Liveblog: Reading USAA Bank Account Agreement

Okay, Okay, this is guaranteed to be the most boring liveblog evar.

In the spirit of Occupy a Bank Other than Bankof AmericaChaseCitiGroupWellsFargo (i.e, 1 of the Supremely Consolidated Too Big To Fail banks), I’m making a second attempt to move my money from Big Bank to USAA.

The consolidation of the Big Banks. Too Big To Fail? They just got bigger

Big Banks from 1990 - 2009. Click to embiggen.

I hear all the good stuff about USAA. Thanks to Dad (a veteran), I’m already a USAA member. But until I get through this lengthy user agreement, I’m not yet one of their bank account holders.

Here’s the start: USAA Banking Page.

Clicked through to the Open An Account Link. The title of the resulting page is teh funny: “Open a Bank Account in a Few Easy Steps” Ha.

Let’s go back to the last days of 2009, shall we? I saw the Move Your Money project. Those banks that are too big to fail? If you move your money, the bank will get smaller. Great idea. Start off 2010 by moving your money. I didn’t get very far.

Finder Window. PDF, date, and my *placeholder* folder

The User Agreement is 83 pages.

eighty-three pages.

Yikes. Are your eyes glazed over yet? When I saved the PDF, it was dated December 31, 2009. I guess I made it through the first 19 pages, with all those good intentions of getting back to the PDF again.

Nearly 2 years later, I’m back at it. But I went online to get the latest one. It’s 84 pages.


Let the reading begin!

9:43 pm: “Important Notice | Amendment to USAA Federal Savings Bank | Depository Agreement and Disclosures | July 2011”

Ruh roh. The first 3 pages are little bitsy amendments. On this pages 6 & 45, it says blah. Here is the little change, noted right here. Does this mean that pages 6 and 45, when I get to them, will read the old way? Can’t they just amend the damn document?

There is a fascinating couple of paragraphs devoted to hair splitting between Applicable Law and Governing Law. Governing Law went away, replaced by Applicable Law. Gah. Kill me now.

9:48 pm. Lots of mentions of San Antonio, Texas. As in:

Deposits are not accepted by the Bank until received and entered on the Bank’s records at the Bank’s headquarters office in San Antonio, Texas.

How far away is that? Google Maps directions (mostly via “The 10” as we in SoCal call it, but I-10 or Interstate 10 everywhere else) says the distance/travel time is:
Driving: 1,343 mi, 21 hours 13 mins
Walking: 1,350 mi, 18 days 8 hours

I wonder if this info is going to bite me in the butt. USAA offers that nifty “scan the check to immediately deposit it.” (for some customers, am I one? I don’t know) But if it takes 21 hours to drive there, or 18 days (!!!) to walk there, what happens to money? Will it work to do wire transfer of funds from bank to bank?

Now I’ve gone back to their site for the User Reviews of USAA’s Checking Accounts. Ruh Roh. 6 days till your money is available to you, according to the 1-star thumbs-down reviews.

Hmmm… Now I’m going through all the thumbs-down reviews, and saw this one, that’s disconcerting. Electronic funds transfers from one bank to USAA are subject to holds. As in 5-day holds.

[From USAA moderator’s reply on 9/16/11: ]The section on ACH deposits on page 28 of the Depository Agreement & Disclosures pertains to ACH credits such as direct deposits. The USAA Funds Availability policy states that all transfers from an external bank are subject to a hold. We may hold all or part of the funds transfer up to 5 business days. USAA discloses the funds availability on the Funds transfer page and also prior to the completion of the funds transfer transaction.

Wow. That’s a surprise. I’ll have to skip forward to page 28 of the pdf. This little item may be a deal-killer.

This is why I read the fine print. And the reviews. The Thumbs down reviews are a shortcut to find all the ugly surprises in the 80+ page document. The bad bits of the fine print. The ugly surprises that people complain about after the fact.

5 days for transfer from banks to banks. That’s a count against USAA. I may go looking at other credit unions and local banks in the area.

I know of someone who recently opened an account at Gilmore Bank. Distance to me is less than 1,343 miles. But not around the corner, either.

10:19 pm. I skipped forward to pages 28 and following. Feh. There’s a whole bunch of stuff in the table listing this and that and local/non local checks. Then, under the table it says the following:

Local Checks: Under current federal regulations, all checks are local checks.
Non Local Checks: Under current federal regulations, there are no non-local checks.

Then why in hell did you write about local and non local checks in your little table describing when deposits are available? I am sorely tempted to commit mental violence against the person who wrote those sentences. This hurts my head.

If I had to make a decision right now based on my hour of reading/research, USAA would be a No Go.

To be continued….

Do you bank with USAA? Your opinions? Are you moving your money out of Bankof AmericaChaseCitiGroupWellsFargo to a credit union or small local bank? How’s that working for you?

8 responses to “Liveblog: Reading USAA Bank Account Agreement”

  1. Cafe Pasadena

    Your next Big move, if you haven’t done so, is the move from the 2 big parties to a 3rd party. Have you done that one??

  2. WCGB

    I have a Pasadena Federal Credit Union account that I use a lot and a USAA checking account that I use a little. I also have auto, homeowner’s and term life with USAA.

    I have been with PFCU since the late ’90’s. I give them a B. I have learned to hone in on the ATMs that don’t charge (generally located or placed by other credit unions). My gripe about them is that they sometimes subject a paycheck to a 5 day hold (even when there is enough to cover it). Another minus (not huge)…no using your ATM card in Europe. Bigger minus: $1,000 minimum in order to avoid monthly service fee.

    I used my USAA checking to manage the funds for the LHS reunion I coordinated a couple of years ago. No problems. ATMs everywhere for free within the monthly limit. I recently deposited a check electronically (via iPad)—like butter. Better than driving to the credit union or depositing via ATM at the Pasadena police station (which has some lag time).

  3. Keeping My Money Local: San Gabriel Valley Credit Unions

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  4. Susan A. Kitchens

    @Cafe, the big move I’m working on is the one from a big bank to a credit union. Will keep the 2 parties to 3rd under advisement. Tho I’ve been one who’s been 3rd party alla time and (somewhat) moved from 3rd to One of the Big Two.

    @WCGB, thanks for sharing your experience. I knew you’re also a USAA member, so was looking forward to and am glad to get your thoughts. After your buttery electronic check deposit, how long did you need to wait until those funds were available?

    As you can see by next post, I’m going over the local credit unions that are open to people based on geographic eligiblity. But mentioned PFCU and Caltech’s credit union Just. Because.

  5. Gabriel Lockwood

    I’ve been with USAA for over 15 years with absolutely no complaints and tons of really positive experiences to speak of. I used to have to deposit my checks via mail using the free deposit slips and postage-paid envelopes provided by USAA. For the past couple of years I’ve used the iPhone app and the funds are available immediately – love it! I just got my girlfriend to sign up for an account with USAA and she’ll be moving her money from Chase any day now. I found this post while trying to find out whether USAA qualifies as a small enough bank for “Move Your Money.” Using the Move Your Money site I typed USAA’s zip code into the “bank finder” and it wasn’t listed among the smaller banks and local credit unions. Any ideas? Has anyone else done research on this? Does it still fit the bill as far as the spirit of the movement is concerned? I’m pretty sure USAA avoided the whole subprime fiasco, as they tend to be on the conservative side.
    Hope this helps.

  6. Dave

    Hi Susan,

    I found your post while looking for discussions of USAA in regards to the “move your money” movement, purely out of curiosity. I have been banking exclusively with USAA for ~10 years, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. While your initial concerns from the customer agreement sound justified, I respectfully suggest that if you switch over, you will never regret it.

    As to the hold period on EFTs, I have not experienced that. I pay my phone bill via an EFT to my father every month, and it clears instantly. I also automatically transfer funds to my retirement savings every month. This transfer does hold for a day or two, but I don’t think that’s a problem unless you’re a speed day trader who needs to invest in the market RIGHT NOW. Since I do not do that, it doesn’t bother me if my mutual fund purchase goes through on the first or the third of the month.

    I have never had a direct deposit (such as my paycheck) held. In fact, USAA credits my account 24 hours AHEAD of many of my co-workers, as soon as the transfer is pending.

    Depositing checks is also easy, though I understand it may be different for someone coming from local banking. Back in the early 21st century, I would use the fact that USAA will give you free, postage paid business reply envelopes to deposit checks. No need to catch a bank during working hours, just fill out the deposit slip, and drop it in a mailbox for free any time that’s convenient for you. The USPS can get it to San Antonio in 2-3 days, no problem. Nowadays, since I have a fancy smartphone, I just take a picture of a check to be deposited (whenever I want, midnight, from my office, whatever), and the money is INSTANTLY credited to my account. I can get money to San Antonio faster than anyone can walk down the block.

    All of this is based on my personal experience, not the details of an 83 page legal agreement. Good on you for doing due diligence as you should, but there’s some ground truth for you. Combined with the free ATM withdrawals anywhere, the free web bill pay, and the best customer service of any company in any field I have ever dealt with, USAA is fantastic.

    Just one opinion.


  7. Susan A. Kitchens

    Dave, thanks for sharing your thoughts. The critical difference between your situation and my situation is the word paycheck. If you are employed in a W-2 capacity by someone who regularly issues you a paycheck, it’s possible to make that “instantly available” deposit work. I’m self-employed, and don’t have regular paychecks as such. That means that each time I get paid, I MUST delay access to those funds because of how USAA would treat the checks. I can’t afford that kind of persistent delay, no matter how wonderful USAA is otherwise.

  8. Dan Lyke

    I use USAA for investments, but a local credit union for banking.

    I avoided USAA Savings Bank because of some experiences my parents had, but they still bank there, so it couldn’t have been that bad.

    However, I also very much have the feeling that my local credit union is just reselling the finance services of larger nameless conglomerates somewhere. So I’m still not convinced that they’re all that much better than an online bank.