Billing Errors Causing Temporary Insanity: A Rant

Billing Errors are driving me crazyI’m starting to feel like I am being secretly videotaped on that old MTV show, Boiling Points.  And let me give you a hint; my boiling point is currently T minus zero seconds when it comes to billing errors.  I have had so many billing errors in the past few years that I sometimes wonder if I am being punished for something I may have done in a former lifetime.  Do companies just hate me?  Can they really all be that bad at basic math?  Is good customer service just a thing of the past?

I received four bills in the mail while I was away last week, and two of them had crazy mistakes on them.  And not just small mistakes, glaring errors.  The kind that make my head spin like the exorcist as I try not to yell expletives at innocent customer service reps.  The kind that make me question the competency of the companies that I choose to do business with.  The kind that make me bat shit crazy.  Let me explain.

Billing Error #1

I recently wrote about my home refinance with Amerisave Mortgage.  They kinda sucked but ultimately got the job done.  Anyway, I paid my first bill to them by personal check on March 1st.  For my second payment, I daringly chose to pay them through my bank’s online bill pay and sent them a check for $3,800 on April 1st.  When it didn’t cash by April 20th, I called them to see what was taking so long.  Amerisave informed me that they never received my check.  No biggie.  I called my bank to issue a stop payment on the first check and proceeded to pay my mortgage through the mortgage company’s website, amerisavepayments.com.  Problem solved.

Unfortunately, the story didn’t end there.  Amerisave did in fact have the first check that I sent them, and they went ahead and cashed it.  Since I had issued a stop payment on the check, they were unsuccessful in their attempt to do so.  That didn’t bother me.  What makes me crazy is that they wanted me to pay a $35 fee for their inconvenience.  The chances of that happening were less than zero, and they immediately removed the fee when I told them as much.  Still, I lost 30 minutes of my life sorting through the details with Zorah in Las Vegas.  I think the issue is resolved for now, and I will continue to make payments through their website from now on.

Billing Error #2

We have rental properties with small mortgages on them, and both of the mortgages are due on the first of the month.  Since I use a zero sum budget and am a month ahead on all of my finances, I pay the mortgages for my rentals and primary residence a month ahead of time.  This means that I pay the mortgage that is due May 1st on April 1st and the bank gets it around the 5th of the month.  Unfortunately, one of the mortgage companies I deal with gets really confused by my early payment.  In fact, they have improperly credited my account 5 times in the last 12 months.  5 times!!!!  Each time is dumber and more unbelievable than the last.

So, I got home from vacation and opened the bill to find that I was past due on April’s months mortgage payment.  This was super weird since they had happily cashed my $900 check.  Upon further investigation, I found that they had credited the $900 straight to the principal of the loan and not counted it as my monthly payment.  I called and they fixed it, but they couldn’t promise that it wouldn’t happen again.  “Our system gets confused because you pay your bill so early,” is what they always tell me.  They get it on the 5th, about 25 days early.  I cannot be the only person who pays their bills a few weeks early, can I?  They also made these suggestions in order to prevent them from making the same mistake every month:

  • I could wait until after the 15th of the month to make my payment that is due on the 1st.  No.
  • I could make the payment early then call every month to make sure that my account is properly credited.  No.
  • I could make my early payment by snail mail and include a personal note detailing my instructions each month.  No.

All of those options sound completely absurd to me, and I don’t think I should have to jump through hoops to pay my bill early.  It really shouldn’t be that complicated, should it?

Regardless, I think I got these issues resolved for now.  Still, I doubt that these are the last billing errors I will have the misfortune of dealing with.  How about you guys?  Have you been on the receiving end of any crazy billing errors lately?  Please complain about your recent experience with Comcast corporate incompetence by commenting below.

 

 

 

About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

Comments

  1. I hear your pain! Now every time I know it may get touchy with a company, from the first phone call, I write down the person’s name and a reference number for the phone call. It is easier to track if/when something goes wrong.

  2. Haha, I love the Comcast shout-out. They are truly the worst. Though we’ve only had a marginally better experience with Direct TV. I think it’s part incompetence and part just pure evil greed. In my experience, a lot of these companies will straight lie to you when they’re trying to make a sale, and no amount of future wrangling can get them to keep their word. It is unendingly frustrating.

  3. These days I have simplified my life and don’t have as many bills to deal with. However, Comcast (You tried to cross it off, but I caught it ;-) ) sucks big time. Their billing is okay, I just wanted everyone to know how terrible they are….I am sure those who have Comcast already know this.

    • They are the reason that I will never have cable/satellite/dish again. I would rather just not watch TV than deal with them!

  4. Nothing lately, but last year my surgery scared the s**** out of me because my doctor didn’t send the operative notes right away and they said they might deny my claim. I have most things on auto-pay to avoid these mixups (student loans are the worst at billing errors!). I do still pay my mortgage by mailing in a check, I like having control over that process.

  5. What a pain in the a**! No, no problems here lately, mostly due to the fact that we’re not in a position to pay early, I suspect. :-). Shame on you for being overly responsible, Holly. :-)

  6. And oddly, mistakes always seem to be in the corporation’s favor. Charitably, they fix the ones that hurt them before they propagate. Uncharitably…

  7. My favorite was when a utility wouldn’t let me pay my bill because they had randomly changed my address in their system. Then they kept calling me trying to figure out who did live at that address… I laughed at the csr outloud. It was a little rude, but it was just so comicly bad!

  8. Holly, what a load of crap! We had the same thing happen to us with Amazon. I’ve had to call them 8 times over the last 2 months to fix our wedding registry returns! I’ve spend probably 6 or 7 hours messing with it and it’s still not resolved. Unbelievable!

  9. This happened to me with my car insurance a few years ago. My fiancé’s car (we were in university then) was insured under his father’s insurance. We totalled the car, and the insurance company wrote it off. We then got a new car with our own, separate insurance policy with the same company.

    When my fiancé’s father went to renew his policy, they still had the old, totalled car (which now no longer exists) with my fiancé as the insured driver listed on his policy. He called them to take it off, and they did, but they moved my fiancé to another car that his father owned. He called them yet AGAIN to say NO, just REMOVE him from my policy, my son now has his OWN policy with YOU! It’s not that complicated!

  10. I’ve had issues with the city lately. The sewer/water bill used to be together. If you had a rental, the tenant could put this in their name. Then the water and sewer people got mad at each other and decided to collect separately. The sewer people will only allow the bill to go in the property owner’s name. So suddenly, we’re on the hook for an extra bill. We can’t charge the tenants because it would add to the rent. The sewer people will send an invoice to them for an extra $1/month. We tried that this month, and guess what? Then tenants didn’t pay, so now I have to keep calling and see if they pay before the late fee deadline or I have to pay it because it’s our name and credit. I could care less if the tenants are late with the electric bill. It’s on them, but this one is such a cluster screw. It’s only $30/month and we will certainly include it in the lease next time and pay it ourselves, but I hate rule changes in the middle of the game.

  11. I’ve only had mortgages with Citi Mortgage (ABN AMRO when my first one started) and one of their best features, so I’ve learned, is that even if they sell the mortgage, they promise to service it, so I’ve never had any of the hassles that I know are so common that seem to often tie back to the mortgage being serviced by another company or something like that.

  12. You really have to scrutinize over every charge. I know I do, and I’ve caught incorrect charges before.

  13. Wow, what a load of crap…especially the Ameriave issue. The fact that it was for such a large chunk of money makes it even worse in my opinion. Though, even if it was for $38 there still would have been the principle behind it. We’ve had nothing lately, but the hospital bills after we had each of our kids was always a mess. It’s like they just throw anything they want to on the thing and hope we’ll miss it. It’s no wonder our healthcare system is so freaking messed up…I could write a whole series of posts on that. ;)

  14. Billing errors wouldn’t tick me off as much if I didn’t have to wait 30 minutes on the phone just to talk to a live person.

  15. We face a few billing errors here and there but nowhere near like you do Holly. You would think these companies would do a better job of handling their billing but they obviously don’t think it’s that important.

  16. I had a similar issue with Wells Fargo on the pay early thing. This is what they told me: if the exact amount of the payment arrives (to the penny) they assume it’s next month’s payment and treat it as such. If the amount is off (even by a penny), they’re lazy and will take it as a principal reduction. Since then I’ve worked with that and it has worked (we, too, pay a month early just to head off problems). Touch wood. :)

    Many years ago, with a different bank, we used this as part of our emergency fund strategy: paying a few months’ mortgage payments ahead of time so if something happened, we didn’t have to worry about the mortgage for that month. That is unusual, and I called once every six months just to make sure everything was okay. Those people made a note of it on our file, and apparently that note kept errors from creeping in.

  17. What a mess! :( Good luck getting it all sorted out!

  18. I think most major companies don’t know how to bill properly. Though I feel your pain about your rental mortgages, many of the mortgage providers or servicers can’t deal with early payments and some will tell you upfront that it will go to principle. I don’t know if this is the case with you. My mortgage company told me this, so I just changed the way that I pay them. Can you just change how you pay them instead of dealing with it every time?

  19. Oh my goodness, I thought the first scenario was bad, the second is worse!! Calling in every month or snail mail?? I’m surprised one of the options was faxing something… holy archaic processes!! I’m glad you got both things taken care of, but what a waste of time!

  20. I hate when billing/customer service can’t seem to get things right. I haven’t had many billing errors but I’ve had some horrible customer service experiences. It took 6 or 7 calls and 4 or 5 fax attempts before my renters insurance was able to get my apartment complex the proof of insurance they needed. It was absolutely HORRIBLE!

  21. When faced with a problem like this, I usually ask for a supervisor or manager. I then explain what I was trying to do and ask what I can do to make it work. They usually will tell you. If there is nothing you can do, ask what they can do to accommodate your request. In almost every case I get a desirable answer.

  22. I think that’s awesome that you guys are always a month ahead on all your bills, especially the mortgage! If only the bank could get their act together and not mess up all the time!

  23. Yup. I have definitely had it happen to me that my mortgage company uses my early payment straight toward principal rather than toward my monthly payment. I’ve spent more time on the phone straightening this stuff out than I’d like.

    One thing you should check: If they receive your May 1 payment on April 5 (and properly apply it as a monthly payment) does it immediately post or does it not post until May 1, meaning you accrue an extra 25 days of interest?

    • They immediately credit it to my account WHEN they get it right… Unfortunately, they don’t get it right very often!!!

  24. oh how I hate those billing errors, there´s been so many times that I´ve paid a bill, then they´ve sent a new bill, with intersts, saying that I didn´t pay in time, when I really did!

  25. Holly I feel your pain! Billing errors will set me off faster than almost anything else! I just don’t agree with the “the system messed up” excuse! If I have to call and b*tch at AT&T one. more. TIME about over charging us (while my husband’s phone is on a military suspension b/c he’s deployed, no less) I’m going to lose my mind. Literally every time he deploys they F up the military suspension. My husband suggested no bothering with it for shorter deployments but I’m like “No! I want my $10!”

    • I hear ya! AT&T actually disconnected my air conditioner while installing my high speed internet. It was almost 100 degrees that day.

  26. Gah, that is super frustrating! I’ve always used the mortgage company’s website to make my payments. That way, they have more insight into what’s going on. I can even set up automatic payments, make one-time payments, and make principal only payments online. I don’t think they’d mind if I paid 25 days early either :) I’ve also been super careful to only get a mortgage with a company that services my loan for life, to keep things simpler.

  27. Sucks about Amerisave, but it sounds like you’ve got it all straightened out. As far as the second billing error, I think I’m missing the problem with just paying the bill after 15th of the month. With autopayments that seems like the easy solution to me.

    I agree they should have a better system in place to accomodate early payments, but they don’t, so the ball is in your court to push them further for some change or to adapt. All depends on how much time/effort you want to apply and if they’ll even listen to your logical argument. I bet they think you’re asking the equivalent of moving the Empire State Building over a foot. Good luck!

  28. Oh I always love when they have cashed your check yet still send you another or late notice. I’ve had a LOT of problem between the billing of my doctor’s office and Cigna. I think all health insurance companies are the WORST! It would really take too long to get into details. But let me just offset the bad companies by saying I good customer service is SO appreciated, and I recently dealt with Southwest and they are just awesome!

  29. The majority of the billing issues we’ve had to deal with have been medical. I don’t know why, but it’s ridiculous and immediately makes me see red! We are currently dealing with an incorrect billing issue right now :(

  30. Billing errors are the worst and dealing with customer service reps can make it even worse. Honestly, paying your bills early should be something a company would love, praise, tout you as the best client ever … instead of acting like it’s a burden because you’re responsible. *commence eye roll* :)

  31. A reason to double check even automatic payments…

  32. Stephen says:

    Constructive criticism:

    Billing errors are frustrating. Refusing to inform the payee the payment is for next month’s regular payment is just creating your own problem.

    • Hmmmm….

      Let’s say that I owe you $900 and it’s due on the first. If I send it on the 10th, wouldn’t you know that it’s for the upcoming payment? Especially if I had paid it a few weeks early for the year or two prior? Should someone really have to send a letter indicating that its for the due payment every month?

      A little common sense goes a long way…even for businesses.

      • Stephen says:

        Common sense tells me if I ask a bank to guess what my payment is for, next month’s regular payment or a principal payment, that’s exactly what is going to happen. :-)

        “MEMO: Acct 123456789, 10/2013 Regular Payment.” So age old is this common sense it’s even a standard feature on checks.

        • Why should they guess what my payment is for?

          It’s a mortgage and it’s due 12 times a year. When I mail in a payment, it’s for my mortgage!!! And FYI, the company that services that loan, Seterus, recently updated their system after getting the same complaint from the group of their customers who can manage to pay their bills a few weeks early. Since they updated their system I haven’t had any problems.

  33. Stephen says:

    :-)

Trackbacks

  1. […] Thrifty ran into a similar problem as I had in the past with billing errors causing temporary insanity. That’s why you should always review your bills and […]

  2. […] Billing Errors Causing Temporary Insanity on Club Thrifty – Holly hates billing errors and who can blame her?  Enjoy her rant and voice your opinion. […]

  3. The Weekly Personal Finance Digest – 5/19/2013 | Blog Post Directory says:

    […] Billing Errors Causing Temporary Insanity on Club Thrifty – Holly hates billing errors and who can blame her?  Enjoy her rant and voice your opinion. […]

  4. […] though I should know better, I signed up for Comcast internet for our new house. (Why do I punish myself in this way???)  Our first bill is already wrong, like […]

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