Nothing gets my blood boiling more than credit card companies. My husband and I, no matter how hard we work to get out from under their thumb, seem to find ourselves battling them. When we lost both our cars in one week, despite having a budding emergency fund to cover most of the replacement expense, we had to finance about $2,400. Now that we’ve been sharing a car for a few days, I’ve realized that, especially in the summer, I absolutely need a car of my own so that my kids and I aren’t trapped at home all day.

One good thing that came out of this financial detour is that during the application process for a loan at our credit union we found out my husband’s credit score had dropped 40 points since last year. I asked myself, “What the hell happened from last year to this year?” We had paid off his credit cards in April. Being the Discount Diva I am, I simply couldn’t let this slide. I told him that he had to get on the phone and find out what was going on.

The Dangling Finance Charge

So, my husband called Experian. He found out that although he had paid off his Capital One card, there was a $2 finance charge that was applied after his final payment was processed. So, he was going about his business thinking, “Great, I have a $0 balance on that account. That’s one less thing to worry about.” Boy was he wrong. He didn’t think to check the account after it was paid off and never knew he had this dangling $2 finance charge. Then they hit him with late payments on this $2 charge and subsequently sent a report to the credit bureau when he was 90 days past due, which is a major blow to your credit score.

The Call to Fix It

So, having already gone through something similar, I said to my husband, “You have to get on the phone and fix this. Otherwise it’s going to mess up your credit score.” He called them up and explained that because he paid off the account he believed there was a $0 balance. He told them he had no knowledge of the finance charge because he’d gotten no notice from them. He pointed out that he was a good customer and had never made a late payment to them in all the years he’d had the card, but he was going to cancel the account if they didn’t remove the late payment fee and send a report to the credit bureau to expunge the delinquency report. I stood in the room pacing, going “Atta boy.” I’ve been there and done that. He felt like he was being harsh, but I reassured him that he had to fight for his good credit score.

He was nice, yet assertive, when talking to the customer service rep and in a matter of minutes both the finance charge and the late payment were removed and a report was filed with the credit bureau to expunge the original delinquency report. It’s going to take a few months to be entirely removed, but it was definitely something that had to be done.

The Lesson Learned

So here’s what I take away from this whole situation. YOU alone are the only one who is responsible for your credit. The credit card companies love to make money off of you, but they sure as hell aren’t going to look out for your best interests.

I used to be the girl that was afraid to ask for anything. I wanted to be seen as nice, but I’ve learned that you NEVER get what you want when you don’t ask. So I say, if you run into a dangling finance charge, the dreaded annual fee or any other discrepancy, call your credit card company IMMEDIATELY and insist they fix it. I ditched my Capital One card when they wouldn’t remove my annual fee. Why should I have to pay anything on a card that has a $0 balance? I refuse to pay a fee for the “privilege” of carrying their card. You need to let these credit card companies know that they are a dime a dozen.

I always call my creditors, whether it’s a credit card company or the cable company, and ask for a better rate, a new due date, or whatever else it’s going to take to keep my financial ship afloat and moving forward. Never be afraid to remind them that you always have other options (even if you don’t – bluff). The worse they can say is “No.” If they say no, then you have to decide whether or not to stick with a company that isn’t willing to work with their customers or give another company your business. The choice is always yours. I like to think of it as reverse telemarketing. Companies work very hard to get your business so we should make them work just as hard to keep it. My advice is to keep your existing companies on their toes, keep new businesses in mind, and check your credit report once a year to make sure there are no discrepancies.

And One More Thing…

Something else that helps me stay focused on my mission to get out of debt is to get really stinking MAD! Get MAD at the unfair practices, crazy interest rates, fees and penalties, and yourself for getting into debt in the first place. I’ve learned that when you get complacent you get nowhere, so get FIRED UP to make a change. This is YOUR FINANCIAL PEACE at stake so defend it come hell or high water!

Share your battle stories with credit card companies and maybe we can collect enough rage among us to get out of debt for good.