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Taking Credit

Richard Quinn

BACK IN APRIL, I wrote the last in a series of articles about my ill-fated cruise around South America, the last few weeks of which were spent in quarantine. In that article, I mentioned efforts to obtain a refund for airline tickets we bought to fly home but couldn’t use, because the ship was refused permission to dock in Punta Arenas, Chile.

For several weeks after our return home, I attempted to get the refund. I spent hours on the airline’s website, only to be stifled by instructions in Spanish and pop-ups saying the codes I entered weren’t recognized. The airline did offer a credit on future flights, which was useless since I will never fly out of Punta Arenas. Ever.

So I disputed the credit card charge with my bank.

Finally, the airline changed policy and offered a refund as an alternative. The refund, however, wouldn’t be applied to the credit card, but instead deposited into our bank account. To obtain the refund, it was back to the airline’s website to enter the ticket info, an identification number—in my case, my passport number—and bank info. All that made me a little nervous, but I did it.

To make matters worse, I had charged tickets for five different individuals on my card, so I had to gather all their info as well. Nothing worked. The system didn’t recognize our passport numbers. After many attempts, I was about to give up, but I called and luckily got hold of a representative who spoke English and offered to enter all the information in the airline’s system for me. Success. Two weeks later, the money appeared in my bank account.

What about my bank credit card? Amid all the airline gyrations, my bank denied my disputed claim. To avoid interest, I paid the $3,100 charge, while I waited to receive the airline refund.

A few weeks later, I got a form from the bank, which said that—to investigate my claim—I needed to compete the form and return it, which I did. Mind you, this is after the claim was denied.

Then it happened. I looked at my credit card statement and there was the $3,100 credit, less my current charges, so suddenly I had a negative balance of about $1,300. But I knew my true balance was accruing and would be due once the erroneous credit was removed, so I stopped using the card and placed the amount I actually owed on the card in a savings account, knowing eventually it would be needed.

I called the bank again and explained the situation, telling the representative I had already received the refund from the airline. We will investigate and take care of it, I was told. They took care of it all right. The bank applied a second credit of $3,100. Now, I have a credit balance of about $4,400.

I received a second bank letter telling me about the new credit and stating that, if the airline didn’t respond within 45 days, the credit would be made permanent.

This was getting more profitable than the shipboard slots. I called the bank again, my frustration level rising. “Where did the second credit come from?” I asked.

The dispute was reopened in June, I was told.

“By who?” I asked.

You competed a form to open it, came the response.

You mean the form you sent me months ago regarding my original dispute request? Oh my.

In our conversation, the representative acknowledged that the record showed I’d received two credits, that I did call and tell them I was refunded by the airline, and the original credit should be voided. We will investigate, I was told… again.

The 45 days are up. Do I get to keep the credit balance on my credit card? Am I going to make $3,100 or perhaps $6,200?

One last—and I do mean last—call to the bank. “Are you going to fix this or not?” I said in a restrained tone.

“I have to escalate it to a higher level in the dispute department,” the rep said. “You will be hearing shortly.”

That was a week ago and there’s still red numbers on my account balance. I suppose we can blame this on the coronavirus. Or perhaps there’s some other excuse.

Now I may face a bit of a moral dilemma. Do I keep fighting to give money back or rationalize that the seventh largest bank in the world can afford it? Time will tell, but I suspect sooner or later the folks there will figure it out.

Richard Quinn blogs at QuinnsCommentary.com. Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. His previous articles include Do as I Don’tAbout That 4% and Banking from A to F. Follow Dick on Twitter @QuinnsComments.

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parkslope
parkslope
10 months ago

I’m sure others may disagree, but at this point I would donate the money to charity. I also wouldn’t feel guilty deducting my hourly consulting fee from my charitable contribution for the time I spent trying to rectify this situation.

Charlie Warner Jr
Charlie Warner Jr
10 months ago

I would wait and see what happens.

Peter Blanchette
Peter Blanchette
10 months ago
R Quinn
R Quinn
10 months ago

Good point.

R Quinn
R Quinn
10 months ago

The rest of the story. I received a letter from the bank while on vacation in August telling me the “ dispute has been resolved and the credit will remain on your account.” A week later suddenly my account had an amount due, no showing a credit reversal, no nothing. They had taken back the credits. A week later I received two notices saying they reversed the credits from June 19 and July 29 (where did that come from?) and that the adjustment is visible online … it still isn’t. Oh well, $6,200 easy come easy go.

Subhajyoti Bandyopadhyay
Subhajyoti Bandyopadhyay
10 months ago

The story reminded me of the time when I was in Milan, Italy, for a conference (remember, travel?) and the return flight from United got delayed due to mechanical failures. On the way back, United offered every passenger a voucher worth $300 or maybe $400. And they paid for the hotel for the night once we reached Newark and got me booked for the flight back home next morning. Which was nice. But, since the mechanical fault happened in Europe, EU rules applied, which meant that I could make a claim for another 600 euros (which United did not mention to the passengers!). However, I remembered that and looked up the relevant details, made the claim and, well, since we had been to Italy, voila – another 600 euros, or say around 825 dollars. The total amount was enough for the tickets for a vacation next year.

Michael
Michael
10 months ago

Back in the days of Continental airways, which always overbooked, they delayed us on a flight to Europe. They offered small vouchers, but I knew FAA rules and demanded full price vouchers which entailed flying us to a different city in Europe for two nights, hotel for those two nights, and $65 per person for clothing as they had sent our bags on (even though it was post-9/11 and this was illegal). The vouchers covered a trip to Puerto Rico, one way first class. But then they delayed us again on that trip and it really sucked to be stuck at EWR for 6 hours, but they cut us each a check for $1300 as per FAA regulations. Then we got stuck in PR for an extra week due to a snow storm and got to stay in a resort with two of those checks!
I guess this is why Continental is no more…
(Actually, my wife says I conflated two stories, but both times Continental had to issue refunds exceeding original ticket prices.)

DrLefty
DrLefty
10 months ago

I had to cancel two major trips due to the virus. I guess I was lucky. We got all our money back (for a Viking cruise and for airline taxes and fees), all the miles back into various airline accounts, and all the points back into hotel accounts. It took awhile and some persistence, though. I thought we were going to have to pay $100 redeposit fee to Virgin Atlantic, but they didn’t end up charging us to give the miles back.

CJ
CJ
10 months ago

Any Frasier fans remember the episode when Martin tries to withdraw $20 from the ATM and gets multiples of that by mistake? He’s all for keeping it, but Daphne guilts him into visiting the bank and returning the money. If you haven’t seen it, pretty funny stuff – and very close to Richard’s tale. 🙂

Michael
Michael
10 months ago

In my experience, at the end of the business’s FY, they find the errors and try to get back the money.
With one notable exception where we did try to return a lot of money and they said no, so an attorney told us to put the money in an escrow account for six years. He advised us that practically they would no longer have records or could make a legal claim even if they did.

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