Sunday, March 18, 2007

Paytrust - Why I'm leaving them...

Paytrust, for those who don't know, is a really cool way of taking care of your bills. They can receive literally all of your bills, organize them, store them, pay them, etc, etc, etc.... It is simply a really nice way to manage your money. Even companys that don't have electronic means of sending bills, ie. paper bills, can be received by Paytrust with your special mailing address that you give your creditors. Paytrust can even send a letter to the creditor with the special mailing address themselves, asking the company to change the mailing address for you, saving you the trouble. They can send payments electronically, so same day payments are no problem. And for creditors that don't have that option, they can cut a check and mail it to them. All automatically, or when you tell them.

I have had an account with them for over 4 years, and for the most part, have enjoyed every minute of time that it's saved me. But, I have decided to leave them. About 2 1/2-3 years ago, they decided to change how they bill you for their service. Like every other creditor in the world, they sent you a bill, you had a due date, and unless you changed it, it would automatically be paid that day. They changed it to where you could no longer change the day. For a while, I was living paycheck to paycheck. All of my bills were paid on pay day. I can't have things coming out of the bank account any other time. It makes things tight for the rest of the time when I would wait for the next paycheck. And now, I have to be extra careful to make sure there is enough money to cover their fee at the time they say it will be taken out of the bank. There have been a few times when their service fee "bounced" and I was charged an over draft fee at the bank. Which at my bank is twice the cost of the Paytrust service. It is just so incredibly frustrating to begin to get an upper hand on the finances, only to have something like this mess everything up.

You could be thinking right now, "why don't you just manage your money better? Don't spend ALL of your money at once". Well, you're right. I know when they are going to take it out. All I need to do is make sure enough is left to cover it. And for the most part, I do. Here is my biggest problem. I feel like they are taking control of MY money away from me. I NEVER agreed to this method. My account was created in the olden days when they did things correctly. How do I know that they won't start doing this with my other bills? I can get away with a $12.95 hit at the wrong time, but I can't have my mortgage payment coming out at the wrong time. It is MY money, and I will pay my bills when *I* say too.

For 2 1/2 years, I have been emailing them, asking them to change the date (and they did a few times), asking them to put the correct way of doing things back. Every time I did this, I would get lame excuses back about how it's my "anniversary date", and it can't be changed. And every time, I would ask them to not give me the same lame excuses, but they would anyway, insulting my intelligence. I mean, come on!? An anniversary date? By their logic, I have an "anniversary" date on just about everything. But I don't see the electric company forcing me to pay their bill on a certain date. Yes, it has to be paid *BY* a certain date. And, if I don't, I get a late fee. But they are not going to force me to pay on my "anniversary" date just because that was the date my electric service was turned on. It just does NOT make any sense. Paytrust is taking control of MY money, and I will NOT tolerate it.

The last few times I emailed them about this, I kept asking for a manager, president, vice-president, someone with some decision making power to explain to me why this was really done. I finally got a response from a customer relations manager. I don't think this person has the level of decision making power I was hoping for, but he'll do for now.

Here is his response:

Dear Mr. Morgan,

First, my apologies for the late response. Your dissatisfaction in your
inability to control the processing date of the Paytrust service fee,
and/or, our inability to modify it is well documented.

You are correct that in the past (at least three years ago), our
customers had the option to control their Paytrust bill. In that
format, Paytrust was set up as a regular payee. Several reasons
contributed to our decision to change our system. Some of the reasons
were customers inadvertently making payment to Paytrust for excessive
amounts, or, alternatively, customers were not paying their member
service fee at all. The decision to change the Paytrust payee to
prevent access from the end-users was difficult, but necessary.
Currently, the processing date is hard coded in and impossible to be
changed on a permanent basis. This is an industry wide practice and we
have no plans to change the process at this point.

We truly value your business and it will be extremely disappointing to
lose you as a customer over this issue. I assure you that had we had
the ability to change the date, it would have been changed by now.

If you would like to discuss this issue further I encourage you to
contact me via phone at the number below.

Regards,

Greg Theoharis
Customer Relations Manager
For the first time, I got one answer I was expecting. That people weren't paying their Paytrust bill. But that still isn't a good excuse. Punish me because you have a problem with other customers? Not a good idea. Do like the electric company, turn off service. But the one that surprised me is the idea of people paying more than they owed. Paytrust doesn't want your money until they are ready for it, and when they are ready for it, it has to be THIS day and in THIS amount. If it were me, I would be HAPPY to take more then you owe AND before it was due. The more people that do that, the more money I get to sit in the bank earning interest. Customers should be awarded for paying early and paying more. I just couldn't believe my eyes when I read that. Amazing.

So, although I love the service, I will be leaving them in hopes that more people will follow. I don't care if this is "hard coded" in the system now. I'm a computer guy. Code is NOT hard. Code can be changed at ANY moment. You, the company, have to decide whether or not the code meets your customers demands. If enough of us drop the service for this reason, the code WILL be changed. And, customers, once again, will be back in complete control of their money.

But, in the interest of fairness, and since Greg mentioned that it's an industry standard. I have asked him for 5 companys that have this practice that he claims is an industry standard. Although I just happened to think of one company/industry that he may claim to be using this practice which are the banks. Banks will charge a monthly service fee, and you don't have any control over when that is paid, as far as I know. The problem with that is, it's a bank. Paytrust is not a bank. And, I didn't think of banks before because all of my checking accounts are free. The only time I have to worry about charges are when I try to pay for something when I don't have the money. Overdraft fees are the pits, but that's another story. And is COMPLETELY in my control. If Greg gives me a list of at least 5 different companys that do what Paytrust does, I'll keep my account. I'll post when I have his response.

And if anyone knows of another service that does what Paytrust does, let me know. There are a few, but none of them have the ability to receive paper bills.