Thursday, July 03, 2008

Miss deadlines online just as easily as by mail!

Anyone with a credit card knows that you have to mail your payment well before the due date if you want to avoid the dreaded $39 late fee (and, at least potentially, a jacked-up interest rate or some other consequence too hideous to mention).

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 screw the public -- er extort monies from its unsuspecting customers -- er maximize revenues, it sets (as often as possible anyway) a due date for a bill on a day... oh, a Sunday, as in this case... on which it will not accept payments. Very pious of them. It would appear that Soulless Megabank is running a scam here -- reaping all sorts of interest and late fees for its corporate coffers.

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.

Oddly enough.

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.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

sounds like bank of america to me... sarge went in ours (formerly ours) and pitched a giant fit when they started opening accounts for illegal aliens without ss numbers. he was funny, he demanded all his money and they finally said they'd go get him a check to shut him up and he told them he didn't want their check, he wanted cash only from them. he was really having fun i suspect...

smiles, bee

Jeni said...

Oh, don't even get me started about banks and hours and fees and what-not! I've had more than a few go-rounds with my bank here over some of their policies! One they had that really ticked me off was about 20 years ago, if you had a checking acct and if during the month, your balance never dropped below $500, there was no fee for the account. If your balance never dropped below $300, there was a fee, but not a really large one. If though your account dropped below $100 in any given month, you got slammed with all kinds of fees. I pitched a fit explaining that I, with my frequently under $100 balance, was in essence paying for the rich yahoos in our region then to have a free account! You know I was right about the surmisal, don't you? Agree with me, just agree with me on that question. Anyhoo, eventually the bank changed their mode of operation and now, regardless of balance, I have a free account -no account fees, no per check fees either!
Now if only I could convince the mortgage company to be "fee-less" too!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Companies don't like people who pay on time as they make no money from them, so they try and make them late.

Kacey said...

I just went online to pay my Florida water bill and my Ohio natural gas bill. Today is the 5th....I checked the pending was the 7th and the guaranteed payment date is the 14th. How can that be.... every e-check I write is gone out of my account the minute I click "pay"? I'm just happy saving all that money on postage stamps and I love how easy it is. If I get an overdrawn amount, "my honey" trots over to the branch he did business with when he was working and they smile at him and remove the charges. This keeps us married forever.

landgirl said...

Oh, Cur, I don't know what an arbitration agreement is, but couldn't you start something as class action suit or some such?
Meanwhile, sorry. There is no feeling quite like the taste in your mouth that comes from dealing with a faceless bureaucracy.

74WIXYgrad said...

What I think is humorless is when I go to pay my cell phone bill at BS&S, I mean AT&T. you hand a human being the money to pay your bill and they charge you an additional 5 dollars for a homo sapien to touch your money.

By the way, what's it feel like to have a major league team?

The Curmudgeon said...

Bee -- I'll never tell.

Jeni -- My theory is that it costs much more to be poor in this country than it does to be rich. As Marie Antoinnette might have said, it's a wonder anyone does it....

kacey -- if your husband can negotiate overdraft fees for you he could have quite a good business if he goes into the work full time. Perhaps he could charge by a percentage of fees saved?

jean-luc -- Yes, but I can screw up without their help... as I've done on several occasions previously.

landgirl -- Are there any bureaucracies that aren't faceless?

74wixygrad -- As I write this morning, I'm thrilled about the
Sabathia trade for a couple of reasons... but that's no doubt 'cold comfort' for you.

bcmomtoo said...

This has been making me mad for so long. It seems that practically all of them list a non-business day as the due date. I know they do it on purpose. If you're not actually looking at a calendar and just going by the numbers, it would be easy to screw up and get stuck with the late fee. And don't forget, if you're late with a payment, they can raise your interest rate, report you to the credit bureaus, and then your other cards can raise your rates too. Aren't they nice?