A few years ago, I opened a Capital One Credit Account ("platinum" MasterCard) to help boost my credit. The card had a small balance and a larger interest rate than any of my other cards, but I didn't plan to really use it very much, so I wasn’t worried.
Just for context, I don’t carry any credit card debt and only wanted the credit boost to get a better interest rate on a car I was going to purchase. I’m also an annoyingly proactive Libra that tends to overpay monthly bills and has gotten paid on the 1st of every month for decades. If a person went looked at my checking account, they would be able to see that I pay the exact same amount to my bills on the exact same date of the month, traced to almost the exact same minute. Example, I pay Geico $160.00 a month, even if the bill isn’t due yet or is only $140.00. I have budgeted for $160.00 and that’s what I pay. I go into my bank’s auto pay and manually pay all my bills from my checking account and then double check the websites at the same time to confirm that nothing new has popped up or no one has stolen my id or anything else. It’s so regular that if someone wanted to hunt me down, all they would need to do is wait until the 1st between 8 – 8:20am and I’m guaranteed to be at my computer paying bills.
I also keep my credit cards locked up at home to avoid temptation. So to keep the Capital One card active, I’ve used it for purchases that I pay off immediately – as in, I will use it specifically for gas and pay it off within the hour. I’ve never carried a balance and have never had any reason to contact them directly until December 2011 when, out of the blue, I get a bill for $16.38. Knowing the card had been locked up and unused for almost a year, I called their customer service to find out what was going on. According to the agent I spoke with, the $39.00 yearly fee on the card that I paid in February didn't reach them in time because there was a lag in my bank’s auto bill pay process, so even though they received the $39.00, I had already generated a $10.00 late fee. From there, I was charged interest on $49.00 and somehow – ten months later - it equaled out to me owing $16.38. The math made absolutely no sense, even with the high interest rate. Not to mention, the website had always shown a $0 balance when I checked it and I'd never encountered any lag with my bank’s auto pay to them (or any other company) in the years I’ve used it. Still, the agent was nice enough, offered to refund the $16.38 and contact the credit agencies that they had been reporting me too for the past few months, so I was willing to just let it go. A week later I received a check from Capital One for $16.38 and a letter stating they were glad to have me as a customer.
Now knowing that this was a potential issue with the yearly fee and since the incident was still fresh in my mind, I made sure to pay the 2012 fee of $39.00 the day it became due in February. I followed the progress of the money from my bank to the account via websites for 3 days. I was obsessive.
Today I get another bill for $54.40 that doesn't make sense. Again, I call their customer service to find out what's going on and am told that it's the exact same scenario - the yearly fee, the late penalty and how it was the fault of my bank's bill pay. When I asked why I am being charged another yearly fee, I was told that was "what their system says I owe" and was given no other response. At that time, I pulled out the date/agent id of my last phone call and began questioning the entire process. I asked specifically how it could be the fault of my bank's bill pay when I watched it drop to a $0 balance and, as of March 1st when I’d last checked the website, I was still at a $0 balance? The agent then let me know that according to their system, I was at a $0 balance on March 1st, but the charges had to be related to the lag in my bank’s auto bill pay. When I told him I didn’t understand what a delay in my bank's bill payment would have to do with anything because there was no payment needed and their math makes less sense than it did the first time this happened, he offered to transfer me to a senior agent who could further explain.
Even though I was getting frustrated and nervous, I understood that this had to be a problem with my account and was keeping it polite. At the same time, I knew that I needed a valid explanation or a promise of someone monitoring my account for strange fees or something similar, so I wasn’t going to be placated with the bank delay excuse that didn’t even make sense. I calmly explained senior agent that this back and forth was screwing up my credit and I really needed this investigated. This is when she told me flat out that the system shows I owe $54.40, there was no one else to talk to and nothing else could be done. She couldn’t explain to me the how or why and avoid answering my direct questions. I then told her that I didn't have any of these problems with any other card I have/use/bill pay from my bank and I wanted to close this card immediately. The senior agent proceeded to tell me that instead of closing my account, I could just sign up with their auto pay so they could access my checking account directly and it would solve any future issues. I told them I was definitely not interested in giving them access to my checking account and I wanted to just close the card today because it was becoming more trouble than it was worth. They are dinging up my credit score with whatever is causing the problem with my account and frankly, I was starting to get worried that this was an ongoing issue that would never really be resolved, so I was ready to be done with the whole thing. The senior agent laughed a little, which I’m still not sure was patronizing or just a weird response, and told me that I needed to pay the $54.40 balance to close the card today because it’s “what the system says I owe” and I would be charged interest on the $54.40 until the moment the money is added into their system.
At this point, I feel like I’m getting shaken down and am starting to panic about how they could continue to screw me well into the future with whatever these mystery issues were and the fees that they seem to generate. While I was still on the phone with the senior agent, I went to the Capital One website and paid the total. When I told the agent I had just paid the total due on their website, she replied to me that the money was held for a certain period of time and I would still be earning interest on the balance, so I could expect to have another bill for whatever the interest was at the time that the money was actually imported into their system. Not wanting to risk another late fee on a balance of the pennies of interest I may earn in the next few days while they imported my payment from their own website, I ended up going to my bank’s bill pay and sending them another $10.00 to proactively fight off whatever they may decide to charge me next.
I am pretty upset right now and feel as if I just paid out quite a bit of money for no real reason. Can anyone explain to me how this can be legal and if I have any possible recourse?
Oh and please, for the love of all that’s good, stay far away from Capital One credit cards. They are nothing but trouble, even with a $0 balance.