Couple penalized for credit card mishap

September 16, 2008 7:26:02 PM PDT
With credit tightening up in this uncertain market, many banks are cracking down on delinquent cardholders. But what about people who pay on time?

This is a case where a couple went above and beyond to make sure they weren't late with a payment. But they still got dinged with late fees, interest and even debt collectors.

Rachel and Robert Campbell are sticklers for paying bills on time. They want to avoid any interest or penalties.

"For 40 some odd years when the bills come we pay when the bills come," said Robert Campbell from Cupertino.

So when they bought a new car battery from Sears two years ago, Rachel did what she often does. She paid the bill in person just making sure it wasn't late.

"It doesn't get tied up in all the mail. I just like it better. I'm old fashioned," said Rachel Campbell.

But all they got for the extra effort was a lot of grief.

"The next month we got a bill with the late charges," said Rachel Campbell.

Here's what happened: Citibank had just notified the couple their Sears charge card had been converted to a Citibank MasterCard. Now Citibank was billing them for the battery they already paid for.

"So I wrote and said there must be a mistake, sent them a copy of the canceled check and the receipt that sears had given me," said Rachel Campbell.

Rachel figured that would straighten things out -- but not so easy.

"We got a call from city MasterCard demanding that we pay over the phone. I said I've already paid I'm not paying again," said Rachel Campbell.

But Citibank kept sending bills, and more bills piling on late fees and interest. Two years later, the bill got up to $315.

And it got worse.

"They turned it over to a collection agency," said Rachel Campbell.

And bill collectors started calling.

"Every morning get the doggone phone call me waking up. I get irritated. I didn't owe anybody anything," said Robert Campbell.

Rachel thought the problem would never be resolved.

"I think it was my daughter and son-in-law said why don't you call 7 On Your Side," said Rachel Campbell.

After we got involved, Citibank investigated and removed all charges from the couple's account. It also cleared the incident from their credit report saying "we regret any inconvenience.''

For the first time in two years, Rachel and Robert didn't get a bill this month.

"It pays to go to 7 on your side," said Rachel Campbell.

Sears isn't the only retailer that's offering credit cards in place of charge cards. You may want to check any new cards you get from a retailer to see exactly what terms apply.

Keep in mind banks are more aggressive about collecting these days.


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