My ordeal with Chase

Chase Manhattan Bank's motto these days is "The right relationship is everything". I agree with this sentiment, which is why I felt it necessary to cancel my Chase credit card which I've carried since 1986.

The story begins on July 5, 1998, when I tried to pay for services at Fantastic Sam's, a haircutting chain, by credit card. There were problems with the credit card equipment at the store, which prevented — we thought — the transaction from going through, so I paid cash and left.

Later that month, the charge showed up on two credit cards which I had tried to use before paying cash. I deducted the $30 from each balance and paid the rest, and sent letters to the companies and copies of the statements showing the identical charges. Here is the first letter I wrote to Chase about this. The letter to the other credit card company, Bank of America, was the same.

Within a few weeks, and certainly before my next Bank of America statement arrived, they responded that the charge was removed. Clearly, although it is not their motto, to Bank of America the right relationship is everything. With Chase, the problems were just beginning.

Sometime after August 24 (that is the postmark; I did not record the date of my receipt) I received this reply from Chase.

Also postmarked August 24 was my next Chase billing statement, to which they added a 50 cent finance charge for not paying the amount in dispute. I stopped using the card and waited for the results of their investigation.

Postmarked September 23 was my next Chase billing statement, showing that they credited the previous 50 cent finance charge (I may have called to complain about it — I don't remember), but they had imposed another. Still no word on the results of their investigation.

September 25 I received this correspondence. So, I wondered, did they even read my letter?

On September 28, I thought I could just straighten this out quickly by phoning, explaining that I had already sent them documentation showing that the charge had appeared on another credit card and that I had no other receipt since the hair place generally does not issue invoices detailing that the bill was paid in cash. The representative I spoke with said that without some kind of proof showing I paid, the charge could not be removed. So for $30 they are telling me that I, who have maintained an account in good standing for 12 years and have never previously had cause to dispute a billing error, must produce evidence of my claim even though no evidence to the contrary exists. I ask what about the fact that there is no signed authorization indicating my approval of the charge to my account? I am told that that will be looked into, and if the merchant can't provide my signed authorization my account will be credited. Feeling assuaged by that, I continue to wait.

Still waiting, I receive my next Chase billing statement, postmarked October 23. They have now added a late fee of $29.00 for the $30.50 they say is past due plus another 50 cent finance charge, bringing the new total to $60.00.

On October 31 I do some research and draft this letter. I send it certified mail, return receipt requested. I receive the receipt showing Chase received my letter on November 8.

Postmarked November 10 I received a dunning letter from Chase's collections department. Not having received a reply from the letter I know they received on November 8, I ignore it and wait.

On November 21 (I began recording dates of receipt) I received a reply that is identical to the first reply except that it is dated November 13, 1998 and the customer service phone number does not appear below the fake signature. Again, I wait to hear.

Well, apparently making them sign for receipt of my letter and quoting my rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act (smells like a lawsuit brewing!) got them to take some action besides continuing to pile charges onto my account. On November 25 I received this news. Finally after three and a half months the matter was resolved. My next Chase billing statement confirmed that my balance was $0.00.

Having been through all that, I certainly was not going to do business with Chase again, so I sent this December 13 letter to cancel my account. Do you think they canceled it? No! On December 26, not having received any acknowledgement of my December 13 instructions to cancel, I phoned Chase customer support. I entered my account number and information into the automated system, hoping to hear that the account I entered was not valid. Instead I found that my full credit and cash advance line were available. I dialed 0 to speak to an agent. I explained that I had sent a letter instructing Chase to cancel my account, and it apparently had not been done. She transferred me to an Account Specialist. The Specialist asked if there is anything influencing my decision to cancel. I told her to take a look at my recent account history to see the problems I had. She actually re-hashed the fact that after all, I had made the purchase in question! She tried to save the account by reminding me that I have had only the one problem in 12 years, and my account had not had any problems since. I informed her that there were no problems since because I had stopped using the card. She asked if there is anything she could offer me to change my mind — a lower rate perhaps. I explained that it was a quality of service issue and I would never use this card again, and to just please close the account. I did not tell her, because it didn't occur to me until later in the day when it was too late, that Chase ignoring my letter instructing them to close my account was a perfect example of what's wrong with their service. After a moment she told me the account was closed and I would receive confirmation in the mail. Randy then phoned Chase to cancel his Chase credit card, because after what I went through and seeing how Chase handles these situations, he had no desire to do business with them either. He also had to explain his reason for cancelling to an Account Specialist who asked if there is anything that can be offered to change his mind, but there of course was not.

As of January 1, 1999 I had received no confirmation that my account was closed. I called Chase's customer service number. I entered in my account number and personal information, expecting again to hear that the account I entered was not valid. Instead I heard that my balance was $0.00, but at least my available credit and cash advance lines were also $0.00. Is this how they close an account?

This is just one person's story. It appears that Chase now has quite a reputation for trying to screw people over. There is an entire anti-Chase website here:
Also, it appears that Chase would like to prevent other anti-Chase sites from popping up. They themselves have snatched up the domain CHASESUCKS.COM. Here is the official InterNic WhoIs data on CHASESUCKS.COM:

Registrant:Chase Manhattan Bank (CHASESUCKS-DOM)
   4 Metrotech Center, 11th Floor   Brooklyn, NY 11245   US

   Domain Name: CHASESUCKS.COM

Most likely, there was already an anti-Chase site at that domain, and the people running it had to give up the domain for some reason, so Chase gobbled it up so it couldn't ever be resurrected.

My advice is to steer clear of Chase. You don't need the hassle. If you are already a Chase customer and my story has inspired you to switch to a financial institution that cares about its customers and resolves problems promptly, then send me a note so I can know that I made a difference.

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