Chipping Away at the Stone of the Credit Union

While the news has been doom and gloom about the economy in recent months, and specifically this last 6 weeks, I have not noticed much change in my immediate world other than a few small signs. Bizarrely enough, clients still need web work done and are paying on time. Only one of my friend’s has lost a job and it was in a vulnerable industry (construction). So far, knock on wood, the financial crisis has been an abstract explosion many thousands of miles away that has made my stock portfolio crash significantly.
The only major change I have had to make is that I *was* planning, for months if not for over a year, to depart in two days to London for the Future of Mobile 2008 conference and my yearly trip to a northern place to experience a real autumn. Unfortunately, due to said financial crisis, the place I had stored my funds for this trip is now only worth 1/3 the amount I saved for the trip. So rather than cashing in on my air miles and hying off to London on the 13th, I am staying home. I am jealous that many of my friends will be in London next week and I will be at home in Seal Beach. Grumpily staying home.
The one thing that has effected my world in the last six months is that the Credit Union I have belonged to for over eight years is starting to behave a bit erratically after years of stellar service. First odd to do was that they redesigned their website for the much uglier in the spring. I called up a friend who also has an account with them and said, “Yikes! What do you think of _________’s new website?” “Yuck. I hate the yellow, red, and blue.” She thought it was ugly, too.
Then in late spring, early summer they changed their name for the worse.
In June, a bizarre event occurred where for no reason whatsoever the credit union decided to but a “security hold” on a largish client check that I had deposited about a week before all my automatic payments were to hit my account. They held the deposit for over 2 weeks causing all my payments to bounce. Then to make matters worse, they decided that I had attempted to fraud them with a bad check. Except the check wasn’t bad. It cleared with no problem, though it took another two weeks before I could convince the credit union that it had cleared. They had no explanation and decided to blame me. Very very very odd and very frustrating.
Mid-summer I received a letter informing me that the Credit Union was closing all business accounts to focus on personal accounts and that we had until Sept. 15th to move to a commercial bank for business accounts. Hello?!??!???
Up until the name change and the mortage crisis, my Credit Union has been a dream for me. They believed in my fledgling web design business back during the last crunch and helped me get started in 2001 & 2002. They were great when I was in Ireland for graduate school and made it very easy to do all my banking online from Dublin. When I returned from graduate school and had barely got my business back online, the Credit Union gave me an auto loan for my Prius with no questions asked. I have been faithful back to them by paying my debts on time and putting my savings at the Credit Union.
Thus, the increasingly small erratic behaviors since the summer have been more keenly felt.
After the closure of the business accounts, I moved my business account to a large commercial bank of which at the beginning of every month, I have to transfer money from the commercial bank to my Credit Union to make sure I cover my automatic payments. As the credit crisis has progressed this fall, I have noticed that the large commercial bank has honored all of my client’s checks within a day or two but when I transfer monies to the credit union it will take 3-5 days to be actionable on my account. Not just a few times but every time since September.
This is a problem. Items are bouncing or not clearing, even though I put monies in up to a week beforehand. I am getting phone calls from unhappy creditors. I am unhappy. And I am surprised that my highly rated, 1937-founded, locally large Credit Union is being stingy, holding funds beyond what is necessary, and treating all comers as if they are out to do the Credit Union wrong. This is not why I signed up with them in the first place.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that I will need to have three accounts: a business account, a personal checking, and a personal savings at the large commercial bank just to get my monthly personal financial business done until the credit crunch eases and the Credit Union decides that they are going to go back to behaving like a real credit union and not like a scared grinch.
Come on Wall Street and the Banking System, let’s get the system moving and stopping panicking. That goes for you, too. People, stop panicking. Let’s get moving. Forward.