A close call

I opened a new credit card account with Capital One last month and just narrowly missed getting slapped with some huge fees from it. My first payment is due tomorrow. I never received a statement or alert, though, letting me know this fact. Let’s walk through the facts and decision points here to see where I may have missed some cues.

Mid-December: I apply for a no-fee Capital One rewards credit card online. I get approved and receive confirmation that a card will be mailed to me.

I receive the card within a week, but I don’t call to activate it for a few days. (When I do call to activate the card, it’s an annoying process. The agent tells me it will take a few minutes to activate; in the meantime, she tries to sell me other services such as identity theft protection and credit report services. I decline the services and have to fend off Stage Two of the script by refusing to engage. When asked what I’m currently doing to monitor my credit I say, “I decline to answer.” Because, of course, no matter what response you give they have a matching sales-oriented response to give you in return. Unless you basically stop playing the game by not giving them any response such as I did. Or by being obtuse such as saying something like “Peanut butter loves chocolate!”)

December 25: I receive an automated email from Capital One encouraging me to enroll in online banking. I scan it a few days later when I’m back home from my holiday travel.

January 1: I use the Capital One card for the first time. I make two purchases that day.

January 3: I charge my orthodontist visit to the card. That’s a $400 purchase. (I have to pay up front then get reimbursed by my dental insurance; this is pretty typical for dental and medical visits with specialists.)

January 9: I finally enroll in online banking. I look at my account activity and everything looks fine. I also elect to go paperless and not receive my statements in the mail. I look for my statement closing date and payment due date.

January 11: I receive an email from Capital One with a subject line of “Less paperwork is a good thing.” It confirms that I recently asked to stop receiving paper statements and gives me instructions on how to log into online banking. It notes “Starting with your next billing cycle, your statement will only be available online.” A few lines down the email states: “We’ll also send you an e-mail as soon as your current statement is available. Feel free to use that monthly email as a reminder to schedule an online payment.”

January 14: I receive an email from Capital One with some tips on how to earn rewards faster.

January 17 (today): I recall that when I enrolled in online banking on January 9 that my account payment due date was January 18, so I think it would be a good idea to verify that. I log in to my Capital One online banking, and sure enough: my payment is due tomorrow. I pay the nearly $800 bill in full (as I had planned to do) and make a PDF copy of the confirmation page which says that my payment will be credited today (despite it being a federal holiday). Crisis averted!

—–

So, has there very recently been some sort of change in how credit card statements and billing is handling? Why did I not receive a statement from Capital One via regular mail or email? Did the timing of my enrollment in online banking throw the whole process off?

I’ve had at least one credit card of some type for the past 24 years. In that time I’ve always received a statement with my account activity and billing due date for any type of account I’ve had (department store account, Visa, MasterCard, Discovercard…you name it, I’ve had them all over the years). That statement may be printed on paper and mailed to my home or it may be sent to me via email. But I always get a statement, and it always notes when my payment is due.

I’m usually mistrustful of financial institutions and this incident makes we wonder if this is a routine process for Capital One. Aren’t they required to issue a statement? Or is there some way for them to opt  out as long as they provide notification in the very fine print of their terms and conditions? It would certainly be a great way for them to turn a no-fee account into a major revenue generator from customers who aren’t paying close attention to their credit card activity.

When I logged in to my account today, I noticed this small hperlink I could click to set up account alerts. I made sure to follow it today and set an email alert for 10-days before my payment is due. And I’m extremely grateful for the miracle of electronic banking that allowed me to instantly make the payment. Phew!

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5 thoughts on “A close call

  1. I switched from Citibank to capital one and I’ve been very happy with them. I do love their online banking. It’s super easy and I can download all my transactions into a spreadsheet. I actually have to put a reminder to myself on my calendar for the payment date though because I’ve missed it a couple of times. For whatever reason our bill is due during the middle of the month and it doesn’t always register to pay bills then.

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  2. I’m thinking I should send them an email with these details so they realize there was a glitch in their system. They really should issue some sort of statement before payment is due!

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  3. Pingback: International travel and banking: Part 2 « a windycitygal's Weblog

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