Did your credit card company miss a zero when entering your last payment? Is there a mystery charge for $3,000 worth of pink flamingoes erroneously assigned to your account? Were your credit card rewards mistakenly sent to someone in Peru? These and other more common everyday mishaps can be resolved with your credit card company, but it is important to use the right methods to do so.
Do not delay — The Fair Credit Billing Act offers significant consumer protections against credit card fraud and other issues, but it is important to act quickly. If a creditor is not notified in writing within sixty days of the incident, you lose many of your protections. Start the process quickly so you have plenty of time to get the situation addressed should it reach the letter-writing point.
Consider social media first — Your massive, highly corporate bank may seem stodgy on the outside, but they are quite conscious of their public image. Generally, they retain staff to maintain and review their social media input and attempt to address reasonable complaints.
A well-crafted post on their Facebook page is likely to get a positive response from the bank that can direct you to the best contact for resolution. Stay positive ("My service is usually great, but...") and point out that you are rethinking whether to move your account elsewhere. Most banks will respond to a constructive complaint.
Try the 800 number — The 800 number on the back of your credit card is there for just this reason. Call with a clear summary of your complaint and log the results of the conversation. Wait times can be long, but maintain your cool. Again, you will get better results by calmly stating your case and pointing out that you are considering closing your account if the situation is not resolved to your satisfaction.
Contact the bank in writing — Do not let actions through the 800 number drag out too long for you to send in the written complaint. Keep a copy of the written complaint for your records. They owe you a written response within 30 days of receiving your complaint. You have now reached a new level of formality on your complaint, but it is important to stay civil.
Contact the CFPB — The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) exists to help protect consumers in multiple ways, including notifying the bank on your behalf. CFPB complaints carry weight because the CFPB can apply penalties to egregious offenders. You can easily lodge a complaint on the CFPB website.
Here are a few things you do not want to do:
Berate the customer service personnel — Should you manage to reach someone on the 800 number or be contacted through social media, keep in mind that they are not responsible for your problem. They are here to help you fix the problem to the extent they can. Raised voices, abusive language, and threats to fill their office with pink flamingoes will not help the situation. Be assertive while staying calm.
Slander the bank — You aren't going to get much sympathy if you trash the bank on social media or other public outlets. Rip the bank however you like in your thoughts if it makes you feel better, but keep your expressions civil.
Refuse to pay a bill — You are not increasing your leverage by refusing to pay the bill; you are increasing the credit card company's leverage should things come to legal action. Pay your bill and target compensation later. If you don't, you will likely incur a series of late fees and penalties, even if you win in the end.
If the erroneous bill is so large that you cannot pay it without hardship, point that out up front. You may be able to strike a deal with the customer service representative. If you want to settle outstanding debts for less than what you owe, try our debt settlement tool.
If your efforts fail, there is always legal action if the error is serious enough to warrant the cost. Otherwise, close out the account at the first opportunity and transfer your balance to a new card with an issuer that is more attentive to your needs. After all, you did give them a chance.
If you want more credit, check out MoneyTips' list of credit card offers.
This article was provided by our partners at MoneyTips.