In which my payment changes

Since 1996 — that’s 16 years! — I have been paying $182.26/mo on my federal student loans. The money is directly debited from my checking account each month. A few years ago the amount changed from $182.26/mo to $182.25/mo, and the Department of Education sent me a letter which I had to sign and return to authorize the change of amount. The message made it very clear that they couldn’t change the amount of the direct debit without my authorization, even though it was only a penny.

At some point in January I visited the federal student loan website (while working on my taxes) and saw that my student loan debt had recently been purchased by a third party, named Mohela and based in Missouri. With no authorization from me — without even a notice until the following month! — the amount deducted from my checking account changed to $204.83/mo.

In February, after the new amount had been debited twice, I received a letter from Mohela indicating that the amount had changed. The actual statement is, “There are several reasons that this change my have occurred, including, but not limited to the following:” Then it lists six possible situations that are all pretty vague and none of which appears to apply to me.

I’m not particularly upset about this. The $20/mo difference isn’t going to kill me at this point in my life. But ten years ago a $20/mo difference would have probably meant ramen noodles instead of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a week. I can imagine there are plenty of people out there that are dramatically affected by a $20/mo change.

It’s also a little annoying that the government sold my loan to a new company, the new company changed the amount I was paying each month, the day of the month it is withdrawn, the routing number and account number of the new account, and the name of the recipient… and Bank of America didn’t care. Not only did my bank not say, “Hold on a second. What’s all this nonsense?” they didn’t even mention it to me. If the amount had changed to $20/mo, it would have had a serious impact on my cash flow. That is not cool.

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