I know this will make me appear to some as a cranky old man. They are not far off, but I prefer to re-frame it as “an older gentleman who has a strong sense of ethics and integrity, willing to persist.”
Last month I paid off a card on which I had carried a balance, but because I couldn’t remember exactly how much I owed, I paid something close to the full amount, and when my statement came, I added the additional 23 some odd dollars as a second payment and that seemed like a final payment to me.
But this morning, THIS came in the mail…
I stood in my kitchen, with a rising sense of irritation, staring at the crappy little bill. How much did it cost this megabank to send this bill? It was an effective interest rate on 23.00 of nearly 40%. They listed some other amount on the side as the amount subject to interest, that was never an actual balance on my account.
Wise men know that time is our most precious resource, and I was about to squander it, but I felt a moral sense of outrage that they had bothered to bill me at all. They also gave me a compressed timeline (20 days) in which to pay or else be subject to a 35.00 late payment fee and a ding on my credit report.
I called the number on the bill, and waded through an interminable maze of choices until I reached Michael, a megabank rep, with whom I wanted to discuss the charge. The reason I wanted to speak to a human being was twofold: first, he could explain where the mysterious sum came from that they had used to calculate interest. Second, it would cost the megabank even more money to have a human being interact with me. They had clearly prepared for such eventualities and moved their call center overseas, but nonetheless, I wanted them to pay significantly more than $1.15 before I settled the matter.
Michael was sweet, with a southern Indian accent, and he carefully walked me through the logic as to why I was charged the interest. Apparently, the delay of my instant electronic payment counted as one day in the new payment period at the highest balance. Dividing this by 31, and counting four more days of 23.00, they arrived at the tidy sum of $1.15. Because the payoff amount was below the 15.00 minimum, they were permitted to reduce my payment time to 20 days rather than the usual 25.
I expressed irritation with the bank, and made sure to let Michael know that it was not directed at him, but at the usurious practices of the bank itself. I kept most of the irritation to myself, in fact, saving it up for this story. Then I asked Michael to waive the charge.
Although through some insane mysterious loophole of banking laws they were technically correct to be charging me this tiny amount of interest, I felt justified in asking for the forgiven final amount as compensation for the time it had wasted.
Michael had a supervisor standing over his shoulder, and I actually heard him say to Michael “put him on hold, put him on hold.” Michael politely put me on hold for about five minutes. I decided to multi-task and put the dog in her harness and take her on a walk.
During my morning pooch stroll, Michael came back on the line and said that the charge was being reversed, and I would see a credit in the next three business days. Because that comes dangerously close to my payment deadline, I am going to be checking every weekday to see if this was a trick to hit me up for $35.00 in late payment fees.
Then Michael asked me if I wanted to transfer up to 10,000.00 to the card at 0% interest until January 2015. After January, the interest would be 9.99%. What he did not mention is that if there is a remaining balance on January 31 of 2015, the bank is permitted to charge me “back interest” on the outstanding amount and compound it into my new balance.
Patsy chose that moment to express what I was thinking, and I dug for a plastic bag to clean up after her.
It gave me great pleasure to say to Michael “I’m sorry, I don’t have any outstanding balances to transfer at this time.” This is true, by the way, and I strongly recommend that anyone reading this strive to free yourself from the yoke of megabank slavery. And be sure to waste their time at every opportunity.