Extra credit
September 21, 2012 8:00 PM   Subscribe

I "paid" my bill... the credit card company goofed. Is my credit score ruined? How can I fix it?

I have a credit card (I don't know if I should say which one) and a bank from the same institution, a major bank.

The situation: I paid off my credit card by phone-- I usually pay by checkbook, but in a pinch, I didn't have it, and needed to do it by phone-- a week in advance.

The next day, I had a nightmare that I had a cat and forgot to feed it, and it died. I woke up feeling something wasn't right.

I thought something might be wrong with the transaction; I had told the person on the phone "PLEASE BE CAREFUL you're getting the right information... I'm not sure it's correct." So I checked online-- nothing seemed paid, but they'd said it would be a few days.

After my cat nightmare, I called the bank back and got a very high school sounding girl who said, "oh, yeah, it hasn't been paid yet." Upon which I explained I had paid and she said, "yeah, I can't tell why. It just wasn't paid."

I hung up, called back, and spoke to another operator, let's call him "laid back dude," who said, "yes, it's fine, everything's paid."

I checked online and the outstanding balance was 0.

Fast forward to my credit card being declined at dinner today.

I spent 90 MINUTES on the phone with Citibank today with someone who kept trying to explain to me that I had paid everything correctly, but shorted them on the bill 13 dollars.

Transferred to customer service-- the person explained that the 13 dollars that was showing up was a leftover charge from a prior month, August. Then, they said that it was a late fee because I must not have paid the balance.

I kept asking, "are these conversations taped?"

But then, after about 90 minutes of being asked to hold and transferred, I hung up and called again.

This person explained that the first person who took my payment info should not have taken my ATM card number (which I gave to them) and should have taken the account number. These apparently have a different number of digits.

It took 7 days for my bank to decline the charge, which is why I only found out when it was too late.

....WAYYYYY Tl;dr-- the bank goofed-- I apparently messed up in ways I didn't even know where possible-- paying for credit cards by phone is HORRiBLE.

So-- Is my credit score lower now?

How can I find out if this was affected?

By the way, how can I find out if what the last person told me was true, or if this is a mistake?

Also, is this likely to happen again if I pay by check, or should I switch banks????

Thank you!!!
posted by kettleoffish to Work & Money (19 answers total)
Best answer: They declined your card today because you had an outstanding balance of $13? You tried to pay the full amount (or a partial amount?) 7 days before the due date, but it took the bank 7 days to find out, so today's the due date? Are you carrying a balance from month to month, or paying down to $0 every month?

I very much doubt you will see your credit score taking a serious ding on a payment that was late for a few days -- being late 30, 60, 90 days is what they look for -- but I think you need to try telling us your story again, because having your credit card declined seems odd if your $13 charge/unpaid balance is so fresh.
posted by maudlin at 8:22 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To add, any bank that doesn't waive/revoke the credit statement over $13 is one you need to get far, far away from. We had a similar-type goof ( forgot a payment after 10 years of paying off in full ever month, etc.), and had no issue wiping it off our credit report. I would assume that you would have a similar experience. Remember that you have some power here too; if your credit rating has been good for a long time, you have the power in the relationship, not them. If they want to quibble over $13, there are lots of other financial institutions that would be happy to have your business.
posted by liquado at 8:39 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have no idea whatsoever what the problem actually was. I don't understand why they thought the problem was the 13 dollars.

The third and final person I spoke to at the 90 minute mark today said that the first screen that popped up on their computers said it was 13 dollars but the real problem was NONE of the transaction went true, and it took 7 days for the bank to decline to pay-- for some reason, he said that the first two people could have figured this out from the context if they clicked onto further screens.

He also said the I called on 9/5 put the ATM card number in the account number field. Or rather ALL of these people clearly said,

"you have given us a number with too many digits."

And the 2 phone calls where I was first told the payment didn't go through and then was, and the time I went online and saw the balance had turned to 0? No explanation how this has happened.

My boyfriend heard ALL of these conversations on speaker and saw the balance on the computer and SWEARS I am not hallucinating, which I really wonder if I am.

None of 3 people I spoke to had any record of the 2 people that I called back to confirm about the payment-- they said there was no record that I called. They all confirmed this independently of each other.

I don't understand HOW THIS COULD HAVE HAPPENED. How as a customer am I supposed to motivate my bank to give me a HEADS UP that my credit cards aren't getting paid during these multiple calls I am making to ask, "HEY IS EVERYTHING OK OVER THERE????" How is the computer system SO DIFFICULT over there???

I'm not even a stupid person and I literally feel like I am trying to understand the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. The bank has ONE job. From my point of view, this is the ONLY thing I expect from them, that they 1) know how much money I have and 2) know where it is. How are there so many explanations for what went wrong?
posted by kettleoffish at 8:57 PM on September 21, 2012

Best answer: A payment that's less than 30 days late is considered on time as far as your credit report goes, and won't affect your credit score. Even if it did, one late payment is hardly catastrophic.
posted by kindall at 8:58 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry, mistake in 3rd paragraph!! A bit wound up... He also said the *customer service rep that I called to make the payment on 9/5 made the mistake...
posted by kettleoffish at 8:58 PM on September 21, 2012

Best answer: I understand that you're upset, and your bank certainly appears to have some inept CRAs, but I still can't figure out the timing. Here's my best shot:

1) You had a credit card with a balance of $XXX due on [date]. What date was it due?

2) You attempted to pay by phone 7 days before the due date. Please confirm: were you trying to pay the full balance or the minimum balance?

3) When you say the outstanding balance was 0 when you checked online the next day, do you mean that your account's balance was 0, or that it showed that your minimum payment had been paid in full?

4) Today your credit card was declined. How many days after the due date is today?

5) Did you pay the amount owing tonight? And was this the full balance on your account or the minimum required payment plus any penalties?

As a couple of us have said, a payment that is late less than 30 days should not be a big deal, but OTOH, your card was declined today. What are we missing?
posted by maudlin at 9:18 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Relax. You will be fine. Your credit score will be fine. In general, if you've been paying your bill on time in the past, one late or incomplete payment will not cause your account to be flagged as past due on your credit reports. When circumstances have caused me to accidentally miss a payment or not pay in full, I have called up the card issuer and explained the circumstances, explained that it was an accident, pointed to my stellar payment history and asked that the late charges/interest be removed with no impact to my credit report/score. The card issuers have always agreed to do this, with virtually no additional wrangling. Give it a shot. Be very calm and courteous and tell them exactly what you'd like to see happen. Do not berate the rep or complain about the bank or really say anything negative, aside from a lighthearted joke. Making snide or negative comments may make you feel better in the short run, but it will run counter to your primary goal of getting back your money and preserving your credit rating. Good luck!
posted by roomwithaview at 9:36 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: No, your credit is not going to be affected by this. Stop worrying about this. You would likely need to stop paying your card for 3+ months and possibly even long enough for it to go to collections before you would possibly see a ding on your credit score. Really.

What you need to do is get an online account for your credit card. Forget calling and forget your checkbook. Go to the web site for your credit card (not your bank) and log into your credit card account. Check to see what your current balance is. If there is a balance, pay it. Set a reminder in your calendar to log into the web site 3 weeks from now and check again. Pay if there's a balance again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Personally, I don't trust customer service people on phones because of language barriers caused by international call centers, lag and poor quality of audio resulting in misunderstandings, etc. I feel much more confident if I log into the account on my own and see where I am and take care of it myself.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:24 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Answering questions:

1) You had a credit card with a balance of $XXX due on [date]. What date was it due?


2) You attempted to pay by phone 7 days before the due date. Please confirm: were you trying to pay the full balance or the minimum balance?

Full balance

3) When you say the outstanding balance was 0 when you checked online the next day, do you mean that your account's balance was 0, or that it showed that your minimum payment had been paid in full?

It showed that I owed nothing-- I had owed $XXX, it showed after I paid that it was 0. It said this online. The customer service rep told me that this was quite possible: before the bank refused to pay, this would have showed up as being fully paid. I didn't understand this part.

4) Today your credit card was declined. How many days after the due date is today?


5) Did you pay the amount owing tonight? And was this the full balance on your account or the minimum required payment plus any penalties?

I was asked by the 2nd person on the phone if I wanted to pay the full balance (plus this month's charges) and I said, "yes, but that is not the point, I also want to know what happened" thinking we would get to it later, and that we needed to complete the transaction later.

The 3rd person said that I have now apparently paid the balance. I was a little surprised by this and need to check if this really happened.
posted by kettleoffish at 10:39 PM on September 21, 2012

Best answer: I used to work for Captial One so YMMV when it comes to your financial institution. I worked first in their small business department and then as a "Senior Account Manager", dealing with payment issues like this amoung other things. Fisrt off, if your account goes in the next billing cycle w/o a payment, it most certainly can be reported on your credit report as no payment in that billing cycle. You won't necessarily have collections calling you but if it happens again you may have your interest rate upped. That being said there are things that you can do now to prevent that. This was an error on their end. You called & made a payment several days prior to your due date. The error was on the part of the agent you spoke with, as your debit card # is very different from your bank account #. That person should have requested the routing # along with the account number of the account you were going to use. The payment will post to your c/c account and bring it to $0 dollars owing but your bank can bounce the payment back several days to several weeks afterwards. Your account maybe showing as $0 balance but with the return transaction processing, you may not have had the available funds.

So to take care of this issue. First off, start documenting everything. Date/times of calls, person's name you spoke w/ etc. The person on the phone that you speak with may not be able to give any info about those reps but they should be able to see if your account was accessed on those days (possibly what time as well).

Secondly, stop speaking with frontline agents that you get when you first call through. Request a supervisor. When I was doing it, we had significantly more access to a customer's account than frontline reps. Calmly explain what happened along with all relevant information about this. The higher level rep may be able to go back and correct your payment history as this wasn't your fault. (We used to be able to do that in situations like this and the correct info would be forwarded to the credit bureaus.) What they won't be able to do is back date any payment.

Thirdly, if you haven't made the payment again, make it. This will work in your favour.

Fourthly, don't be afraid to ask for any waivers regarding fees you may have been assessed for this payment issue. Fees are assessed automatically by the system but can be reimbursed by an agent if the error was on the c/c company's fault (or for customer goodwill etc).

Lastly, again keep documenting. In approximately 90-180 days pull your credit reports to make sure that this didn't get reported. If it did, you have all the documentation you need to file a dispute w/ the c/c company about their reporting. They are required by law to report correctly to the bureaus and if there is an error, they have to correct it and report it to the credit bureaus as corrected so that it does not negatively affect you.

Like I said earlier, I used to work for CapOne, so different companies may have different policies/procedures but this hopefully will get you going in the right direction.
posted by googlebombed at 11:16 PM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Thanks for the numbers!

OK, if the phone mix-up meant that your payment didn't go through at all and you wound up trying to use your card 9 days after the due date, then having your card declined makes more sense. As everyone else has said, I see no reason for your credit score to be affected by this. You didn't even hit the 30 day mark. This site (among many others) shows you what can affect your credit score. This page discusses how your credit payment history affects your score: again, one late payment in an otherwise good payment history is really no big deal. This page describes how to improve your score.

What to do now? I agree with roomwithaview that you should calmly and politely try to get that penalty revoked. The process googlebombed described makes sense.

However, if for any reason they don't correct their errors, stay calm. You may feel that you should get another card and cancel this one if they fail to fix this error. And this may be the right response: I wouldn't feel confident with an institution that couldn't fix an error they largely or totally caused.

BUT: applying for a new card, having that other issuer run a credit check, and cancelling your card could lower your score to some degree. If you cancel a card you've had for years for a brand new one, even if you get the same credit limit on that new card, this could lower your score. If your current card is pretty new, but the new credit company offers you a lower credit limit, this could also lower your score. This would probably not be a large change, so unless your score is borderline right now, this would not be something to get upset about.

As joan holloway said, you can try banking online from now on. You may find that with this under your control, things go much more smoothly. But if you still have reasons to be unhappy with this company, order your credit report (remember you can get one free report a year), check that it's accurate, and then decide if it is really worth it to change banks and/or cards.
posted by maudlin at 11:30 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So if I check my credit report right now, the change will be apparent by comparing it in 90 days? Or there might be some incremental lowering of trust that doesn't lower my score now, but counts more as like a "strike" if I'm ever late again?

When I talk to someone who may have the ability to correct this, what do I ask for? (They waived the fee, that was the easy part).

Basically: can I save my credit report?
posted by kettleoffish at 11:40 PM on September 21, 2012

Best answer: Personally, I'd go into a local bank branch, politely explain that you're a loyal checking and credit card customer with them, that you've been having a problem with an incorrectly processed payment and have been having a lot of difficulty getting it all put right over the phone, and you'd like to talk to a manager. Sit down with him/her and ask to see updated records confirming that you're all in good standing, your card is reactivated, your balance is correct, fees have been appropriately waived, and that your payment history has been corrected and a late payment will not be reported to the credit bureau. Ask for a copy of any pertinent record. If the person you're talking to says he/she cannot help (sometimes branch employees can't make adjustments on the credit card side of things, for example), ask him/her to call someone who can while you wait.
posted by zachlipton at 12:11 AM on September 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You can save your credit report as you were not in error. If you made the second payment before the close of the billing cycle, then it will simply show as late BUT if you made the payment after the close of your billing cycle and in your next cycle, it can be reported as no payment for the previous cycle/month. Both of these can be fixed by the c/c company when they report back to the credit bureaus.

When you are speaking with the supervisor, let them know that you want your payment history corrected. They should do this as a matter of course but it doesn't hurt to ask.

I gave the window of 90 - 180 days because we were req'd to report back to the credit bureaus @ the close of the billing cycle (every 30 days) for each customer but then it was up to the credit bureaus to update/change their records. They had their own schedule for doing that.

I understand being upset and frustrated with the situation at hand but first get this situation corrected, then consider changing cards. Unfortunately, everyone/every business makes mistakes and I would let them fix this first and then make any decisions based on how they respond to thisb situation.
posted by googlebombed at 12:12 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok, that makes sense. I will look to a supervisor because everyone I talked to said they don't have access to the credit bureau and are not responsible for this.

Grr I have another 7 dollars charged on my account (online) and I just made a payment for considerably more than I owed a few hours ago so I wonder if this is another "you paid all but 13 dollars" situation-- whatever caused that problem. I will pay this too and then call a supervisor and then go to the branch tomorrow.
posted by kettleoffish at 12:18 AM on September 22, 2012

Response by poster: Ok thanks!!!! I got it. (And sorry for threadsitting).
I'll post how it goes for followup.
posted by kettleoffish at 12:23 AM on September 22, 2012

Do what zachlipton said. And after it's all sorted out and you're done and dusted, go find a local credit union and transfer all your banking business to them.

There is no substitute for owning a share of your financial institution if what you're after is good service and no bullshit.
posted by flabdablet at 3:03 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Talking to a supervisor-- and only talking to a supervisor-- was what helped.

And it was a Friday night so the local branch was closed.

What happened was finally after close to 4 hours on the phone with Citibank I spoke to a supervisor who offered to send a letter to the debt collection agency (that they sent my PAID account to).

I was up until 4 am.

I still have to wait and see whether this affect my credit score.

They said they were super sorry this happened but I still feel like this is a blatant example of how NOBODY can be trusted with your money until you know them, personally, and know their capabilities.

I didn't know honestly that I had to be some VIP for Citibank to not mess up my credit card payments.

We will see but I'm disappointed.
posted by kettleoffish at 8:04 PM on October 2, 2012

I have been with the same credit union for thirty years now, and I have never had and never heard of any other member having an experience even remotely similar to what you've just been through.

Banks, on the other hand, generate WTFs like this with monotonous regularity.

Seriously, just go bank with somebody you part-own.
posted by flabdablet at 3:43 AM on October 3, 2012

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