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Credit Card Issuer Got You Seeing Red? Try These Tips

Oct. 5, 2017
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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When Ally-Jane Grossan was in college, she loved paying for things with her Hello Kitty-branded card from Bank of America®. “It was amazing and so cute,” she recalls, about 10 years later. She says it was a “genius way” for the issuer to get young women familiar with paying with plastic.

Then, when the card expired after a few years, she received an unwelcome surprise in the mail: Her new card was missing Hello Kitty. “That led me down the path of being frustrated with the bank. They were not listening to their customers,” says Grossan, founder of the podcast “Moneysplained.” (Disclosure: This reporter was a recent guest on the podcast.)

When Grossan called the bank to ask why a replacement Hello Kitty card had not been sent, she says she did not get a satisfactory answer. The call took a long time, she recalls, but she doesn’t remember the reason she was given. (A Bank of America® spokesperson says that sometimes branded affinity cards like the Hello Kitty one are discontinued based on demand when they come up for renewal.)

Grossan is hardly the only one dissatisfied with a credit or debit card issuer. The 2017 J.D. Power Credit Card Satisfaction Study found that while overall satisfaction scores for cardholders are high, scores for cardholders under 40 are declining. So what should you do if your card issuer’s behavior has you seeing red? Consider these six tips from customer service experts on getting what you want out of your credit card issuer:

1. Find all necessary documents, including account numbers, before calling

It may be tempting to call customer service in the heat of the moment or while you’re driving or waiting in line. But wait to place the call until you have all of your paperwork handy, suggests Nessa Feddis, senior vice president for consumer protection and payments at the American Bankers Association, an industry group. “Have the account number, transaction number and statement as well as a clear explanation of the question or issue,” she says.

Many experts say having the information in front of you will help make your call go more quickly. Taking notes on your call, including the customer service representative’s name and location, can also be helpful for the next time you call.

2. Explore all avenues of communication, including social media

Customer service representatives are often closely monitoring social media, which can lead to a quick reply. While consumers should never share personal information like bank account numbers on public social media channels, customer service reps are trained to quickly take personal interactions into a private message if necessary.

“All these new media options, including Twitter and apps, are great ways to get instant attention,” says Danielle Fagre Arlowe, a senior vice president at the American Financial Services Association, a trade association for the consumer credit industry.

You can also switch channels, moving the conversation from the phone to email, for example, if the conversation isn’t going how you’d like it to.

Arlowe prefers interacting with customer service representatives through online live chats. “I don’t love email because it can take longer, but the benefit is that you have a written record of what you’ve discussed,” she says, so for more complicated issues, that can be a reason to use email. If you are using the telephone, Arlowe recommends asking the representative to make a note on your account of the conversation, so you don’t have to repeat the problem next time you call.

3. Instead of getting mad, say how mad you are going to get

Inside, you may be fuming about an unexpected charge or change in card policy. But Emily Yellin, a journalist and author of “Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us,” says that instead of actually getting mad, it’s more effective to tell the customer service rep how mad you are going to get.

“I say, ‘Listen, this is really upsetting to me, and if we keep going down this road, I might yell at you, and I don’t want that to happen,’” she says. She also keeps in mind that the rep is likely not the person deciding the company’s policies and procedures. “Even though it’s your personal finances, it’s a business call, so you have to treat it that way,” she says.

Feddis seconds the recommendation for remaining calm, warning that phone calls can drag on when emotions run high. “I wouldn’t encourage drama. It could take longer,” she says.

4. Remind the company of your value

Yellin occasionally calculates her value as a customer to help make her case. “I like to say, ‘I’ve been a customer for 10 years and spent $12,000 with your company,’” she says.

Reminding yourself of your value can also help give you confidence in asking for what you think you deserve from a company that may have treated you poorly.

5. Escalate your complaint to the executive suite

“Every company has executive customer service, where the executive offices are,” Yellin says. “Call the CEO’s office, tell them you’re a customer, and they have people who will talk to you.”

You can usually find the phone number for a company’s corporate headquarters on its website.

6. As a final resort, involve third parties

If you have exhausted all customer service options and you still think your complaint has not been adequately resolved, you can turn to third parties, such as the Better Business Bureau or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The former is a nonprofit that accepts consumer complaints and asks businesses to respond to them within 14 days. The latter is a government agency that collects complaints about financial products and services and seeks to get responses on behalf of consumers within 15 days. The process can be time-consuming, but you may also benefit other consumers by helping the CFPB collect information about problematic practices.

In the case of former Hello Kitty cardholder Grossan, she eventually parted ways with her bank, and not just because of the kitty. “Now, being older and wiser, I’m more interested in low APRs and travel rewards, and no Hello Kitty card could make up for that,” she says.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by Forbes.

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