Credit card woes

Just after dinner last night, Gabriel told me that he paid $100 to his credit card account. This particular credit card is not our main one even though he got it through the bank where we keep our everyday and savings accounts. This particular card is in his name only, since he got it before we even got married.

When we got married, I took care of paying most of our bills (electricity, gas, landline phone, rent, etc) and we also got a credit card in both our names with another financial institution – this now serves as our main credit card. During that time, I told him to cancel his old credit card because he pays a hefty $59 annual fee for it. He wasn’t too keen on the idea and I didn’t press it but I told him that he’d be the one who’d be taking care of the bill for it because I won’t have any access to it through our bank’s Internet login. I could only see my own account and the ones we’ve opened jointly.

Yesterday, he checked his credit card balance through the Internet and saw that he now owes more than $700 and that he has been already been charged a late payment fee. I was shocked since I don’t remember anything we’ve bought that’s worth that much. When pressed where the $700+ came from, he said he didn’t know because he just paid the $100 with the intention of checking the transactions at a later time. I asked him to log on to our bank’s site and I found out that the bulk of the outstanding balance is due to the monthly $25 late payment fees and interest on the accumulated balance! The transactions shown went as far back as January 2005 and there was already a late payment fee at that point. There was no way to display the transactions from last year so we couldn’t really confirm when the charges began.

It was then that I asked Gabriel if he has ever received a bill statement for the credit card. He said he couldn’t remember but thought that there hasn’t – he argues that he would’ve paid the balance if he got a statement. I rummaged through our old mail and couldn’t find a single credit card statement from our bank since we moved from Canberra more than a year ago. All other account statements with the same bank are coming in regularly though. At this point, we concluded that the bank must still be sending the statement to our old address, which doesn’t really make sense since we’ve informed them of our change in address. The statements for our savings accounts are proof of that.

Gabriel called up the bank’s customer service this morning and found out that yes, the credit card statements were still being sent to our old address. Their explanation is that the software for their credit card’s mailing list is different from the one being used for the bank’s other products. The customer service basically said, sorry, but we still have to pay even if they also stuffed up.

Frustrated, we searched through the Internet for other means to dispute the matter and found a page from the bank’s site regarding customer complaints. It seems that the next course of action is to go to a branch and talk to a customer service manager. Gabriel printed out his bill statement from the Web and trooped to a nearby branch during lunch hour. He talked to a manager and was offered a cancellation of the last 2 late payment charges. Sounds reasonable? Maybe, but if our estimates are correct and these late payment charges started July of last year then what she is offering is a $50 discount for the total $300 fee that’s in dispute. Doesn’t seem like a fair offer specially since they’re actually still asking Gabriel to pay $250 plus interest. Furthermore, the incident would be considered settled if we agree to this $50 discount.

Alternatively, she said that hubby could also send a letter to the bank’s Customer Relations Department to resolve the matter. Gabriel decided not to go for the discount and would try his hand at a little letter-writing. If that still fails, we could still try our luck with the Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman.

Meantime, I asked him if the payment he made last night went through. He checked and saw that it did, along with a new late payment fee and interest heaped on top of the remaining balance. We were expecting the balance to fall below 700 after the initial $100 payment. Not so, since the balance was still 700 after we were slapped with new charges. In disgust, Gabriel paid the balance in full to stop the penalties adding up. Hopefully, the bank refunds the money if we get a favorable resolution from the customer relations division. Otherwise, that’s more than 300 bucks down the drain and a very expensive learning experience for hubby.

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Published in: on August 3, 2005 at 5:58 pm  Leave a Comment