made bad decisions and are looking for someone else to pay the price.

And why isn’t part of the $700B we’ve already approved being used?

Why are we gutting a fund that’s been setup to help create automobiles that move us toward energy independence?

Like so many Americans are asking — Where’s my bail out?

It’s great the congress is grilling the auto makers before they hand out more money — but why didn’t they hold Wall Street to the same standards?

This whole thing is very suspect… I mean all the American who are out of work, are we going to extend unemployment benefits for as long as it takes to turn the economy around?  They certainly didn’t contribute to these short sighted decisions… they don’t get $15 million in compensation per year…

I think before any more of the $700B is handed out, or before we approve more money for short sighted businesses we need to lay down a road map that helps us understand how the average American who’s been hit hard by these events is going to survive.

Maybe we need Twisted Sister to sing “We’re not going to take it…” at the opening of ever congressional hearing and session!

Originally posted 2008-12-10 12:00:05.

Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union

Much of this post is comprised of excerpts of a letter sent to Chris Rutledge, President/CEO, and Jearil Crawford SVP Operations of Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union, Pensacola, Florida.

Here’s how I opened…

Over the many years I’ve had dealings with financial institutions, it’s generally been my finding that credit unions offer a much better value to a consumer as well as much better service. And further I’ve found that smaller institutions are generally better focused on customer satisfaction.

I can assure you that in the case of Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union the level of service is much worse than many large faceless banks, the focus on customer satisfaction is non-existent, and while the rates your institution pays for deposit account might be good, they in no way make for a better value to a consumer given the nightmarish customer (dis)service which seem to be deeply ingrained in your institutions culture.

What happened?

Well, Gulf Winds offers a higher interest rate (up to the first $15K) in your checking account if you accept electronics statements, make at least one ACH/direct deposit, and do twelve transactions using their (VISA) debit card.

So I stopped on first of July to make one of those twelve transaction, and had my card declined because it was expired.  Sure enough, the expiration date was clearly embossed 06/12 on the card.  But I decided to stop at one more retailer to make sure it gave me the same message and that there was no grace period (though I knew that the magnetic strip would have the same expiration date encoded on it that was embossed on the card)… and sure enough, a second time I got a card expired message from a point of sale terminal.

When I got home, I sent an online message requesting a replacement card.  The reply I got told me the card I had was still good.  WRONG.  I had to send a second message for the exact same issue.  Clearly the customer (dis)service person was in too much of a hurry dismissing customer issues to really care to look into what the issue might be.

Then I was told that I’d have to drive to the corporate branch during business hours; a drive which would be one hundred miles round trip for me; so I ask if it would be possible to transfer to a closer branch (which they indicated yes, but I never actually ask them to do the transfer).

I drove to the corporate branch; stepped in, no one was at the receptionist desk, so I had to wait… finally a young woman told me that the high interest checking account cards weren’t in yet; then she checked again (at my request), and told me my card was at the branch I inquired about having it transferred to; then I ask to speak to someone who actually might have a clue what was going on… and I was ask to wait.

I waited until I’d been at the branch nearly half an hour then left.

One the way back I got a call from a woman there who told me that my card had been at the corporate branch all this time.  And I (not so politely) told her to throw it in the trash, that I would never step foot in a Gulf Winds branch again.

After another half hour I got a call from a man at the branch I normally do business with offering to bring the card to me (he had no idea of the distance), and I told him that Gulf Winds didn’t deserve my business.

I’ve put all this (and more) in a letter (as I said) to Gulf Winds, but to me (since this isn’t the first time I’ve had issues like this with Gulf Winds; nor did the pathetic customer service on this instance only involve one individual)  this is a cultural issue where Gulf Winds people do not take ownership of issues, and only care about going through the motions and moving customers through a (broken) system.

Even though you might be able to get better rates at Gulf Winds than other local institutions, I highly recommend putting your assets in an institution more deserving of your support.

After all, I wasted more than two hours of my life that I will never get back, and will never be compensated for… as far as I’m concerned there’s nothing at Gulf Winds for me.

Originally posted 2012-07-08 02:00:30.

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street
Occupy Wall Street
By Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News

Originally posted 2011-10-10 02:00:28.

What’s Happening to MY $700B?

Oh, that’s right, we all spend seven hundred billion dollars so often I should be more specific… that would be the $700B “we” Americans authorized under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act

The October 29, 2008 report is up on the US Treasury Site now — you should take a look at it to see who’s getting your money.

Some comments:

  • You’ll notice the list includes several financial institutions who have purchased or are attempting to purchase the distressed assets of smaller banks; I guess we know where they’re getting the money.
  • It’s really convenient that they were able to get just the right number of mortgage instruments together to be valued at an even billion each (hell I can’t remember the last time my credit card bill was an even dollar).

If I sound a little leery of what the “usual suspects” are doing with my money — I am… I want to make sure I get it back (with INTEREST), and I certainly don’t want anyone to expect me to pay for any of these financial institutions mistakes and poor judgment — I’ve already lost 36% of my retirement account, and I haven’t seen any government bailout for that!

http://www.ustreas.gov/initiatives/eesa/transactions.shtml

Originally posted 2008-11-14 08:00:52.

Discover Discover

Last week I called up Discover Financial Services to get an answer to a question I had about my Discover Card.

I’ve long considered Discover as a tertiary provider of card services; their card is not as widely accepted, and (until recently) their rewards program has been weak in comparison to others.

While all that may still be true, one of the most important qualities to appraise any service by is the quality of their customer service.

The only thing I can say is, I was floored.

The woman who assisted me was possibly the best customer service agent I’ve ever spoken with.  Her voice was soft and even toned and crystal clear.  She certainly made me feel like she was concerned that I be satisfied, and her knowledge and understanding of Discover made it a relatively easy task for her to shine.

This call caused me to reflect back on Discover as a whole, and I realized that I’ve never had a bad experience with Discover customer service.  While I won’t try and tell you that every call to Discover has been at this level, none have ever required that I ask for a supervisor.

I also realized that even the way that Discover has you identify your account is designed to make it easy for a customer (consider the credit card companies that have you key in a sixteen digit number, time out if you take too long, and rarely get the number right on the first [or third] time and then ask you for the number again when you finally end up talking to someone).

A Discover Card might not be the right fit for everyone; but take a look at their financial services, and if they look like a good fit, I encourage you to give them a test drive — you might like the experience; and as Discover grows we can only hope that other financial service companies feel the pressure to provide consumers with reasonable customer service.

Discover

http://www.discovercard.com/

NOTE: Discover Cards are issued by Discover Financial Services, GE Consumer Finance (aka GE Money Bank, ie Walmart and Sam’s Club), HSBC, and Green Dot Corporation (pre-paid) — as with VISA and Master Card the issuing financial institution is responsible for servicing the account, so your customer service experience will likely differ with a non Discover Financial Services issued card.

Originally posted 2010-08-08 02:00:20.

WhiteHouse.gov Petition – The federal government should implement the proposed minimum wage for all federal employees now.

Require the federal government to immediately raise pay for all federal employees to comply with the new proposed minimum wage.

…click here…

 


Shouldn’t the US government set an example to business and state governments by paying it’s employees the proposed new minimum wage?

Sign the petition.

Originally posted 2014-04-30 18:00:06.

Infrastructure

President Obama is now asking Congress for at least $50 billion in long-term investments in the nation’s roads, railways, and runways.

Whether the timing is just a political ploy for the election or not doesn’t matter — this country needs to put people to work, and this country needs to improve the crumbling infrastructure that hasn’t been a focus since the 1960’s.

The specifics of his plan include rebuilding 150,000 miles of roads, constructing and maintaining 4,000 miles of railways, building high-speed rail systems, and repairing 150 miles of airport runways (while also upgrading the nation’s air traffic system).

The plan also creates a permanent infrastructure fund that would focus on national and regional infrastructure projects to keep momentum behind continuous infrastructure improvements.

This spending package is very different from the initial stimulus package; where as the stimulus package focused on spending to prop up the sagging economy in the short term, these infrastructure projects are long term investments in the country and the economy and likely would not show substantial job increases for several months.

In short, President Obama’s Labor Day announcement is intended to get American labor back to work — permanently.

Originally posted 2010-09-08 02:00:19.

US Poverty

The Census Bureau released new numbers on the US poverty rate yesterday — 14.3% last year; the highest since 1994.

Largely due to the rising unemployment amount working age individuals in this country (even the US government admits unemployment to be in double digits — and we can all be sure that they minimize the numbers as much as they can through their creative accounting and adjustments).

13.9%, or 39.8 million people in 2008 to 14.3%, or 43.6 million people in 2009… and you can be sure that number will be even higher in 2010.

The report also showed the number of Americans without health coverage rose form 15.4% to 16.7% (or 50.7 million people); mainly because of the loss of employment and employer-provided health insurance.  And the new health care provisions were passed; the main provisions won’t take effect until 2014.

Because of the Recovery Act and many other programs providing tax relief and income support to a majority of working families — and especially those most in need — millions of Americans were kept out of poverty last year.
· President Barrack Obama

The really incredible thing is that the numbers were expected to be much worse — and in fact it’s likely that increases in Social Security payments and expansion of unemployment insurance through federal extensions helped keep the numbers in check.

Clearly those earning over $250,000 need to have their tax cuts renewed!

Originally posted 2010-09-17 02:00:40.

eBay Master Card

GE Money Bank provides the private labeled eBay Master Card and they’ve been running promotions here of late to give you a fairly substantial cash back bonus (generally up to $25.00) on your eBay purchases (applied as a statement credit, instantly).

This might be a good choice if you have an eBay purchase in mind — but there are many better cash back credit cards out there.

For general purpose use the Pentagon Federal Credit Union VISA card is one the the sweetest.

For private label cards, the Chase Amazon.com VISA offers a $30 instant bonus and 6% cash back for the first 90 days; the Chase Buy.com VISA offers a $40 instant bonus; the GE Money Bank Sam’s Club Discover offers a $40 instant bonus; and the GE Money Bank Walmart Discover offers a $10 instant bonus (plus additional $10 bonuses for using the card at places other than Walmat and Sam’s Club).

You can certainly put a little money back in your pocket by playing the credit card game — of course you have to be careful that you understand the rules for getting the cash back (and make sure you follow them).

A couple things to keep in mind.

GE Money Bank is a major credit card issuer — but they are a very low rent credit card company; and you certainly will not be treated like a “valued” customer or even a customer that has a choice.  Both Chase and Citibank are far better large credit card companies to do business with — and Pentagon Federal Credit Union has out of this world customer service and does value your business.

Your credit score can be negatively impacted by applying for a large number of credit cards in a short period of time (regardless of whether or not you are approved, the credit inquiries may lower your FICO score).  To protect yourself, and insure that you get the best credit offers, don’t apply for more than two credit cards in any one month — and try not to apply for more than four in any consecutive three month period.

Originally posted 2010-10-07 02:00:44.