Today’s bank chat : Digital highway robbery

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This is a “shot across the bow” for people who didn’t know this type of highway robbery still existed.

…and I wondered why my checking account is free?

The very poor —  people who can afford it the least — are the ones that always get saddled with excess debt they may never be able to stop paying.  I am fortunate to have found the solution, a balance transfer at 3% interest.

…or so I thought.

So long ago that I can’t remember when, I’d paid a large bill using autopay and promptly forgot to transfer money from my savings to my checking account. The account was short of funds by about $4.00.  The bank automatically charged my credit card for a cash advance of $200 to cover it.  Immediately, I took the money from another account.  There might have been an hour overlap…

…remember this when you read the following transcript:

Customer service:  Welcome to Bank Chat!  Please note: Do not refresh your chat window at any time. Refreshing the  chat window during the conversation will disconnect your chat session.
Me:   I’ve been paying interest that will not go away on a $200 charge. I now have a 0 balance on my AmerX card. Will the  interest charge now go away?
Customer service:  My name is Rob and I am happy to assist you today. Please bear with me while I pull up your profile. How is your day going so far?
Me:  *grumbling*  Thanks.
Customer service:  You’re welcome. Yes, you will not accrue interest as the account is at a zero balance. I am so sorry for this inconvenience.
Me: Thanks.

I sat at the computer for a moment wondering,

“What am I forgetting to ask?”

Me:   I thought that putting a charge (for a cash advance) as the very last one paid up on an account at the end had been discontinued. The way it looked, if I had gotten the card amount down to $200 and then charged more on the card, I would still be paying interest on it. (the cash advance)
Customer service:  I completely understand. It can be quite confusing at times.
Me:   Would that have been the case? If I hadn’t paid up the entire amount, and still had $200 when I made a charge of — let’s say $1000 —  that I would still continue to be charged interest for that one transfer into my checking account when I was overdrawn?
Customer service: Anytime you do a balance transfer or cash advance, the only way to keep from accruing interest is paying the balance of the card in full. If you made  additional charges after you paid it off but before the statement cycle closed, you would continue to be charged interest.
Me:   So then…because it was a balance transfer/cash advance… if I have a $50 charge to buy something this month and the billing cycle hasn’t closed, I will see another separate interest charge for the cash advance next month? And if — during that month (the month after that) — another $50 charge is made, there will still be another separate interest charge for the cash advance next month?
Customer service: Yes, that is correct.
Me:  Geez. I thought there were laws against that. It will mean the only way to get rid of the cash advance charge — that was made for the first overdraft I’ve had in well over 20 years — will never go away unless I cancel my Amerx card entirely?
Customer service: Not necessarily. If you pay it off the day of or the day before the statement closing date, then you will not receive interest unless anything else comes out that day.
Me:  When is my closing statement date?
Customer service:  I am checking now.
Me: Everything that is on autopay, any place I buy from, is linked to my main credit card — the Amerx card.
Customer service: The 28th is the closing date.
Me: If I pay the card to 0 on the closing day, then I will never see another cash advance charge again?
Customer service:  Correct.
Me: I thank you very much for your assistance, and I’ll be sure to pay the entire amount off on the 28th.
Customer service: You’re so welcome. I know this can be a difficult thing to have to deal with. Is there anything else I can do today?
Me: If you encounter another incident like this one, please give this information to people up front. If that little voice inside me had not said, “Wait…ask this,” I would have been clueless as to why the charge kept showing up every month. With all the fine print, it is often hard to miss something.
Customer service: Absolutely. Thank you.

You know exactly where I’ll be on April 28 at 11:59 am.  If a charge comes in 2 seconds before midnight, I’ll be forced to close that account and memorize yet another credit card number.