Credit Card Customer Service: 6 Times it Can’t Hurt to Ask

Jan 19, 2015

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The saying goes that good things come to those who wait, but in the points and miles game, sometimes good things come to those who just ask. TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele explains:

Credit cards are an incredibly profitable business for banks and other issuers, and even during the Great Recession (when banks were only surviving on bailouts), their credit card lines continued to perform well.

As a result, credit card users are among the most prized customers. We’re constantly showered with offers for new cards online, on television, by mail, and even by flight attendants who pitch offers to us mid-flight. Card issuers can invest hundreds of dollars to acquire each new customer, and they’ll often go to great lengths to retain cardholders in good standing.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Don’t be shy about asking your card issuer for assistance. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

As credit card users, this puts us in a commanding position to ask for (and hopefully receive) all manner of fee waivers and benefits, including the most important benefit of all: the benefit of the doubt. When you’ve earned a benefit, but the card issuer’s computer shows otherwise, sometimes it just takes a polite request to resolve the discrepancy in your favor.

It might take a few minutes of your time to make a phone call, or a few seconds to send your bank a secure message online, but the results can be fantastic. In short, you have little to lose by asking.

Here are six examples of times when you should contact your card issuer:

Make sure you get the points and miles you earned. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

1. When you didn’t receive rewards you earned.  Credit card issuers occasionally fail to credit your account with the appropriate rewards. Usually, the cause is some sort of technical glitch that prevents their systems from working as expected, not any intent to deprive you of what you’ve earned.

For example, Chase offers its First Friday promotion, where Sapphire Preferred cardholders receive triple points for dining on the first Friday of each month, yet restaurants occasionally don’t process charges until after midnight, causing the transaction to appear on cardholders’ statements on Saturday. But a brief call or secure message to Chase is all that’s needed to resolve the situation.

The same is also true of sign-up bonuses, as sometimes the wrong offer code is submitted with your application. A call to your card issuer may be enough to clear this up, but it helps to have some documentation to support your claim, like a copy of the offer or a screenshot of your application.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
If you make a late payment, see if you can get any fees or interest waived. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

2. When it’s time to pay your annual fee. If your annual fee comes due and you’re on the fence about whether to keep your card, you can always ask whether your issuer will waive the fee or offer other incentives. Just call and let the representative know you’re thinking about cancelling your card, and they should connect you to someone in the “retentions” department. If you’re a profitable customer with an account in good standing, you’ll likely receive some sort of offer, though it varies between cards and issuers. Sometimes you’ll have some or all of your annual fee waived, while other times you may be offered points or miles worth as much as (or even more than) the annual fee itself.

3. When you accidentally make a late payment. Nobody is perfect, and if you use credit cards long enough, you’re bound to slip up and make a late payment every now and then. Sometimes the statement fails to arrive in the mail. I’ve even made the mistake of sending the correct amount to the wrong account! Nevertheless, if you make an occasional late payment on accident (and not by habit), card issuers may be willing to refund your late payment fees and interest charges. As an act of good faith (and to demonstrate my fiscal responsibility), I like to pay the balance in full as soon as I realize the error and before I call to request a credit.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Don’t get hit by foreign transaction fees. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

4. When you’re hit with foreign transaction fees. If there was ever a useless bank fee that makes no sense, this is it. There are no additional costs to process transactions outside of the United States, and card issuers always receive the most favorable exchange rates offered (called interbank rates). While the list of travel reward cards that waive foreign transaction fees is growing—for example, the US Airways Premier World MasterCard just dropped this fee—many credit cards still impose a 3% fee on all foreign transactions. In fact, these fees can be imposed when making a purchase at home from a foreign company (such as travel reservations made with a foreign airline or hotel), even when the transaction is in US Dollars.

So if you used the wrong card on a trip, or didn’t realize your Internet transaction was being processed outside of the country, call your card issuer and request to have this unnecessary fee refunded. Banks know that the days of foreign transaction fees are numbered, and it’s less of a hassle to issue cardholders a refund every so often than to upset them.

5. When your application is denied. Even if you have a high FICO score and excellent credit history, you may occasionally be surprised by a denied application. However, after you’ve been initially rejected by a computer, you can call the bank and ask for your application to be reconsidered.

You can help your case by demonstrating an interest in the card beyond simply opening an additional line of credit, like a particular travel reward or benefit. Additionally, you can request to have your line of credit transferred from another card with the same issuer, to assure the bank that it won’t be increasing its exposure by offering you additional credit. For more information, see TPG’s article on Credit Card Application Reconsideration Line Phone Numbers & Application Status Links.

6. When your eligible charges aren’t reimbursed. There are lots of cards that offer rewards in the form of fee or statement credits. For example, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card cards both offer miles that can be redeemed for statement credits toward travel expenses. However, if your travel purchase doesn’t appear online as eligible for reimbursement, try giving the card issuer a call and asking them to manually issue you a credit.

Other cards such as the The Platinum Card from American Express, Citi Prestige, and the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card from Chase offer annual travel fee credits that may or may not appear automatically after an eligible charge. Thankfully, many cardholders have reported success after making a request to receive reimbursement.

What other circumstances lead you to call your card issuer?

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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