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USAA - Come on Home

Aug 28, 2000 (Updated May 8, 2001)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:I could go on and on

Cons:Military only for the insurance

The Bottom Line: I have a lifetime commitment to this bank, read on for why.

USAA is the best bank Iíve had the pleasure to come across. Iíve been with them for six years, and do not foresee ever changing financial institutions again.

Auto Insurance: I started with USAA automobile insurance. Not only were the rates more reasonable than the Farmerís Insurance my parents had (even with the multi-car discount), USAAís system for making a claim is much easier. I was in a car accident in college, while still on my parentsí Farmerís Insurance, and the paperwork was endless, the agents not very helpful and sometimes downright rude even though the accident was not my fault. When I was the victim of a hit-and-run and insured by USAA, all I had to do was take my vehicle to the service dealer they suggested, pay my deductible directly to the dealer, and my Explorer was ready for the road a few days later. While I was out of the country, my parents had the same pleasant experience: when a tire blew (yep, those faulty Firestones!) and caused $900 worth of damage to the back end, they took my Explorer in for repairs, paid the deductible directly to the service dealer and didnít have to worry about anything else.

Not only was making a claim as simple and convenient as possible under the circumstances, USAA also pays dividends to people who insure their vehicles with them through a Subscriber Savings Account. Based upon a percentage of how much you pay for auto insurance, when USAA earns dividends on invested insurance monies, oneís Subscriber Savings Account is credited once a year. My vehicle insurance runs about $440 a year, but I also get a check for $50-75 every year too.

Renterís/Home Insurance: Iím a new homeowner and havenít made any claims on my homeownerís policy yet, but I have made a claim on my renterís policy. The agent helping me was polite and attentive. I received a partial settlement from the moving company that lost my property and full replacement value from USAA in a matter of days after I finished the paperwork. My renterís insurance was also very reasonably priced. I had the ďStandardĒ option (as opposed to the ďEconomyĒ or ďLuxuryĒ option) because of the quality of my furniture and antiques. I have a few riders for additional protection (jewelry, computers, etc.), and the yearly cost of renterís insurance was around $200. My homeownerís policy comes to about $160 more a year.

Checking and Savings Accounts: I have one checking and two savings accounts with USAA. The checking account draws interest whenever the balance is over $1000 at an interest rate of 1.25%. USAA has no ATM fees and will refund up to $1.50 in fees from ATMs that charge for their use. Itís a great feeling to get $40 out of my account and know itís just $40. Also, USAA doesnít seem to have very many service charges. I pay for new checks and Iíve paid a $10 fee to wire the money for the down payment on my house to an escrow account. Cashierís checks carry a charge of $2.

My savings accounts draw various interest rates. Deposits up to $999 draw 1.75% interest with 1.76% Annual Percentage Yield (APY). Deposits from $1,000 to $4,999 draw 2.20% interest with 3.23% APY. Deposits from $5,000 to $24,999 draw 3.15% interest and 4.20% APY. Deposits over $25,000 draw 3.55% interest with an APY of 4.61%. The bank gives out Bonus Interest dividends twice annually which I deposit right back into my savings accounts.

Credit Cards: I have the USAA Platinum Mastercard. The annual percentage rate on all USAA credit cards can go as low as 13.5%. With my platinum card comes a travel service. I get 5% back on all travel I book through USAA. While I lived in Japan, and now that my fiancť lives in Germany, our travel costs really add up and the 5% rebate is a nice little bonus. The real advantage to the travel service is that I get corporate discounts and deals on airfare, car rental, hotels, and tour packages. (They have cruises too, but I havenít tried those yet.) Iíve been able to get all of my fiancťís and my own airfare for less than my in-laws going through a discount broker, the internet, or calling the airlines directly.

Relocation Services: When I decided to buy a home, I went through USAAís relocation service. I was assigned to a coordinator and she referred me to a realtor in the area I was moving to. The realty agents go through a special course to become affiliated with USAAís relocation service. My realtor, on two days notice, spent two weeks helping me find the house that I ultimately purchased.

Home Loans: I financed my mortgage entirely through USAA, though they also deal frequently with VA certificates and loans. I was pre-approved for a home loan within a matter of minutes after talking to an agent at the mortgage company to which USAA sub-contracts. I did have a few problems with the agent initially, mostly due to my own unfamiliarity with the process of buying a home. I complained about the service I was getting and the complaint was resolved to my satisfaction. My realtor, the coordinator, and my loan officer walked me through the entire process until I was comfortable with it. Whatís more, my loan was given a high priority and I closed on my house in a mere two weeks after entering into a contract with the previous owner.

Mutual Funds: USAA has a plethora of mutual funds to choose from. I have one large cap stock fund with them, but intend to invest in others to round out my portfolio. I invested in the S&P 500 Index Fund, which is a mirror fund, and it has performed quite well, despite a few corrections in the market. As with all investing, itís important to do your research and not invest more than you can afford to lose.

Financial Services: If youíre not comfortable with making investment decisions on your own, USAA also offers a financial planning service. I used the financial profile. I paid $550 for the profile and consultation and will only pay $275 per year to continue the service after the first year. In the meantime, USAA has raised the price to $975 for the initial profile and consultation and Iím not sure what the costs are if you choose to do continue. I bounced the profile from USAAís financial advisors off of similar profiles from Paine-Webber and USPA&IRA. USAAís financial advisor actually made some astute observations that the others missed and helped me reconfigure my investments into a more balanced portfolio, given my tolerance for risk and my long-term goals. I was very impressed with the service, though the cost had initially put me off. I am confident that in the long run, the cost of the financial advisorís expertise will be more than made up for in my investment returns.

Phone and Internet Services: USAA has a partnership with Sprint for long-distance phone and internet service. I get a discount on my monthly earthlink charge for the internet and my long-distance charges also rack up frequent flier miles with Northwest. USAA has its own Sprint operators if you have a problem or need change to your service. I chose the frequent flier miles option with my USAA/Sprint sign up, but they do offer cash back and other perks as options too.

I do most of my banking online including transferring funds between accounts and monitoring the performance of my mutual fund. I have access to my bank accounts, credit card account, and insurance. I can even look at my Subscriber Savings Account to see how much it has accrued in the past few years. Before I began using the internet, and now when I donít have access to a computer, USAAís Touchline services offers the same visibility of bank accounts and credit card balances as their internet service.

Unfortunately, the one drawback is only military servicemen and women and their family members are eligible to apply for USAA membership for the property and auto insurance. However, if you are in the service, or related to someone who is, and get out, you wonít lose your membership or any of the benefits. If you also need face-to-face contact, this is not the bank for you. I do all of my business over the internet, phone or mail, which I am comfortable with. Given that Iíve tried a plethora of USAAís services and products, and Iím still loyal to them, I highly recommend this bank to anyone!

Recommend this product? Yes

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