Well, I didn't. Rather, I've spent the last month — yes, month — prying myself from the clutches of the Bank of ManWeSuck.
I'm feeling somewhat better today, now that my loan balance at the Bank of ManWeSuck shows a big fat zero. We've refinanced our 2006 Accord through my credit union.
Terms at Bank of ManWeSuck: 5 years @ 4.5% + Horrific Customer Service
New Terms at Credit Union: 5 years @ 3.95% + Service Entirely Online
Why did this take a month, you ask? Good question.
As I wrote in Part 2 of this series, I began the refinance proceedings on February 13. The credit union faxed me all the paperwork, and we took care of all that application stuff in about 48 hours.
It's worth noting that I've been a member of this particular credit union since I was in elementary school. (That's more than 25 years ago, for those who've run out of fingers and toes already.) I remember going there to open up my very first savings account, in fact, and it's been my primary banking institution ever since.
You'd think that with such a long (and spotless, I might add) history, and with our household credit scores hovering in the ~800 area, that qualifying for this auto refi would be a cinch.
You'd be wrong.
The catch: According to my credit union's lending standards, too much of my income (roughly 3/5 of it) is "commission-based." I had to draw up a letter explaining my pay plan, fax over a year's worth of pay stubs to support my pay plan's consistency, and have said documents signed by a manager. I did all this, and still the credit union declined my loan request.
Needless to say, I was miffed. I offered to send them however-many-years-worth of tax returns they wanted in order to verify the stability of my income, but they declined. I stewed over this for a few days, calling a handful of other local credit unions and banks to see how they'd handle a loan applicant like me. As you might imagine, they weren't scared a bit. They all had the same response: When could I get down there to sign the Loanliner documents? (Though none could come close to the rate offered by my credit union.)
A few days later (February 15) I composed a rather lengthy email to the loan officer at my credit union. I reiterated the fact that (1) my credit history is about as spotless as they were likely to see, and (2) that I'd been a CU member since Prehistoric Times, and whatever verifications of income they might want could be found in their own system, since most every penny I'd earned since high school had flowed through them. I suggested that in that 25 years, I'd never once asked them for assistance in any other matter. I had kept open my accounts there, despite living ~100 miles away, primarily because I imagined that such a lengthy history might one day come in handy.
"But apparently," I wrote, "my 25+ years of history with your institution are worth very little." And then I suggested that this would probably merit my taking our banking business to a local CU where we already had accounts.
It must've been a pretty effective letter, because I received a phone call from the loan officer within the hour. She and her management had determined that my case merited a review by the CU board of directors. The board would meet on February 28, and make a decision at that time. So I waited.
She called me back early on March 1. The board had approved our loan. We zipped down to the credit union the next day and signed the necessary papers. It took all of six minutes.
So it's done. I am no longer tied to the Bank of ManWeSuck, otherwise known as Harris Bank. Now, when I wish to make an extra payment, I can do it anytime I want, merely by transferring money from my checking or savings accounts to my loan account. No more wondering what freakin' address to send extra payments to ... and being told two different addresses. No more waiting TWO WEEKS for a mailed extra payment to post to my loan account. Now it's an instantaneous deal. A few clicks, and bingo. Done.
The balance in the right column shows my current balance on the loan. My accelerated payment schedule will, if I can stick to it, have it paid off within three years.
Lesson learned here: I've been a bit spoiled when it comes to credit. "Simple" borrowing isn't always as simple as it seems.