Fighting with your
credit card company?
If you have a beef with your credit card issuer,
angry letters to the bank president and nasty calls to customer
service reps might be cathartic, but they will get you nowhere.
"The only sure way to protect your
rights is a paper record," says Howard Strong, author of What
Every Credit Card User Needs To Know: How To Protect Yourself and
Your Money (Henry Holt and Co., 1999). "Ten phone calls will
not do it. You need a letter to trigger the protective mechanisms
of the law."
Your first letter of response to a billing error
is the foundation of the fight, so you have to make sure you get
it right. A mistake some consumers make when they receive an erroneous
bill is to hastily contact the creditor when they are upset.
Complaining is an art, and your
demeanor can help or hurt your case. It's important also to follow
the chain of command. There's always time later to write the bank
president if you don't get satisfaction on the ground floor.
Honey and corporate etiquette won't
help, though, if you don't write your credit card company within
60 days after the faulty bill was sent to you. It's critical that
card customers meet the deadline required by the Fair Credit Billing
Here are 5 effective credit card company
1. Keep documents from credit card companies.
Six years is the recommended time because account records are
valuable at tax time. The most important documents are the ones
that lay out the rules and the ones that you're disputing. So keep
the disclosure statement you get when your card first comes in the
mail and the fine-print documents that amend it. They're your contract
with the credit issuer. In a dispute? You need the bill that contains
the disputed item and the postmarked envelope in which it arrived.
2. Keep charge receipts and compare them
with each credit card bill.
"You need to be very timely in evaluating and reviewing your
accounts," says Nancy Nauser, of Consumer Credit Counseling Service
of Greater Kansas City and Mid-Missouri.
3. Read the fine print.
"Even though it is incredibly dense and long and difficult
to follow, people need to make a hard effort to read that," says
Paul Bland, a lawyer with Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. "Most
consumers are unaware of it, but courts hold them to the fine print
unless it is incredibly unfair."
4. Don't do business with card companies
that take away your right to sue them.
This clause, which you will find in the fine print, is called
an arbitration provision. "Arbitration provisions are not in consumers'
best interests," says Robert Green, a lawyer with the National Association
for Consumer Advocates.
5. If your dispute is with the merchant,
tell the card company to stop payment on that bill.
It's similar to stopping payment on a check because you were
unhappy with the product or service. The fight is between you and
the vendor. Check the Truth
in Lending Act, though, because there are
-- Updated: July 29, 2004