Friday, January 29, 2016

Dropping the 'Zewski

Fair warning, this blog post will be of little to no interest to anyone who isn't trying to change their name after marriage. 

Dropping the 'Zewski


I spent just over 27 years with an 11-letter Polish last name that I was constantly spelling out for everyone. I don't know how long it took me to learn to say or spell it correctly, but I know I knew it by 4th grade because I remember someone at my school's office asking me how long it took me to learn it. I'm sure I knew it before then, but that's the earliest memory I have of being asked about it personally. I know all the "words for letters" things I need to say for my maiden name ("T as in Tom, O, M as in Mary, A, S as in Sam, Z as in Zebra..."), but don't ask me to tell you the "as in" name for any letter not in my maiden name, because I'm just not sure!

Needless to say, I was excited to be dropping 3 letters and going to an easier (in my mind, though C insists it still gets mis-pronounced, misspelled, etc.) last name!

Once we got the certified copies of our marriage certificate in the mail (this was a small adventure in and of itself since one of our witnesses forgot to write their city in their address! Luckily the clerk's office called and wrote it in for us), I was ready to get the process started. I had been adding to a list of where it needed to change for a while (as I remembered random things I added to it), so I could cross them off as I went and make sure I didn't miss anything.

It's ridiculous how many places you register your name with: I have been flying since I was an infant (yay for long distance relatives!), so I've had frequent flier accounts with airlines for 26+ years, and then after being in a long distance relationship for a few years, I had rewards accounts with multiple hotels too. My list was pretty long, but we're coming up on February 1st (I started the process on November 13th), and I'm about 97% done! Here's how it worked:

Getting the certified certificate: I requested two copies of my certificate in case I needed to mail one out. This took about 2 weeks to receive from California to Arizona.

Social Security: Step one is always going to be here. Since I (soooo luckily!) have half days on Fridays, I drove down to Phoenix and went to the Social Security office after work on 11/13/15. They checked my documents at the door, then I waited for about 30 minutes. The worst/weirdest part of this wait was that someone decided to sit IMMEDIATELY next to me who had at least one (memory is fuzzy on this now) teardrop tattoo near his eye. Yikes!!! The actual meeting with the representative was quick and easy, and she was rather personable (made jokes about how much easier of a name I'm getting).

DMV: Once you've submitted your request to Social Security, you have to wait at least 24 (or 48?) hours for their systems to update, then you can request your new driver's license. I went to the DMV on a Wednesday on my lunch break, and the longest wait here was to get my number so I could be called to the right counter. There were at least two women close in front of me trying to do the same thing, but they had been married in Arizona (we got married in California), and apparently AZ gives out some kind of pseudo-certificate, that isn't ACTUALLY good for anything, so both of those women had to leave to go to (luckily close by!) the clerk's office for a certified marriage certificate. Luckily my certificate was the right kind, and I didn't have to leave and come back. I got my new picture taken and walked out with my temporary ID. I think it took about 2 weeks for my real one to come in the mail, and in the mean time I had received my new social security card...ironically my old name fit on one line of my original card, and my new name took two lines, even though it was shorter! I guess they changed the printing process sometime in the last 27 years.

Miscellaneous: Now that I had my new ID, I was able to change my name at places like Costco (they accepted my temporary driver's license). I didn't need any kind of ID to update my auto insurance, but we did need to provide a copy (didn't have to be the certified one) to update our homeowners insurance, mortgage, etc. I had been waiting to have C add me to his health insurance through work until I had gone to the Social Security office, but the deadline for open enrollment was the week before I went, so we added me with my 'zewski name and have since submitted their required info to update it to Martinez.

Banking: I made us an appointment on a Saturday afternoon (hooray for weekend banking!) to make changes to our bank accounts. We needed our current IDs, and I brought the marriage certificate though we didn't end up needing it. C and I have both had bank accounts at Bank of America since we were young teenagers. Thanks to this, it turns out our parents (my mom and his dad) are still co-owners on our accounts. We happen to live in different states than those parents, so we had an unexpected hurdle when I tried to change my name and add C to my accounts and vice versa. To make changes to any of my accounts (ie: changing my name), we had to get signatures from everyone on the account - which included my mom. We ended up mailing her the document and she mailed it back, but it was something we didn't plan for. It turns out my mom was only on my savings account, and I'll be closing that out since C and I opened a new joint savings account, and to close it I won't need her signature. I kept my old checking and savings accounts open while I made sure any automatic deposits and withdrawals were switched over before I closed them.

Places that I didn't need any form of proof to update: This was the biggest surprise to me, but almost none of the credit card companies needed anything but my word that my name was changed. This is also a little scary, but it was ultimately one of the easiest places to update in the whole process! I have cards with Chase, Citi, AmEx, Target and Kohls (too many, but I'm consolidating now), and I called the number on the back of each card to make the changes. AmEx was actually the most difficult, they did require a form and copy of the certificate (scanned/emailed) to change my name. Chase, Citi and Kohls all said "congratulations! We'll change it now and mail you out a new card!" - Citi actually overnighted my card to me! That was incredibly impressive. Target was the most difficult - I couldn't get past the automated menu, and once I did, another complication arose: they would deactivate my existing card immediately and it takes up to 14 business days to send the new card. Luckily the rep I spoke to was clued in to the fact that it was almost Black Friday (no one wants to do Black Friday shopping at Target without the extra 5% off!!!), and asked if I wanted to wait to request the new card. I waited until late December to request the new card from Target, but my name had been updated right away. I kept track, and it really did take almost 14 business days to get the new card from them.

Hotels: I have rewards accounts with Hilton, Marriott and Starwood (The W where we got married gave us a NICE amount of points for the money we spent on our reception and rooms there). I could not change any of these accounts online. Here are the numbers, emails and directions for each one:
  • Hilton: 1-800-548-8690. Their email is hhonors@hilton.com, and they ask that you put "Attention: Member Services" in the subject line. I was told to include my old and new names, HHonors number, and a copy of my marriage certificate. Unfortunately the first rep gave me the wrong email address, so my request went into the ether and I just got it resolved today. I resent my email to the right address and it was updated within the day (probably because I had called the same day about the delay). 
  • Marriott: 1-801-468-4000. Send your request to marriottrewards@marriott.com, with your member number, old and new names, and marriage certificate. This was changed within 24 hours. 
  • Starwood (SPG): 1-888-625-4988. Email address is research@Starwoodhotels.com, and all the same information as the others. This was completed within 24 hours, and they also sent me a new member card in the mail with my new name, which was unnecessary but fun. 
Airlines: I submitted requests to change my name on my frequent flier accounts through American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta online fairly easily. They all followed up to my request with a request for the copy of my marriage certificate (scanned/emailed), and all except American changed incredibly fast - American took a few weeks.

I also have an account with Southwest, but I held off changing anything there because I had two upcoming trips with them that had been booked in my maiden name, and I was really cutting it close on their timeline to get existing reservations updated when I got my new driver's license (they needed copies of both IDs to make a change to an existing reservation). I also have TSA Pre-Check and wanted to be able to use that for my trips, which I couldn't do if I changed the name on the reservations. I emailed them just this month at southwestairlines@luv.southwest.com with the new/old names, my Rapid Rewards number, and copies of my old and new IDs. I called today to follow up, and was told it does take up to 30 days to go through, and mine hasn't yet. 

TSA Pre-Check: This has been the BIG kahuna as far as changing my name goes. I found an incredibly helpful blog (and so far the ONLY place I've seen this specific information) with information about this change, Getting My Points High, and wrote down the information she gave: 
"Takes one to three months. 855.347.8371—press 3 for Precheck, then 4 for ‘all other inquiries.’  The agent said that someone would be in touch with the next steps, and a day later someone called me with an email to send my marriage license"
When I saw this, I was SHOCKED at how long they told her it took! I had called in December and argued with them a little about this, their arguments came down to "there are a lot of people making this kind of request and we process them on a first-come-first-served basis" - to which I argued that the Social Security office and DMV are getting all those same requests and it is handled in a matter of weeks at each of them. They didn't really appreciate that, and obviously nothing changed.

Applying for Pre-Check is $85, and your status lasts for 5 years (I'm just over 1 year in). While the name change process is happening, you can not use the service! When we lived in different states, this would have been unacceptable and I would have just gone through the process of re-applying with my new name, since that takes about a week at best to be approved from what I've experienced (I've watched the process for myself, C and my boss).  However, I'm not traveling as much now that C and I live in the same state, so I'm waiting it out.

I called on 1/11/16, and as of 1/29/16 have NOT received the follow up phone call. Why the folks at the 855 number can't give you the email address to send the certificate to, I don't know. They say they have to review your case before they call you back, so I won't be giving out the email address when I get it because it would probably ruin the system for everyone, but I will come back and update when this is completed.

Passport: This is the last thing I haven't changed, and that's mostly because I have to get a new picture taken. I filled out the paperwork online, and am going to a drug store to do the picture this weekend (C has never had a passport so he's got to come along too!). This is $110, the same cost as a brand new passport. Luckily I've had mine since 2007, so it was nearing the end of it's validity (2017), otherwise I would feel pretty ripped off here. This WILL require me to send in one of the actual copies of our marriage certificate - so far the only place I've had to actually send it to.


All in all, it sounds like a lot once I've typed it all out, but it was not that bad now that it's (mostly) all said and done about 3 months later - I'm Amanda Martinez in 99% of the places I need to be! I'm very glad that I didn't pay for any services that change your name because you still have to do most of the leg work, they just provide you with forms to send places.