Sunday, January 27, 2013

Always Keep Track of Everything - Update!

It's super important to keep track of everything.  Whenever you make a payment, it is always best to either write on the bill when you paid it, how you paid it, and if you spoke to anyone about your bill, the person's name.  It's also super important that anything you pay online, you get a copy of your payment, print it out, make sure it says how you paid it, and again: if you spoke to anyone, their name.  And it's always important to file everything - from your bills to your bank statements - and have it filed in a way that you can easily find things.

I have had collectors call me in the past and try to convince me that I did not pay a bill.  All I had to do was go into that file, find the bill, and I could tell them "I paid it on this day, with this check/credit card, and I spoke to Joe on this other date." They would fumble and say, "we'll note this on your file!"  If I didn't have that, they would probably try to persuade me into paying extra.

One collector in the past tried to tell me that I didn't pay a bill.  I did.  The debt was 100% paid off.  They kept calling, kept harassing me, and I kept telling them no.  For months, they bothered me.  AND, they continued to hit my credit.  Then, they sent me a letter saying that if I didn't pay a certain amount, they were taking me to court on December 4, 2011.  Needless to say, I paid them.  It is terrible to get summoned for a collection debt.  That will hit your credit super hard.  They were wrong.  In 2012, they were audited.  They had to fix my credit score from the damage they did to it, and they were required to give me back the extra amount I paid.
Which reminds me that I need to send a copy of the letter to Kari....

Always keep track of everything.  It is so easy now with online payments and automatic withdraws for companies and collectors to get sticky fingers.  Which is what I experienced today!

I have not been late on my student loan payments.  I have always paid on time.  Since we are trying to boost our credit, we never wanted to run the risk of being late on a payment.  I set up automatic withdraws for my monthly payments.  I thought that my bills would be paid on time.... Apparently not.

Last Thursday, I checked my student loans online.  I owed $283.  I noticed that there were no pending payments listed.  Worried, I tried to pay the bill anyways.  A notice came up saying that since I was signed up for automatic withdraws, any amount I paid would be ADDITIONAL.  Currently, I do not want to pay anything additional.  So I assumed that the payment would go through on it's due date (today).

I went back to the online bill pay for my student loans to find a lovely notice saying I was past due!
Say What??
HOW can someone on automatic payment withdraws be past due??  I tried to pay it, but again, I got a notice saying that since I am currently set up with automatic withdraws, it would be additional.  Now, how in the world am I supposed to pay this bill?  I decided what the heck, I'll just ask to be reimbursed the additional amount.  Then I was presented with this lovely message:
Oh, well that's convenient.

I checked my online bank account.  Sure enough, there was the student loan company's name in all capital letters.  They took out the payment from my bank account!  Not only did they take out a payment, they took out $357.06.  That's $73.20 more than my monthly payment.

Well look at that!

I will be updating this post after I speak to customer service.  This cannot hit my credit!  I am freaking out a little bit.  This is criminal.  They have to fix it - and they have to guarantee that it will not touch my credit!  Saying I'm mad is an understatement right now.  However, if they don't fix it, a friend of mine told me that his family (who own a law firm) will have no problem speaking on my behalf.  If it has to go further, his family will represent me pro bono (aka, free).  Hopefully it won't have to go to that extent, but just in case, it is nice to know I have that leverage.

*~*~*~*~*~* UPDATE *~*~*~*~*~*

So I called customer service this morning first thing.  I was so mad and confused.  The Customer Service Rep (CSR) did not make matters any better.  Travis had to take the phone away from me and talk to her.  What can I say, I was more than frustrated!

We'll go back a little ways.  Usually, when I think of "Due Date" for bills, I assume that is the day the payment is due.  I'm never a day late on payments.  Because Travis and I live paycheck to paycheck, we budget hardcore.  Each week, I have it planned to pay a little bit towards all of my bills - based on priority.  That way, my bills are paid BEFORE the due date.  It also helps us to live our lives on a week to week basis without fear that our bills won't be paid.  It's all planned out and we do our best to follow our plans.  On top of that, it's always best to pay the bills with the highest interest rate early because a greater percentage of the payment will pay towards the principle balance - not interest.  By the time the bill is due, majority of the payment will go towards interest.

On January 3rd, I paid $75 towards my student loan bill.  On Friday, January 4th, I called the company and spoke to a CSR about lowering my monthly payments.  It's not that we can't afford it, necessarily, but we'd rather use that money at this time to purchase a home.  That way, we can always pay more when we can or when we want to.  The CSR gave me a few options, and we worked out a plan.  He told me that my next bill will be $282 (and some odd cents - I always round up).  I asked him about my $75 - and he said it would be applied towards my bill of $282.

On January 15th, I did the dumb thing and signed up for automatic payments.  I should not have done that.  Once I signed up for automatic payments - that $75 became an "additional" amount.  I did not know this.  On January 24th, I checked my online account to see if the payment had gone through yet.  It didn't.  There were no pending payments.  However, it said my monthly payment was $282 (and some odd cents).  Because the loan company recently changed their website, I could not find a statement anywhere saying what amount was paid or not.  Because the CSR told me that my monthly payments would be $282, I assumed the amount listed was the total bill.  I figured the $75 would be applied, because that's what he said!

Sunday was the due date.  I checked my online loan account, and you all know what I found.  So this morning, bright and early, I called the company and the CSR got an earful.  She would not give me a straight answer.  I was so confused, that I just lost it.  It sounded like no one there knew what in the world I even owed!  Once Travis got on the phone, and I calmed down, things started to become clear between us.

Turns out, the previous CSR did not change my monthly payment plan and never made a note on the account.  So technically, I owed $357.06.  The balance that was showing up online was the amount after the $75 had been applied.  HOWEVER, because I signed up for automatic payment withdraws, those automatic payments take out the full amount.  So this company not only took out $357.06 - they also took out an additional $75.  Basically, we "lost" $150 this month.  I asked if, because of the confusion, they could reimburse $75 or apply it towards my next bill, and they said no.  There was nothing they could do.  We are just out that money.

We set up a new payment plan with this CSR.  I have her name, and I recorded our conversation.  I won't let that happen to me again.  Once she knew she was being recorded, she certainly changed her tune.  Now, we're back to what we were originally paying in December:  $303.  Whatever.  Now I have to update our budget again.

This has me super upset.  I could have used that $75 towards our House Fund.  Here's why:  Travis and I have been working with credit advisors and what not to boost our credit.  Our credit advisor suggested that since I paid off my credit card completely, I should put $100 on it and pay it down to $10-$20 to develop a consistent history of revolving credit.  I followed their advice and put $110 on my credit card.  I WAS going to use $75 for paying down my credit card - but it looks like we're going to have to pull $75 from our House Fund savings account to pay the credit card.  Thanks student loan company! **obviously sarcasm**

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