So ive heard all of the horror stories about Higher One scamming students out of their financial aid. If you havent, you should read this, especially if youre a future user of higher one or have financial aid. My school, Santa Fe College of Gainesville Florida, has decided to use Higher One to handle Financial Aid. When getting awarded financial aid, you would assume to get a check for your refunded money, not used for text books and tuition. However, long gone are the days of getting a simple check. Now you have NO CHOICE but to sign up for a higher one bank account. Higher one offers a few options for the student who realizes that having their federal financial aid loans that they are having to pay interest on go into a bank account that they really have no control over is a bad idea.
One option is for the student to sign up for their money to go into their personal bank account. This has to be done by first signing up with higher one (theres no way around signing up for the bank account, whether you want it or not). Afterwards, the money goes to higher one THEN goes to your bank. This process takes days, sometimes weeks to complete. And even then, you really didnt have the option of your money not being in some sort of bank account, you just simply transferred it to another one.
The second option is to have a check mailed to you from who else but higher one. Also, not giving you any option but to set up a bank account that cant be closed as long as youre receiving financial aid. This check, although higher one claims it shouldnt take longer than a few days, takes up to a month to get to you. Thats a month you have to go without paying rent, gas for school, food, amenities to live, and so on.
Should you choose to stay with higher one, which is conveniently the quickest method of receiving your refund, heres what you get to deal with. Half of which really seems illegal.
Higher One charges you a fee for inactivity. Want to save your money? Dont have any reason to use it? Need it for next months rent? Yeah, you better find a way to use it or they will charge you. Higher one also charges a nearly 3 dollar fee for using ATM's that arent theirs (not including the fee the ATM alone charges you). I researched what ATMS's are near me. Theres ONE, and its inside the school. Half of the time, its out of service, not to mention, I take online classes because im no where near my schools campus. But wait. Theres more. They also charge fees for using a pin. They even try to talk you into using your card as credit so you wont be charged fees.
Heres the thing about the pin number fees. Number one. I would much rather use a pin number, because its really easy for anyone to get ahold of my card and just sign away purchases that arent mine. Number two, every time you use your card for credit, it can take days, weeks even for the correct amount to be billed to your account. So when you over draft your account, because higher one failed to post what youve used on your bank statement (which is only located online, and is constantly not available, and when it is, is so simple and lacking of detail that anyone could easily be confused on whats what because it all looks the same) they charge you 50 dollars or more for a late fee of any amount of over draft after 30 days. Why go 30 days without paying whats gone in the red you ask? Oh, its because the only way to PUT MONEY on your account is through your scheduled refund of financial aid, or by mailing them money or by harassing family members to put money in your account with their credit cards. The last option to repay by the way, it mentioned to you several times in emails sent to you by higher one.
There are also limits on how much you can spend in one day of your own money. Not higher ones money. It isnt a credit card, so why are their spending limits? Imagine my disappointment of trying to move into my apartment when i couldnt pay move in fees and first and last months rent because it was more than the allotted amount higher one will let me spend. I tried getting ahold of their customer service department. Number one, it took an HOUR to get ahold of someone, and when I did, they had no idea how to help me. Thanks customer service.
Speaking of customer service. My account was over drawn by 10 dollars (which doesnt seem so bad, untill they charge you 50 bucks for it. Which again, comes out of your financial aid). There was no where on my bank statement that said i spent over that much, except for the actual amount that was lacking in my account. I read through every payment i had made, and it still never added up to negative 10 dollars. So I called customer service and after talking to 3 people, and being on the phone for 2 hours, they never could tell me why it was overdrawn. There simple answer was "well, just trust us. Its over drawn. You cant see why. But its there". In the end, I had to pay them 60 bucks from my next refund even though they never could tell me how or why my account was over drawn.
So, basically. Im not entirely sure, and would like to know, how is it legal to force students who have financial aid to open a bank account. Im pretty sure its not legal, under any circumstance to force someone into having a bank account. That directly effects my credit. I also dont understand how it could be legal for a company to make money off of, and take money out of my financial aid. I dont see how they can pay themselves thees fees they take out, with my federal financial aid that im paying interest on. That money is for school, not for paying bank fees. All in all, ive had 300 dollars taken out of my financial aid and paid to higher one because of fees they charge. All without a choice. Thats 300 dollars of my loan money, just taken away.