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Sometimes I think I'm surrounded by idiots ...

by Bill Osler / September 6, 2009 8:03 AM PDT

I guess an alternative explanation is that I have unrealistic expectations about how things should work. But I don't think so.

As part of teaching my younger son about money management I want him to have and use a credit card and a checking account. He's a college freshman, and I think it is entirely appropriate for him to get some experience with this. It appears that the fact that he is 17 is a barrier, but he is hardly the first 17 y/o college freshman. Come to think of it, I was 17 when I started college with both a checking account and a credit card. Of course we didn't have online access back then and the rules have changed a bit in the 'few' years that have elapsed.

We went to the bank a few weeks ago and opened up a checking account for him. We filled out a credit card application also, though both accounts have to include me as an account holder. That's fine.

Today we tried to go through the process of paying his credit card balance online. No go. The bank assures me that it is not possible for him to access his credit card account online because the credit card is issued to me and he is just an 'authorized user'. How BOGUS!

The whole point to this exercise is for him to learn how to participate in the banking system while he is still under parental supervision. You would THINK a bank would want to encourage that, and you would think that a bank system as large as Suntrust would have experience with this before. But no. The first two rather clueless customer service people I talked to BOTH assured me that it was not possible to set the accounts up so that both he and I could access them online, never mind the fact that we did EXACTLY that with my older son at the SAME BANK and the setup STILL works just fine. They FINALLY had me talk to somebody in the Credit department who told me that what I wanted was EXTREMELY irregular but that they MIGHT consider setting it up as a special dispensation. She didn't make it sound very likely to happen.

Like I said, sometimes I think I'm surrounded by idiots. If I thought another bank would be an improvement I'd change now but past experience suggests that MOST banks are less interested in small personal accounts than they are in large corporate/business customers.

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I believe things have changed of late
by Steven Haninger / September 6, 2009 8:18 AM PDT

I did similar with my son years ago. The whole idea was to establish his credit but the system design is right out of Catch-22. This was about 8 years ago but all I needed to do was be a co-signer/member on the card to guarantee payment. He was to make charges on the card and pay on time. It was simple enough because he could walk into the campus branch and take care of things in person. Because my name was on the account, I could access it on line but had no need to make transactions but just to monitor that things were on track. It was, however, quite a while before I could remove my name from the card without canceling it altogether. Once he was out of college and employed full time, the process was simple. My guess is that banks have tightened the reins a bit and you're caught in the grip. I'm going through that process with my daughter now. She's elected to go with a debit rather than a credit card for now so owns the plastic herself.

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already went thru this with my older 2
by James Denison / September 6, 2009 8:27 AM PDT

Several ways around it. One is use local banks instead of big national bank systems, but make sure they are safe in current economic climate. Another method is to have an ATM debit card that is backed by Visa/Mastercard/etc. and also serves as a credit card when needed. Another method I used was to get myself another CC and had both older daughters as authorized users, which seems to be what you've done. I was able to keep track of it online and they were responsible for covering it timely, or hear quickly from Daddy.

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So true, but not entirely a new occurrence.
by Ziks511 / September 6, 2009 8:14 PM PDT

I remember my Dad starting his business in the early 50's and having a demand note as his loan. Well, 6 months later, having made payments all the while, they called the note. No reason, they just called the note for instant payment. My Dad talked it over with my Uncle who made his pile in the Oil Business and banked at the same bank. Next Monday my Uncle walked into the bank and asked to see the President, and said, "I understand you have called Mr Boyter's note." "Yes said the Bank President. "Any particular reason, or are you just doing it because you can." "Well, Mr Graham, you know how it is, a demand note can be called at any time..." "But it is normally called 'for cause'. Is the Bank in trouble, is it having liquidity problems." Well, no, of course not." "Then I suggest you reconsider calling his note on the basis of his prior record and the fact that he is building a business that will be good for Baltimore and Maryland, and because I don't want to have to remove my business from this bank." Your classic case of Speak softly and carry a big stick. The Bank President called my father in my uncle's presence and said it had all been a mistake, and they were very glad to have Mr Boyter's business, and he could come in anytime and talk directly to him, the Bank President should he have any concerns or be considering expansion or need short term bridging finance. End of story. I was barely 5 which means it was December of 1951. "Merry Christmas" We never found out why the bank called the loan; they knew my Dad and my Uncle were related because they'd done business together before and my Uncle had vouched for my dad when he established a business account in the mid 1940's after he got out of the Airforce.

Bureaucracy is essentially the worst form of management, except for all the others, to paraphrase Churchill.

There was an old computer game called Bureaucracy, originated by Douglas Adams and based on his experience of having to get the bank to recognize and input his change of address. It took him 2 years in real life.


All the people named in this post are dead, some long dead, except for me.

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(NT) you only "think".... you're lucky
by jonah jones / September 6, 2009 8:32 PM PDT
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(NT) I think therefore I am?
by JP Bill / September 6, 2009 8:54 PM PDT

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