If you own a credit card, you know that the issuer of that card can do as it wants with your account. Millions of cardholders have witnessed just how much control the issuer has, from arbitrarily increasing interest rates to slashing credit limits. Perhaps you’ve sat by helplessly as your grace period was shortened or the number of days has shrunk between when you receive the statement and the payment’s due date.
While it’s true that the card issuer pretty much controls the game, as a cardholder you are not powerless, even if you carry a balance from month to month. If your terms have been changed recently, it’s time for you to fight back.
Dial the toll-free number on the back of your card. Be persistent until you get through to a live person. Be courteous but assertive. Use this script, changing the wording as needed to fit your specific situation:
“Hi, my name is (your name). I have been a cardholder with your company for the past (number) years. My account is in good standing. I have maintained a high credit score consistently, and I would like to continue using the account. However, I need you to restore my interest rate (or credit limit) back to a lower interest rate (or higher credit limit), or I may switch to a card with a better rate (or higher limit).”
You also have power as a cardholder when it comes to billing errors. If you ever have been billed for merchandise you returned or never received, had your credit-card company charge you twice for the same item or failed to have a payment credited to your account, you need to know about the dispute settlement procedures provided by the Fair Credit Billing Act.
To take advantage of the law’s consumer protections, you must write to the creditor at the address given for “billing inquiries,” not the address you use for sending your payments. Include your name, address, account number and a description of the billing error.
Send your letter by certified mail and request a return receipt so you have proof of what the creditor received. Include copies (not originals) of sales slips or other documents that support your position. Keep a copy of your dispute letter.
The creditor must acknowledge your complaint in writing within 30 days of receiving it, unless the problem has been resolved. The creditor must resolve the dispute within two billing cycles, not more than 90 days after receiving your letter. I have had disputes settled quickly by calling customer service. Make sure you use the phrase “billing error.”
The law says you can withhold payment on the disputed amount during the investigation without fear that you will be reported delinquent or have your credit score affected in any way.
To learn more about your rights and the power you have as a credit-card holder, get familiar with the terms of the Fair Credit Billing Act at http://www.ftc.gov. Type “FCBA” in the Search box.
Knowledge is power, especially when dealing with your credit-card company.
Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com