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© 2011 Kebba Buckley Button.  World Rights Reserved.

In the late 1970’s, the major concerns of credit card users were simply interest rates, on-time payment, and potential wallet theft.  New dimensions of credit/debit card use are creating situations that cause customers frustration and worry coupled with extra costs and risks.  In this area of stress management, the best approach is to practice “living well is the best revenge”.

Today’s credit- and debit-card users need to be very observant.  New rules for their credit card agreements can be issued often, simply declaring new terms and higher rates; continued use of the card commits the user to the new terms.  Payments often must be made by the morning of the “due date”, due to cutoffs as early as 4 pm EST.  Payments with a Saturday “due date” can be considered late, even if paid in cash at a branch office, if not paid by the morning of the day prior, since Saturday may not be a “business day”.   “Late” payments actually made on the due date or prior can be reported to credit scoring agencies and reduce the customer’s credit score.  At one time, weekend “due dates” defaulted to the following business day.  Now due dates that are on nonbusiness days are not true due dates, but “late” dates.

In restaurants, formerly, the patron’s biggest card concern was simply making sure to get the card back after the transaction.  Today, it is necessary to be sure the credit card never leaves the patron’s line of sight, since the card number and code may be hand copied or swiped through a cloning device as small as a modest sandwich.  Credit card processing companies have self-serving policies to help them hold funds.  When a charge is run, the restaurant doesn’t get the funds for 3 to 5 days.  When a credit or debit mistake is made and voided, the customer’s account may show the mistaken charge as “reserved” for up to a week, even though the void-charge action was run within minutes of the initial mistaken charge.  Since the credit card processing company is the entity holding the funds, there is little the restaurant or your credit card bank can do to move the refund into your account.  This week, a restaurant charged my entire party’s dinners to my debit card, and the funds are still being held, 4 days later, although the void was processed 5 minutes later and within the same batch.  My company’s merchant credit card processor agreement says they may take up to 5 days to refund a charge reversal.  As a merchant, I am searching for a card processing company with a different policy.  I’m not optimistic.

Walking down the street, with a credit card in pocket or purse, a person can have their credit card number captured by an electronic “snatcher”, held by a passer-by.  Recently, a major “secure” customer data management company reported the “loss” (i.e., copying) of a million confidential customer email addresses.  I received notices from several banks and a few department stores, with which I have accounts,  that this regrettable incident had occurred.  What is next—the theft of a million account numbers?

Keeping all these considerations in mind, you may be thinking you should close a few accounts.  Oh no!  If you close any, your credit score will dip.  This, in turn, will cause some of your interest rates to rise, as well as your insurance rates.  So how should you handle these concerns and stresses?  I recommend getting the banks and cons back, by living well and wisely. Especially if some or all of these facts make you angry, truly, “living well is the best revenge.”  Just get out of the game, without hurting yourself:  pay off the cards, track your accounts regularly, carry only one or two cards if any, and use them almost never.  Show the credit card processing companies and the banks your true regard, by denying them the income from deceptive practices.  Limit the profits of identity thieves by keeping your data to yourself.  Get the total satisfaction of knowing you are doing the best for yourself.  Now, smile whenever you think of it.