Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am a reasonable person. It is true I often find myself annoyed and angry at my fellow human beings, but rarely do I throw around terms such as Dodd-Frank, or CFPB. I might occasionally find customer service people to be, well, rude, but I try not to threaten to file complaints with a newly-created federal watchdog agency.
Alas, all that happened last week while trying to close my bank account with Capital One. Oh, wait…..let me rephrase that – while trying to again close an account with Capital One that I had already closed two months prior. In person. At one of their branches.
But hold on: to get a full perspective of the ire I let forth in the first paragraph, let’s go way back to irresponsible days of yore. When I was young, wild and reckless with money (as opposed to now, when I am middle-age-ish, fairly tame and only sometimes brash with my money), I had a credit card with Capital One.
I have no idea how this miracle came to be considering I was to finances and money what Lindsay Lohan is to driving and acting – useless, and actually, maybe even dangerous.
Nevertheless, I was bestowed with this instrument of adulthood and I immediately abused it. No beating around the Lohan on this one – I ran it up and struggled to pay it down, not once, but several times. I made late payments, skipped payments, the whole nine yards. I am sure I paid at least six times the total debt amount (I believe it was a whopping $1,200 limit) in penalties and late fees over the years I had that card. Capital One made a pretty good profit off that teeny-tiny little card.
Finally, I faced facts. I cut up the card and threw it away. And I continued to pay it down, slowly and steadily, paying an extra $20-$50 bucks a month when I could. But I did not close my account with Capital One. I left it open and just made my payments.
Eventually, there came a situation where I needed a credit card to rent a car. I could not use my debit card, for whatever reason, probably because I didn’t have enough money to cover all the incidentals or whatever. It really was ages ago.
So I called Capital One and asked them very nicely to send me another card. They said no. They pointed out that I had a history (not a recent history, but a history nonetheless) of late payments and delinquencies. I pointed out that the account was still very much open, all my payments had been current for quite a while and I would very much like to have a duplicate card. They said no. I went up the customer service chain of command, such as it is, and met a wall of NO at each transfer.
When I reached the very last and presumably most senior person, I calmly explained that if they would not issue me a credit card on an account that was still open and that I was still paying on, I would pay off the remaining amount immediately ($300, which for me, at the time, was a lot of money), completely close the account, and vowed that I would never, ever use a Capital One product again, no matter how successful I became in the future or how much money I made.
I was assured that the powers that be at Capital One would not be losing sleep over this threat.
Fast forward several years, and several better jobs later, to about two years ago: I was happily banking with a local bank here in the Washington DC area when Capital One bought them. I remembered my youthful vow, but my natural lethargy was stronger. Moving banks and all my bills over to a new bank seemed like such a pain.
Each month I seethed as I received my bank statement from my hated bank enemies. I’m not naive here: I know banks are in the business to make money. They’re not holding on to my money and facilitating the payment of my bills out of the goodness of their black little hearts. I’ve even worked in a bank, as a lobby teller in college, so I know what’s up. But the thought of Capital One using my hard-earned funds for various investments and stock market finagling, like credit default swaps, just chapped my hide. I did not want to pay them a dime and I sure as hell didn’t want them to make a dime off my money.
Even worse were all the credit card offers they felt compelled to jam up my mailbox with. Had they forgotten how they didn’t want me as a customer? Do they not know about my almost super-human ability to hold grudges FOR LIFE??
Then my personal-live-in-financial-consultant XFE moved our joint household account to a credit union and found out that despite our very nebulous status (I once knew someone who was related to XFE’s cousin’s uncle and he was apparently a farmer – just kidding, but it’s pretty close), I could join the credit union too. Finally, I would be free of Capital One.
I kept both accounts open for about a month while I transferred all my automatic bill pays over to the new account. Finally, I walked into a Capital One branch on August 3 and gleefully closed my account. I was told that since I had automatic bill paying that if any vendors submitted a bill to my (former) account within the next 60 days, this would automatically reopen the account.
I felt about 90% sure that I had caught any potential payments, but I was still worried. I have some payments that aren’t monthly that I sometimes forget about (for example: the hosting server for this site). I protested. I said I didn’t want them to reopen the account under any circumstances, but there was nothing I could do. It was a condition that I could not get around, according to the bank manager. I was told any activity within the next 60 days would automatically reopen the account without my permission.
Last Friday I receive a call from Capital One collections. Seems that I had $5.90 in maintenance fees on my supposedly closed account. I would need to pay that immediately. I could not believe it. I explained to the collections person that I had closed that account. She said she could see I had visited the branch on August 3, but there had been an interest payment to the account about a week later which kept the account open. Then they charged me for maintenance of said account for the next two months.
Lest you think I’m a forgetful idiot (a sometimes fair assessment), let me assure you that I NEVER received a single piece of mail, electronic or otherwise notifying me of my account being held open. Not an account statement, not a “hey, remember how we said any activity within 60 days, yadda, yadda. Whelp! You’ve had some activity! From US!” email, nothing. A phone call from collections (COLLECTIONS? On a $5.90 balance!??) was the first indication that I was a victim of Capital One entrapment.
Because seriously, that’s what that shit is. It’s entrapment. They wouldn’t let me “completely” close my account. Then, Capital One provides the activity that automatically reopens the account. And then they begin charging fees on a supposedly closed account.
At no time was it explained that the vendor I needed to look out for, the vendor who I could not account for, would be the very bank I was trying to get away from.
One last note – I, of course, paid the $5.90 to the collections person who then transferred me to customer service so I could finally get the damn account closed. As I heatedly explained my situation to the first customer service person, she hung up on me. I called back and went through the system again. After a total of an hour on the phone, I was passed on to a manager who said she would close the account. She asked me if I wanted someone to call me back within 48 hours to let me know it had been finalized, and of course, I said yes. It’s been five days and no one has called to confirm (that’s fine. I confirmed it online and at a branch).
Capital One – What’s in Your Wallet? More like, “What Can We Take From Your Wallet?”