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Old 07-25-2011, 05:58 AM   #41
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Congratulations Nords! Well deserved recognition of your efforts.
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Old 07-25-2011, 06:42 AM   #42
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I'm pretty sure the blazer won't button over my surfing muscles...
I have to steal that line ...
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Old 07-25-2011, 07:18 AM   #43
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Not exactly on topic, but here is an example of why many of us have been USAA members for decades:

Debt Ceiling Crisis: How USAA Is Prepared To Help Members


Quote:
Active-duty military personnel, including activated Guard & Reserves
Temporary Payroll Advance Program to eligible members serving on active duty, including those actively serving in the Guard and Reserve, who have their existing DFAS payroll deposited into a USAA checking or savings account. This is a one-time loan for payroll scheduled for deposit on Aug. 15.

Waive property and casualty insurance policy late fees or bank nonsufficient fund fees and suspend nonpayment cancellations for members who are on active duty, including those actively serving the Guard and Reserve, for 30 days where legally permitted.

Other members who receive government payments
Based on their existing USAA products
  • Special payment arrangements, which could include skipping a payment, on some bank products.
  • Refunds of fees for nonsufficient funds and overdrafts on USAA Bank products.
  • Waiver of credit card late fees.
  • Lines of credit increases.
  • Waivers of certain investment administrative fees.
  • Billing arrangements for life insurance products.
Anyone else seen an insurance company, investment house or bank offer anything similar?
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Old 09-15-2011, 01:30 PM   #44
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I'm back.

The conference only spanned 29 hours (all day Thu plus Fri morning) but at when I was invited I felt obligated to maximize the opportunity presented by USAA's free plane ticket.

So on Wed night I went out to County Line BBQ with the conference organizer. It was just the two of us-- I thought I'd be the only one who was jet-lagged, but some weather or aircraft snarl on the east coast delayed almost everyone else until nearly midnight. Then we went back to the hotel bar, met the rest of the group, and started the pre-conference socializing. Some bloggers (not me!) continued that event until just four or five hours before the start of the 8 AM working breakfast.

Thu night was another USAA-provided dinner at Paesano's. That was our best chance to go one-on-one with the staff, and I had a good long talk with Scott Halliwell. He is most worthy of being entrusted with your financial portfolio.

We finished with Paesano's around 9 PM and adjourned back to the hotel bar for "a few minutes". There was a rumor of a 2 AM Alamo pilgrimage (not me!) and the conference reconvened at 8 AM.

The conference ended Fri lunch. I did two book signings (Fri & Mon afternoons). REWahoo! put me up at his (very nice!) house on Fri & Mon nights. We had a small E-R.org chapter meeting Sat morning at the Alamo Café with Arif plus one of my distant cousins who works at USAA.

Because I just didn't feel busy enough, on Sat afternoon I drove over to Houston for a hit&run visit with my daughter. (I'll be back in Oct for a proper E-R.org gathering.) We hung out the rest of that day, and then at 5:30 AM Sun she dragged me down to the 9/11 Travis Manion 5K "fun" run with the rest of the NROTC unit. (I can attest that Texas patriotism is alive & well.) We spent the rest of the day running errands and with her friends, but she finally finished all her chores by 9 PM and let me go.

The Mon morning drive back to San Antonio was brutal. Fatigue was beginning to catch up with me, and the penalty for inattention at 80 75 MPH in Texas is a lot more severe than at 55 MPH in Hawaii. (Luckily the Houston/Austin/San Antonio triangle has at least three excellent classic-rock radio stations.) I did the book signing and then went out to dinner with REWahoo! & his spouse. By the time we got back to his house I'd had quite the week.

I'd planned to arise at 2:45 AM Tue for the drive to the 5:45 AM flight, because Google claimed REW's house was 50 minutes away. It turns out that if you don't actually get moving until 3:30 AM you can still make the trip in under 30 minutes. I also learned that the airport doesn't really staff up until 4:30 AM and that TSA lines are very short when you're the day's second customer. But then both planes broke at their respective gates for 30 minutes each, giving me plenty of time to ponder where I'd be sleeping that night.

While USAA's plane ticket was free, I don't think I care to ever again fly that LAX-HNL leg. Next time I'm paying for a direct flight to San Antonio (assuming it exists). Heck, I'd even fly direct to Houston and drive to San Antonio to avoid the HNL-LAX redeye.

I got good answers to all of USAA's questions, and they're in the three blog posts linked below. Let me hit the high points here:
- USAA has one of the best working environments I've ever seen. If you have to have a job, this is the place to do it. This is true for anyone but most especially for military veterans. I'm not looking for a job, but if I was then I'd even be willing to put up with San Antonio just for the experience of working at USAA.
- USAA favors service over profit margins. They practically run the place as a non-profit because that's what it is: an association of members grouping together for cheap insurance. Even the financial side (banking, credit cards, investments) is run as a member benefit for their insurance customers. BTW anyone can enjoy the benefits of USAA's financial services, while insurance membership is open to "all who have served honorably".
- Their media campaign is paid for by reducing the direct-mail program. Oddly enough media is working far better than direct mail, both for existing members as well as new ones. Better still, the tone of the ads is causing new members to behave to a higher standard than some of the existing members. (Search YouTube for USAA and you'll see how the "I got mine" theme resonates.) So overall the marketing costs are the same, but per-customer acquisition costs are down and the customer quality is rising.
- I mentioned the USAA ESOP and was greeted with laughter. (They don't seem to have one.) Employee incentives are based on service, not revenue or volume.
- Two bloggers (plus a few hundred Facebook posters) managed to change USAA's mind about business checking. We'll see how they follow through.
- Their 9/11 commemoration included tissue boxes under the chairs, and we needed them. M.J. Sweeney was one of the speakers-- she's been at USAA since her 2003 retirement. That event is going out over the Pentagon Channel this week and may be on YouTube by now.

The financial guys are developing the retirement calculator from hell which will also integrate all of a member's accounts from other institutions. I think it'll work out. They're a little overimpressed by Monte Carlo, but I handed out copies of the book and pointed them to FIRECalc. I'm also continuing the conversation with them, so you may see one or two pop up on this board to discuss the finer points of retirement financial forecasting.

Overall, while I can't always tell when I'm being lied to, I think I'm pretty good at detecting equivocation. All of these guys love what they do and they believe in their mission. Several of the bloggers were also at last year's conference and had a similar epiphany experience.

It turns out that USAA's underwear vending machine isn't an employee-overtime issue. It's for people who "forgot" their workout clothes for the fitness center. USAA doesn't mind handing out free exercise shorts & t-shirts along with the towels & shampoo, but they figured the members would draw the line at spending our premiums to provide free undies...

USAA’s underwear secrets | Military Retirement & Financial Independence
Answers to USAA’s questions | Military Retirement & Financial Independence
More news from the USAA Blogger Event | Military Retirement & Financial Independence

I probably have two more USAA fanboy posts in the hopper-- one to discuss the retirement calculator's evolution, and another to list the bloggers' websites.
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Old 09-17-2011, 05:38 AM   #45
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I
- USAA has one of the best working environments I've ever seen.
Yes.
That place is impressive. Environment wasn't my cup of tea, but the campus was neat.
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Old 10-23-2012, 10:55 AM   #46
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Here we go again!
http://the-military-guide.com/2012/1...to-usaa-again/

This year's conference is 7-9 November at USAA's HQ in San Antonio. My apologies in advance to those posters in the Houston & SA areas who might want to arrange meetups-- I haven't left enough slack in the schedule for it. Spouse and I are spending our free time with our daughter and other family members in the area.

USAA is doing things a little differently this year. They're expanding beyond "just" military and personal finance bloggers to include industry analysts and innovation influencers/columnists/bloggers. They're looking for people who are widely read in their industry category and interested in telling the USAA story to their readers. I have no idea who my fellow attendees are yet but we'll eventually get a muster sheet with short biographies.

My job at the conference is to ask hard questions. USAA tells me that I'm good at it and I'd hate to slack off now. I've reached the point in my life where I'm older than some of the retired military (but still working) flag officers who'll be speaking to us, so I'm afforded a certain measure of geezer respect-- or at least tolerance. Some of the people who'll be talking to us are still surprised when it turns out that I actually know a little about investing, financial management, and retirement planning too, so they're willing to indulge me with the technical details when the explanations involve government regulations or startup costs or business process. Besides, eventually a few of them will take me aside at the buffet line and ask "Hey Nords... exactly what do you DO all day?!?" or better still "Dude, what longboard do you use?"

So... what questions do you want me to ask? I'll be speaking mainly to the social media and community relations team, but we'll be spending time with VPs and program managers from all areas-- property & casualty insurance, banking, investments, credit cards, mobile tech, network security, member service, and the hiring staff. I'm friends with their bloggers (did you know that USAA has a team of bloggers?), and they'd love feedback on what topics you want to read more about. I'd especially like to hear questions & feedback from those of you whom USAA has pissed off about some service or product (or lack thereof) or from anyone looking for a new feature or service that you wish they'd offer. This is your chance to make yourself heard through more than their usual channels.

We servicemembers tend to tie a lot of our lifelines to this one company for convenience as well as the ability to talk to someone who understands what it means to deploy overseas. This is generally a great idea but it's all too easy to end up with all of our eggs in one basket. I'd like to know how they could do better... or do more.

A couple of you (NavyDavey? Others?) have mentioned USAA's career-starter loan to ROTC midshipmen/cadets. I'm trying to learn more about this program, and I'd appreciate whatever you can tell me about your recent (this millennium) experience. My college daughter might be interested in doing a little interest-rate arbitrage.

If you're reaching the end of your military service obligation and you're curious about a USAA career, please contact me. I'll put you in touch with their "military talent management" division for more info. If these guys had a Honolulu office then I'd be seriously considering spending a few hours a week there. It's that good.

Full disclosure: FCC regulations require me to mention that USAA has offered to fly me from Hawaii, put me up in a hotel, and feed me all the breakfast burritos & coffee that I can consume in 30 hours. I'm up to that challenge. However this year all they're buying for me is a couple nights in the hotel and the consumables. I'm going to be doing the USAA conference as a side trip from Houston to visit our daughter, so I'm not going to ask them to pay for more than food & lodging. And if you think that their food & lodging could affect my objectivity, then you don't know me very well I'll mention that the whole point of financial independence is being able to keep your objectivity.
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Old 10-23-2012, 11:10 AM   #47
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My only annoyance was not knowing why I couldn't use their online check deposit feature. It took a couple years until I bumped into the answer on somone's blog (ie. since I'm not actually in the military I have to have a credit card with them to enable the feature.) It would have been nice for them to pop that up on the website when I tried to learn about the feature. Also, I sure wish I was eligible for their auto insurance. Don't see them changing that anytime in the future though (for non-military members.)

Have fun!
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Old 10-23-2012, 01:17 PM   #48
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The website is poor. My wife has put a lot of time into trying to clean up various things for her parents' accounts. It has been rare occurrence when she could complete a task on the web site. Seems like she is always calling, then they instruct her to complete one piece online. Then she calls back to have rep finish the task.

For instance, there is a taxable account. Their bank is already listed as an institution in another brokerage account, but you must re-enter the routing number and account number in each account. Then you must call a rep to have dividends directed to the bank.

USAA just seems disconnected in many respects. That's why I pulled my IRA and SEP-IRA, and took my investments to Vanguard.
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Old 10-23-2012, 03:05 PM   #49
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they also push annuities.. GASP

https://www.usaa.com/inet/pages/advi...=1&sf6716174=1

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If you're still saving for retirement, an annuity — which allows for tax-deferred savings — can be a good, conservative option if you've maxed out other tax-advantaged accounts or as an investment option within your IRA or retirement plan. When you retire, an income annuity, which pays guaranteed income for life, might make sense if your Social Security and pension don't cover your core expenses. Annuity guarantees are based on the paying ability of the insurance company. So make sure the company is recognized, reputable and financially strong. Annuities do not provide any tax-deferral advantage over other types of investments within a qualified plan. There are costs associated with annuities, including surrender fees, early withdrawal penalties and mortality risk expenses. So, be sure to read the fine print.
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Old 10-23-2012, 03:30 PM   #50
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I only wish I could use them. My parents were both officers serving in WWII, but since they never joined USAA, they told me that I couldn't join. My parents knew their Allstate agent really well and wouldn't change from him, even though I tried to get them to give USAA a try. I went to college right near their offices in San Antonio (at least in the 1970's) and used to pass by them every day.

Have a great trip and enjoy seeing your daughter!
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Old 10-23-2012, 03:59 PM   #51
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Nords,

Congrats on being invited back to the conference.
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Old 10-23-2012, 05:34 PM   #52
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Nords,

Congrats on being invited back to the conference.
+1

By the way, I am a new member of USAA, as in their Medigap policy and part D, which is really Humana.

I have never received such superb communication/customer service from any outfit, ever. Pass it on.
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Old 10-23-2012, 05:35 PM   #53
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M-I-L purchased three annuities at USAA. Primary reason was to provide "insurance" for spouse. It actually looks like a good move now, as they can add extra cash to the annuities at 3-5%. Or not.
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Old 10-23-2012, 07:23 PM   #54
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Congratulations, Nords.

I've been a USAA member for over 32 years now. No complaints at all.
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Old 10-23-2012, 08:37 PM   #55
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Thanks, I'm taking notes and I'll pass all of this on.

Ally, you're absolutely right about only "inheriting" membership if your eligible ancestor joined. I think the auto insurance membership requirements cause more confusion than any other aspect of the company. I still end up e-mailing USAA once or twice a year to make sure of the response to a reader's membership question.

My daughter is supremely happy with the pricing on her auto policy.

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they also push annuities.. GASP
That pops up right away on their retirement planning calculator, too. I haven't compared prices to Vanguard but their CFP Scott Halliwell says that they try to offer above-average service at a below-average cost. They're never going to beat Vanguard, and maybe only compete with some of Fidelity's products, but they get a lot of customers from Edward Jones & FirstCommand.

I've had my share of screwups with all portions of their website and their customer service as well. (I have a conservator's account there now for my father, in addition to managing my spouse's account.) I guess the common theme is that they'll keep trying until they get it right.
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Old 10-23-2012, 09:21 PM   #56
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So... what questions do you want me to ask?
I'm a big fan of USAA, and like most USAA fans I'm very sensitive to any sign of possible slippage in their first-rate customer service. I think there are signs of this in their mortgage business.
1) Like a lot of folks, I was disappointed when USAA sold my mortgage 5 years ago. I guess this is so commonplace that it's just expected that the folks who originate a loan are just the front-end paperwork doers, and that virtually all loans get sold. But I got the loan with USAA because I like their customer service, and I wanted to keep that customer service for the duration of the loan. As it happened there were no problems, but it was a letdown.
2) When I called USAA for mortgage info earlier this year it appeared that they'd taken a further step in the same direction--just routing USAA customers to Wells Fargo directly. From my post at the time:
Quote:
Oh, I learned something else: When I called USAA they shunted me over to some kind of USAA/Wells Fargo joint venture called "Military Family Home Loans". First glimpse: This looks like bad news. I had to repeat information a few times, spent 10 minutes on hold without any indication of how long I'd be waiting, and finally gave up. This was definitely not the great USAA customer service I'm used to. If I do end up going for a USAA mortgage I will do what I can to get a loan serviced by USAA and avoid this USAA/Wells Fargo lashup. If that's possible.
So, not a question but a request: If USAA can't make money by writing mortgages and providing top-notch service, I'd prefer that they just get out of the business rather than debasing their name and reputation by linking up with inferior companies providing an inferior customer service experience.

Overall: The insurance is great, the bank is pretty darn good (especially by current standards of retail banking), the MFs and investment products--probably best to search somewhere else. Sounds quaint in this cynical age, but I really believe USAA has my best interest at heart when I deal with them.

Congrats on getting the invitation, enjoy the trip!
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Old 10-23-2012, 10:43 PM   #57
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Over the years I've purchased quite a number of new cars for us and for the kids. Until recently I had financed every one.
USAA was always my first stop for a loan, but I never sealed the deal because each and every time their rates were higher than Penfed and /or the local credit union.
I do think their customer service is great, but without the product you lose business.
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Old 10-23-2012, 10:56 PM   #58
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USAA member since '69. I have had very few complaints over the years.
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Old 10-24-2012, 08:46 AM   #59
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I have a little insight into the Cadet loan program. Essentially they go the the Service Academies and offer the cadets $35K or so at .9% with a 5 yr payback period. They give them the loans their Jr yr when they are committed and of course the loan term runs with their service oblication and is taken directly out of their pay. Minimal risk.

At USAFA cadets once bought Corvettes. Today I don't see that as much. In fact I have 2 cadets coming to my house in the next week to discuss what to do with their loans? IMO they are really "buying in" a life time of USAA membership with the cadets.
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Old 10-24-2012, 09:40 AM   #60
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Thanks for asking Nords!
I'm really happy with USAA, but have a couple of things I'd like to change. I'll cut to the chase first, then add the details:
1) Waive credit card foreign transaction fees for all military members overseas
2) Make a call routing system that knows I'm in Europe even if I call using Skype

1) USAA currently waives credit card foreign transaction fees for deployed military members. Their definition of deployed is to be on deployment orders (you have to send them the orders and they must say "deployed"). I'm OCONUS on PCS orders and am 7 hours from the nearest US military installation, but for them I don't qualify for waived foreign transaction fees. However, I have less access to the BX/NEX and APO/FPO than most deployed members.

In fact, by their rules, someone could come to my location on deployment orders and not pay foreign transaction fees. So, I did the cheap thing and got a credit card from PenFed which has no foreign transaction fees. I now find myself looking at PenFed products more and more, when I used to go to USAA for everything without question. I like having all my banking in one place. However, the convenience of having all my banking in one place is not worth $100 a year in fees. Bottom line: I would happily use my USAA credit card if they would waive my foreign transaction fees.

2) I use Skype for all my calls from OCONUS to USAA. The USAA call routing system can't figure out where I'm calling from, so it assumes I'm in San Antonio. So even though USAA has dedicated service reps in San Antonio at 3AM Central Time fielding calls from Europe, I have to wait until 2PM in Europe because the system says I'm calling outside business hours. I have explained this to many, many reps. They all say they will put a note in my file saying that I'm calling from Europe, so I should get routed to a human next time instead of the automated service. Unfortunately, it never works. Banks in Europe are closed by this time, so doing a transaction with USAA and my European bank usually takes a day.

As an example, I call a human at USAA at 2PM European time to request a temporary increase in my ATM limit so I can take out enough cash to deposit in my landlord's bank account to pay the rent. However, my landlord's bank in Europe is now closed, so I have to wait until the next day to pay the rent. That's not a big deal in itself, but now I have a risk. If someone steals my ATM card and figures out my PIN in the next 18 hours (yea, small chance, but it happens), they now have access to a lot of cash. Instead, I could go to the ATM immediately to pull out the cash, but now I have a lot of cash on hand for the next 18 hours that could be stolen or destroyed in a fire. I would prefer to call USAA at 8AM in Europe, increase the limit, take cash out of the ATM at my landlord's bank, and at 8:10AM pay the rent at the teller 5 feet away from the ATM. This greatly reduces the risk.
I might even go so far as to suggest cutting out the middle man. Why can't I use the website to make a temporary increase in my ATM limit?
Thanks,
P
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