Our last installment left our heroine standing by the kitchen sink holding a five-month-old baby and a 100k student loan freshly placed into forbearance.
Six months later my forbearance ended and it was time to begin repaying that bad boy. With trembling hands I opened my first statement and discovered a late fee?
What? How could my payment be late when it had never been due? I’d placed it in forbearance before I ever received my first bill. Not only that, but this was no small fee. This was a $200 late fee. Clearly, there was some mistake.
I called Sallie Mae. I waited for an hour. I finally talked to someone who told me that, though I filed for forbearance before my payment was due, it took several weeks to process, and so my payment had become due and then late while the processing took place.
“But that’s not my fault,” I said. “I acted in good faith. It’s not my fault that your system is so slow.”
“Maybe not. But that’s the way it works. Next time, call earlier.”
So I did. Two years later, a month before my son was born, I paid my student loan online and then jumped on the phone to put it into forbearance. Same hour wait, same $250 processing fee, same 6 months capitalized interest.
And when it came out of forbearance, Same.Furking.$200.Late.Fee.
No way. I called, I waited, I got the same run around. I asked to speak to a supervisor. I waited. I waited. And finally, after being on the phone for 2 hours while my 3 1/2 year old and 6 month old wailed for attention, I spoke to someone who agreed with me. A mistake HAD been made. She’d take care of it. She’d send me a new statement. I should wait to receive it. So I did.
It arrived 2 days before it was due. I jumped online to pay and discovered that the online system still reflected the late fee, so I threw that payment coupon in an envelope with a check and put an honest to god real stamp on it (It was a miracle I could even find one) loaded my kids up and drove to the post office to make sure it went out immediately.
Three days later my phone rang. My regular house phone, cause how could I afford a cell phone with a $650 student loan payment? It was a man calling to discuss my late student loan payment. I explained the situation and he went on at great length about how defaulting on my loan would mean my wages (what wages?) would be garnished, my credit would be ruined, essentially my life would be over.
I said, “Thank you very much, but in this case, the check really is in the mail. And it’s probably already there. And leave me alone, I’m busy here.” Or something like that.
He said he’d make a note of it.
Two hours later, the phone rang again. Same story, different representative. I said, “Check your notes.” She said, “We don’t take notes.”
By dinner, Sallie Mae had called me FIVE times. Remember, this is ONE DAY AFTER my payment was due.
I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say, the original late fee was never removed. I, of course, incurred a new $200 late fee on the payment that was supposed to remedy the error, and to date, I had accrued an additional $1100 ($500 in forbearance processing fees plus $600 in “late fees”) in principal to repay. I also, was starting to get a clearer picture of just who I was dealing with.
It would become abundantly clear.