Thursday, January 27, 2011

Great Absa Credit Card Lotto continued

Dear Maria Ramos, Chief Executive of Absa Bank,
          Sorry to bother you again Maria, but after I wrote to you the explanations I have been getting for your Credit Card Lotto are becoming more bizarre by the minute. If you were still running the railways a crazy system like this would have trains going off the lines all over the place.
          As it is, it’s your bank’s clients who are going off their heads with frustration, not to mention the embarrassment of having their cards rejected when they know they are in good standing financially.
          What I told you last time was that ever since I had been given a new card with a super security chip it gets rejected at shops almost as many times as it is accepted.
          To add to my woes I discovered by chance that when I pay my entire card debt by debit order from my cheque account on the 10th of every month it is only reflected on my card three working days later. And during this period my card is blocked so I can’t use it.
          You were evidently too busy to answer my questions yourself so you put Wouter de Vos, the head of your Card Operation on to me.
          He explained that it was decided to put the three day hold on cards when payments were made by debit order or cheques because the payments had been made available without the money being cleared.
          Excuse my ignorance but how can debit orders and cheques be put in the same clearance category?  I appreciate that cheques might take a day or two to clear but surely debit orders go through instantly unless your bank is still using that computer model that Bill Gates perfected when he was in kindergarten.
       Here’s the real double Dutch from Wouter, Maria, We are supplying the correct information to the customer – payment is not cleared yet, even though it reflects as a payment on your credit card account.
          From my experience the customer has to be a mind reader to anticipate this because nobody tells him.
          The system, he said prevented fraud and reduced the risk of over indebting the customers. We’ve got nanny banks now because us stupid customers can’t stop getting into debt without the bank’s help. And of course preventing fraud comes way ahead of ensuring peace of mind for the honest clients who are in the majority by far.
          To confuse the situation even more he added, When the debit order is less that R5 000 the amount will be available immediately and I could phone the call centre to have my debit order hold lifted each month as my amounts were over this R5 000.
          If this was the case I asked him why couldn’t I have the block on my card lifted permanently as my credit limit was way above the amount I spent each month.
          Wouter then revealed that it was your humpty-dumpty system that was at fault because it can’t automatically pick up that the amount is available on the cheque account. They had asked your System Division to look into this to service our customers in a more efficient way. He added this encouraging note; Unfortunately we can’t confirm that it will be changed in the future.
          I suppose as you might have said when you were on the railways, That’s just hard lines for you Jonnie boy.
          The bumbling continued when I wanted an explanation as to what was the point of having a credit limit much higher than what I owed if my card was still put on hold. He said that after my last payment I had only used about a quarter of my credit limit leaving the balance available for use. In spite of that when I tried to use my card on the 11th it was rejected.
          His excuse: We had a few system problems causing transactions not be approved. That’s rubbish because it’s not the first time this has happened to me unless of course your system hasn’t been oiled for years.
          He told me that if my card was rejected and I knew there was enough credit available I should insist that the merchant phones for an authorization. Perhaps he would like to try this with me at a till on a busy day at Pick n Pay. We’d both be lynched by the angry mob waiting in the queue.
          When I asked how much your bank made in interest in the last year while it held money in this no man’s land between accounts he said interest was paid, Where the account was in credit at the time of the debit order. Ha, ha, ha pull the other one Wouter. In any case according to my statement you are current paying the grand sum of 0.20% on credit balances.
          After the launch of the chip card in 2009 certain retailers were having a problem accepting these,  Wouter went on. We are having discussions with the Card Associations (MasterCard and Visa) to address this matter urgently.
          What! nearly two years after the launch? That’s a new definition for urgent.
          Absa’s attempt at delivering exceptional service has indeed been damaged, Wouter conceded.
          He can say that again, Maria. But don’t you think it was pretty elementary to first ensure that the merchants had the necessary equipment to process the new chip card before it was introduce.
          And even once this huge blunder had been made why was it kept under wraps?
Good customer relations would have ensured that all your card holders would have been told of the problem before they stomped and raged at shop keepers for rejecting their cards when they knew they had sufficient funds.
          Your Consumer Watchdog,
PS. I’m afraid you lost Brownie points Maria by not initially answering the email I sent to you personally. You need to take lessons on top notch public relations from Michael Jordaan, the CEO of your rival bank, First National. He answers his emails almost immediately.

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