May 26

When I worked for a large company, my wife and I enjoyed the use of a Flexible Spending Account, otherwise known as an FSA. This account allowed us to save up to $5000 pretax, and use it for medical expenses during the course of the year. Doctor copays, medicine copays, and expenses that our insurance didn’t cover, such as chiropractic care. For the most part, I had no complaints about this program. The FSA was a use-it-or-lose-it plan, so members needed to plan carefully, and as the year drew to a close, if there was going to be much money left, it was time to go eyeglass shopping. That purchase was always good for a few hundred dollars. Recent changes to the plan reduced the family maximum to $2500, and tempered the use-it-or-lose-it provision to permit $500 to carry into the next year. Better, but not great.


Now, the Mrs is retired and I’m working for a small company whose health insurance is an HDHP, a high deductible health plan. This means that we have at least a deductible of $1250 per person ($2500 for the three of us) and a family maximum out of pocket of $12,700. What this also means is that I was eligible to open an HSA, a health savings account. The HSA offers a maximum pretax deposit of $6,550 per year. Most important, there’s no risk of losing what you don’t spend. In fact, the account offers investment options so if you are young you can use this as a long term savings account, invest it in stocks (whatever funds your custodian offers) and have these funds available for expenses in the future. In a sense it offers the best of both the traditional IRA with money going in pre-tax, and the Roth IRA, as qualified spending allows you to make withdrawals tax free. Unlike the FSA, this account does not need to be sponsored by your employer. So long as your health insurance meets the above criteria, you can open the HSA at a bank that offers it. If your insurance qualifies you for an HSA, check it out. Many of my coworkers were unaware they could use an HSA, and I saved them over $1500 for just a quick conversation and a bit of paperwork.

written by Joe \\ tags: , ,

Feb 13

No, not my fellow US Citizens, I mean Citizens bank. The bank that has my mortgage, equity line, and regular checking. When I found that my health plan qualified me to open an HSA (Health Savings Account) I was pleased to find that Citizens offered an HSA. Was pleased, as in “Is this really the same bank that I’ve grown to know and love for over a decade?”

It started when I opened the account and tried to fund it. When I set up a payment to my Mastercard or Amex, the Citizens Bill Pay offers me a next day payment. The funds are transferred directly to the other bank, for these cards as well as a number of utilities. When I tried to set up the payment into the HSA it became clear that Citizens was going to cut a check and mail it to another location. This was the first sign that I’d fallen into the rabbit hole.

I wait 3 days, and peek at the account. Day 3 there’s a negative $3.50. They sure know how to charge a fee quickly. Day 5, the deposit is there, and I see it cleared my checking account as well. I go to the HSA bill pay service and request a payment cut to a doctor 3 days later. Just so the money would surely have really cleared the account. Next day, I get an email:

Greetings from Citizens Bank HSA Online!
The following electronic withdrawal from your HSA Funding Account account could not be completed for the following reason:
A status or indicator on your account has blocked the posting of this transaction.
Payee: Doc Name Redacted
Transaction date: 02/05/2014
Transaction amount: $175.00

I call the number and am told by the bill pay department that I have insufficient funds. They can’t see my balance as I realized they are a third party, not part of the bank itself. I call the bank. They tell me nothing is wrong, try the payment again tonight. The next day, another bounce, and another two calls with both bill pay and the main bank. The bank insists nothing is wrong, they see my balance. Bill pay says there’s still an issue.

Last night, after the 4th bounce, I ask the bill pay gal if they’d be willing to conference call with the bank. Sure, but bill pay is 24/7, and the bank is just 9-5. At my request, she adds notes so the agent that answers today will conference in the main bank.


This is the 20 minutes it took me to tell my story a 5th time to another agent. To explain why a conference call was in order. To have her come on the line and say “transferring you now.” No. Conference. Call. 20 more minutes and the Bank agent agrees this needs elevation. He understands that somehow the bank is rejecting the bill pay request for debit. Why did it take me 5 calls and nearly 2 cumulative hours to get someone to agree to elevate? Because they needed to be sure something was wrong. At my expense. How long before I hear back? He doesn’t know. I ask him what reasonable amount of time I should set on my calendar before reminding myself to call in to see that all is well? He can’t say. I tell him if I don’t hear back in 10 days, I wont call, I’ll close the account. He says he understands.

What I don’t mention above – the account comes with 2 Mastercards tied to the HSA. Mine works, my wife’s doesn’t. These are separate calls also going nowhere. I remind myself, this is the same bank that paid me $5,000 to buy $50,000 worth of Visa and Amex gift cards. They know it’s me and they are now having their revenge. Who am I kidding? They can’t hand my $1000 from one account to another, they mailed a paper check. They don’t know me at all. And if they don’t fix this soon, they wont know me even less. I suppose after that rant, I owe you a decent article on HSAs and how they can save you some money on your taxes. Working on it. No, I don’t need ten days.

(Update and Conclusion – After my wife’s card was rejected earlier, I called the main dept last night. This time, the agent advised that my account just got funded the night prior. In other words, even though my account showed a deposit on Feb 3, and my Citizens checking showed the withdrawal on that date, the funds were not available to use until 8 days later. This morning I woke up to see that doctor’s check was cut last night and mailed out. Issue resolved.)

written by Joe \\ tags: , ,