Calling Your Bank: Tips for Mastering the Customer Service Call

Spencer Tierney
By Spencer Tierney 

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Your credit card was stolen. You don’t recognize a fee on your checking account statement. Maybe you need to open a new account or ask a general question. So, you pick up the phone and call your bank for customer service.

But you stop. Is this the correct phone number? Do I have all the information I need? Here are some quick tips for navigating through a customer service call.

Finding the right phone number

Your bank may have a separate phone number for customer service. You can usually find it on your bank’s website on the “Customer Service” or “Contact Us” page. Also check for this number on your paper checks or the back of your credit card. It’s generally a good idea to find a more specific and local number than the general customer service line.

Authenticating your identity without a hitch

Before you dial the number, make sure you have all the information you might need on the call: the name the account is under, credit card number, ATM personal identification number (PIN), last four digits of your Social Security Number (SSN), etc. You may be asked to provide your telephone banking user ID, which may be the same as your online ID. Whether you hear an automated voice or a real bank representative, you will be asked to authenticate who you are as their bank customer.

For Bank of America, enter your credit/debit card number and the last four digits of your SSN. For Chase, provide your credit card number and ATM pin number. It will vary for every bank, but one of the first steps will be authentication so have your card and information at hand.

Here are a couple of other things to try if you’re still having trouble. If you enter in your credit card number but the automated voice doesn’t respond, see if pressing the pound key (#) after the number helps. It may also be a good idea to call on the same phone that you usually call your bank; some automated systems even notify you that the phone number you’re calling from matches their records.

Being specific

After authentication, you can discuss the issue. If you’re speaking to a customer service representative, ask your question in a clear and concise way. Be specific and keep it relevant to the appropriate account. So, instead of “what do I do if I have an unexplained fee on my account?” ask “I’m calling about a fee of $12.50 on September 16 in my checking account. Can you tell me what it was for?” If your credit card was stolen, make sure to state what your last approved transaction was. This helps the representative know where to find the information and/or transaction more efficiently.

Stepping stones for touch tones

Most of the time, you will hear an automated voice guide you through touch-tone menu options. Your inquiry will probably fall into one of the menu’s categories. Checking and savings account balance information is generally one of the first options to press. Information for bill payments, loan accounts, and other categories come next. If you need to talk to a bank associate and you’re not given a menu option for it, try pressing zero. Anticipate a wait time if you’re calling during holiday season or a busy time of day.

For those times when you just need general information, telephone banking is a great way to keep in touch with your accounts. FAQs online are also a good solution for quick questions, but you should resort to calling your bank for customer service when you have questions that you cannot answer from online searches or issues that are urgent like credit card theft or fraud. It’s better to call now than to delay the issue.

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