Bye Bye USAA – Why I am Now Cruising with the Gecko at Geico

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This is a saga that began 25 years ago when my dad told me that USAA was the absolute best auto insurer around and very exclusive. We were living in Chicago at the time and had just acquired our first car – a very old Honda Accord from my dad. Because my dad served in the US Navy, all family members were able to qualify for this insurance. I was happy with USAA for years until they continuously raised my rates without any reason. I had no claims for years, except for two very minor damages caused when my daughter was a teenage driver about 10 years ago. It is my general philosophy towards customer service that three strikes and you’re out.

The trouble began about three years ago when I received a letter from USAA stating that I had been chosen randomly and an outside firm called Professional Surveys Inc. (PSI) would be calling me to verify current household information. That first time around, I answered all the questions and lo and behold, I was rewarded with an increase in my premium. Mind you, no claims during this time, perfect driving record,  and I had removed my daughter as an active driver from my policy because she relocated to downtown Chicago and was no longer driving.

The next year, once again lucky me – I was chosen randomly from all of their members to participate in the survey. I was a little annoyed, so I didn’t pick up immediately when I saw PSI on the caller ID. After about 4-5 attempts, I talked to them once again. Big surprise, after being put through a rigorous grilling including totally irrelevant questions about Jeff, I received a notice that my policy premium would increase. During the year that had elapsed, I was actually putting less mileage on my automobile, no claims, perfect driving record, and of course I was the only active driver on the policy.

When I lost my job in June 2011, I decided to streamline and rid myself of extra credit cards that had been dormant for years. I had applied for USAA Visa and MasterCard credit cards about 10 years prior, but hadn’t used them in probably 7-8 years. When I called to cancel, I was met with stubborn opposition and a hard sell. I had to argue with the representative for 10 minutes before she finally reluctantly agreed to cancel the cards.

In August 2012, my daughter moved from Chicago to New York City. At this point she hadn’t driven in 4 1/2 years. But I digress, because at this point my beef was the way I was treated when I notified USAA that I was canceling her renter’s insurance. The representative asked me more questions than if I was being interrogated by Gibbs or DiNozzo on NCIS. I was on the phone for 15 minutes before she told me she couldn’t do anything and my daughter would have to call to cancel the policy. So I said, “You mean to tell me that I spent this time, doing my due diligence, when I could just let the policy expire and ignore renewal notices?” She said, “Yes, you could certainly do that if you wish and the policy will be canceled.” My daughter is extremely busy and doesn’t have time to spend on the phone canceling a policy, so I followed the representative’s advice. Well, what ensued verged on harassment. I received at least five policy renewals from USAA and my daughter was being pestered by phone. They were also trying to dun us with late fees. When my daughter finally answered a call from USAA, she was disconnected after being on hold 10 minutes. She was getting tired of this so finally called USAA to tell them she was canceling the policy. While she was on hold, another USAA rep called her to ask about renewing the policy! By now I had already received a cancellation notice from USAA, but if that wasn’t clear enough, they sent another one a week after my daughter’s phone call.

In March 2013, I was blessed with yet another letter from USAA singling me out randomly to participate in the PSI survey. At this point I knew I wanted to seek other auto insurance quotes. PSI tried calling me no less than 14 times. I received a postcard from USAA notifying me that I had to call PSI to ensure that my policy was accurate. I received two letters stating that participation was mandatory. What a way to treat a 25-year loyal USAA member! It is perplexing that I was randomly chosen three years in a row and none of my family members were chosen: two sisters, parents, and ex-husband – random my rear end, and I don’t mean bumper.

I was shocked when I received a quote from Geico for very similar coverage that was less than half of what I was paying with USAA. It was a very easy decision to make the switch, especially in light of the recent events, not to mention paying such exorbitant rates all those years. When I told the very nice Geico representative about the PSI experience, he said he suspected that USAA had lost money in recent years due to poor investments and came up with this survey to raise premiums and recoup some of these losses. Whether that is true or not is irrelevant at this point – the fact of the matter is that I am sure I am not the only longtime USAA customer that has been pushed overboard by this random survey.

Epilogue and Word to the Wise

A warning that I would like to share as an aside to this saga. If you are searching for competitive auto insurance quotes online, be careful. It was not until I received 40 unsolicited phone calls that I realized my contact information had been picked up by a company called Consumer United. After numerous calls to my home number, I actually talked to a fellow and asked him to remove my name from the call list. A few days later I started receiving endless calls to my cell phone number – a number I guard carefully. I picked up once and when nobody replied on the other end, I said,” You had better stop calling this number or I will report you.” The next day I received 5-6 calls and picked up a few times, yet all I heard was deep breathing. It wasn’t until I researched complaints against this number that I realized it wasn’t a crank, but a very unprofessional telemarketer. I added all of our numbers to the Do Not Call registry and filed a remark online on a complaint board – alas, the calls have finally stopped!

May 2 Addendum

Just received a bill from USAA dunning us for late fees on the renter’s policy. I spent 20 minutes on the phone trying to rectify this situation only for the representative to tell me that we didn’t cancel the policy on time and now we owe $42.23 to cover less than two months. Mind you the lease on my daughter’s apartment ended on November 2 and she had not actually lived there since August 1. While I should have called sooner, I did call to cancel before the February policy renewal date, but obviously received erroneous information from a representative who didn’t know what she was doing or simply didn’t care. The rep I spoke to today is going to research all their phone records to determine if we tried to call to cancel the policy before the policy renewed and will get back to us tomorrow. The entire policy for the year before was just $81.14! USAA is the WORST insurance company and I will tell everyone I know to run as fast as they can. If I end up having to pay $42.23 for nothing, at least I will get some pleasure in knowing that I helped spread the message about their egregious customer service. Bottom line – they claim the phone record did not exist and I sent them a check – money thrown away on an insurance policy for an apartment we no longer lease. I’m the fool for staying with USAA for 25 years.

28 Comments:

  1. Thanks! I was just mailed one of these PSI things from USAA. Now I will ignore it. We will see what’s up with that. Thanks again for the warning. Means the world.

    • “When I called to cancel, I was met with stubborn opposition and a hard sell. I had to argue with the representative for 10 minutes before she finally reluctantly agreed to cancel the cards.”

      I had to endure about an hour of it. Same with closing my checking. They told me that if I closed them – my premiums would go up. Nothing on my policy disclosure statement saying I was getting a discount for having checking or CC accounts. Just a bunch of crooks.

  2. michael butler

    Well after 28 years with USAA. I have fell into hard times. I missed my payments on my insurance. I tried to make arrangements. But is was not what they could do. So, they are going to drop me. I will have to look elsewhere. When I need them the most, they were not there for me.

    • That is unfortunate and I’m sorry to hear this. Everytime I see one of their TV commercials, I cringe – they really don’t care about loyal customers.

    • Marcus Pumphrey

      I absolutely agree. I recently experienced a layoff and these people were unwilling to lift a finger to do anything for me. This after 15 years of automatic payments. Horrible treatment of vets and their customers. I guarantee 95% of their customers will not stay for life and neither will I.

      • Thank you, Marcus for sharing this – and sorry that you were laid off. I know how that feels – I experienced this myself. While Geico isn’t perfect, it is a far more progressive company and in my opinion, quite fair.

  3. I have been a customer of USAA for 20 years now. Recently I moved and updated my address on their secure website that I had to log into including a PIN. Not good enough for them you have to call them too. They can’t read the changes on the website! They want to market you for additional insurance or retirement investments. Very annoying and the rep said it is company policy. Needs to be changed! I should not have to tell them verbally as well as on the website. I also got those PSI surveys asking if I drive more miles or any other drivers in my household. Any excuse to raise rates if possible.

  4. My family has been life long members of USAA. We have our cars and houses insured including a old family home on the coast. We have always paid our premiums on time. Last year when our mother passed away we were told we would have to secure a “new” policy for the family home. The paperwork was submitted and the policy was DECLINED? One month we have insurance and the next month we don’t. Doesn’t USAA talk about Family and legacy?

    Have also been getting the PSI calls and I have refused to answer ANY of their questions as they ask more questions than verifying current drivers in the house. That’s only the ruse to more questions. Have you noticed that you are also getting an increase of marketing calls?? well… there’s a reason why. The PSI is a marketing firm designed to gather more information so you can be sold more things

    • My heartfelt sympathy on the loss of your mother, Ellen. That is horrible that they declined coverage – so much for loyalty. Every time I see a USAA commercial, I get a little angry. They could care less about loyalty – and I’m not sure they care that much about military personnel. I did not even get an answer from the editor of their magazine when I tried to share a story about an extraordinary military physician who was a longtime, loyal USAA member. And I was doing PR for a living at the time, so I know how to pitch a story. All USAA cares about is making money and raising their rates. I’m glad you refused to answer ANY PSI questions – I know of no other insurance company that does this.

  5. Indeed, USAA has really gone down hill in terms of service and practices.

    When I had a claim on my vehicle they insisted on using aftermarket parts which even the body shop advised against. Sure enough, they did not fit properly, there was a gap between the door and the fender I could actually put my fingers through. USAA claimed that this was within manufacturer specifications. It drove me to sell the car as it looked that bad.

    A year before my son reached driving age the endless calls from PSI started. While I did call USAA to add him once he had his license, the PSI calls continue relentlessly. I too just ignore them. Look at PSI’w website, their purpose is to find uprating opportunitie for their clients.

    USAA has gone from a service motive to a pure profit motive. They have clearly lost sight of their original values.

  6. I received one of these letters from USAA. I called PSI and while I waited on hold, they tried to sell me at least 5 different products ranging from home security to a device that calls 911 if I fall. USAA giving our personal information to PSI is no different then them giving it to a telemarketer. And now this company has my personal contact information and information about my auto policy. I did not speak to the PSI representative that night, but do note that the number they put in the letter is not a USAA phone number. It is PSI. It is misleading because the last 4 digits are USAA (8722). But it is an 888- number, not an 800- as is USAA. As a federal employee I have the pleasure of knowing my fingerprints are in some database in China. I am outraged that USAA has done this. I called USAA and after 15 minutes and explanation that I had just updated my auto policy 2 months ago, I was “taken off the list”. Not more than 10 minutes later I received a call from PSI. I guess I wasn’t “taken off the list” as I was told. When the PSI representative called me, they said they were calling “on behalf of USAA”. I asked if they were USAA or PSI and she told me she was PSI. I informed her to take me off her list and not to call again. 10 minutes after that I received an automated call from USAA asking me if I wanted to participate in a brief survey regarding my experience with the USAA automated voice answering system. So can anyone recommend another carrier that would never in a gagillion years do this? It is infuriating. Furthermore, if there is a consumer organization out there that can publicize this more, maybe it will make our trusted carriers think twice before doing something so counter to logical.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Janice. Believe it or not, I still receive junk mail from USAA all the time, despite the fact that I told them off on the phone and in writing. Every time I see one of their TV commercials, it makes me bristle, since I know the truth about this company. While my premiums have gone up a little at Geico, despite a perfect driving record, they are a far superior company to USAA. I cannot understand why USAA would treat longtime customers with such disdain.

  7. Thanks for the tip on the survey – I just got one and was going to ignore it since we’re cancelling anyway.

    They said I was late and they sent me a cancellation warning. In response, they were increasing my rates. Hello? That’s not just a late fee, that’s a PERMANENT late fee. I am going to Geico who has lower rates and a better policy. I’ve been with USAA for 20 years. What are they thinking?

    • Hi Brandon:

      I am glad you found this blog helpful and thank you for commenting. USAA is not thinking – their TV commercials are misleading – they really do not care about loyal customers. Geico is better, but every 6 months since switching I have been hit with very minor increases. This is obviously an inflation thing since my driving record and circumstances have remained constant.

  8. Hi
    I have been with USAA over 20 years. I decided to add my dad to my policy so he would have a cheaper rate. At the time the automatic withdrawal came from his account and I would just deposit the money. In November of 2015 my sister changed my dad’s care and cancelled his account. I had no knowledge of it. I received a bill saying that November was paid. On November 30 I received a cancellation notice. When I called to give them a new account to withdraw from, they took the information, took another payment and told me I was good until January 18, at which time another payment would be due.

    The November payment was returned … so why wouldn’t the agent who accepted my money in December and set me up for future payments tell me that it would remain cancelled. I feel at minimum they should have given me 30 days after they accepted the payment in December. I am getting the run around. I asked them to go back to the December date and listen to the “RECORDED” call which would indeed document that he accepted my payment and set me up for automatic withdrawal. USAA IS NOT FAIR AND THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT CUSTOMERS OR LOYALTY!!!!!

  9. As far as I am concerned PSI Surveys is committing MAIL FRAUD or MAIL MISREPRESENTATION by sending out mail with a USAA symbol with their PSI SURVEYS MAIL Address Postmark.

    Given my days with the Federal Govt as an Inspector, I am going to refer this to the US POSTAL INSPECTION department to see if this is not illegal.

    Don’t care if they are a vendor of USAA, it is NOT USAA sending the mail – it is PSI Surveys. This is meant to make you think it is USAA sending the mail when it is not. In my state, this is illegal. It may be illegal for other businesses as well. ~ GLTA

  10. A few years ago I could not have even conceived of canning USAA.
    Our family had been members since the 1950s.
    Myself close to 4 decades.
    They played games when I cancelled too.
    Had to cancel 3 times.
    They appear to have merged with sleazes.

    • Thanks for leaving the comment! Sorry this happened to you, but I’m not surprised given my experience. My 92-year-old dad will be loyal to them forever, as will my two sisters – who knows why!

  11. Used to, be hands down, the best insurance company on the planet.
    About the time they started to go to pot was when they started advertising.

  12. I just received one of those letters. If they make it mandatory to talk to a third party, I’ll leave them that very day. Thank you for this info.

    • Thanks, Joe, for reading this article and for leaving a comment. I’m glad the blog was useful to you.

  13. USAA is the worst insurance company I ever had – they are extremely high in policy rates. And they use the Veteran’s slogan as if they are the military insurance provider of choice. Don’t be fooled – they were charging me double what other companies charged and refused to cancel upon request. They play dumb as if they don’t understand, so that you will have no option but to stay insured with USAA.

    • Thanks for commenting, Danny – sorry about your experience with USAA, but I’m not surprised. I hope you are with a more reasonably priced and fair insurance company now.

  14. Just switched over to Geico from USAA. Have been a member for 17 years. My insurance policy for two cars went up to more than $500 a month. I tried multiple times to bring it down, but they told me that was the best they could do. I switched to Geico and am paying more than 60% less. Incredible! I also noticed a decrease in their banking services. Someone called them pretending to be my wife and they let them change our ATM pin just like that. To their credit, they refunded us the money, but it was amazing that someone pretended to be us and changed our ATM pin. Moreover, they recently ended their relationship with the UPS store so the only way to deposit checks larger than 10k is to mail them in … come on! I noticed the decline in services corresponds perfectly with their increased advertising – such a shame.

    • Thanks much for your comments about USAA. Geico raises my premium a bit every 6 months since I signed up, but I am still saving an enormous amount per year! Yes, every time I see USAA TV commercials, it ticks me off nearly as much as all the derisive political ads.

  15. Betsy,
    Did you ever get a refund on your USAA SSA?

    • No, I did not, and they still send me offers periodically.

      • I’m looking at the switch as well. My auto premium just went up again. I terminated all my banking products with them earlier this week. Took me an hour to close my CC and another to close my last checking acct. Had already closed my USAA investments a couple months earlier. They told me that my premium would go up by $220+ dollars if I terminated my checking (with a $0 bal). Of course there was no reference to that info on my insurance paperwork (line item identifying all the discounts). Of course they tell you about all the mistakes you’re making by closing them and the benefits you’re going to lose in the process. I’ve been with them since the mid 80s but have no problems terminating my relationship with them.

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