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Sep 01 2002

So You Want To Close The Account?
September, 2002

Have you ever tried to close a MasterCard or VISA credit card account? First, you call the handy-dandy customer service number on the back of the card. You are asked to enter the 16 digit card number. After listening to the message about there being new options available and how you should really do your business on line, there is the litany of what number to push (or say) and what it will get you. Finding one that leads to a real person is sometimes hidden and sometimes not. I push “5.” You are advised that someone else might be listening in on your conversation for “quality assurance purposes.” Click.

“This is Melody. To whom am I speaking?” You give your name. “What is your mother’s maiden name or your password?” Hmmm. Did I have a password? I give her my mother’s maiden name and that seems to satisfy her. “How can I help you?” You tell her that you want to close your account. “Okay,” she says cheerfully. “Why do you want to close it?” You tell her that you have too many credit cards, that other cards have better fringe benefits, or whatever your reason is. She accepts it at face value, but tells you: “Let me connect you with a specialist that deals with this area.”

Click. Click. “Hello, this is Susan and I understand you want to close your card with us.” You tell her you do. She asks why. You repeat what you told Melody. She is very nice, but it’s her job to have you rethink your decision. Every time she agrees with you and you seem to be close to canceling the card, she asks a question. I have told her that I have too many cards, don’t use them all, and that a recent card had a good deal on cash rebates. She tells you that you have been a card holder for 16 years. “So what?,” I think, but say nothing.

“Did you know we have lots of different plans than the one you are on?” Questions occur to me at this point: If you know what’s out there that is competing with you, why would you wait until I call you to get me on a plan similar to others’? Ever heard of being proactive? Do you think I am a fool and will go on with a deal that is less than I can get elsewhere? Maybe you think I don’t pay attention or don’t care.

I am calm, though. I tell her that my new BlahBlahBank card gets a rebate of three percent on a major gas brand and one percent on all other purchases. I also tell her that I pay my bills on time, so I really do not care what the interest rate is on the card. And I do not want to pay any annual fees.

She knows she probably has me by now. I bet she thinks, “This guy is not going to close his account during this phone call,” as she responds. There is the plan if you like frequent flier mileage, but there is an annual fee. “ We have about three zillion miles on our Amex card and don’t use them,” I tell her. There is the straight cash-back plan with a rebate of one percent and a check mailed to you every month. How about the one-percent accrual plan where you can use it to pay for car service, body work, or the purchase or lease of a new car. Then, the one I get the most curious about: two-percent accrual to be used for a new car purchase or lease, with a catch. Points expire on a three-year basis. I ignore my original plan to close the account no matter what a nice person would say to me.

“How about sending me some information on the two-percent car thing,” I say. “I will hold off my decision until I can look at your brochure.” Another winner in her column. Another credit card still in my wallet. But I am thinking about a new car within the next three years, I rationalize.

Addendum: The brochure from the credit card company arrives. I look it over and realize it just was not for me. So, once again, I call the 800 number for customer service and announced to the representative that I want to close my account. Once again I am handed off to a specialist in trying to keep accounts open. She is very nice and tries to her best to keep me as a customer. However, I am proud to announce that I succeed in closing my card. Heady from the excitement of doing this, I call yet another customer service line and cancel a VISA card that I had not used in ten months. Who knows what new adventures await me now that I have taken these steps?

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