Money, part 2

If you have seen American TV and/or movies you have probably seen scenes where someones credit card gets rejected. Usually the character then pulls up another card and asks the cashier to try that one instead. I always found that to be a bit peculiar that people in American movies always seemed to have multiple credit cards for situations like that.

But this is really how it is here.. people have multiple cards. From having one SEB/Visa banking card that was enough for anything I needed to do I now suddenly have added to my collection two debit cards (one Visa and one MasterCard) and one credit card (Visa). (And I’m sure I soon have at least one more credit card..)

And if that wasn’t enough, I also have two different check books. I have never written a check in my life before, it feels like something we should have left behind us in the 20th century. But that is the only way I can pay my apartment rent. I need to write a check and give it to the people in the leasing office.

My first bank account I opened before I left Sweden. When I had signed for Google I got offers from both Citibank and Wells Fargo to open accounts specialized for international people. So I went with Citibank and had contact with an “account opening specialist” called Cheryl. After sending in various papers both from Google and from SEB (and resending since they got wrong the first time) and answering a bunch of questions I got an account opened and a welcome package with a debit/ATM card sent to Sweden.

When the account was opened I asked what I needed to do to get a credit card as well. (I had heard that I needed to have that..) Cheryl said I could just send in an application to her and she would forward it to Citicards. So I did and then absolutely nothing happened. After a while I tried to email Cheryl to ask what was happening. No answer. Finally (now being in USA) I called her. She sounded like she had no idea who I was or remembering any application and didn’t seem to care much. I guess she had already got her kick back for opening my account had no reason to help me any further. The only answer I got was to call Citicards and ask them.

So I called Citicards and asked and they couldn’t find my application in their system. Send in a new one was the answer. So I sent in another application. Since this was an application for international people like me there were instructions on various papers I should send in as well. This was just before I got my social security number. I probably should have waited until I had it..

So I sent in the application together with copies of the papers from Google and SEB that I already had sent in before. After a long time I got an email from Citibank saying that they needed one more piece of information. How much I paid per month for my apartment loan in Sweden. (I had mentioned that in the application, maybe that was a mistake..)

In the email was a phone number that I called. On the phone they said that they needed an IRS form, but nothing about any monthly payments.. They also said a letter would come in the mail about this. A few days later the letter arrived saying that I needed to send in all of those papers that I already had sent in. No mention about any monthly payments or IRS forms or that they had got some papers but they were not good enough. I will from now refer to them as Schizobank.

So I gave up that application because I was now on my way to get a credit card from somewhere else.

When I passed the written drivers license test I got a temporary California license. That meant I could start the process of buying a car. And the first step to buying a car is to get a loan. (Unless you buy a cheap enough car so you can pay for it in cash.) But getting a loan is not very easy when you have zero US credit history.

In USA there is a thing called credit unions. They are like banks but smaller and cooperatively owned. You don’t become a customer of a credit union, you become a member. (And I think they are a bit fuzzy about who they accept as a member.) Google have a partnership with two credit unions and I had understood that it maybe was easier to get a loan from them.

First I phoned KeyPoint Credit Union but they needed at least three years of US credit history to approve a car loan. They had been accepting no credit history before but in the aftermath of the international finance crisis they had stopped that.

Then I contacted Stanford Federal Credit Union and they would accept me getting a loan. It’s to a higher rate than if I had had a good credit score. But if I make a down payment of at least 30% I get a rather decent interest rate. So the lady that is the Google contact came out to meet me at the Google campus the next day to fill out all the papers. Within just a day I had opened a new bank account, applied for a credit card and got approval for a car loan. That is customer service!

Today I was at a car dealer test driving a few cars…

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