Credit Card Companies Want to Eat You Alive!

In September my husband and I transferred all of our remaining credit card debt to the Citi Home Rebate card. The card had no annual fee, no balance transfer fee, and a 0% intro APR for 12 months…enough time for us to pay off our card.

I faithfully made payments above and beyond the minimum due. September…October…and in November I switched over to paperless billing. Toward the end of the month I noticed that I hadn’t received a statement in my email box. Normally I would have had the paper statement by then, so I checked the due date online and made a payment. That was November 21.

I received the email statement in my inbox a few days later. I double checked online to make sure everything was hunky dory, and I went on my way. At the end of December I received notice of another statement. I let it sit in my inbox for a couple of days, because I was busy with the holidays. Two days later I received a notice that my balance had gone UP by around $100. THAT got my attention!

I logged into my Citi account and saw that I had been hit with a late fee, AND my interest rate had gone up! I looked all over the site for a customer service number and couldn’t find one. So I went into the depths of my freezer to unfreeze my credit card. Credit card in hand, I dialed the customer service number.

The man who answered the phone seemed nice enough. I sweetly explained that I had made a payment every month, and I didn’t understand why I was hit with a late fee. He explained that I had paid my bill too early in November. I (getting less sweet by the moment) explained that things got messed up when I went to paperless billing, and that I had made November’s payment specifically to avoid a late fee.

The man replied that he would do me a “courtesy” of dropping the late fee. I think my jaw dropped.

He was doing me the courtesy of dropping the late fee, even though my payment wasn’t late? I couldn’t wait to hear his answer to my next question.

Are you going to set my interest rate back to 0%?

His reply: “I’m not sure if that’s possible, ma’am.”

Me: “So, let me get this straight…I switch to paperless billing on YOUR site. I don’t receive my statement on time, so I take the preemptive measure of paying my bill to avoid a late fee. It ends up being a couple of days early, so it doesn’t count, and now I lose my interest rate, because I’m a good customer?

The guy (stutters a bit) “Let me see what I can do.”

After much more haggling back and forth, and a lot more of the guy trying to convince me that I was wrong, he agreed to lower the interest rate. End of conversation….so I thought.

Two days later, I was blissfully taking a Sunday afternoon nap, when my husband received a phone call. You’ll never guess who it was. You guessed Citibank’s automated calling system? You’d be right.

The automated system informed my husband that we were late in making a payment and asked if he’d like to pay now, or whether he’d like to talk to a customer service representative. He pressed the number 3 for customer service. You’ll never guess what the automated machine told him next. Are you ready for this?

We’re sorry, but there are no customer service representatives available today. Please call back during regular business hours.

I woke up from my nap to the sound of my husband yelling at the phone. That’s not a pleasant way to wake up.

Monday I called Citibank again, just to make sure things were OK. This time I got a very nice woman. I explained (again) the whole story and asked her to please make sure that our account was listed as current, that our late fee was waived, and that our interest rate was set back to zero.

She pulled up our record and said she could see the account was set back to zero percent, but she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to waive the late fee.

What? Didn’t the guy I talked to a few nights before say that the late fee wouldn’t be a problem, but the interest rate might be? At this point I’m really beginning to doubt whether these people know what they are talking about.

The conversation ended with the woman assuring me that my account was current, my interest rate was 0%, and the late fee was waived. But she told me to double check my next statement just to be sure. Very reassuring. So now I’m waiting until the middle of the month to make sure everything is taken care of. Pray for me. I may need it.

To recap:

  • I faithfully make payments to my credit card every month….payments that are larger than the minimum due.
  • I switch to paperless billing.
  • My statement is running late.
  • I make my usual payment to avoid a late fee.
  • The payment ends up being 5 days early, because my due date apparently moved.
  • I get hit with a late fee and an increased interest rate.
  • The first guy I talk to sets my account current, says waiving the late fee will be no problem, but that resetting the interest rate to zero might be a problem.
  • He eventually says the interest rate is reset.
  • Two days later we get an automated call, telling us our account is past due.
  • I talk to a live operator the next day, who tells me that setting the interest rate back to zero isn’t a problem, but waiving the late fee might be a problem. She eventually tells me it’s all taken care of.
  • But she’s not completely sure, so I need to make sure to double check my next statement.

Does this sound ridiculous to anyone besides me?

Make no mistake. Credit card companies want to suck you dry. Check your statements, check them often, and follow up quickly when you notice something is wrong. And get out of debt!



Author

By , on Jan 3, 2008
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{60 Comments}

  1. Allison:

    -I always pay the full amount I spend on time, every month. I’ve never had a problem.
    -Maybe more people should try it.
    -It’s called not living beyond one’s means.
    -If what you want costs more than what you make, get a better job.

  2. I think your article was really a sweet kick off to a potential series of blog posts about this topic. Most bloggers act like they comprehend what they’re preaching about when it comes to this stuff and most of the time, nearly no one actually get it. You seem to know about it though, so I think you need to take it and run. Thank you!

  3. Ron Hates Credit Cards:

    I too have been enslaved in the clutches of the minions of the Dark Lords of Debt. I had to cut my life to the Bone to get out. They moved my payment dates, They late posted my payments, BoA raised my rates for an underpayment to American Excess. I am now on my last card. I pay them at least the minimum every week to prevent them from charging me by moving my payment dates or late posting my payment. plus it slightly lowers the intrest they can charge me durring the month. This an industry where Satan lurks in every document and phone call. How can you tell they are lying? Words are coming out of their mouths!
    As a nation we need to put these fanatical worshipers of the dark and evil ways of Debt out of Buisness.

  4. Anthony Hewetson:

    I notice that several posters seem to think life without credit cards is possible. This may be true if you are a) wealthy or b) live in a cave but … try renting a car without a credit card, try buying airline tickets online (the only option for a lot of folks) without a credit card, try buying anything online (again, the only option for a lot of folks … and a lot of products), etc…

    Other posters advised you to pay the balance in full every month. This is a great idea but you still have to watch the companies very closely as they will shift due dates, mis-state amounts owed by a few pennies, and pull all sorts of other tricks to assure that you either are late with a payment (woohoo – late fees) or carry a balance into the next cycle (woohoo – interest).

    My advice: get one card (preferably one of the big three), never switch to paperless billing (it is too easy for them to pull tricks on you when you go paperless), and watch the due dates and amounts very closely. Even if you do this, you will still probably have to deal with inadequately informed customer service representatives on an occasional basis. When you do, treat them with sugar and things will usually get sorted out in your favor.

  5. fedupwithplastic:

    Gee, and what can be the havoc of our economy. Fuel prices, food prices and the penalities that have been opposed on the everyday consumer having plastic debt. Can we not get a bale out of some kind to help us. Banks are just getting richer and we are all in the poor house. Government help us out for once. Withall the penalties we will never survive. I have vowed to cut the plastic up and our family is canceling any and all gift giving. See what retailers appreciate my business if I even give em any!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Mike/Ohio:

    I’m glad I found this article. I had a similiar experience with CHASE. That is the worst customer service I have ever had. I think the internet is the best weapon against these crook bastards. Let’s give them a taste of their own medicine. These companies don’t like bad publicity.

  7. Anonymous:

    I’ve decided I am not getting a credit card for a very long time. Every time I have to wind up using it is due to lack of income as a result of our current economy.

    Captial One is the worst credit card company in the world. I will never do business with them again.

    Between the idiots at Capital one, in the stock market and financial industries- all of which who have ran our American economy into the ground- I am being forced to appear in court over- get this- $1300.00 total chump change to any credit card company.

    I’ve been layed off three times in the past 4 years, once due to idiots at these corporation who outsourced jobs to the Phillippines. And twice more to fools who cannot budget to keep a department staffed properly.

    Charges were made on a Capital One card in the amount of $700 for one month’s rent- so that I would not be homeless. In turn, this company pulled off their ‘rip off’ tactic that were noted in another web article- overlimit fees and late fees… jacking the total up to well over $1300.00. Years ago such charges were illegal by law. I am not sure what government official ever changed that law- to where 700 becomes 1300 within a year- but I can bet it was someone that was in kahootz with the financial industry.

    Capital One is the most relentless and abusive credit card company. What’s in my wallet? A debit card, that’s all I need.

    So now, after they’ve hosed the housing market with their loans, they’re coming after credit card holders that are unemployed, barely scraping by to make ends meet on food stamps and unemployment insurance… over their own doing sending jobs overseas. And for what? $1300? Then hit me with the additional court costs as well? No other credit card company has pushed to such extremes, just these jerks with their India call center who can’t even speak english.

    Its a shame, Capital One and its lawyers, stealing from the poor and giving to the rich. I really wonder how they sleep at night doing this to other people, they will have to answer on Judgment Day for it so I figure, all of it – its bad karma on their part.

    Screw the credit card companies and the financial lenders who are more posessed about putting money in their wallets and driving some fancy car- by sending jobs overseas and screwing the middle class into being poor.

    Honestly I really wonder what would happen if this were to make it to the local news here and around the world. It really is a shame these companies are so greedy. To me its just like the napster incident, suing the poor girl who had kids- and couldnt afoord music, so she downloaded it. The case was dropped.

    Stay away from Capital One, they are the worst.

    -Anonymous

  8. Angry+in+Kansas:

    My Citibank card WITHOUT FAIL will always request my payment on a federal holiday, or a Saturday or Sunday when they specifically do not accept payments.

    I have called to complain to them about this, I have written to the fair credit bureau, I’ve even written my state politician. Citibank says that it’s merely a coincidence that my payment will be due on Columbus day in October, then Veterans day in November – both are banking holidays. Pay on the due date they request, you are late.

    The last time this happened, the fuckers tried to increase my rate to 18.9% from my fixed rate of 4.9% right after I made a large purchase because they said my online payment posted a day late because my due date was ON Columbus day, so it was collected the next business day, they tacked on a $39 late fee, and they said I forfeited my fixed rate of 4.9% for an APR of 18.9%, etc. etc.

    I now write my due dates on a calendar in front of my desk as to what day I need to pay my cards, and I always check to make sure the DUE DATE doesn’t fall on a banking holiday. These fuckers will try to screw you over every single time!

    And to people who say “don’t use credit cards if you don’t like it”, for many of us, if we didn’t have credit cards we couldn’t pay for college tuition each semester, automobile repairs when they suddenly come up, urgent medical care when we get hurt, and other vital necessities each month without them!

    -angry in Kansas

  9. James:

    This is no lie! When you start building your credt get ONE card, and keep it. ALWAYS pay your balane. DO NOT (NOT NOT NOT NOOOT) carry a balance, even if it’s a couple thousand. Why? Because credit card companies will find ways to nit pick and screw you over. I had one bank after I made an online payment with my checking account number send me an email that the payment didn’t go through. No problem, I called the representative and guess what, it did. It said so on the phone and their website. Good? No. It didn’t go through. They neglect to inform their representatives of what’s going on with the payment so the rep thinks the account is okay. Now guess what? After a excellent standing account, always paying on time, I have a penalty interest rate of over 30%. TRUST ME, carrying balances for any length of time is BAD BAD BAD for you to do. Don’t do it. Credit card companies are THERE to make money and they will screw you if they have to do it.

    Be wise, unlike me.

  10. I am a consumer class action lawyer. I hear these tales, and far worse, all day long.

    Remedies:

    *Credit industry lobbyist pay campaign donations to politicians to rig the system so that you have very limited remedies. That is why they dare to treat people this way. Vote for candidates that will not stand for this.

    *Write your congressperson and state legislator and tell them about your experiences and demand that do something to stop this.

    *Don’t use credit cards to borrow money. They are a huge ripoff and are sucking away your retirement. Do without, save, scrimp, sacrifice, but live within your means. Its worth it in the long run.

    *If what they are doing to you (and others) is contrary to their own policies, advertising, terms, and agreements, contact a consumer class action lawyer.

    Excellent site.

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