I’ve been a USAA member for 22 years and had generally been happy with USAA. However, USAA has recently exhibited mind-boggling incompetence which resulted in all my accounts being closed due to USAA’s error.
One day last year, without warning or explanation, I got a letter in the mail from USAA saying that it was closing all of my accounts in 30 days. Figuring this must be a mistake, I called USAA customer service to ask what was going on. I was told that USAA had decided to stop doing business with me, that the decision is final, and that no reason would be given to me. This meant that my children’s college accounts would be closed, my wife’s and my retirement accounts would be closed, and our checking account and credit card would be closed. I pleaded to customer service supervisors for an explanation, knowing this must be a mistake, but they said they did not have access to the reason for the decision.
True to their word, USAA closed all my accounts 30 days later. They even charged me a $20 account termination fee for closing one of the accounts. Most of my cost, though, was the hours I had to spend to move all my accounts and business to new banks and to file paperwork to avoid taxes on the closed education savings accounts.
I thought long and hard about what could have prompted USAA to want to close my accounts. Then I remembered that about 6 months earlier, I had received a suspicious voicemail from someone claiming to be from USAA wanting to talk to me about activity in my checking account and asking me to call him at an unlisted number. Recognizing this as a possible phishing scam, I had instead called USAA’s main customer service number, told them about the voicemail and the name the caller gave, told them that I’m happy to answer any questions they have, and asked them what I should do. They had said that they had no record of anyone from USAA trying to call me, that it was probably a phishing attempt, and that I should ignore it and forward a transcript of the voicemail to email@example.com . I did exactly that (and received no response). Now that USAA decided to shut down all my accounts, I began to wonder whether that voicemail actually *was* from USAA and my lack of a return call to the given unlisted number was why USAA was unhappy with me.
I wrote to USAA customer service asking whether that voicemail from 6 months ago was in fact from USAA and whether that was related to them closing my accounts. In the letter, I said that if the caller wanting to ask about my account was indeed from USAA, I remain willing to answer any questions they had, since I’ve done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide. USAA did not respond to my letter.
Despite all my financial accounts with USAA being closed, I still had car insurance with USAA. When I logged in to USAA’s website a month later to get my latest insurance statement, I found that my online access had been suspended. I called USAA customer service and asked for my account to be unlocked so that I could access my insurance statement. The USAA representative kindly unlocked my account and then, without me asking him to, read me the notes in USAA’s file about me. The notes apparently said that USAA had received a letter from me asking why my account was closed, that letter had been forwarded to the office of the CEO, that they had investigated and found that the voicemail I had received 6 months earlier *was*, in fact, from USAA, and that no response should be given to me. The USAA customer service representative said that he had never seen anything like this in his many years working at USAA. He said USAA would only drop a customer if the customer committed a grave violation and that there would typically be warnings given. He reviewed my account himself and said he saw no record of any warnings nor any suspicious activity. He agreed that my not returning the voicemail probably contributed to USAA’s decision, though he didn’t know the reason. He agreed that I had done the prudent thing by contacting USAA customer service when receiving a call asking me to call back at a non-USAA number. He recommended that I write to the office of the CEO and explain everything.
So, as suggested, I wrote to the CEO of USAA and explained how I have only ever acted in good faith to protect USAA, that I have not done anything against USAA’s interests to my knowledge, that USAA seems to have erred in telling me that they had not contacted me when they had, that USAA’s error seems to have led to USAA’s decision to close my accounts, that their account closing fee is unfair since I didn’t *choose* to close the account, and that it was poor customer service for them to not respond to my earlier letter despite the fact that they realized they had erred when they researched the matter. To this, I got a curt response saying that they had a right to stop doing business with me, that they exercised that right, and that they will not be writing to me further on this topic.
I wonder what I did to get this treatment from USAA. One one hand, whatever it was must have been very minor, since they only bothered to leave me a voicemail asking about it (no email or letter) and they let me go on using my account for most of a year after that. On the other hand, whatever it was must have been so severe as to justify shutting down all of my family’s accounts without explanation and to get no reconsideration when the matter was escalated to USAA’s CEO.
Since then, 9 months have passed. I recently got a personal credit card invitation from USAA offering a $200 introductory bonus. I thought to myself that USAA must have finally come to its senses and removed me from its blacklist. I applied for the card and was accepted by USAA. However, several days after using the card for the first time (to buy baseball tickets for my family), my account was shut down without notice. No bonus was paid to me. I received a letter in the mail saying that my account was shut down “for unacceptable behavior or activity”. I called USAA to ask what the unacceptable behavior or activity was. The USAA representative, after putting me on a long hold, told me that my account was closed for the same reason why my accounts were closed last year. I explained that I’d never gotten a reason last year and this was the first I’d heard of “unacceptable behavior or activity”. I asked if he could share details. He replied that he had no further information for me.
Since opening that credit account, I’ve received three more credit card offers from USAA. I won’t bother trying to accept them.
It’s sad that a once great company like USAA has such a bad case of organizational schizophrenia and poor customer service. USAA has repeatedly demonstrated that its left hand has no idea what its right hand is doing. It punishes its good, long-term customers for being conscientious and avoiding phishing scams and it is unwilling to acknowledge when it is wrong.