Chris Moerdyk

The arrogance of credit card companies

2013-05-20 08:18

Chris Moerdyk 

Credit card companies don't actually give a toss about things like customer service but seem to specialise in leveraging profit and making things as inconvenient as possible for the people who use them.

They are supposed to make life easier for us but instead they are a constant source of irritation and heartache.

Particularly if you are travelling.

The thing is that more often than not, credit card companies can't be bothered to try and recover money that is the result of credit card fraud. Either because it's too expensive or too much of a hassle.

So, what they do is just put pressure on their customers. What happens is when you are overseas, credit card computers just track your card usage and more often than not will decide to block it while they check whether it's you that's using it. This is done using complex algorithms.

Completely buggered

You then get a phone call from your bank or failing that an SMS telling you to phone their fraud division urgently. These messages are usually couched in language that suggests you are a crook.

So, if you happen to be on holiday and have purposely left your cellphone at home or have switched it off because you don't want to be inundated with extremely expensive phone calls, you are quite literally completely buggered.

Your card won't work. And the credit card companies don't give a toss.

The same happens back home but not quite as often. My wife is a very fast shopper and tends to get to several shops in no time flat. With the result that the credit card company algorithms go into overdrive and block her card. Which is both inconvenient and embarrassing because it makes one look like a credit card fraudster or someone who has maxed out their limit. Shop assistants are not known for their tact and will tend to yell to everyone within a 100 metre radius that "your card has been REJECTED !!!"

But, just sticking to travel. Travellers cheques have now given way to credit card type "cash passports" or "travel wallets" which can be used to draw money from ATMs all over the world. They can also be used as debit cards when you are in a shop or restaurant to avoid carrying wads of cash around.

But, be warned. When you hand your card to waiters in restaurants tell them to swipe it once and be bloody patient. Because what has happened to me a few times is that they have not been patient and when nothing seems to happen when they swipe it the first time they just keep swiping. And every time they do that the amount they have entered keeps getting taken off your account.

Pressure on customers

Those additional amounts are immediately blocked and only released after 10 days.

What is happening is that the credit card companies are putting the pressure on us because they can't be bothered to put the pressure on the fraudsters.

So, thanks to the card companies and impatient waiters, the only way to ensure that your holiday will not be ruined is to use cash.

Which really defeats the object.

Maybe it's just my bank and credit card company but in my opinion while banking has become a lot easier with internet banking, credit card usage has simply become a lot more of a hassle.

So much so that if you want to really get your personal banker or the people in your bank call centre angry, ask them to sort out a credit card problem for you.

I once had a query about a credit card that the bloke at the call centre couldn't handle.

A week or so later I was introduced socially to the head of the card division of my bank. I asked him the question and he said he didn't know but would get back to me "before close of business" that day.

Two days later I had a call from one of his staff saying that he had been told to phone me because I had a problem with my card.

I asked him the question and he didn't know the answer but promised to get back to me "before close of business" that day.

Two other underlings phoned me as my query went down the ranks. Same question - same reply.

Where does all the money go?

Eventually the same person I originally spoke to in the call centre phoned me to say that his boss had told him to phone me about my question.

He still could not answer it but he and I had a good laugh - because that's all you can do when absolutely nobody in the whole credit card company knew the answer to a simple questions which today remains unanswered.

What I also find fascinating is that when you transfer funds by internet from your banking account to your credit card account in the same bank - it's always takes a day or two to register. But, when you spend money on your card the transaction goes through instantly and your credit card charged within seconds.

I have to wonder where all that money goes to when it takes two days to get from your bank account to your card account.

By the way, I tried calling my credit card company last time I went overseas to tell them where I would be and when. It didn't help because computers don't give a toss. Especially not when they are controlled by unsympathetic algorithms.

- Follow Chris on Twitter.

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