You make a purchase with your credit card for $171.76. Even before the bill comes due you cut a check to the credit card company for that amount because you believe in paying off the balance in full every month.

Due to your convoluted but very effective personal accounting system you mail in a whole bunch of checks for individual purchases when you pay your bill. However when the credit card company processes your payment, their electronic check scanners mistakenly process that particular check for $5,171.76.

Then your bank’s electronic check scanner makes the exact same mistake and as a result overdraws your account.

Oh, and because the credit card company processes payments made on the same day largest to smallest a whole bunch of the other checks written for that payment bounce.

Fees galore!

How do you fix it?

After your initial panic you start looking at the evidence. A quick glance at the digital image of the check in question shows that it is obviously a mistake by the machine readers.

You better start making calls right away or this will get worse fast.

Now the question is this: How many phone calls and how long do you think it will take to get this obvious mistake by the machines resolved and the fees removed from your account?

Difference in Service

To resolve the problem on the bank’s end it took one phone call and a follow-up call. “Yep. Its obvious what happened was a mistake not of your making. We’ll fix your account here and get rid of all those fees we applied to your account.”

Unfortunately with the credit card company it took a bit more effort. OK, it was a lot more effort.

Before the whole thing was resolved Gorgeous had logged 9 phone calls to the credit card company and it took over a month. Every single time she called she had to explain the entire problem all over again to the rep who answered the phone. Then she’d have to insist on speaking with a manager and explain the entire history of the event up to that point once more before she could get them to inch one step closer to resolving the problem.

Finally, last night she was able to get it resolved, our balance is corrected and all the extra fees that were applied to the account because of the mistake have been removed.

Lessons Learned

1. Keep your calm – Gorgeous did an amazing job staying calm on this whole thing. Sure there were some tears early on. But I’m confident had I been on the phone there would have been a fair amount of shouting. From my experience, shouting at the rep on the phone really doesn’t do much but lower their job satisfaction. It rarely gets you closer to the resolution you need to see with your account.

2. Watch your account closely – Gorgeous is very particular about tracking all the details of our various accounts. Through this whole thing she was checking the accounts affected online daily. Keeping an eye on things will help you detect problems early and keep them from getting worse.

3. Be persistent – A big problem like this one will rarely be resolved with one phone call. Keep at it and take good notes along the way. If the financial institutions are clearly in the wrong, they will make it right. Eventually. But you have to keep on them and double check that they actually do what they say they will. (Sometimes they don’t quite get to it.)

The bottom line is if you don’t watch your finances, no one will. We live in a less than perfect world. Credit card companies and banks make mistakes just like we do.

By paying close attention you might just save yourself thousands of dollars like Gorgeous did for us.


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