Saturday, October 20, 2007

Celebration!

I am very proud to say that after SIX MONTHS, Wal and I finally properly, legally share a credit card.

A bit of the financial backstory...

Wal and I made the decision in about April to merge our finances. Before that we would split costs, take turns paying, or he would reimburse me for his part of things I put on my credit card. It wasn't awful (because he is smart, responsible, and we were in similar financial positions), but it wasn't great. It was a pain to be squaring up all the time - I admit, it was just awkward to ask for money so regularly, even though it was money already spent and agreed upon.

First, I thought that in the interest of us keeping financial indepence options, we should each have our own card. I kept the one I had, and we opened one for him. We discussed it, and decided to create a joint checking account, to which we contribute equally. Having our own separate accounts and cards as well means that we don't have to split the cost of anything we didn't want to, but we do end up sharing all of the day-to-day spending.

The plan was to get a credit card together, which would be paid from the joint checking account.

Obviously, there was a lot more to it than I would have hoped.

The Saga Begins
There is a BofA branch at our university, and the main person for opening accounts there is an amusing woman with quite the mustache, if I may say so. Unfortunately, I looked past her always-haggard appearance and the fact that she had already fouled up a new account for me before (Thanks, I'd like to transfer TO my savings account, not out of it, because if I put in the minimum and you transfer money out? I no longer have the minimum.)

I discussed the situation and told her what we wanted to do. I opened the joint checking account without any problems. She assured me that I could open the credit card under my name, and then if Wal came by the office, she could add him to the account, as simple as that!

(I assure you that I had explained to her how I wanted it to work, i.e. that I wanted it to be owned by both of us, and to have credit reported for each of us. I did not use the phrase "co-applicant," because at the time, I did not know their lingo for this well. That's sort of, well, THEIR job, isn't it?)

Let me explain to you, gentle reader, their lingo, for reference, and in case you shall encounter the scary woman...

The Lingo
With Bank of America, and probably similarly with other institutions, you have two basic options. First, you can put people on your card as "Authorized Users." They get their own card with their name, but all the charges ring back to you, and you're the one with the legal responsiblity for paying the bills. They can't manage the account or pay the bill, and the monkey passes "Go" and proceeds directly to your back if they charge too much.

You also have the option of adding a "co-applicant." As the "co" in the name implies, you are equally reponsible for the account. Payment or non-payment affects BOTH of your credit reports, and either one can pay/ manage the account.

So you think you're a co-applicant...
As you may have expected from my non-sublte hinting, she fucked it up. (Sorry, mom)

We got our cards in the mail, but the account can't be accessed by Wal online.

I call.

Oh yes, Wal's on the account... as an Authorized User. There's a form we have to fill out for a co-applicant.

They mail the form.
We mail the form back.
They send us The Letter.

The Letter
The Letter is in response to our form. The Letter asks for, well, basically any identifying documentation you can think of...and a few more. Things I don't have access to. Things that don't exist yet! Things that would be just one big lovely package of identity theft shuttling through the postal service.

Just think, wouldn't it have been nice to have someone look at his picture ID and only a few other things, perhaps, if it had been done in person? The first time?

I call them. I explain that, well, this sucks, and that this documentation is ri-fuckin'-diculous. I point out that TO OPEN THE ACCOUNT I needed only my license. How is it possible that he should need...more than was needed to open his or my credit card?

She assures me she can take care of it. We will have confirmation in the mail in 72 hours, and only that long because it's the weekend. She tells me that they don't actually need all that documentation. All they really need is to get both of us on the phone, and read us one paragraph of legal crap about responsibility for the account. She does so.

I get a letter in the main. It's not The Letter, but it's like, The Letter, Jr. This letter only requires a photocopy of his driver's license, for verification of physical address.

To me, do you know what would have verified his physical address? The fact that we had sent in a photocopy of his license only two months earlier to verify the very same address, on his accounts. And also, the fact that it is the same as the one which I already have on the account.
...

But we mailed it in. I heard nothing for a month. He still did not have online access to the account, but by this point, I had given up hope that the bureaucratic game would end any time soon. I had asked explicitly in my letter with the license (with all the necessary info, that we both signed, etc) to be called if the account would be held up any further, etc. etc.

Today, huffy because we got all of the BofA mailings about updating our Cardholder Agreements, but still no Wal on my account, I call Card Services.

He pulls up the accounts and confirms to me that Wal is a co-applicant on the account!
Shock!

Joy!
I make him wait while I pull up Online Banking. It's true! He has access!

Finally, the day has come. They mailed the letter several days ago, but it hasn't gotten here yet. THE JOY HAS, THOUGH!

And it only took us 6 months.

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I would like to point out at this juncture that I have a great deal of respect for the people who work for Card Services, and the other BofA customer service lines. I find them to be consistently very knowledgable, fluent in English (sorry, but you know what I mean), and quickly available at any time of day. They are more familiar with all the possible permutations of things, since they deal with issues all day long. I know that working one branch office, you deal with certain kinds of transactions mostly, so I partially forgive my Mustache Lady for dicking up my account so much. Almost.

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More to come on: our credit card strategy, advice for those of you about to do the same things, and (dun dun DUN) credit reports.

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