(It's a bit of a tabloid headline!)
As a policy, I generally pay credit card bills by Direct Debit. That way, I get the convenience of paying by plastic, but none of the pain of interest charges if I forget to pay the monthly bill in time. And when I was travelling three or four days a week, the chance of missing a bill or not getting through the pile of mail waiting at home was high.
So imagine my surprise on opening up the citi credit card bill tonight to discover the following two transactions on the bill.
Balance from Previous Statement £50.53
6/10/2008 Direct Debit Payment £50.53-
9/10 Interest Charge £1.00
That's all there was on the bill. An interest charge for paying the bill automatically. Theft!
Problem is that phoning up the credit card company to get your paltry £1 refunded costs me time and money. Particularly when having keyed in all the card and security details in response to the automated system, the first person to answer busied their lne and pushed me back onto the queue and back round the keying in cycle again.
The agent who answered second time round, went on hold and quickly came back with the encouraging statement that "it must be a system error" - something I've now heard several times from different credit card companies that have been liberal in their interest charges.
My initial request for them to refund the phone call was met with a we-don't-do-that response. But the "manager" was more enthusiastic, even if slightly too thankful that diligent customers rang in to tell them of their mistakes so the systems could be investigated and everyone else affected refunded on their next bill!
All seems a bit petty - even for me! - but in an age alternately labelled as a credit crunch and a credit crisis, it seems wise to make sure that the financial institutions learn to play fair and don't take advantage of their customers. (Though how they figure out that telephone calls cost 30p/minute is a question I left unasked ... £2.70 for the 9 minutes taken to resolve the call seemed like a good result. I'll let you know if it doesn't appear on the next bill.)