Early last month, Blueprint for Financial Prosperity linked to a Consumerist article about Chase representative spilling the secrets. I enjoyed Jim’s article as well as the original Consumerist one.
Only two things mentioned in either article seemed scary to me as a credit card holder.Â Before I get to those, here’s what wasn’t a surprise:
- Credit card companies hate me. I pay off my cards all the time and collect $100 check after check in reward points.
- Treat the representative well. This is a universe truth when dealing with customer services – it doesn’t matter what industry it is in.
- Say what you want at the beginning of the phone call. This sounds pretty obvious. I’m sure that the customer representative gets scored on how many resolutions he has during the month. If you are blabbing on and on, it’s not going to be helpful for him.
And those two scares:
Read Your Contract – This should go without saying.Â However the representative says:
The one constant I see is people never ever read the agreement, then are surprised by things later. Please, read it, or at least call customer service and ask any questions you need answered.
There is no doubt the representative has seen a credit card agreement. As a member of customer service doesn’t he think that this problem lies with the credit card companies? The writing is small, full of complex legalize and industry terms that the average consumer can’t understand. Then they make changes to their agreement and send you an amendment leaving it up to you to find out which two words they might have changed (or if they have changed everything). Of course they do this because it’s profitable to keep their customers ignorant. Credit card companies have to be more up front with the contract or deal with the phone calls of angry customers.
Don’t say “I Didn’t Get My Statement” – The representative says:
Hmm, for the past 5 years you’ve always gotten a statement to the correct address on file, but the one month you’re late it didn’t show up. Right. Somehow, whenever the car payment or the mortgage is due, people never forget that, even without a paper reminder.
Does the representative know that the mail works that way sometimes? In general the US Post Office very reliable, but over 70 bills (5 years), the odds of one getting lost in the system can be high. I’m sure that some people forget car or mortgage payments as well. These two types of billed shouldn’t be compared. First, the car and mortgage payments are fixed each month. Second, those expenses can be automated. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a check for a car, mortgage, cable, or cell phone bill. Each of them comes out of my bank account or is billed to my credit card automatically. If the credit card companies want people to pay on time, give them the ability to automate payments. Credit card companies don’t want this to happen because they’d lose all the money on late fees.
Finally, I want to thank Chase. I noticed a finance charge on my bill last month. I thought this was odd because they posted my payment with plenty of time. After a lot of discussion with the customer service representative it turns out that instead of paying $1314.21, I paid $1014.21. When I wrote the check, I forgot to write “three hundred” out even though I had $1314.21 in the box. They could clearly see this from the scanned check, but are legally required to take what’s written in the words. It would be nice if they noticed that discrepancy and called me, but I’ll let it go – it was clearly my fault. The representative says that kind of careless error happens all the time and he waived the fees.
Sometimes even a non-profit customer gets a break.
I find all reasonable requests are granted… the 1 request I have never been able to make happen… Extending the duration of the 0% blanace transfer offer after the offer has been used. :)
The worst customer service I had received was from Citibank. I was on hold for a long time since CSR didn’t have an answer to my questions. I never could log into my account online due to lack of tech support.
I’m happy with my credit union visa .
Good to hear that you had a positive experience with Chase. American Express has been very good about waiving fees too, even when it was not a mistake on their behalf.
“First, the car and mortgage payments are fixed each month. Second, those expenses can be automated.”
Credit card payments can be automated as well. You just need to call your credit card company and ask for a form. The form that allows you to choose between paying minimum and paying in full and to give them your bank info. Then the amount will be deducted from your bank account on due date. You still need to check your statement for errors and call them, but you are guaranteed to never miss your payment. Additionally, the amount is deducted on the due date, so you get a complete grace period. Occasionally they deduct the next date e.g. if it falls on a holiday, but you aren’t responsible. I have my complete balance deducted from my checking for my main credit card and it works well. If you don’t trust them and want some control, you can choose for them to deduct minimum payment and send the rest yourself.
Additionally, while the mail isn’t reliable, you know approximately when you should get the bill. If I don’t see the bill at the beginning of a month and if I know I charged something the previous month, I always call to check my balance and due date.
Just to add. I found out about the ability to automate CC payments from a credit card representative, she actually recommended it so it is not a great secret. I was afraid that my payment wouldn’t arrive on time, so I called in advance to warn/check. She wasn’t sure it’d arrive on time, but then she said – “what I could recommend for future is to automate it. If you’d like I can send you the form.” My check did arrive on time – at least they didn’t charge me anything – but I signed up for automated payment since then.
Lazy Man says
I’ll have to look if Chase offers this. I’m not familiar with this service from them. I think I saw that Citi offers it, but it may have been for a fee.
If my credit card billing cycle was the beginning of the month, I would know. However, you have to call them up and make that happen. If you have 2-3 credit cards, I don’t think it’s quite as easy to remember one is the 8th, 13th, and 23th vs. car, mortgage, etc. is due the 1st.
Chief Family Officer says
They actually cared about what was written out? Wow. I didn’t think anyone cared about that. In fact, one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle, wrote about her dismay that banks didn’t care what name she signed on her checks, and that she had canceled checks she’d signed as various authors and characters, like Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte.
Call them or use their online interface. I’ve not seen a card that doesn’t offer this for free nowadays. In fact, fivecentnickel mentioned that it is quite easy to set up with Chase: http://www.fivecentnickel.com/2007/11/19/changing-our-reward-credit-card-strategy/
You actually write your checks out by hand and mail them in? That doesn’t seem consistent with your lazy man image. Why not just do it all on-line?
Lazy Man says
Nicole you are right. I occasionally send payments online, but it often takes me too long to find my usernames and passwords for the 3-4 credit cards I carry. Chase has a thing called an activation code too that I always have to use in addition to my password. Basically they send an e-mail with a code to your e-mail address every time you want to log in. If it becomes as easy as logging into my e-mail (which it never will due to security), I’ll change my plan. Unfortunately, I pay a tax of a stamp for this convenience.
It’s interesting that my wife does all her banking online and she’s my exact opposite when it comes to the “Lazy Man image.”
Chase has a really great website in my opinion. You can set up several types of automatic payment, including “pay balance in full”, “pay minimum balance”, and “pay fixed amount”.
While I was paying my credit card debt, I selected “pay minimum balance” so I wouldn’t get hit with late fees if I forgot my payment. But it also lets you enter manual payments in addition to the automatic payment, so you’re not stuck paying it off slowly.
I wish my car loan were as easy to pay automatically! I was able to set up payments for the regular amount but there’s no way to specify extra money to be applied to principal.
Mrs. Micah says
They seem to have a lot of trust in the USPS. I mean, that’s probably a really overused excuse, on the other of “My dog ate it.” But you’re right, the USPS isn’t the same every week.
Those agreements are awfully confusing. Technically you _should_ read them, but it would be helpful on the companies’ side if we could actually understand them.
the only thing I disagree with is the part about never receiving the statement. It seems too common, especially on the last payment, that the statement or payment does indeed get lost in the mail. This is why I will never do business with Wells Fargo again. I sent no fewer than 4 payments that amounted to less than $3 for the final bill, only to find out after I was 30 days late and having called several times and sent the 4 payments, that Wells Fargo changed their payment address without informing me. The payments finally were forwarded some 60 days later, after I finally made a telephone payment that required a $2 processing fee for over the phone payment with Wells Fargo. Yet, Wells Fargo would not remove the 30 days late when it was clearly their fault for not informing me of the payment address change. This after I had paid consistent payments for 3 years to the same address. I am all for online banking now, because I don’t have to pay for tracking or registered mail to ensure that someone gets a payment. Even though I actively monitored and knew when my payment and the amount of the payment was due, statements and payments do get lost in the mail. I’m also not in favor of automatic payments or ebills, although I receive ebills. Auto payments have a way of suddenly becoming overdue when creditors change the due dates. I’ve noticed this quite a bit with Bank of America lately (BAC is also sporadically jacking up interest rates for no apparent reason, too, now). I also receive ebills from the creditor often times half way between the statement date and the bill due date. Changing due dates and getting ebills late just stinks of conspiracy theory to me, so I definitely do not rely on them.
I haven’t had any issues with Chase or Citi. In fact, I find both very easy to use, although I haven’t run into any issues that needed resolving with either. AMEX, Wells Fargo, and BAC are all losing or have lost my business because I was unhappy with their ability to resolve issues.
Lazyman – I have my 401(k) with Fidelity, which has a function called “Full View” on its website, where you can load all of your accounts (checking, savings, CC, investments). You program in your usernames and passwords and then just click on the links to get to that particular account. It is very convenient. I can check all my balances at one time, set up my CC payments, transfer money from savings to checking, etc. all from one portal website. For some reason, the only account that doesn’t automatically log me on is my capital one account, so even though I can get to the website from Fidelity, I still have to type in my log in information. I’m sure there must be other financial institutions or websites that provide similar “all-in-one-place” options.
Dan - BankVibe says
I know I’m late to this discussion and the credit card rules have changed since 2008, but I’ve got two things to mention about card issuers approval process in 2011
1) As you stated above, it still holds true that issuers hate people that payoff balances in full and on time and then collect the rewards. It’s bad business for them plain and simple.
2) Now this is just my theory, but I strongly believe issuers also reject applicants with too good of credit scores because of this. I’ve had a credit score of 740+ for a couple years now and recently applied for a nice airline miles card this summer and was rejected. I only have 2 cards (one debit and one credit) so I should have been a shoe-in, but I think because of my cc payment record they figured I wasn’t good business for them…again, just my theory.