Trying to 'stick it' to the credit card company often hurts the consumer

As consumers, we should stand up for our rights. If we don't, companies can easily walk all over us and cost us money. However, standing up for your rights should have its limits, especially when dealing with credit card companies.

I saw this question from a consumer who made a mistake with a payment on her credit card. She ended up being charged a $29 late fee. She paid her full balance and asked the credit card company to remove the late fee. They refused, so closed the account without paying the fee. Now she finds herself with fees upon fees for not paying the original late fee, and she has a negative mark on her credit report.

When a credit card company charges interest or fees that you feel are unfair, it never hurts to ask them to remove the charges. Plead your case politely, and sometimes you'll win. But in the cases in which you don't win, you shouldn't make the mistake of trying to play "hardball" with the credit card company.

Take a look at your agreement with the credit card company, and you'll see that you have very few rights. The credit card company owns you, and if you don't pay what you owe, you might "pay" for it years into the future because of negative information on your credit report. In this consumer's case, a $29 fee that she refused to pay will likely cost her money for years because of what has been put on her credit report.

The moral of the story is that you should do what you can to assert your rights with a credit card company, but when that fails, pay what you owe and chalk it up to a learning experience. Don't let a petty dispute with a credit card company hurt your credit rating for years to come.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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