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How to Complain

Social Media Amplifies Your Voice to Get Complaints Heard

boa-twitter

There is a nuanced art to complaining and getting results from a company.  A few years ago, you could call a customer service line, write a letter or shoot an email into the abyss with the faintest hope that someone might be inclined to help you resolve your issue. Those with a major issue might get a lawyer to assist in their struggles. Gone are the days of waiting on hold for an hour listening to awful muzak before a customer service rep tells you he can’t do anything for you.  It can take as few as seconds now, thanks to social media, which provided a game-changer in the war of getting a major company to recognize they’ve mistreated you.

Going up against a major company

In February of 2013 a winter storm named for an orange fish in a children’s movie came ripping through the Northeast. Several feet of snow crippled transportation in and out of New York City, leaving would-be-travelers stranded. As a New York City dweller, I was stranded in the comfort of my own home, but it provided little solace when I realized the major airline I’d booked travel through did not intend on refunding my fare.

To set the stage: my attempt at frugal travel had me departing New York City by bus to reach my destination in upstate New York. I had booked a flight back for two days later.

Nemo’s winter chaos cancelled my bus trip (for which I was refunded) but the storm had cleared up by the time I would have returned two days later so my flight wouldn’t be cancelled affording me a refund.

I called the airline’s customer service line and explained the storm had prevented me from reaching my destination, so I wouldn’t be there to board the return flight. A semi-polite representative told me that was unfortunate, but I’d have to forfeit the cost of my ticket with no refund.

In a black-and-white scenario, I understood the airline’s position. The storm did not cancel the flight I had booked, so they shouldn’t have to refund me just because the storm prevented me from getting there. Plus, I didn’t use one of their planes to reach my destination.

After two attempts at resolving the issue through the airline’s customer service line, hoping a combination of my sob story and being a loyal flyer would illicit a kind gesture, I changed my tactic.

I decided to pull a typical millennial move and vented my frustration on Twitter.

Getting Social

Tagging the offending airline in the tweet, I used my 140 characters to sum up how Nemo had disrupted my travel plans and I wished the airline would reward my loyalty with understanding by offering me a refund or travel credit.

Within 10 minutes, a member of their social media team made contact with me and asked that I send my email address in a direct message on Twitter so they could attempt to resolve my issue.

Thirty minutes later I had a travel credit for the cost of the flight I would be unable to board. I tweeted my thanks to the airline and still fly with them today.

Why companies react to social media

Social media is by no means the only way to try and resolve your complaint, but it’s an incredibly effective tool. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and similar platforms all amplify your voice to reach thousands to potentially millions of people.

Dealing with a bank-related issue isn’t much different than travel related frustrations. You may feel utterly helpless or completely ignored when it comes to going through typical customer service channels to draw attention to your complaint or issue. This is why social media is such a valuable tool for the average consumer. Social media can provide companies with easy public relations wins or become an absolute nightmare within seconds.

Major companies from all sectors have experienced the embarrassment of trending on Twitter or losing hundreds to thousands of Facebook fans after an inappropriate or ill-timed post caused a backlash from consumers.

Fearing the amplified voice of social media, most banks have dedicated social media teams that work to field complaints (or compliments) sent to them via Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

How to use social media to complain

If you plan to use social media to get your bank’s attention, be sure you’re going about the process the right way.

  • Don’t just vent or threaten

Expressing your outrage might feel good, but it’s better to approach the situation diplomatically and mention being a loyal customer but that you’re disappointed with how you’ve been treated.

  • Using the appropriate mentions and hashtags

If you don’t “at mention” or “tag” your financial institution in the tweet or Facebook post, then it will likely just get lost. You should also look to see if your bank has a specific handle for customer support. Chase for example has their team responding to customer complaints from the @ChaseSupport handle. If you have an issue that many other people are experiencing, look to see if a trending hashtag exists that you can use to amplify your voice.

  • Don’t give away personal information in a public forum

Never divulge personal details like credit card or social security numbers on social media.

  • Thank them for their help

If using social media resolves your issue, then be sure to publically thank your bank. For example: Thanks @Chase and @ChaseSupport for helping me resolve my billing cycle issue so quickly.

What happens if social media doesn’t resolve your problem?

If using the powers of social media doesn’t resolve the situation, then you still have another major player at your disposal.

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau was established to help and protect you. You can reach out to the CFPB to be an advocate on your behalf and try to resolve the situation.

It doesn’t hurt to mention to your bank (via social media or on the phone) that you’ll be filing an official complaint with the CFPB. Banks may be big, and sometimes feel like bullies, but they aren’t fans of getting publically reprimanded. Find more information about how to utilize the CFPB here.

Have you used social media amplify your complaint? Tell us about it in the comment section or on Twitter/Facebook/Google+!

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at [email protected]

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Eliminating Fees

How Overdraft Fees Silently Rip You Off

How Overdraft Fees Silently Rip You Off

It’s Thursday, the day before payday. You only have $50 left in checking and have forgotten that your gym membership of $70 will be automatically debited from your account today. Normally, you’d transfer a little bit out of savings to cover the cost if you needed to, but you didn’t do it in time. The bank approved your gym’s charge and now your balance is negative $20.

Whoops, you’ve gone overdraft.

33% of Americans have gone overdraft in the last year

In a recent survey, MagnifyMoney discovered 33% of Americans have gone overdraft in the last year. If you haven’t yet, it is bound to happen at some point. Either we make a mistake, or we actually run out of money.

Going overdraft in the United States – even accidentally – is one of the most expensive ways to borrow money in the world.

  • Banks charge effective APRs > 1,000% – making them worse than payday lenders

  • Banks have purposefully made the system obscenely complex.

  • Banks regularly re-order transactions in the background, increasing the fees you pay and stacking the deck against you

The U.S. always wants to be #1…

Unfortunately, overdrafts in the US are the most expensive form of short-term borrowing I have seen in the world.  Yes – it is more expensive to borrow here than in the UK, Russia or Mexico! Banks made $32 billion last year in overdraft fees alone.  And, in our survey, borrowing $100 for 7 days could cost up to $300 in fees!

How do fees work?

In the example of the gym membership, the bank has 2 choices: approve the transaction or decline the transaction.

If they approve the transaction, then you go overdraft and will be charged an overdraft fee. The average fee is about $35 per incident.  You can be charged multiple times a day.  One of the worst examples is Citizens Bank, which charges $37 per incident, up to a shocking 7 incidents per day. I’ll save you whipping out the calculator, that’s $259 in fees for a single day!

When your account is overdrawn, the balance is negative. You have to bring the balance positive (by putting money into the account), or else you will be charged an extended overdraft fee.

At Bank of America, you would be charged another $35 if the account is negative for 5 days. And remember: you have to cover both the amount you borrowed and the fee.  In the case of the gym membership – you would have to pay the $20 you borrowed and the $35 fee in 5 days, otherwise you are charged another $35!

If the bank decides to decline the transaction, you still get charged a fee.  This fee is called an NSF fee aka non-sufficient-funds fee.  And, guess what?  The fee is still a shocking $35 per incident.

So: you are charged $35 if it is approved or declined.

Doesn’t the bank also mess with how my transactions are posted?

In a normal world, transactions that take place at 8AM will be deducted from your checking account at 8AM.  Unfortunately, the rules are stacked against you.  Rather than posting the transactions when they actually happened, a lot of banks post transactions when they wish they would have happened.

Nearly 50% of banks use what is called “high to low processing.”  They take all of your transactions from the day, and deduct them from your account from highest amount to lowest amount (and they do this at the end of the day).  That means you will go overdraft sooner, and you will pay more fees.

Imagine you have a balance of $50.  You have 2 transactions: a morning trip to Starbucks for $5, and then dinner for $55.  If the transactions were posted in order, then you would only have one overdraft transaction: the dinner for $55.

If the transactions were posted from high to low (and not in the order they happen), then you would have 2 overdraft transactions!  At an average bank, that would increase the fee from $35 to $70!

And that is perfectly legal.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at [email protected]

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Balance Transfer

3 Traps of a Balance Transfer and How to Protect Yourself

View of businesspeople reaching across a table.

At 5 o’clock in the morning, you rouse yourself from bed, put on a t-shirt and old jeans, and head out to your garage. You pull all your unwanted collectables and last seasons’ clothing out of boxes and start laying them out on tables with price tags. An hour later – the local yard sale aficionados have descended upon your lawn to pilfer the things you don’t want and find some hidden treasures in your junk pile.

Balance transfers aren’t much different. In both cases, you’re trying to get rid of something you don’t want and someone else finds it valuable.

What is a balance transfer?

You may not like your credit card debt – in fact we hope you hate it – but banks love it. Why?  Debt makes the banks a lot of money. Every year, banks make billions of dollars on credit cards, so banks are constantly looking to get more of your debt.

A balance transfer is a way for them to steal your debt from the competition.

Imagine you work at Citibank.  You have a customer who has $5,000 of debt at Chase, and you want to convince that customer to move their debt from Chase to Citi.  What do you do?  You give her a great switching incentive (just like when your cable company offers you a great rate for the first 12 months of a contract).  So, you tell the customer that she can pay 0% for the next 18 months.  All that person needs to do is pay a one-time fee of 3%.

Almost all balance transfers have the following features:

  • A one-time fee:  these fees are usually between 3% – 4%.  They are charged up-front and added to the balance.

  • A promotional interest rate, usually 0%:  these promotional rates can last from as few as 6 to as many as 48 months.

How do banks make money?

So, the customer moves her debt from Chase to Citi.  Is the bank happy to be charging such a low interest rate?  Of course not!  Our Citibanker expects the customer to do one of the following:

  1. Miss a few payments. Before the CARD Act, a single missed payment (even by 1 day) meant the bank could increase the interest rate from 0% to a punitive 30% or higher.  That is no longer allowed.  But, if you go 60 days past due, the bank can increase your rate.

  2. Spend on the card.  If you start spending on the card, then your balance won’t go down.  Even better for the bank, interest will start accruing on the money you spend right away (unless you pay off the full balance, including the balance transfer)

  3. Still have a balance at the end of the promotional offer.  If you are given 0% for 18 months, banks are betting that you will still have a balance in month 19.  And if you have been spending on your card, it could be a big balance.  From month 19, the bank will start charging a nice high interest rate and your payment goes up.

Unfortunately, a lot of people fall into these traps.  That is why banks keep offering balance transfers. But, if you are savvy, you can easily avoid all of these traps.

  1. Set up an automatic debit as soon as you get the card and complete the balance transfer.  You will never be late.

  2. Once you get the card, put it in the freezer (hypothetically of course).  Never spend on it!

  3. Make sure you have a plan for the end of the balance transfer.  If you have 0% for 18 months, then make sure you shop around for the next balance transfer in month 18 so that you don’t have to pay the high go-to interest rate.

But the bank charges a fee.  Do I really save money?

promo-balancetransfer-halfSo many people write about their fear of the balance transfer fee.  Here is a general rule: if you can pay off your debt in 6 months or less, then the fee is not worth it.  If it will take longer than 6 months, than it is almost definitely worth it.  We will do the math for you on our Balance Transfer page.  I think you will be shocked by how much you can save.

Let’s break it down: $10,000 of debt at a 20% interest rate.  You decide to do an 18 month balance transfer with a 3% fee.  So, you pay a $300 fee up-front.  That fee may sound scary ($300 is a lot of money), but, during the next 18 months, you would have paid $2,758 of interest.  You will be savings $2,458 over 18 months.

Just think about it.  Rather than giving $2,458 to the bank, you can pay off your debt so much faster!

Feel up to the challenge? Let’s walk you through how to get a balance transfer!

Consider these balance transfer cards

Discover it® Balance Transfer

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Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Annual fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 6 months
Intro BT APR
0% for 18 months
Balance Transfer Fee
3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
Regular APR
14.24% - 25.24% Variable
Rewards Rate
5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at [email protected]

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