It’s Increditable

Recently I came into some money and did what I’ve wanted to do for years – pay off everything. You see, even though I’ve posted here any number of semi-rants about credit card companies and how we’ve come to pretty much ignore common sense and are willing to charge just about everything including a trip to McDonald’s, for years I had been guilty of just such stupidity. Over the past 5 or 6 years I hadn’t used a credit card but I was still paying for my imprudent spending for 30 years before then. Fortunately I have lived long enough to pay off all of those card and other loan balances.

Let me tell you now though, if you ever plan to do the same, prepare yourself for some pretty annoying communications between you and your soon to be former creditors. I knew enough to know that interest charged is charged daily. That means the balance you see on your statement isn’t your balance any more by the time you get your statement. I called every credit card company or bank (and there were a lot of them) to request payoff amounts. Out of ten lenders, only 3 representatives knew what I was asking. To the others, the thought of paying off everything owed was as foreign as using antennae to get TV reception.  They would parrot the auto-attendant’s parroting of the “last statement balance” and didn’t know that wasn’t the total balance. Fortunately I was able to get the information I needed from a call center supervisor. Perhaps that was unfortunate.

Even with a current balance in hand, a human on the phone, and an ability to pay the stated amount immediately, four of the accounts sent statements the following amount with new interest accrued and due. After making several more calls I was able to ascertain that the reason there were still balances was because although the amount paid equaled the amount due on the day of the call, the amount paid was not credited for 3 to 5 business days resulting in 3 to 5 days of accrued interest. So once again I had to request new payoff amounts and submit new payments. I was not amused.

One account I had actually overpaid. When given a figure it was for interest charged through the end of the billing cycle so when my payment was credited in 3 to 5 business days it was still a few days before the cycle ended and I ended up with a credit for that card. Since I was simultaneously closing accounts as I was paying them off, I had no account for the credit to be credited against. Yet, it was still listed as a credit on a following statement with no mention of how I was going to get my money back. Not wanting to, I called anyway. I was told certainly they could send me a refund check. I don’t know why but I had to ask, why they didn’t just send a check instead of a statement showing a credit for an account that didn’t exist. Their answer was that it was policy to report a balance on an inactive account for three billing cycles before issuing a refund. I thanked them for their information and informed them that if I ever decided to re-open a card with them I would consider the three month rule before I decide to issue them a check. They weren’t amused.

Who were these people anyway? The three cards’ telephone reps who hadn’t a clue about how to determine a payoff amount were all serviced by Citicards, the fourth was issued by RBS Citizens Financial.  The company who wanted to hang on to my money for three months unless I asked for it earlier was Discover. Capital One, USAA, and HSBC were the only creditors who actually were helpful in paying off their accounts.

Certainly it was my fault for getting into more credit than I had a right to. When I finally had the means to get out of debt instead of getting out of Dodge I did so. Apparently those I owed would have preferred I continued to owe them. That’s ok. It took a few months and lots of phone calls but now instead of a bunch of cards I carry around a bunch of money. Boy does that confuse the people at McDonald’s.

That’s what I think. Really. How ‘bout you?

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