Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Hate Credit Cards: Part III

   The other day I received a statement in the mail from the second-to-the-last credit card to have been paid off. Despite the card having been paid off, the statement showed the current balance as $11.32.

   WTF!?!? Okay, okay, after my last experience with this I pretty much knew what was going on. Credit cards, it turns out, calculate interest daily, but do not add that interest to the balance until the end of each billing cycle. So, even if you get your balance online (which one might think would be a real-time balance), and pay it online on the day, you are not actually paying the total due. Why would they keep this information from you?

   Why do you think?

   Unfortunately for me, we paid this one off before getting the statement from the second-to-the-last card, so I was not yet aware of this evil device when we paid this last card off. I decided to make a phone call.

   After the typical phone-key menu designed to make a person hang up in frustration I finally reached a human being. I explained the dates and balance paid and reasons for believing that I did not actually owe them another $11.32. The call center professional then began reading their script about how purchases are added...

   I stopped him. "We haven't used this card in over a year. There were no new purchases."

   He said, "If you would let me continue..." and proceeded to explain how balances are carried over.

   I knew exactly what was going on -- they took nine days worth of interest and fees and applied it against the balance before it was paid off. I was arguing that if I took the balance from their website it should be real-time and there should be no balance.

   At this point the call was dropped.

   I hate cell phones.

   I called back. Understand, I knew how it worked and that I was playing their game and they make the rules. The last card I dealt with dropped these charges because, let's face it, it's petty money grubbing. So I get a new call center professional on the line who reads me the exact same script. I have the same argument until I get tired of being told that I am the one who does not understand by a person who clearly can not work off-script. I keep explaining that, if I paid the balance off during the last billing cycle, how do I know that they aren't going to send me a bill next month for the interest and fees on $11.32?

   "What do I have to do to pay this thing off and never have to deal with you people again?!"

   I was transferred to an executive who tried very hard to save me from ruining my credit by closing such a important account. This person was able to immediately waive the interest charges "as a courtesy" before I had a chance to ask. I explained my frustration in paying off the card and then receiving a bill that the card still carried a balance and complained about their practice.

   I was then offered to have all charges waived except for a $.09 fee which was handled by a different office and given the phone number for that office. As I was about to agree to these terms, keep the account open, and call the next office about the last $.09 (which I would have paid regardless of principal), I was told that the others fees were not able to be waived. So I'm back at interest waived, but I still owe all of the fees.

   I said, "How can I pay this off, close the account, and never have to deal with [bank name here] again?"

   After another volley of how bad the bank would feel for me to lose this grand gold star on my credit report I assured them that I would be just fine to never speak with them again.

   I paid $5.09 and felt simultaneously free and like I was taken for a chump.

   The balance has shifted too far to Hamilton. If we're really going to make important decisions based on the people and events of 200+ years ago, we need to understand all of the founders. Personally, I'll take Adams and Jefferson.

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