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 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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