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I actually did finish out January’s goals – with the exception of the goal of posting them.  I did change one to finish up with my banking move and complete a larger goal – snagging one of those nearly impossible to get historically low mortgage rates.  Which I did.  I also can see the light in the the banking consolidation tunnel that I started down ages ago.

The scenario was this – years ago I had all of my accounts at Wachovia and my mortgage was at one of those little banks that no longer exists.  In fact, I had accounts there that were the evolution of my passbook account from when I was a small child.  Well, Wachovia bought my little mortgage bank and then First Union bought them.  And then, due to divorce, I needed to refinance.  And they wouldn’t even talk to me.  No interest at all.  So a friend points me to a mortgage banker at SunTrust who was terrific and got my mortgage refinanced – and then, several years later, refinanced again at a better rate.

All good.  And then SunTrust waves a “great” checking and savings account deal as well as an equity line “just in case”.  Sounds good, so I start moving accounts (see, I liked the consolidation idea even a few years ago).  Three months into my “no fee, best of breed” checking, I look on my statement and see $25/mo fees.  I call and get told that my mortgage has dropped under their “free” threshold.  I’m paying thousands a year in interest and they want to charge me $25/mo for not owing them enough (and believe me, I owed plenty in my opinion).  I switch to their budget no-frills checking, shred the debit cards and let the two accounts there gather dust.

Flash forward to the economy starting to tank and interest rates dropping at the same time as the credit card companies decide that they are going to jack up everyone’s rates (good customer or not) since they are sure the new “don’t screw the consumer” laws are going to cut into their multi-million dollar executive bonuses.  I sensibly use my equity line to consolidate now high interest card balances.  (Don’t worry, there’s a point to all this.)

Slide farther into the economic crash and interest rates are at a historic low, I have accounts at 2 banks, Wells Fargo has bought Wachovia and I start getting letters about impending fees for breathing inside their brick and mortar.  So, back in December, I pick my little local bank (their products were a bit better than the credit union and their ATM use was free across any bank’s ATM) and I open accounts there with a bit of windfall cash.  Now I have 6 accounts across 3 banks.  Time to consolidate, yes?  Should be easy, yes?  Hah!  I take my excellent FICO, steady job, paid off credit cards, home equity and cash in the bank and start the refinance process, figuring that’s step one.

Welcome to the world of low interest rates, decreasing home values and insanely difficult to get loans.  First I discover that the last three homes in my neighborhood were sold at bargain prices by owners desperate to get out from under their mortgages.  Yay.  My appraisal comes in 4K too low to avoid PMI since I am also paying off the equity line as part of the move – I call around and discover that is about the norm in my area at the moment.  OK, no problem, fast way to fix this is subordinate the second and drop it out of the loan – 48 pages of paperwork and a $200 check and it’s just a matter of waiting a couple of weeks for SunTrust to agree.  Mid-January (3 weeks after I submitted my request) I call and am told they are “working on December 5th requests” – and were rather snotty with me about it.  Yoiks!

Back to the little bank where we sharpen our pencils and move the equity line instead of paying it off.  In the meantime, I close the Wachovia and SunTrust savings accounts – BOTH have repeatedly called since then to “get me back” (they need to get in the frozen hell line with the cable company).  So January ended with 4 accounts at 3 banks and a closing date for my refinance – February should end with 2 accounts and a mortgage at one bank.  Finally.  Oh and interest checking, free ATM and checks and no fees.  What a concept and what a long annoying trip it’s been.

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