Cash-strapped people like me have learned, over the years, that some cards can be paid in person, at the bank or at a cash register or customer service desk in the store, even on the due date itself and avoid these pitfalls.
And then there's technology. The charge card company would accept payments by phone... for a $15 fee (that amount seems pretty uniform, in my experience) right up to the witching hour. Or pretty close.
And now many bills can be paid online. The bad news is that the credit card company magically sucks the money out of your checking account as soon as you hit enter... but the good news is that you can pay at 11:59 pm on the day in question and still be "on time." Because you have in fact paid on the day by which the blood-sucking credit card company has demanded its pound of flesh. Right?
Of course not!
Case in point: Large, soulless megabank (which recently acquired, by corporate conquest, a huge presence in the Chicago market) sent me a credit card bill for a big sum of money.
I have lots of these kinds of bills. When you read about the irresponsible people in this country who are fueling their American dream with charges they can never pay... well, that's getting uncomfortably close to a description of yours truly.
But this particular bill from Soulless Megabank, though large, was something I had hopes of paying off entirely by the due date... last Sunday, June 29.
It depended on funds being received... and the last of these trickled in on Friday the 27th. Now for one reason or another I couldn't get to the nearby branch of Soulless Megabank before 4:00 pm on Friday -- that being the latest time that one can pay in person without having the payment carry over until the next business day... Monday... which would have been a day late.
But I did not despair. I have online access to this account. I planned to pay the bill online. I recently did this with American Express: When I went to pay online, the site asked if I wanted to make the payment immediately... or if I wanted to make it on the due date itself.
Well, wouldn't you have done the same?
Thus my plan for the payment of the bill from Soulless Megabank.
I signed on.
I correctly remembered both my user name and password. I navigated successfully through the security challenges.
I brought up my bill... but when I went to pay it, Soulless Megabank said it would be only too happy to take my money, but it wouldn't post the payment until Monday, June 30. A day late. A day late? It was the evening of the 27th and the bill wasn't due until the 29th.
Now, what follows is not a legal opinion: It is merely a suspicion built largely from my bitterness and cynicism as opposed to actual research. However, it would seem that Soulless Megabank is required to provide a certain number of days 'grace period.' However, in order to
I expressed these opinions on Friday evening, seated in the den in front of the computer, as the rest of the family was trying to watch a movie. By the time the windows stopped rattling, the room had cleared. The TV was off.
I then called Soulless Megabank at the 800 number thoughtfully provided on its bill... went through the menu... yes, I want to continue in English... no, I'm not seeking an increase in my credit limit... no, I'm not reporting a lost or stolen card... and, when I finally reached a human, expressed my opinions again.
"Sir, there's no need to shout," he said.
Actually, I thought there was, but I remembered that he was not the person responsible for this policy. Ultimately, I paid by phone... and the $15 fee was "waived."
And the sin and the shame of it is that there's probably no class action pending anywhere on this because Soulless Megabank -- like so many other charge card providers -- has inserted an arbitration clause in its credit agreement. And our courts, conditioned as they have become to upholding arbitration clauses between parties in a variety of other commercial contexts, are actually upholding arbitration requirements even in these kinds of one-sided, oppressive, and anti-consumer situations.
There is a simple solution: If Soulless Megabank insists on having its money by Friday, say so. I'll pay it all or as much as I can by the deadline imposed. If it can't say so -- because some law or regulation requires that it provide a full 20 days grace period in which to pay -- amend that law or regulation to say, in addition, should the due date fall on a non-business day (Saturdays in some cases, Sundays or federal banking holidays in all cases) then the due date is automatically extended to the next following business day.