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Rant about PenFed's poor customer service
Old 04-06-2015, 12:51 AM   #1
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Rant about PenFed's poor customer service

On the thread about getting euros (Euro conversion) I mentioned having PenFed problems. Here are the details as a separate post.

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Originally Posted by audreyh1 View Post
Good to hear from you Nords.
I haven't tried using the PenFed ATM card overseas as I was never sure about their fees.
Are you having a problem with the credit card or their ATM card being blocked?
I've never had a PenFed credit card or ATM card, so that's never been a problem. Or maybe that contributed to my problem in Spain.

The "problem" was that I tried to do what seemed to be a relatively routine transfer of funds between my PenFed share account and my NFCU checking account. My NFCU account has been linked to PenFed's website for years. But because the request came from a Spanish IP address, I was quickly wrapped around the axle. Even worse, their customer-service reps couldn't figure out how to deal with it either.

I've used PenFed for almost a decade. I started my account because their CD rates were routinely higher than NFCU or USAA, but that advantage is no longer routine. I believe one reason that PenFed is able to offer better rates is because they have rock-bottom customer service. It's the same as the Fidelity-Vanguard debate. If you don't need customer service then PenFed is fine. If you need anything beyond the script then you're screwed.

[Background: 18 months ago, we killed our landline and went with a cheap CDMA clamshell pay-as-you-go cell phone. At the time, I updated every financial account (including PenFed) with our new phone number. It went fine. I never call them about CDs anyway, so I only checked my PenFed account profile once after making the change and didn't bother checking before this trip.
CDMA cell phones aren't compatible with GSM networks so while we're in Spain I'm using a cheap GSM clamshell PAYGO phone.]

Current events: Last month we had a six-figure CD mature at PenFed. (The remnants of our daughter's college fund.) We were six weeks into our Spain trip and I could have left the funds at PenFed for another month or two until we returned to Oahu. In retrospect I should have done that, but I had a chance to reinvest the funds at higher rates elsewhere.

I logged into my PenFed account (from an Andalusia IP address) and started to transfer the funds from my PenFed share account to my NFCU checking account. This transfer link on PenFed's site has been set up for at least five years and has worked just fine many times, although it's limited to only $5000/day. This time PenFed immediately flagged the transaction and required me to get a confirmation code (text or voice) from their computer system to my phone.

I have never known PenFed to do this. It must have been my overseas IP address.

They still had my old landline number on file.

When I tried to update that phone number (yet again) the site wouldn't let me do it. It wanted to send a confirmation code to the old landline number. I appreciate this irony more in retrospect than I did at the time.

I called PenFed (on my Spanish cell phone) and explained the problem. They asked for my "security code". It turns out that this is yet another verification tool that I have never heard of, let alone set up or used. Not only have I never needed it-- I've never ever even received an e-mail or website message advising me to set one up. Apparently I would've heard about this if I had a PenFed checking account or ATM card or credit card, but all I've ever done at PenFed is CDs and a mortgage. (At this point I was really sorry that I had tried to do a "routine" transfer from an overseas IP address.) The customer service rep suggested that I might have set up a security code years ago and forgotten it, so perhaps I should use a security code that I've used with other financial institutions. I looked at my PenFed website login and saw the verification code by the security image so I tried that and... PenFed's website locked me out.

Now I was no longer a customer but a security threat. The PenFed rep (and their manager) interrogated me for 10 minutes to "verify" my identity. (All I wanted to do was a transfer that has been used many times before to a NFCU account which was already linked to my PenFed account. The issue was my Spanish IP address and PenFed's new layers of verification.) They eventually decided that I was me. However that was now a problem because they had to actually take care of me instead of just reporting a phishing attempt to their IT staff. They were definitely unhappy about having to deal with a customer instead of a Russian Mafiya phisher.

The manager said that PenFed needed to text me a code to get me back into the website. Their system presumably did so but it was on my CDMA phone, so I wouldn't be able to retrieve it. Their system wouldn't leave voicemail on my CDMA phone, so that didn't work either. They finally-- in a great leap of faith-- agreed to send a text to my Spanish cell phone so that their website would let my transaction go through. (More irony: at this point the customer service reps are fighting against their own site.) They couldn't get their system to dial the overseas phone number.

So even if my phone number had been correctly updated in their database, and even if I'd discussed this with them before leaving Oahu, and even if I had their security code, then I still would have been unable to complete the transfer.

I finally asked "Do you have this problem with wire transfers?" Um, gee, no. All they need from me for a wire transfer (instead of an ACH or EFT transaction) is to confirm my identity with a customer service rep, and they'll do that over the phone. (I doubt that this wire request over the phone is more secure for six-figure transactions than an ACH/EFT website request with a $5000 limit, but I bet that it's insured between the institutions instead of "verified" by me.) I'd already lost over $20 of interest during that phone call (let alone on my blood pressure) so I requested the wire transfer and happily paid the damn fee.

The funds immediately disappeared from my PenFed account. 24 hours later they appeared in my NFCU checking account. They've been redeployed at a higher interest rate, and NFCU never asked for any double-secret verification codes. But then I was giving NFCU money, not trying to withdraw it.

I've posted here previously about my PenFed problems with my conservator appointment for my Dad's assets, and I've also posted about my experience with their mortgage dept.
Another bad PenFed customer experience.
Whaddaya DO all day: PenFed mortgage refinance

Admittedly these are situations that PenFed rarely encounters (or is not certified to do in Hawaii) so I can understand that they can't handle it. However that website security ambush and their sloppy records update of a simple phone number was uncalled for and was handled very badly by their staff.

That's three strikes, and I'm out. I believe that PenFed is giving us exactly the level of customer service that we're willing to pay for, and they've had more than enough chances to do it right. So as my last two CDs mature at PenFed next year, I'm transferring the money anywhere else. When that's finished then I'm closing the account.
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Old 04-06-2015, 07:00 AM   #2
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Customer service is always a crapshoot, it seems to me.
I happen to be on the opposite side of the coin from Nords.
Always great service from PenFed, but I had such rotten service from NFCU that I closed my account there.
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Old 04-06-2015, 07:24 AM   #3
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I've done the interrogation deal with penfed. They asked a lot of difficult questions about my profile that I setup years ago (I remember my best friends from high school, I'm just not sure which one I put down for their security survey).

I've tried a local CU and bank over the pass few years but got even worse service. Try, try, again right?
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Old 04-06-2015, 08:32 AM   #4
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I'm a little concerned reading this here. I'm a new penfed customer - just got a HELOC with them a year ago (haven't used it yet - but it was a painless process despite no longer having earned income, only DH's SS and our rental income.) I got a Penfed visa this month - because they are one of the FEW chip and pin providers in the USA.

I will absolutely notify them (and all my other financial institutions) before I leave on our trip this summer. Since we'll be gone for 9 weeks - I would imagine there will be some money transferring while we're gone.
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Old 04-06-2015, 09:08 AM   #5
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Customer "service"? The same "service" a cow gets from a bull...
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Old 04-06-2015, 09:10 AM   #6
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I too have a HELOC that I set up a couple of years ago with PenFed and I didn't have any issues with it...but then again, I haven't drawn on it, either.


I will agree with the "verification" system they use...it's for the birds. When I went to log on a few months ago, I had the wrong password. It took about 10 minutes to get it reset as I had to answer about 100 questions and yes, they asked for some "code number" that I too never heard of.


I have moved most of my banking to a local CU after having issues with USAA. If all else fails, I can WALK into the local branch and get stuff resolved there.
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Old 04-06-2015, 11:03 AM   #7
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They never have a problem receiving my $1250/month mortgage payment on my sweet 1.99% mortgage. Of course that's money coming to them and not going the other way.

So far so good and hopefully I won't have to deal with double secret pinky swearing security authentication. We are however spending 7 weeks in Mexico, where the IP addresses will surely be 10x as sketchy as an Andalucian IP addres...
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Old 04-06-2015, 11:22 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rodi View Post
I'm a little concerned reading this here. I'm a new penfed customer - just got a HELOC with them a year ago (haven't used it yet - but it was a painless process despite no longer having earned income, only DH's SS and our rental income.) I got a Penfed visa this month - because they are one of the FEW chip and pin providers in the USA.

I will absolutely notify them (and all my other financial institutions) before I leave on our trip this summer. Since we'll be gone for 9 weeks - I would imagine there will be some money transferring while we're gone.
The Penfed website for the CC is very easy to use for setting up the dates and US States and/or countries you will be traveling to, so you definitely need to do this before you go, to avoid any card refusals.

That is how it is supposed to work, however in 2013 I had done all of this and while we were in France our card started to be used in person in stores in New York and Atlanta, with the thieves racking up $18k in 3 days by the time I spotted it and reported. The cards had been cloned, it happens, but I was really upset at Penfed's crappy fraud checking which looks good, but how good is it when I can look on the website and see that I am registered as having been out of the country for over 3 months when my card suddenly starts being used back in the USA with well over a year's worth of purchases being made in States I don't live in or have stated I will be visiting.
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Old 04-06-2015, 11:42 AM   #9
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One of the reasons we have switched to a phone and phone number that we can use in Europe as well as the U.S. is precisely because so many institutions are sensitive to the phone you are calling from or try to reach you at the phone on your profile.

We travel to Europe annually. For the one off visit it may not be needed. But if you get caught in needing to cancel cards or verify transactions while traveling it might become very important.

I did make a note of my PenFed verification code and I am asked for it every time I call.

I do appreciate the detailed info.

We try to take care of most such things, have all ebills paid, etc. before traveling, but we haven't been gone more than 30 days. It's hard to avoid dealing with a major banking issue if one is overseas longer.
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Old 04-06-2015, 01:43 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by audreyh1 View Post
One of the reasons we have switched to a phone and phone number that we can use in Europe as well as the U.S. is precisely because so many institutions are sensitive to the phone you are calling from or try to reach you at the phone on your profile.

We travel to Europe annually. For the one off visit it may not be needed. But if you get caught in needing to cancel cards or verify transactions while traveling it might become very important.

I did make a note of my PenFed verification code and I am asked for it every time I call.

I do appreciate the detailed info.

We try to take care of most such things, have all ebills paid, etc. before traveling, but we haven't been gone more than 30 days. It's hard to avoid dealing with a major banking issue if one is overseas longer.
+1

Every year since 2010 we have been traveling extensively, having set up everything we can to be electronic but last year was the first year we had no financial issues that came via regular mail or needed sorting via phone calls. Our son checks our US mail once a week while we are away.

The only thing that did come up last year was a jury summons for DW and a phone call from our son telling the court that she was in Australia was not enough. Much to his amusement he had to write an excuse note and mail it in.

Whenever I have had to make calls to financial places like Penfed then I've always done so via Skype over wifi, so that US toll free numbers are still free, even from foreign countries.
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Old 04-06-2015, 04:20 PM   #11
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I have been routinely transferring money from PENFED to NFCU within the $5K limit (you are also limited to $5K every 3 days). Sometimes (not always) they use the Text message or email (your option) to provide the "code" to complete the transaction. Aggravating but not a new procedures in my experience. I have also learned my lesson with their CC and now use the site to "tell" them when I am traveling, etc., as I learned when I did not once and had the card I was using denied. Had to call them and then go through those sometimes hard to answer security questions. BTW they will lock your on-line account the third time you screw up your sign on process (does not have to be consecutive either). Third time account locked and you have to call the CSR to get it unlocked after going through all of the "security" process they want to use.
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Old 04-06-2015, 07:27 PM   #12
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We have had a PenFed Visa (no other accounts there) for a very long time (10 years + ?) but this past year or so are completely fed up with them. Have changed my card number 4 times in the past 18 months to two years due to "data breaches" at PenFed.

Then they started screwing up my monthly automatic payment that comes from my other credit union account. Has happened twice already and they were really crappy about taking the interest charges off. Multiple phone calls about that issue & customer service seemed to talk to me like I was some kind of deadbeat. I told a supervisor at one point when this was happening to just take a look at my account history & he'd see we've paid in full to the tune of thousands every single month for years via automatic transfer and he would see we are not deadbeats. He wouldn't bother to even look.

No apologies from anybody in all this either.

So ... am now reluctantly looking for a new rewards credit card to put everything on. Maybe Discover?

I am, however, looking forward to about $850 in Pre-paid Visa Rewards cards from PenFed. Should be here any day.
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Old 04-07-2015, 10:48 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audreyh1 View Post
One of the reasons we have switched to a phone and phone number that we can use in Europe as well as the U.S. is precisely because so many institutions are sensitive to the phone you are calling from or try to reach you at the phone on your profile.
As a side issue, we've learned (from our daughter's example) that we want an iPhone with T-Mobile pay-as-you-go service. At home it'll just be used for WiFi phone calls (and occasional cell networks) but on travel we'll turn on the data for navigation.

We can do it all old-school, but having a cell signal and a bouncing blue ball on an electronic map is pretty sweet.
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Old 04-07-2015, 11:26 AM   #14
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As a side issue, we've learned (from our daughter's example) that we want an iPhone with T-Mobile pay-as-you-go service. At home it'll just be used for WiFi phone calls (and occasional cell networks) but on travel we'll turn on the data for navigation.

We can do it all old-school, but having a cell signal and a bouncing blue ball on an electronic map is pretty sweet.
We're using the T-Mobile "Simple Choice" plan which has really good overseas rates in a large number of countries. Free text and data* and calls (20 cents a minute) are often cheaper than a local SIM for local calls, and far cheaper for calls to the US. For callers from the US - as far as they know, they are using a US number.

It has a monthly rate, but there is no contract. You can cancel at any time and the month will be prorated.

This plan worked great while traveling through several European countries last year. For use at home we were having trouble with reception until we upgraded to a compatible iPhone and are now also able to use WiFi calling at home if the cell signal is weak. So far it's working well.

*The free data is not high speed, although in some areas it was pretty fast. It's good enough for email, updating maps, and the occasional search for address or phone number. Otherwise we use the hotel wifi for high speed stuff. In other words, we have never had a need to pay extra for a short-term high speed data plan.
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Old 04-15-2015, 01:25 PM   #15
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As a side issue, we've learned (from our daughter's example) that we want an iPhone with T-Mobile pay-as-you-go service. At home it'll just be used for WiFi phone calls (and occasional cell networks) but on travel we'll turn on the data for navigation.

We can do it all old-school, but having a cell signal and a bouncing blue ball on an electronic map is pretty sweet.
Hey Nords, you know you can use google maps in offline mode, right? Download the maps ahead of time when you have a data connection (they are maybe 12 MB or so for a mid size city and surrounding region), then you can see your bouncing blue ball on a map as long as you have a GPS signal.

I have another app, Map.Me on my research list to check out for this summer.

And I'm going to research T-Mobile "Simple Choice" plan per Audrey's recommendation to see if that it something we might want instead of paying for a sim card and new service.
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Old 04-15-2015, 02:12 PM   #16
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Hey Nords, you know you can use google maps in offline mode, right? Download the maps ahead of time when you have a data connection (they are maybe 12 MB or so for a mid size city and surrounding region), then you can see your bouncing blue ball on a map as long as you have a GPS signal.
Just be aware that Google maps offline save is not available in all countries - for example it did not work in southern Chile and Argentina.
Most of the Europe is covered though - it also worked for me in Belize, Guatemala and Cayman Islands.
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Old 04-15-2015, 03:41 PM   #17
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Just be aware that Google maps offline save is not available in all countries - for example it did not work in southern Chile and Argentina.
Most of the Europe is covered though - it also worked for me in Belize, Guatemala and Cayman Islands.
I'll have to double check on Mexico then. Thanks for the heads up. Edit to add: Just saved maps for San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (<1 MB) and a 30 mile by 30 mile area of Mexico City (12 MB) and Oaxaca (11 MB). Pretty cool.

I also just found out my credit union's VISA debit/ATM card is blocked from ATM withdrawals in Mexico. Time to find a new bank I guess (at least for the summer). Fidelity Cash Management perhaps?
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Old 04-16-2015, 05:01 PM   #18
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Hey Nords, you know you can use google maps in offline mode, right? Download the maps ahead of time when you have a data connection (they are maybe 12 MB or so for a mid size city and surrounding region), then you can see your bouncing blue ball on a map as long as you have a GPS signal.

I have another app, Map.Me on my research list to check out for this summer.

And I'm going to research T-Mobile "Simple Choice" plan per Audrey's recommendation to see if that it something we might want instead of paying for a sim card and new service.
Thanks, I'll have to try those out. We'll still go with a smartphone instead of an iPad-- I don't want to carry around an iPad when I'm walking, and all of the iPad dashboard holders that we've seen are a little less than user-friendly. I'd have to have a navigator holding it in her lap.

But we really could've used the iPad option for driving around.

Oh wait-- "GPS signals"? Our iPads don't have SIM cards... we'd be depending on WiFi networks as we drove around. That worked pretty well in Houston... but it wouldn't go quite so well in most parts of Andalusia.

I may find out that T-Mobile's "Simple Choice" is the equivalent of what my daughter is using. She went with T-Mobile because it's the same SIM all over the Mediterranean during her deployments, but they also persuaded her to upgrade to an iPhone 6 as part of their deal. A lot of her postal mail went through our house during that transaction, and it seemed like way more than we need. A used iPhone 5 should be overkill.
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Old 04-16-2015, 06:57 PM   #19
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Wow. I thought it was just my credit union.

DH and I have had various problems over the years with our credit union based in NJ. They have varied from (1) the repeated fraud and data breaches, to (2) changing the on-line access to our accounts so DH can't access our joint account anymore when he logs in, to (3) being told we can just enter a change to our address online but if we want do it in person (with ID) we need to bring proof of the address change. How is online more validating that in-person with ID?

Anyway, we have stuck with them because the rates are better, rewards on CCs are very good, and because of convenience. Now that we are relocating we are going to have to change where we bank and this thread makes me think perhaps all financial institutions have their issues...
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Old 04-16-2015, 07:21 PM   #20
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Oh wait-- "GPS signals"? Our iPads don't have SIM cards... we'd be depending on WiFi networks as we drove around. That worked pretty well in Houston... but it wouldn't go quite so well in most parts of Andalusia.
Oh, didn't realize you were on an ipad. I guess they don't have GPS?

If you're interested in a cheap but pretty good cell phone, I'm on a Samsung Galaxy S3 (the S6 is out now, so I'm waaaay behind the times ). Sub-$100 for used on ebay and you can probably get refurbished ones for about $100. Mine is a sprint phone which doesn't use a SIM (so I can get free service on Freedompop), but I assume they have SIM varieties that can be used on T-Mobile. I didn't know if you were locked into the Apple ecosystem or if android was good enough.

Battery life is pretty good on the S3 and we used it to navigate on foot around Belize City, Nassau, and some other areas (using google offline maps) and it was a huge upgrade to my old HTC something or other with crap battery.
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