Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Credit Card Rant

The following rant has nothing to do with selling to entrepreneurs. But it could serve as a heads-up for credit-card holders – and a warning for any business that abuses customers’ trust.

Since I paid my MasterCard bill on time last month, I was surprised to see an interest charge of $40 on my February bill.

So I called BMO for an explanation. After 10 minutes on hold, a helpful customer service rep explained it to me.

Apparently I paid my bill a few days late in December (the usual pre-Christmas bustle, I guess). As a result, MasterCard is now charging interest on all my purchases until I have made two consecutive on-time, in-full payments.

“Since when?” I asked, flabbergasted. “Since June,” she said.

So that’s how it’s going to be: Make one mistake, and your credit card suddenly becomes a high-interest loan. That’s a pretty fundamental change, and while MasterCard might have announced it last spring, I don't remember them making any attempt to draw my attention to it.

(Note: Does this penalty even make sense? Why would BMO actively encourage me to leave my MasterCard at home?)

I had barely opened my mouth to complain when the CSR graciously offered to cancel the $40 charge. Of course I was grateful, but it made me wonder how much flak the bank has received over this charge, since they are so willing to roll it back before it’s even requested.

Luckily, I have two credit cards. Guess which one is staying home for the foreseeable future.

I think there’s a lesson here: consult with your customers when making significant changes. Don't try to slip one over on them. They will find out. And they won’t be happy.

Maybe the banks figure they have all the power. They reserve the right to change the cardholder agreement from time to time. I don't have that right.

But there’s one right I do have. Not to do business with them.

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