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Precious metals have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. With the instability of the global market, many people are investing in precious metals to give themselves a sense of security. It's also possible for US investors to tie up some of their retirement funds in precious metals using a gold IRA.
But there are also popular scams as well. When you invest with a precious metals company, you want to be sure you get what you pay for. And you also want to be sure that the company has solid customer service and a good reputation.
Universal Coin & Bullion is one of many precious metals dealers. We've taken a look at what they offer and what experiences people have had with them. Are they really a legitimate dealership? And are they better than the alternatives on the market? This review should answer all of your questions.
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About Universal Coin & Bullion
Universal Coin & Bullion, more commonly abbreviated UCB, has been in the precious metals industry since 1994. They have almost three decades of experience under their belt. The physical store is based out of Beaumont, Texas in the United States.
The services that are offered are fairly straightforward. You can sell the company your precious metals if you want to liquidate your holdings. You can also buy precious metals from the company stock. On top of this, the firm will help you set up a precious metals IRA with your retirement assets.
Customers can pick from a variety of coins and bars in both gold and silver. If you do get set up for an IRA, you will need to purchase items that adhere to the purity standards outlined in the IRS regulations. You will also need to store the items with a licensed custodian.
The company helps you streamline the process of setting up an IRA by putting you in touch with a custodian. However, the website does not have information about the custodians that they typically work with. Because of this, it's difficult to say what you might expect to pay in fees.
If you get set up with an IRA, your items will need to be sent to a storage facility that's licensed with the IRS. The IRS requires storage facilities to adhere to certain security guidelines. In addition, you can expect your package to be fully insured.
Unfortunately, the company website doesn't provide information about the depositories they work with. Different depositories have different fees for your vault. Some fees are flat annual prices, while others are a percentage of your holdings.
If you don't purchase your metals through an IRA, you can have them shipped wherever you want. It's highly recommended that you store them somewhere more secure than your house.
When your online order is more than 99 dollars, you get free shipping. If you make an online order of less than this amount, you'll have to pay a flat shipping charge of six dollars, regardless of the item weight. This is a relatively low shipping fee.
The amount of time that shipping takes will vary depending on how you pay. The company states that there might also be shipping delays if an item is sold out due to overwhelming demand.
Orders ship with UPS, FedEx, and USPS. In most cases, you'll need to sign for the package to confirm that it was delivered. Every package is fully insured.
One of the most common methods of payment is a credit card. Once you pay, the order tends to ship anywhere from two to three business days after the receipt.
Similarly, you can use a bank wire transfer. The funds tend to clear fast, so you'll get a shipping notification in two to three business days.
If you want to pay with a money order or cashier's check, you'll be subject to some shipping delays. There will be at least five to ten business days before your item is shipped. Personal checks increase the wait time to between ten and fifteen business days.
These extra wait times allow for the company to double-check the items and measure the payment against counterfeiting. It also gives the company extra time to receive the payment in the mail, since mailing checks and money orders takes more time.
Another important note is that the company only works with customers in the US. If you want to purchase precious metals from a different country, you'll need to work with a different dealership.
The company does state that they buy precious metals from customers. Instead of a formal buyback program, they might purchase from anyone who has precious metals to sell.
Their website does not have a lot of information about this. People are encouraged to call their customer service line to inquire about pricing. Presumably, you'll need to provide information such as the type of item, the weight, and the quality. Then you'll be given a quote.
There are other companies that have much more transparent processes for their buyback programs. With these, you already know you'll get market value when you sell your goods. We're not sure that's the case when you sell with Universal Coin & Bullion.
The company emphasizes the importance of their customer service line. Their telephone number is displayed on their website and the BBB website. In addition, you can look up their company headquarters and management easily.
However, they don't have the best customer service on the market. For one thing, several complaints state that people do not pick up the phone when they call. In addition, the company fails to call back about important delivery issues or other order issues.
The company asks that people lodge complaints through the official customer service channels. But many people who complained through the BBB seem to have started with that. They only filed a third party complaint when they were unable to get a call back.
If you don't want to talk on the phone, you can also email the customer service department. It's possible to send snail mail to the physical address, but this is a slow process. It's also not likely to get you an answer the same way that appealing through official channels will.
The company doesn't have 24/7 telephone service. In addition, they don't have an online chat feature. Online chats allow you to resolve your complaints or ask your questions in real time. Many online gold dealerships have them. For a company that claims to be so dedicated to customer service, the lack of online chat seems like an oversight.
Is Universal Coin & Bullion a Scam?
This company is not a scam. They have been in business since 1994, have an owner you can easily contact, and have a headquarters with an address you can look up. Most businesses with over 25 years of history are not scams. It's difficult to sustain your business model if you're defrauding people.
That said, there's a difference between being a scammer and being a bad bullion dealer. Some companies aren't scams, but they still have enough red flags that they're not worth investing in.
Universal Coin & Bullion might be one of those. There are simply too many issues that we've found for us to wholeheartedly recommend their services. In addition, the website doesn't have enough transparency or information about their fees, pricing, and buyback program.
Are There Red Flags?
Unfortunately, there are quite a few red flags. Though this is an established business with more than 25 years of experience, they might not be the best option to invest with. These are some of the concerns that we have:
It's not always a bad sign if a company doesn't have a lot of online reviews. Sometimes that just means that their base clientele doesn't spend much time online. Since UCB began their dealings before the internet was so widespread, it makes sense that their business model doesn't focus exclusively on internet acclaim.
But combined with these other red flags, the lack of reviews makes us uneasy. You can just as easily work with a company that has thousands of reviews to read through. That gives you a much better sample size to work with.
As mentioned, there isn't a lot of online information about this website. They don't have a rating through third party watchdogs like Trustpilot and Trustlink. Similarly, they don't have a Yelp presence or employee ratings on Glassdoor.
Their Better Business Bureau page is the best place to go for objective information about customer experiences. There are some good things: the company is accredited and has an A+ overall rating. But there are bad things, too.
The company has four customer reviews on the BBB website, averaging 4 out of 5 stars. That's pretty good! But they've also had eight complaints filed in the past three years, four of which were filed within the last twelve months.
We might expect to see four BBB complaints with a giant business that serves thousands. But when there are more complaints than actual customer reviews? That's a big problem.
In addition, there's a note on the BBB page that customers are encouraged to bring their complaints directly to customer service. Again, that might not be a red flag on its own. But since there are so many complaints already, it sort of seems like the company is trying to keep people from posting about their bad experiences in public.
And finally, another nail in the coffin: Ripoff Report. There have been five reports filed against the company through this complaint-aggregation website.
Customer Complaints with the BBB
Let's take a look at the specific complaints lodged through the Better Business Bureau. As mentioned, there have been four within the past year and eight within the previous three years.
Four of the eight complaints were related to delivery issues. Two were related to advertising and sales, while the last two were related to a problem with a product or service.
One complaint states that the customer ordered twelve ounces of silver. Their check cleared and they received a shipping notification. The customer was told that the USPS was waiting for an item from Texas. They called repeatedly about the shipment and had trouble getting anyone to call back.
The company did respond to this complaint. They said that they had had a surprising number of their packages lost or stolen through the USPS. The customer was sent a replacement package on the same day that they filed their complaint.
The company also noted that their customer service number was posted on the BBB website and the company website. They asked that if the customer had any issues in the future, they would simply use the customer service resources available.
The other seven complaints were not available to read through the BBB website. However, we were able to find some archived complaints that concern us.
One review alleges that the company president purposefully ripped the consumer off. The customer says that the company says that they are the official coin company for the NRA, but that this honor has been secured through massive advertising campaigns.
The customer called the number on an advertisement in an NRA magazine. They were unhappy with the sales representative they spoke to. The representative told them repeatedly that they had underpaid for their coins. When they asked to sell the coins to UCB, the sales representative backtracked and said they couldn't meet that price.
The customer said that the sales reps were rude to both her and her husband. When she asked to speak with the manager, she was told about the accomplishments and credentials of the company president. However, she didn't get a refund. The price she paid was about five times higher than the market value.
The customer stated that she heard that the company president was being sued for several million dollars. At this point, she stopped trying to get a refund. She stated that the entire process had made her lose her trust in the NRA, as she did not believe they had properly vetted the company.
These reviews might not be such a big deal if the company had more positive reviews. However, it's hard to find reliable information about people's positive experiences. That makes it seem like a negative experience is more the norm.
At the very least, these customer reviews make us think that the company isn't the most reliable. Why would you work with an unreliable company that might cause endless headache? There are many more reputable options on the market, several of which have thousands of excellent consumer reviews.
Universal Coin & Bullion has 36 reviews through Birdeye, which is the highest number of reviews we've been able to find in one place. The company's total ranking is 3.6 out of 5 stars.
Let's look at some of the positives:
One person said that they were delighted with their purchase. They received fair pricing and were able to buy what they wanted. The packaging was also high-quality, especially since the items were shipped across several state lines.
Another person said that they were cold called by a representative who wanted to let them know about a sale. Though they did not purchase through the sale, they were impressed by the dedication of the worker. This customer makes annual purchases through NRA meetings.
One customer stated that they received ideal pricing, free shipping, and beautiful end products. The service was professional and polite.
All of this is encouraging. But eight 1-star reviews is a huge percentage of this company's overall score. Let's see what people had to say.
One recent negative review says that the customer ordered coins to use as gifts after seeing an advertisement in a magazine. The coins they received were in poor condition. Though they left three messages, the company refused to call them back.
The company did respond to this Google review by saying that they would like to know which coins were purchased, so they could double-check the quality and avoid disappointing future customers.
Another review was written by the son of a customer. He stated that the company had purposefully targeted his elderly father and tricked him into buying overpriced coins. The son said that the prices were way above market value, and that his father was conned out of significant money.
The company responded to say that they have a 30 day money back guarantee. They also said that they wanted to hear about any issues and solve them.
Pros and Cons of Universal Coin & Bullion
Universal Coin & Bullion is a precious metals dealer that has been operating since 1994. They market themselves as the preferred metals dealer for the National Rifle Association. In addition, they have some services that will allow you to set up a gold IRA using your existing retirement assets.
However, the company is plagued by serious complaints and a poor reputation. They don't have a strong online presence, so it's difficult to find positive reviews. There have been a large number of BBB complaints filed within the past three years, with more complaints than overall consumer reviews.
Though UCB has an A+ rating from the BBB, there are too many red flags for us to wholeheartedly recommend them. They do seem to be a dealership that sells what they say they do. But at the same time, they lack transparency. We can't guarantee that you'll have a good customer service experience.
Some people have reported that the salesmen were pushy and rude. Others claim that they were charged a serious markup for their items. Still others say that there were issues with getting refunds or getting their packages delivered at all.
At the same time, the company is frustratingly vague about their policies. They don't have any reliable information on annual IRA fees. They don't publicize their pricing structure, they don't explain the details of their buyback program, and they don't set themselves apart from the crowd.
For this reason, we recommend going with a more well-reviewed dealer. A good dealer will give you transparent pricing, sell you coins and bullion at a low markup, and have a robust buyback program. They won't play games with their contracts or try to make you purchase gold beyond your means.
Although we do think that Universal Coin & Bullion is a decent company, we believe that there are better companies out there to make your investment with.
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