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Tuesday, June 18, 2024   

Chase Bank Tries to Pull a Fast One
by Scott Bilker
Scott Bilker is the author of the best-selling books, Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt, Credit Card and Debt Management, and How to be more Credit Card and Debt Smart. He's also the founder of DebtSmart.com. More about and DebtSmart can be found in the online media kit.
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Scott Bilker

I knew it would happen! I read all the fine print. I reviewed every detail! I followed the instructions from Chase Bank exactly as they described in their low-rate-offer letter and they still penalized me! 

How did Chase Bank attempt to trick me and maybe you? I strongly recommend that you read this entire article if you have ever done a balance transfer or you're thinking about doing a balance transfer! This article contains some details about my phone call to Chase Bank, copies of their letters, copies of my bank statement, and a response form so you can let me, and the world, know if this has ever happened to you!

It all started with one of the best credit offers I have ever received. A surprising 0% APR until February 1, 2003 with a one-time fee for each transfer of 4% of the amount transferred, up to a $50 maximum. According to the letter, "These checks may be used for any amount, up to your available credit line."

This offer was received in January which meant 13 months of 0% on my entire credit line of $12,500 (which is available) for a one-time fee of $50. That's a true APR of approximately 0.37%!

I wanted to take advantage of this offer for many reasons.

1) I wanted to see if what they promise in their letters is what they actually deliver when the bill arrives, and report the results to you, my dedicated readers.
2) My money market is getting 2.5% and the loan is costing 0.37%, so I'll be making about $250 over the course of the year for simply paying my bills on time.
3) This offer was slightly different than any transfer offer I've been interested in taking advantage of. It promised that I could use my entire credit line and implied that I can do this without penalty.

I checked and rechecked the letter for any loopholes. I read all the fine print, to be sure that I was using their transfer offer within all the rules described in the letter. Everything seemed to check out, so I went ahead and wrote myself a check for $12,500 and deposited it into my money market account.

Chase Letter (Page 1 Chase Letter (Page 2)
(Click on above pictures to see a readable image.)

When the bill arrived I noticed an overlimit fee of $29 assessed on my account--I KNEW IT! I had a feeling that they left out a few words in their letter that, of course, loophole their way to earning more money.

I followed the directions described in the letter which stated, in three places, that the check amount(s) cannot exceed my credit line and I was still charged an overlimit fee.

Chase Billing Statement

(Click on above picture to see a readable image.)

I've written about this type of "trick" in a previous article titled, Reading the Fine Print in Those Low Rate Credit Card Offers, however this case was slightly different. The credit offers I was referring to at that time stated in the body of the letter that you can use "any amount up to your available credit line." But in the fine print the letter warned, "You may transfer any amount, including transaction fees that are assessed, as long as it does not exceed the available credit line." Check out the Citibank offer I received that does this exactly.

Citibank Letter
(Click on above picture to see a readable image.)

The offer from Chase however, did not provide that warning. Every mention in the Chase letter about the amount you can use, the total "check amount(s)" is that it can go up to your available credit line.

Compared to the Chase offer, the Citibank offer tries to trick you in the body of the letter, but is at least honest in the fine print. In fact, the fine print in the Chase letter is even smaller than the fine print in the Citibank letter! As my editor Rick said, "It's as though Chase is trying to deceive people more than Citibank."

As soon as I saw that overlimit fee, and reviewed the original letter to make sure I didn't miss anything, I promptly called Chase Bank to have them remove the overlimit fee, which they did immediately.

When I asked why I was charged the overlimit fee, the rep told me it's because I was over the account limit since the $50 transfer charge plus the $12,500 check makes my balance $12,550.00. I explained that the Chase letter stated that I could write the check up to my limit and the rep (Ms. Beers) started arguing with me. I asked to speak to her supervisor (Mrs. Lett) and she also argued with me.

I originally thought they would just waive the fee and apologize for the confusion. I thought they would say something like, "Mr. Bilker, we're sorry that the wording of the letter was confusing. I can certainly understand how you feel. I will certainly bring this to the attention of my supervisors and management so we can review these details. Thank you so much for calling!" Then they could have hung up and forgot about my call--but that didn't happen.

Below are links to portions of the conversation I had with Chase customer service.

Part 1: First rep removes the overlimit fee and argues about the fee.

Part 2: Supervisor argues about the fee.

It may be true that they said I could use the check(s) up to my credit limit. And it may be true that the agreement says that if I go over my limit I have to pay a fee. One could argue that if they told me to write the check(s) up to twice my credit limit, and I did, that I should be charged an overlimit fee because it goes over my limit. The letter could have said to jump off a bridge and if I do itís my stupidity. However it is certainly implied that if they're sending me a letter, and I follow the directions in their letter, I will not be penalized.

It's clearly stated that if you write a transfer check there's going to be a fee. However, their letter never said that if you write the check to the account limit an overlimit fee will be charged. 

This encourages people to write the check up to the maximum limit. Chase never mentioned anywhere in the letter, not even in the fine print, that there would be an overlimit fee if you do as they say and write the check up to the limit. 

One good analogy is to imagine a policeman telling me I can go through a stop sign. He says, "Scott, go through the stop sign." So I go through the sign and the same policeman immediately pulls me over and gives me a ticket. I say, "But you told me I could go through the stop sign." And he replies, "Itís common knowledge that itís illegal to go through the stop sign. Didnít you read the driving handbook?"

Chase Bank, the policeman of their terms, said to "write the check to the limit" then when I did they penalized me, and probably countless others, who may not have even seen the overlimit charge on their statement. Or maybe they did see the charge, then called and were told they were stupid for going over their limit. It brings to light the fact that you cannot trust what their letters say. 

The bottom line in this situation is that the letter is very deceptive. It leads people to believe that they can write the checks up to the credit limit without penalty. 

When I called Chase I didnít have to ask to have that overlimit fee waived. As soon as I mentioned that it was on my statement the rep removed it instantly! If they really believed that I was completely at fault they may not have done this so quickly. Also, the rep and supervisor seemed well versed in arguing their points and my guess is that itís because they have had practice or training on the topic.

How many of you have had this, or a similar problem? Especially if it was from this very same low-rate credit offer by Chase bank. Let me know if this has happened to you, and please, let me know if you agree or disagree with my position on this issue by filling out the response form.

Lastly, aside from this situation, my past experiences with Chase have been very good. They have always offered me nice lending deals. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I would hope that this particular situation occurred only because of these specific reps. I would hope that Chase reviews EVERY person's account that took advantage of this offer to be sure that they are not penalized--without that person having to call them first!



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