What do you make of a bank that offers auto loans only through an automated online process? What do you make of a bank that provides no customer support regarding auto loans? What do you make of a bank that denies you a loan of less than what you currently have in a savings account of that very bank when you have a credit rating in the top 10 percentile?
My answer: not much — at least, not much that’s not heavily laced with profanity.
The bank in question is Bank of America, which is currently the institution that provides us with our banking “services.” After yesterday’s experience, we will have absolutely nothing to do with Bank of America and their “higher standards”
The story: Kinga and I have decided to go bio-diesel, and the first step in that process is, obviously enough, buying a diesel car. We found a 2000 Jetta diesel sedan for a good price and made an accepted offer.
I called my local branch office of BOA (Bank of America) to ask what documents I would need to bring to apply for an auto loan. The young man who answered the phone politely asked me to hold on while he checked with a banker. He returned to the line and told me that I would need two forms if ID — exactly what I’d suspected. I arrived at the location to be told that actually to apply for the loan I would have to use Bank of America’s online services. Essentially I’d driven all the way there to be told not that I could do it at home, but that I must do it at home. Why I wasn’t told this over the phone is a complete mystery that can only be explained as incompetence.
I returned home, filled in the necessary online forms, and almost immediate was told,
We are unable to approve your auto loan application at this time. […] You’ll receive a letter in the mail within 30 days. This letter will include more information about your decision.
Given the balance in our bank account and my credit rating, what could be the cause? Simple: I do not make enough money as a teacher’s aid to get such a loan on my own (which says as much about the nation’s education system as it does about the bank), and Kinga, as a Pole, has no credit history.
Now, I could understand this if we were applying at another bank, but at my own bank? An institution that has _immediate_ access to my account and can confirm a steady, consistent stream of deposits and a large savings account?
To top it all off, I was not even asked for how much the loan would be. It would have been, in fact, around 70% of what we’ve already deposited in savings!
Needless to say, I was more than furious. I was even more enraged to learn that there is actually no human being I can talk to about a car loan from Bank of America. Everything refers me to BOA’s online “services.” This means that my loan application was processed entirely and rejected by a computer.
On the recommendation of a friend, I called the local SunTrust branch, talked to a human being, and was still receiving phone calls and help from her after business hours at seven in the evening! %(insetL)As an aside, the kind woman at SunTrust told me that I was the third person _that day_ to contact her looking for a better banking experience than what they’d received at Bank of America.%
SunTrust has won our trust and business, whereas Bank of America has lost it permanently.
What is most infuriating is the fact that my credit rating is now lower because of BOA’s unwillingness to pay people to talk to those of us wanting a small loan. The online bio of the president of BOA, Kenneth Lewis, web site bio brags that he runs “one of the world’s largest financial institutions, the fifth most profitable company in the world and the ninth most highly valued company in the world by market capitalization.” Reuter’s reports that BOA “posted a $4.99 billion profit last quarter” (Reuters), so they’re pretty good making money, not fairly dismal at helping people.
But there are more compelling reasons for changing institutions. According to Reuter’s,
In February 2005, Bank of America said it lost track of computer tapes containing account data for about 1.2 million federal government employees, including some U.S. senators.
Three months later, New Jersey authorities charged several people over the compromising of accounts at several banks, including some 60,000 Bank of America accounts.
Bank of America was also one of many credit card issuers affected by a breach affecting some 40 million cards and traced to CardSystems Solutions Inc., a third-party processor. (Reuters)
So they’re have significant security vulnerabilities and they’re worried only about their bottom line.
Really the only difference between a bank and a mafia loan shark is the amortization frequency and the penalty for default.
Both the mafia and the banking industry make it even more difficult for you to get a reasonable loan (i.e., one that you can repay in your lifetime) by putting unreasonable stipulations on the loan. If you’re a risk to a bank — in other words, if you have a bad credit rating — the bank offers you a loan at a _higher interest rate_, thereby making it more difficult to repay it.
“We don’t think you’ll be able to pay this back,” bankers say, “So we’re going to make it more difficult for you to pay it back.”
Where’s the logic in that? It doesn’t even make sense from a banker’s point of view. If a bank has to foreclose on a house financed with a high-interest loan, they’ll up auctioning it off for a substantial loss.
Still, they get their money no matter what. It’s a good gig, this money-lending scheme the banks have…