I am now one step closer to calling a credit union my primary financial institution: I opened a checking account.
Easier said than done.
But before I get into that, a quick recap.
In my last column I recounted my experience opening a savings account with my credit union. I initiated the process online, funding the account with a debit card tethered to my checking account at a large regional bank. Then I completed the application by mailing in my signature.
At the time I thought that last step was a hassle and wondered why the entire process couldn't be electronic. Then I did some research for comparison purposes and found out my bank's "online" account-opening process is even more time-consuming: It involves filling out an e-form, speaking to a rep on the phone to fund the account and, finally, waiting for paper forms to arrive in the mail so you can complete and return them.
Anyway, back to the main narrative of this column. Unfortunately, opening a checking account with my credit union did not go as smoothly as my savings account-opening experience.
It started out easily enough. I logged into online banking and clicked "open a sub-account." I selected the checking account with these features: no monthly service fee as long as I set up direct deposit, free online bill pay, unlimited check writing and a free first box of checks. (If I were still in college, I would be annoyed to see that my credit union's student checking account includes a monthly fee for online bill pay. So much for tailoring products to suit Gen Y's needs.)
After selecting the checking account that was right for me, I was taken to a screen with Truth in Lending and fee schedule disclosures. I viewed them and accepted the terms. Then I opted out of overdraft protection for debit transactions and was taken to a screen that displayed my chosen account type and its associated APY and dividend rates (0% each). So far so good.
But when I clicked next, I got an error message: "There are no suffixes to transfer money from. Please set up suffixes first." However, there was no "next" button to bring me to a screen where I could presumably set up suffixes (I had only a fuzzy idea of what that even meant) and be on my merry way. I had reached a dead end.
So I called up the credit union and spoke to a rep who explained that I had received the error message because my savings account (which had the minimum $5 deposit) did not contain enough money to fund my checking account. She said I would have to go to a branch to set it up. When I inquired about the switch kit I had hoped would help me disentangle myself from my bank, I was told it was "not enabled."
So, one fine Saturday morning, a quick drive from my apartment took me to the nearest branch of my credit union. Its modern design and d?cor, slick yet comfortable, was a pleasant surprise, and the rep who opened my account was both professional and personable. "This is so nice, I should always use the branch," I thought, until I remembered that the world-and my life-moves too quickly for me to wait until the weekend to do my banking. Unless I get a job closer to home or resign myself to using my lunch break to go to a service center 25 minutes away, I am at the mercy of the credit union's less-than-user-friendly online banking system-at least until my debit card arrives in the mail.