This is a saga that began 25 years ago when my dad told me that USAA was the absolute best auto insurer around and very exclusive. We were living in Chicago at the time and had just acquired our first car – a very old Honda Accord from my dad. Because my dad served in the US Navy, all family members were able to qualify for this insurance. I was happy with USAA for years until they continuously raised my rates without any reason. I had no claims for years, except for two very minor damages caused when my daughter was a teenage driver about 10 years ago. It is my general philosophy towards customer service that three strikes and you’re out.
The trouble began about three years ago when I received a letter from USAA stating that I had been chosen randomly and an outside firm called Professional Surveys Inc. (PSI) would be calling me to verify current household information. That first time around, I answered all the questions and lo and behold, I was rewarded with an increase in my premium. Mind you, no claims during this time, perfect driving record, and I had removed my daughter as an active driver from my policy because she relocated to downtown Chicago and was no longer driving.
The next year, once again lucky me – I was chosen randomly from all of their members to participate in the survey. I was a little annoyed, so I didn’t pick up immediately when I saw PSI on the caller ID. After about 4-5 attempts, I talked to them once again. Big surprise, after being put through a rigorous grilling including totally irrelevant questions about Jeff, I received a notice that my policy premium would increase. During the year that had elapsed, I was actually putting less mileage on my automobile, no claims, perfect driving record, and of course I was the only active driver on the policy.
When I lost my job in June 2011, I decided to streamline and rid myself of extra credit cards that had been dormant for years. I had applied for USAA Visa and MasterCard credit cards about 10 years prior, but hadn’t used them in probably 7-8 years. When I called to cancel, I was met with stubborn opposition and a hard sell. I had to argue with the representative for 10 minutes before she finally reluctantly agreed to cancel the cards.
In August 2012, my daughter moved from Chicago to New York City. At this point she hadn’t driven in 4 1/2 years. But I digress, because at this point my beef was the way I was treated when I notified USAA that I was canceling her renter’s insurance. The representative asked me more questions than if I was being interrogated by Gibbs or DiNozzo on NCIS. I was on the phone for 15 minutes before she told me she couldn’t do anything and my daughter would have to call to cancel the policy. So I said, “You mean to tell me that I spent this time, doing my due diligence, when I could just let the policy expire and ignore renewal notices?” She said, “Yes, you could certainly do that if you wish and the policy will be canceled.” My daughter is extremely busy and doesn’t have time to spend on the phone canceling a policy, so I followed the representative’s advice. Well, what ensued verged on harassment. I received at least five policy renewals from USAA and my daughter was being pestered by phone. They were also trying to dun us with late fees. When my daughter finally answered a call from USAA, she was disconnected after being on hold 10 minutes. She was getting tired of this so finally called USAA to tell them she was canceling the policy. While she was on hold, another USAA rep called her to ask about renewing the policy! By now I had already received a cancellation notice from USAA, but if that wasn’t clear enough, they sent another one a week after my daughter’s phone call.
In March 2013, I was blessed with yet another letter from USAA singling me out randomly to participate in the PSI survey. At this point I knew I wanted to seek other auto insurance quotes. PSI tried calling me no less than 14 times. I received a postcard from USAA notifying me that I had to call PSI to ensure that my policy was accurate. I received two letters stating that participation was mandatory. What a way to treat a 25-year loyal USAA member! It is perplexing that I was randomly chosen three years in a row and none of my family members were chosen: two sisters, parents, and ex-husband – random my rear end, and I don’t mean bumper.
I was shocked when I received a quote from Geico for very similar coverage that was less than half of what I was paying with USAA. It was a very easy decision to make the switch, especially in light of the recent events, not to mention paying such exorbitant rates all those years. When I told the very nice Geico representative about the PSI experience, he said he suspected that USAA had lost money in recent years due to poor investments and came up with this survey to raise premiums and recoup some of these losses. Whether that is true or not is irrelevant at this point – the fact of the matter is that I am sure I am not the only longtime USAA customer that has been pushed overboard by this random survey.
Epilogue and Word to the Wise
A warning that I would like to share as an aside to this saga. If you are searching for competitive auto insurance quotes online, be careful. It was not until I received 40 unsolicited phone calls that I realized my contact information had been picked up by a company called Consumer United. After numerous calls to my home number, I actually talked to a fellow and asked him to remove my name from the call list. A few days later I started receiving endless calls to my cell phone number – a number I guard carefully. I picked up once and when nobody replied on the other end, I said,” You had better stop calling this number or I will report you.” The next day I received 5-6 calls and picked up a few times, yet all I heard was deep breathing. It wasn’t until I researched complaints against this number that I realized it wasn’t a crank, but a very unprofessional telemarketer. I added all of our numbers to the Do Not Call registry and filed a remark online on a complaint board – alas, the calls have finally stopped!
May 2 Addendum
Just received a bill from USAA dunning us for late fees on the renter’s policy. I spent 20 minutes on the phone trying to rectify this situation only for the representative to tell me that we didn’t cancel the policy on time and now we owe $42.23 to cover less than two months. Mind you the lease on my daughter’s apartment ended on November 2 and she had not actually lived there since August 1. While I should have called sooner, I did call to cancel before the February policy renewal date, but obviously received erroneous information from a representative who didn’t know what she was doing or simply didn’t care. The rep I spoke to today is going to research all their phone records to determine if we tried to call to cancel the policy before the policy renewed and will get back to us tomorrow. The entire policy for the year before was just $81.14! USAA is the WORST insurance company and I will tell everyone I know to run as fast as they can. If I end up having to pay $42.23 for nothing, at least I will get some pleasure in knowing that I helped spread the message about their egregious customer service. Bottom line – they claim the phone record did not exist and I sent them a check – money thrown away on an insurance policy for an apartment we no longer lease. I’m the fool for staying with USAA for 25 years.