Bias leveled against savers

Savings book with money protruding

Would a credit union actually refuse to open a checking account for savers with well more than $250,000 already on deposit in long-term certificates?

The answer is yes -- if it delegates decisions to a computer.

I recently wrote about joining Alliant Credit Union -- my first-ever credit union membership.

For a while, things went swimmingly.

I opened a savings account as well as multiple jumbo certificates of deposit.

Alliant’s online system worked efficiently. Customer service representatives were friendly and helpful.

But when I tried to open a checking account using a password-protected online application system for existing members, I was rebuffed.

"Unfavorable information on file with ChexSystems Inc." was the reason given.

Having had this happen once before (at iGObanking in 2009), I interpreted this as meaning "you’re suspicious because of the number of 'Inquiries Initiated By Consumer Action' shown by ChexSystems."

Sure enough, when I received my latest report from that widely used customer verification service, it showed 86 inquiries over three years.

These inquiries reflect my having approximately 150 accounts at about 30 federally insured depository institutions.

When I asked Alliant about this, it explained that I was declined by "an automated decisioning strategy" designed to prevent fraudulent account openings, where multiple ChexSystems inquiries "are factored into our decisioning matrix."

"Decisioning matrix?" Sounds like something out of a 1950s sci-fi flick.

Whatever it is, it apparently didn’t factor in the pile of cash I’d previously deposited.

Although irked, I’m not angry at Alliant.

Its email to me, defending its practices, apologized for the inconvenience and informed me that I’d now been "manually" approved for the checking account.

I think I’ll pass -- although I intend to open additional certificates if Alliant’s CD rates stay competitive.

But Alliant’s actions illustrate, I believe, a bias that occasionally crops up against those who save and only spend money they actually have.

Sometimes, this bias is intentional, as with credit scoring.

My credit scores barely qualify as "good" because I paid off my last borrowing more than two decades ago and use no credit card other than American Express.

Sometimes, as with Alliant, the bias is unintentional, perpetrated in the name of fraud prevention.

In other words, because I’ve saved money and need multiple accounts to park it in government-insured institutions, I’m considered by some "decisioning matrixes" to be a suspicious character.

Oh, well. Maybe it’s like airport security -- something I just have to learn to live with.

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