PermaLink Not online? Not in business.05/01/2006 03:57 PM

In 2006, can there really be any viable, defensible excuse for a company to not allow customers to make electronic payments from any existing account on the planet?

UPDATE: as of March, 2010, I no longer have an account with E-Shit or CLC. Seems a pity, since I just renewed the domain "" Anybody wanna buy it? As you can see, it's the #1 hit on Google if you type in "etrade blows," as a lot of people are inclined to do. Make an offer!

They did improve, somewhat, in the area of customer service during the home mortgage meltdown of 2007-2009, but I think it's just wallpaper and spackle intended to make the company's mortgage loan business look better so that Charles Schwab or TD Ameritrade will buy the whole company. Realistically, it won't work, since E-Trade (and CLC) hold a truly amazing array of crap loans. But anything's possible if they get desperate.

The original post follows:

I am somewhat annoyed. A month or two ago, I did a home equity loan through E-Loan, one of the larger online loan outfits. The terms were good, the service was decent, but there was one annoying thing I asked about right up front: no, they did not offer a way by which I could pay that loan electronically!

That's right, folks, the "E" in "E-Loan" stands for "Luddite."

There was no way to pay an E-Loan loan electronically. They offered a check-by-phone service, for a ten-dollar fee. Of course, what's stupid about that is, mailing them a paper check (which costs them money to handle) is free for me. Paying online (which they don't offer) would be nearly free for everybody. I didn't worry much about that, though, because I knew they basically sell 100% of their loans to other servicers in relatively short order.

Sure enough, I got an email last week saying they'd sold the loan to a service called CLC Consumer Services. A little calling around, and I found that this outfit is actually the servicing arm of E-Trade, one of the largest, presumably most-advanced online banking and brokerage concerns in the country. I called E-Trade to find out what my new account number would be, and then asked them how I could set up direct payments out of my checking account to pay my montly payment on the loan.

"Well, you can't, unless you have another account with E-Trade," came the answer.

Now, let me explain: I can pay my mortgage online, when I want, direct from my checking account (though perversely, the home equity line I had a couple of years ago through the same company could not be paid online! That's why I refinanced). I can pay every single credit card I have (yes, even gas cards and Lowe's) direct from my existing checking account. I can pay my cable bill online from my existing checking account. I can even pay for my trash pickup and my tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike online from my existing checking account. But apparently, in order to pay E-Trade for the loan they bought, I have to have an account with E-Trade, even though I can fund those E-Trade accounts from my existing checking account! I in effect have to bounce money off one account I don't want and don't need in order to pay an account I didn't ask them to take.

And of course, they charge $10 for a payment by phone, too.

So, yes, the "E" in "E-Trade" stands for "Luddite," as well.

Another stupid wrinkle: if I have a checking account with E-trade, there's a $10 monthly fee if I don't keep $1000 in it all month, even though it's earning exactly 0% interest. On my credit union account, my checking account may only be earning a fraction of a percent, but it's earning something. But perversely, if I have a brokerage account, which also earns nothing, there's no fee (at least none that I've found yet) even if the only thing I do all month is pay my home equity loan. Compare and contrast: I am earning over four-and-a-half percent on my balance on PayPal (it's a great deal, if you don't have a PayPal debit card and account, go get one -- instant 1.5% cash back on purchases, too).

So, stuff all the hype. The "new banking" entities do the same stupid shit as the old banking entities, it's just they have newer commercials and their websites are slicker.

If E-Trade really wants to be dickish about this, I will pay my monthly payment in a stack of checks for $14 each. I have boxes of checks I got printed, cheap, a couple of years ago right about the time that I stopped (mostly) needing to write checks. They have cows on them and announce, All Your Base Are Belong To Us. It's fun sometimes to watch cashiers look all puzzled.

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2. Laura09/08/2006 02:41:55 PM

I am setting up an account on-line with The first window that opened up worried me...very low tech looking. I put in my loan number, last 4 digits of primary phone number and my state. Viola up came my loan info. It allowed me to put in my checking account routing number etc. I called customer service to get a few questions answered. Payments will apply same day if made in Eastern AM time. There is no fee. So apparently, these guys have put the horse and buggy into retirement. We'll see how it goes.

3. Anthony E Johnson08/10/2006 01:27:08 AM

They received my June payment on May 30th and the idiots applied it as a May payment (even though they had already received one for May) and then sent us a late fee notice.

When we called them and proved to them that they had received the payment they refused to apply it to the correct month. I had to put my wife on the line to straighten the idiots out. She is very good with phone reps, having been on herself for years she know's how to handle them.. I just yell and scream

What a nightmare

4. Bluto08/01/2006 03:44:05 PM

And another thing... Not a single one of their statements lists a phone number or a web site to contact them. You can only write them via US MAIL.

Hooray for the "E" in E* Trade!

5. Bluto08/01/2006 03:40:24 PM

I've even got a better one for you as a story form CLC.

I received several calls last month complaining that they did not have my payment.

Since I do electronic banking with Wachovia, I promptly called Wachovia who gave me the ELECTRONIC trace id where the funds were transmitted to E*Trade / CLC.

These idiots REFUSED to research their own error without a paper check. I informed them several times that this is an ELECTRONIC payment, THERE IS NO PAPER CHECK TO SEND THEM!!!! I continued to be amazed that the people who actually work for E*Trade do not seem to have the slightest notion as to what an Electronic trace id is..... Arrrgh!

After several weeks of yelling and screaming at supervisors in their so-called "Customer Research Department", I received a paper printout of the electronic receipt from CLC in the mail with a letter addressed to a COMPLETELY different person stating that they had no idea which account to apply this payment.

In the meantime, the brains at E*Trade applied several late fees and reported me to a credit agency for a missed payment.


The bottom line: These idiots receive electronic payments but they ACTUALLY print out a hard copy of the transaction and MANUALLY enter it into their systems.

AAAH the innovation of E*Trade!

DO NOT. I REPEAT DO NOT give this company any of your business. I am researching other companies now to get rid of this home equity loan.

6. bus boy07/20/2006 08:29:41 AM

I've been making online payments to CLC using my banks online banking with no problems. I've been doing it for a year now. It's just wired that they don't have an online pressence.

7. margaret06/13/2006 11:38:35 PM I just want to find CLC consumer services web site..We are in the 21st century and they have no web site. I pay them free with my online checking account. Of course, that money has to leave my account 2 weeks in advance because it is sent paper draft. What a mess. Any one know the web address?

8. Tony05/15/2006 11:56:16 PM

I just had the same thing happen, Eloan, the sold to CLS/E*Trade Bank. I got my coupon book and there is a form to fill out and send with a voided check to set up auto payments but I'll be damned if I can find a way to just pay them directly online.

So, I just use online banking with Bank of America for free and have them send the payment...

9. Turtle05/02/2006 02:27:31 PM

I used CheckFree -- *twenty years ago*. The idea is, for transactions between a bank (my credit union) and a bank (E-trade), I should be able to go direct. And this is literally the ONLY one I cannot do that way. I'm not gonna pay $10 to pay one bill. I am just not going to do it. Even my oil company uses PayPal.

10. Tim05/02/2006 12:11:30 PM

Using a service like CheckFree or Quicken's payment service allows me to just 'send' the payment. They work out if it can be done electronically or not. If not, they cut them a paper check. No hassle for me. Yes, $9.95 a month, but no checks/stamps/envelopes....

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