An Old Dog Resists The New Trick
March 29, 2009 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Should I continue to resist paying my credit card bill electronically?

For many years I have had a simple effective process for paying my bills. I open the bill, write the check, and send it out. I could do online, but i spend too much time there anyway, and why fix something that isn't broke.

I got a new credit card. I knew it had a 20 day grace period. The second month I've had it, 10 day after the statement posts, I still haven't received the bill in the mail. I call customer service. I'm told that they don't get mailed until 3 days after the statement posts. Then she tells me they allow up to ten days to receive the bill and that it may take up to ten days to receive the check I send. I told her that's "impossible. there's no way to do this within the 20 day grace period." She says "that's right. You have to change and pay electronically."

I'm pissed about this. Why offer a mail service when it isn't possible. Why not tell people officially you have to pay online instead of offering something that doesn't exist.

I remember reading about some class action lawsuits a few years ago, revolving around banks delaying sending bills out in order to collect late fees. Have there been any recent suits in this area? I'll join the class in a heartbeat.

Again, I can change, but why should I, just to save money for the blood sucking credit card companies?
posted by Xurando to Work & Money (18 answers total)
There's no reason you "should". Only change your behaviours if you benefit from it.

Cancel the card, and vote with your dollars. These guys are trying to dick you over.
posted by Solomon at 12:34 PM on March 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

- If you want to solve the problem, pay the bill online.
- If you want to stay mad at the credit card company, pay the bill by check and fight the penalty each month. They'll probably refund the service charge. You'll waste a shit ton of time fighting with them and raise your blood pressure.
- You could split the difference and call them when the bill is ready and ask how much you owe and cut a check at that time. More work for you, sure.

What you want, it seems to me is to make them or the industry in general realize that this is a bad system and they are bad people for perpetuating it and in fact making it worse. This will likely not happen without some concerted efforts from people to make this happen. Your choice is whether you want to be part of that or not. I fought with my health insurance company for a long time over a similar thing except instead of fees I would get my health insurance cancelled. (I'd get a bill with a due date in five days). And I fought and I wrote letters and all the time they wanted me to pay by credit card which I didn't want to do.

It got to the point where I forced them to explain the entire check posting system [checks went to a locked box at the bank and were read/deposited two days later, they weren't even opened on the date they got the check] and made them make an exception for me but really I wasn't solving other people's problems, I was just solving my own and I was, at the same time, sort of creating a problem by getting so pissed about it. Sometimes keeping yourself unpissed, in my world is a greater good than being right. Now I pay four months in advance so I have this problem three times a year instead of every month. I'm still a little annoyed though, as you can see.
posted by jessamyn at 12:52 PM on March 29, 2009

Seconding canceling the card and getting/using a new one. The only way businesses change their policies is when enough people vote with their dollars.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:55 PM on March 29, 2009

I can pay off all of my credit cards in less than 2 minutes if I don't review the statement.
Why do you want to keep wasting time paying bills this way as well as wasting paper? I think your method is broken.

Anyway, I'd call and keep pestering till you get a supervisor and explain the problem. You can then ask them to take a 1-time free payment over the phone or extend your grace period since they can't seem to get their bills to you on time.

Just leave the card open if you don't want to use it after this. Opening credit and canceling really quick is one of those not good for your credit score things.
posted by zephyr_words at 1:30 PM on March 29, 2009

My gas company did this to me a few years ago. I called, complained, called some more, complained some more, reported them to the Better Business Bureau, complained, called them again letting them know I had complained to the BBB...and then about 4 months later I got a (non-form) letter from my gas company apologizing and saying that any late payment problems would be stricken from the record and if anything showed up on a credit report ever, to call (the specific person who wrote the letter), and it would get sorted out.
posted by phunniemee at 1:49 PM on March 29, 2009

Change credit cards. Resist the electronic payment scheme for two reasons: first, the terms and conditions you sign up for in electronic payment are enormously not in your favor; second, it's much harder to fight when your money is already gone.
posted by jet_silver at 2:06 PM on March 29, 2009

Sure, there's the principle of the thing, and yeah, you've probably got the moral high ground.

But doesn't it seem kinda pigheaded to insist on doing things your way for the sake of doing them your way when the alternative is actually a lot more efficient? "But I don't want to!" isn't a particularly compelling answer, even if it is a sufficient one. This seems to be a lot more trouble than it's worth for something so, forgive the expression, petty.

You're web-savvy enough to have a MeFi account. Why in heaven's name aren't you paying your bills online?
posted by valkyryn at 2:32 PM on March 29, 2009

I would encourage you to allow as few people as possible electronic access to your checking account, but according to Donald Knuth; CS professor and author of the (now 6 volume) _Art_Of_Computer_Programming_, it is no longer safe to write people personal checks -- there's enough information on a check for bad actors to drain out your account.

So it probably doesn't matter anymore.
posted by baylink at 2:52 PM on March 29, 2009

If you can afford to pay the card off right now, call them, cancel and tell them why. Then come back here and tell us which company it was.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:52 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I could be misunderstanding, but it's not a binary question, right? It's not "to pay on-line or by mail", it's "to pay through your Bank's bill payment to the credit card company as payee, to let them draw (initiate a debit) from your account directly, or to pay by mail."

Of the many bills I pay on-line, I only allow two payees that I trust to draw from my checking. All the rest I initiate out-bound. Letting companies draft your checking is (at least in my opinion) a bad thing.

If I misunderstood the OP I apologize.
posted by forthright at 2:58 PM on March 29, 2009

I pay online. AmEx sends me the bill with a few weeks to spare, but I find it much more convenient to just pay online every time. If I were you, I'd just pay online because it's easier anyway. But you're not me, so if what works for me and your card company doesn't work for you, find another company.

"You could split the difference and call them when the bill is ready and ask how much you owe and cut a check at that time. More work for you, sure."

More work for you, yes. But being the passive-aggressive person I am, all I can think is, "More work for them, too." Call before you receive your bill every month and ask how much you owe, and mention how the bills are rarely even on time. Will this get you anywhere? I don't know. It may just be more aggravation for you and something they don't even pick up. But if you have to keep this card and don't want to pay online, this is probably the 'silent, probably unnoticed protest' approach I'd take.
posted by fogster at 3:40 PM on March 29, 2009

following on forthright's comment -

I pay my phone bill online, but with my debit card. That does not give them access to my account directly, I have to authorise every payment, and manually enter my security code.

if your reason for not liking to pay online is security based, can you pay your credit card bill with a debit card?


But if your reason is simply that you like your habit and don't wished to be forced to change (which is completely reasonable), then I would also suggest voting with your wallet and cancelling the credit card.
posted by jb at 3:44 PM on March 29, 2009

Best answer: 1) Sign up for an account on the credit card's website.

2) Sign up for Electronic Billing. Typically, this comes in a form of a PDF that looks exactly like the bill you'd get in the mail. It typically is emailed to you the same day as the statement date.

3) Print it out. Write a check and mail it in like you normally would, without waiting for it to first come to you in the mail. You can definitely get it in by the due date.
posted by Nerro at 3:54 PM on March 29, 2009

I think you should cancel this credit card at your convenience, since their customer service sounds pretty bad.

However, look into online bill pay on your bank's site. Instead of writing a check and mailing it like I used to, I just enter the amount and the date I want it paid, and it happens automatically after that. You can do it for all bills you receive in the mail.
posted by qvtqht at 4:33 PM on March 29, 2009

I do what Nerro suggested.
posted by RichardS at 4:56 PM on March 29, 2009

Response by poster: I called American Express and cancelled the card. They said they did not offer electronic billing with a pdf. The customer service rep I talked to was much more helpful than the one I talked to previously, but not enough to make me keep the card.
posted by Xurando at 5:56 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is a profit point for credit card companies.

Inevitably, somebody will pay the bill "late" because of this policy ... and that means a fee paid to the CC company.

It's BS. Good on you for cancelling the card; not offering electronic billing is also ridiculous.

BTW, my bank (Wells Fargo) offers electronic billing and free online bill pay. I much prefer doing all my payments this way, as opposed to signing up for everyone's "online billing" and having each of them dip into my account at their convenience.
posted by dwbrant at 6:27 AM on March 30, 2009

Strange, I had American Express and had electronic billing with a PDF.

I never authorize anyone to get the money from my bank account though. I have to authorize all payments using my online bill-pay service.

Still, I was a couple of days late for American Express once. They didn't just charge a fee. They changed the interest rate to 29%!! It was in the fine print, so I foolishly didn't even notice for a couple of months.

I called them up and managed to talk the interest rate down, but they made the point that this high interest rate was all my fault and that I need to make sure I don't do it again or they'll raise the rates again.

Needless to say, I paid off the card as soon as I could and haven't used it since. There are a lot of reasonable credit card companies out there--usually tied to credit unions or consumer groups.

I really think the unreasonable ones count on late payments or needing emergency cash so they can bleed you dry. Jackals, all of them!
posted by eye of newt at 12:37 PM on March 30, 2009

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