WaMu Sucks!

This is yet another story of Washington Mutual closing a credit card account due to inactivity. My credit card with a limit of $16,500 was completely closed on November 14, 2008 (which you will find is the same date as so many other account holders had their WAMU credit card accounts closed.) After getting absolutely NOWHERE with the customer service number on the back of the card (AKA the call center in the Philippines), I decided to dig a little deeper into the situation (as I felt I was completely wronged.) You have to pick your battles in life and this is one that I've decided to spend some time on – perhaps due to principle.

Like the others that have recently complained, I received the letter that was dated November 14, 2008 and postmarked December 1, 2008 that stated that my credit card account had been closed due to inactivity. Most of the letters will give another reason that they can somehow relate to risk so they can substantiate their actions. In my case it was that I had "too many mortgage loans." Good stuff, eh? Yes, I have a lot of mortgage loans because I own multiple investment properties. The only way they can remotely relate these to risk is if they researched my LTVs (loan to value amounts) and determine if I was "upside down" in my loans (owed more than what the real estate was valued.) If you've never seen such a reason given for an adverse credit decision, don't feel alone. I called a friend of mine that works in the "credit decisions" department of Chase who chuckled when I told him about this specific reason given. He stated that it is indeed on the list of negative credit factors but he has never seen it used in a credit decision involving a revolving credit card account. He indicated that it is most commonly used when applying for a new mortgage or second mortgage (home equity) loan and there are already numerous or excessive loans present on the real property directly associated with the application or other "highly leveraged" real estate (total loans exceed 80% of property value) in the applicant's portfolio.

The reason I've went into so much detail with this "negative credit factor" that WAMU disclosed in the letter is to illustrate how desperate and far they had to "reach" to include some sort of negative factor to substantiate their credit decision. In my case, I don't carry much debt nor do I have any negative credit factors and my FICO score is 790-810 depending on which agency you pull from, which made it much more difficult to list a sensible reason for their decision.

My account was nearly 5 years old and had been with Providian Bank before WAMU had acquired their accounts. I had also not been informed before this decision was made and when I pressed them for an answer as to why they wouldn't make the effort to call some of their longer term customers before sending them an "after-the-fact" form letter that their account was closed, I was given a very ridiculous response. It started with the same "standard response" that others had received about WAMU reserving the right to reduce or revoke credit based on the terms of my cardholder agreement, but get this.. "We didn't call you because we are not legally required to inform you prior to our credit decisions." I quickly retorted that, for me, this translated into "We didn't extend you any level of respect or customer service because we weren't legally require to." :) Amazing. I actually paused and asked the representative if they actually listened to what they just told me. Unbelievable. Clearly they are not concerned with customer retention and they have made a decision to just clean the slate and start over, regardless of loss. Not that it will make a difference to them, but I have decided to pull all my personal and business banking accounts from their institution as well. While I haven't had any problems with their banking division, I refuse to do business with a company that cannot be trusted and that does not value their customers (regardless of departmental lines.)

I will say, however, that even if it seems like a complete waste of time, I urge everyone to lodge a complaint with WAMU's Executive Offices (I have included their phone number and correspondence address below.) When I called, they seemed to be eager to hear my story and record my complaint. It didn't help reopen my account or anything that satisfying, but I'd like to think that SOMEONE in higher management cares about customer feedback and how they've treated some of their long term customers. Additionally, it's also good to send correspondence to the same office as often, written letters are deemed more serious and can't as easily be "put to bed." Often, when you call and speak to someone, responses can vary depending on the personality, mood and character of the representative you receive. Letters, however, have to be addressed and aren't always handled by one person.

Good luck to everyone and always remember, it's usually always worth the time to fight such decisions as it negatively impacts your credit score when you lose a portion of your available credit – especially if you carry balances on your other cards. The loss of the unused credit will reduce your ratio of "utilized balances to available credit" and make you appear as more of a credit risk. When a company decides to reduce or revoke your credit, it will usually lead to a "snowball effect" as your other card issuing banks review your credit profile and notice the newly dropped score and raised proportionate balances to available credit (across all of your revolving accounts.)

If I can jump on my soapbox for a moment here, it really upsets me to see big banks continuing to act irresponsible in a poor economy that, for the most part, they have caused. We all know that their loose credit decisions in the mortgage market created the bulk of the economic situation that we are all currently suffering. Now that they are in "conservation mode" they are making overzealous decisions in the name of "risk assessment and management" and are further hurting the economy. When they decide to completely close a responsible consumer's account like they have done in my situation, they have reduced both my ability to obtain credit elsewhere as well as my ability to buy products and services, which is the lifeblood of our economy. Now take my situation and apply it on a much larger scale and you see the uppercut they are throwing after the near-knockout punch they've already dealt to our economy. Additionally, they have been given federal assistance to keep afloat – an attempt by our government to stabilize the economy. Unfortunately, this assistance was given without strings attached so they are under no obligation to make decisions that help the economy as a whole. This is about self-preservation and they are only concerned with their own institution, not the greater good of our economy. I will curb this before it gets into the "socialistic" approach and why the government owning our banks isn't necessarily a negative factor (no, I am not against the free-market system, but sometimes greedy and corrupt private banking institutions undermine the principles of laissez-faire... And well? Here we are in our current situation.

Washington Mutual contact information (as referenced above):


Corporate Switchboard (206) 461-2000 (Ask for the Executive Office)


ATTN: Executive Office
PO BOX 1147
Northridge, CA 91328-114