Yesterday was relatively uneventful, compared to Monday, July 10th. Relatively, I say… which means that we did have a couple of issues come up. But, at least I didn’t feel like drinking at 2 PM like I did a week ago.
Bill got home a little bit early last night and finally changed out the battery in my car. So now, if I want to, I can drive it somewhere. But it needs to be serviced, first, as it’s been awhile since it last saw a mechanic. The Mini might also need new tires, because it’s been sitting in a garage for a long time and there might be some dry rot that makes the tires unsafe. The car will now start, though, which is the first step in driving it somewhere. So that’s one problem solved. Now, I’ve got another one that needs to be fixed.
Here’s what happened. It’s an issue that recurs seemingly every quarter or so. On the 15th of every month, my premium savings account at PenFed gets dividends. They offer good rates on that account, so it’s usually kind of exciting to see what the amount of the dividend is. I have deposited a tidy sized nest egg there, and every month, I add more to it.
Well… like most financial institutions these days, PenFed requires everyone to use two factor authentication. I hate it, because it’s inconvenient and annoying, especially since PenFed won’t allow me to get the access codes by email. I have to either get a text message or a voicemail on my phone. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for some reason, PenFed doesn’t seem to want to send texts or do robocalls to international phone numbers.
Yesterday, when I tried to log into my account via the Web site, I couldn’t get the access code. When I went to my account on PenFed, I could see that the country code for my (correct) phone number was set to 01, which is the country code for the United States. I live in Germany, so the code must be set to 49 in order for the call or text to go through. When I tried to update the country code myself, PenFed wouldn’t allow it because, the computer said, it “didn’t match the information in their records”.
This has happened before. I suspect that when PenFed’s computer system does its updates, things like country codes for international phone numbers get caught up in a glitch. I end up having to call them late in the afternoon, when I’d much rather be chilling on my patio drinking beer or eating dinner. Moreover, I have repeatedly had this issue corrected before, yet PenFed’s system still repeatedly claims my country code should be set to the U.S. code of 01, instead of the German code of 49. I’ve been in Germany for nine years so far!
I hate calling them. I also hate calling USAA, which is (sadly) my other bank. Most of my hatred of calling them comes from detesting being kept on hold and listening to their godawful hold music from hell, and dealing with people who are incompetent. I would much rather do this stuff over email or even chat. At least if I’m chatting, I can listen to my own fucking music.
So I sent PenFed an email yesterday. Hours later, I got a response asking me for my phone number. I sent it, and then got another response, probably from another person, that I had to call them to authenticate the number. SIGH…
I called PenFed and after waiting several minutes in the phone queue, got some slow talking guy who, I quickly discovered, wasn’t a very good listener, nor did he have critical thinking skills. I explained to the guy that I needed to “update” my phone number. I suppose that was the wrong word to use. What I meant to say is that they needed to update the country code, which is part of the number that must be included if one is calling from another country.
It soon became clear that the man I was talking to didn’t have much experience calling other countries. He didn’t seem to understand what a country code is. Then he told me that I’d need to send them a copy of a bill to prove that the number I was updating was correct. SIGH…
I said, “No…. you have the right phone number. I just need the country code updated.”
He reiterated that I needed to send them a bill, which I don’t even have, because Bill handles that automatically. So I asked him if there was someone more senior I could speak to. He said they were all busy, but he’d have someone call me back. I laughed at that and said, “But if someone calls me, they will have to have the correct COUNTRY CODE, right?” So I gave him my number– the same one in my records– and reiterated the right country code, which if they would just update it in my account, would negate the need for ANYONE to have to call me to solve this problem!
I waited for over an hour for the phone call, which never came. So I sent another email, explaining again the issue, and asking why I can’t simply get the access codes via email. My husband is also a member of PenFed, and he’s able to get emailed codes instead of texts. Someone named Jessica wrote back and we had an email exchange. She explained that when she called, she got a busy signal. I ended up having to explain to her how to make an international phone call from the USA, not that she ever did call me. She wrote that updated everything in my account… but now, when I try to log in, I get the following message…
I tried to send this screenshot to Jessica, but PenFed’s system blocked it. I was instructed to upload the screenshot from their “secure portal”. But, in order to do that, I have to log in… and well, as you can see, I can’t do that. I CAN, however, get on the site using their app, which doesn’t require two factor authentication for access. Go figure.
After awhile, Jessica quit responding to me, anyway. Just before I went to sleep, I got a message from someone named Alec, who suggested the issue is on my end somehow. I guess I’ll call back this afternoon and try to stay calm, as I convince someone to get someone from the IT department to fix this issue… yet again.
I have ranted before about both PenFed and USAA. The truth is, I’d really like to ditch both banks, even though I’ve been a customer of both for about 30 years or so. I’ve noticed a steep decline in their services over the past few years. But, when you live in Europe on SOFA status, it can be difficult to arrange a European bank without potentially causing problems locally with the government. We aren’t regular residents here, and we don’t want to appear like we’re becoming regular residents, because that can affect our ability to stay here legally, which could affect Bill’s job. Getting a local bank account can arouse suspicions.
Besides, we do plan to go back to the States eventually. Yes, we dream about staying in Europe forever, but I don’t know how feasible that plan is. So, at this point, we do plan to come back someday… and since we plan to come back, it’s good to have an American bank. A lot of them would rather not deal with overseas customers, though. USAA and PenFed are institutions that historically deal with military and government employees. They used to be pretty good with handling the issues that arise from here. That’s not so true anymore.
I sure wish PenFed would, at least, build a better Web site that functions properly. I have been hating on USAA a bit lately, but at least their Web site works properly. And they have a chat function that actually works with live human beings, instead of just an AI system that just sends me to articles that aren’t at all useful to the situations I usually find myself in when I need help. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes USAA’s chat function sucks, too. But I have, on occasion, gotten it to work well enough to solve my issue without having to call them.
Oh well. At least the Mini will start. Maybe it’s time we took a joy ride with the top down… the car’s, not mine. Fortunately, I don’t need to access the money I have sitting in PenFed right now. Thank God for small favors.
One positive thing I did yesterday was record another song. Quite fittingly, it’s a blues number. I learned it in about an hour. I don’t think it’s half bad, even though the camera doesn’t love me. 😉
Happy update… I called PenFed again just now and got someone much more competent on the line. She got the block off my account and my phone number entered again. AND… she also helped me set up another money market account at a very nice rate. So bravo to the very helpful lady at PenFed this morning! With any luck, I’ll be seeing the new product in my account very soon.