How I Went 15 Rounds With My Credit Card Company — And Won

Do you love to “stick it to the Man” as much as I do? Especially when “the Man” is your credit card company? Would you take fiendish delight in telling them to take a well-deserved “time out”? I love it. Maybe I shouldn’t take such pleasure in this…but I do. Recently, I had occasion to really hand my credit card company it’s head on a plate. Here’s what happened.

boxing slug

Photo by Power to the People via Flickr

They sent me a new credit card with no explanation whatsoever. To make matters more confusing, they canceled my old card…again…without telling me why. I called the company and asked what was going on. Of course, the person who took my call didn’t know anything. In fact, I got tossed around from department to department for more than 20 minutes before I landed a person who could explain what had transpired. You know that drill all too well.

Apparently, a hacker had broken into one of their vendors’ systems and stolen the card information. My credit card company was just trying to protect me, according to the person I was speaking with.

I told him that I understood what they were trying to do. I even appreciated it — but it was an extreme inconvenience. You see, I download all my transactions to Quickbooks. Many of my suppliers are set up on automatic payment. By issuing me a new card, they were forcing me to spend hours and hours of my time to re-tool all our systems. What do these jokers think I do all day? Sit around and watch Spongebob? Wait around to clean up the mistakes that they make?

“Wait a minute Neal” you might be saying to yourself, “I thought you said you understood and appreciated what they were trying to do”.

I do understand it but I still believe that my security is their responsibility. If somebody stole my credit card information from their vendor, why is it my problem? Of course, the clerk I spoke with didn’t see it that way so I had to communicate a bit differently. I asked him what he would do if my checks got stolen and I couldn’t pay the credit card bill at the end of the month. I asked if the company would suspend interest charges.

He told me they would not.

Exactly! They wouldn’t freeze interest charges because it’s my responsibility to pay my bill just like it was their responsibility to protect my information. They don’t care about excuses when it comes to paying their bill. I don’t care about excuses when it comes to doing their job and protecting my credit card info.

The clerk agreed with me. At the end of the first round it was Wealth Pilgrim 1, Credit Card company 0. Sweet.

Of course, the card representative was limited in what he could do for me. He couldn’t undo the past. What was done was done. I agreed with him (and by so doing….lulled him into a false sense of security). Round 2 — Wealth Pilgrim 2, Credit Card company 0. Indeed.

I told the representative that I didn’t blame him individually (always a good practice when you want to get someone on your side) but that I felt the company had failed to live up to its side of our bargain. As a result, I asked him to refund my annual card fee. He threw me a left hook and slammed me down with a resounding “NO…we can’t do that.” Round 3 — Wealth Pilgrim 2, Credit Card company 1.

At this point, I whipped out my magic 6 words:

“What can you do for me?” I asked.

“We can give you 5000 free miles on your travel account” we replied.

At that point, I felt like a winner. By giving me the free miles, he was admitting the company was responsible and he was trying to make up for it. (Either that or he just wanted to get me off the phone — I didn’t care.) I didn’t want blood. I just wanted satisfaction.

“Done” I said and with that I ended the conversation.

What did I learn?

  1. I don’t have to sit there and take it from anybody and neither do you — no matter how big they are. As a last resort, I had the choice of closing my account and doing business elsewhere. Is it a pain? Yes, but less painful than doing business with someone who doesn’t play fair or nice.
  2. I didn’t get everything I wanted, but I did get something. I’m glad I didn’t take “no” for an answer.
  3. It pays to get the person on the other end of the telephone on your side. The best way to do that is by being kind to them and by trying to get them to see themselves in your shoes. Truth be told, they probably dislike their employer more than you do. Give them an easy way to show it.

I’ve written this for a number of reasons. First, you might get a new credit card in the mail without any explanation one of these days. If so, turn that nightmare into a little bit of good news. Don’t take no for an answer. Second, if another party inconveniences you, don’t accept it. Calmly express how you feel about the situation and ask for what you want. You never know…you just might get it.

Do you have any David and Goliath stories? What was your most delicious “stick it to the Man” moment?

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About the Author

By , on Aug 23, 2009
Neal Frankle
Neal Frankle found himself in a financially fragile situation at the age of 17. Both his parents passed away while he was still in high school, leaving behind a small insurance settlement. Neal sought out a financial advisor to help him invest his nest egg so that it would help put him through college. Instead, the advisor charted a self-serving course and was on the verge of burning through the money when Neal realized what was happened and fired him just in time to avoid losing everything. The experience had a deep impact on Neal and formed in him a lifelong desire to help people learn to make smart financial decisions. Today, with more than twenty-five years of experience in the financial services industry, Neal is an author and avid blogger. To learn more, visit Wealth Pilgrim.

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Leave Your Comment (9 Comments)

  1. DNebs says:

    Wow…you really stuck it to them Neal. Way to go…keep it up man.

  2. Rick Vaughn says:

    Good for you Neal!

    What’s funny though is that as much as people complain about credit card companies they still use them. Just shows the louder the voice the more likely you are to get what you want.

  3. Pinyo says:

    @Sol – I agree that medical care costs are inflated.

    But to answer your question about the CT scan, we are dealing with a very expensive equipment that takes up a lot of real estate, requires a high paying technician to run, and an expensive doctor to analyze — I am sure the analysis takes more than 15 minutes. However, it still shouldn’t have to be this way though.

  4. vh says:

    Nice little coup there! Especially if you travel a lot.

    What you describe is exactly the reason I don’t do automatic bill pay from credit cards. At one time I did have a number of suppliers set up to be paid on a card. When an identity theft problem arose, the card issuer’s only effective strategy was to cancel the card and re-issue a card with a new account number. That left me facing the hassle of having to telephone every company that expected to be auto-paid, navigate through their blood-pressure-spiking time-wasting phone trees, and switch them to the new card.

    When I realized what a pain this would be, I switched them either to payments through direct withdrawal from a checking account set up for the purpose of paying creditors or, in the case of one company that couldn’t be trusted, to payment by snail-mail check.

  5. sol liebster says:

    Now in discussion w/Cedars Sinai Hospital re: invoice for $7700 for 15 minute test (+ reading) on very much used CT. Patients every 1/2 hr, every day. They reply about how much they do for community, wide variety of services not performed by other hospitals, teaching & research, Trauma ctr. open to all, nationally recognized, plenty of awards. Letter was not signed, only Patient Fin’l Rep. Great! But I still got billed $7700. Most paid by Medicare & secondary fortunately. But, in view of current discussions re: Medical Care does this say something about med costs?

    All their reasons do not justify my being billed $7700.

  6. Craig Ford says:

    I think credit card companies like to suck the life out of us to a point that we have no motivation to continue chasing the illusive dream of finding a solution. Nice to hear that you stuck it out and made some progress.

  7. Dangerman,

    Yes….I do pay a fee for the card. I find that it’s worth it because I get great travel points and the card downloads into quickbooks. It saves me an enourmous amount of time and it’s the only card that I’ve found that does both these things.

    Eric,

    It actually felt like 15 rounds but I thought it might be tedious to go thru each “round” in the post. But I appreciate your point….I guess round 4 goes to Eric! 🙂

  8. Eric says:

    @Dangerman

    Believe it or not, some cards are worth paying an annual fee. The Citi PremierPass Elite and certain AmEx cards provide specific rewards that beat the fee you pay for it. Of course this varies depending on your personal situation and spending patterns. In general, an annual fee is bad but it can work out if your calculations work out.

    On another note, I was actually expecting 15 rounds… 😀

  9. Dangerman says:

    Did a Personal Finance blogger just admit to paying an “annual card fee”? Wow, I thought those were only for people who didn’t pay attention.

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