I took Scottrick to lunch when he stopped at SFO on his way to the MegaDO last week. After burger and a beer I — being a good dad who reads his son’s blog — put my Chase Sapphire VISA card on the check. Our waiter returned saying my card had been declined. Major embarrassment. Did I forget a payment? Did Chase hate me? You know the anxious feelings. The only other card in my wallet (I did have a bunch of cash, being old) was another Chase card, their British Airways VISA. That one passed muster and I drove Scottrick back to the airport for his flight to JFK.
Of course he gave me sage advice to phone Chase immediately. (How it changes as we get older: Now he gives advice and I listen.)
I made the call. On the second ring a pleasant woman answered with her full name and the city (in the U.S.) where she was located. With my name and the last four digits of my card she noted a ‘security flag’ on my account. She carefully explained what would happen next: She would put me on hold for one to two minutes; I would hear hold music; She would contact a security agent; The would both come back on the line; She would introduce me to the security agent. Then she asked if I had any more issues she could address.
Let me compare this to my experience at Wells Fargo, which also declined my card recently.
The only reason I have a Chase card is because Scott bugged me to get one. Normally I’m a big WF customer. They store all my savings, a big retirement account, my mortgage, etc. I’ve been a customer since 1976 (really). But when I tried to call them the phone rang forever and I went through a long phone tree beginning with ‘press 1 for English.’ I was summarily transferred to a person who said my card was on some list they got from a retailer of cards that might have been compromised (the same problem Chase had).
My WF card was toast. They would mail me a new card which would arrive in ten days. No amount of protest would sway the indifferent clerk. When I looked up my account it said ‘Lost Card’. I was insulted: I have never lost a card in my life.
You could already tell I was getting a better experience from Chase. When the first agent handed me off to the security agent, she again asked if I had any other issues before disconnecting. The security agent verified I had the card in my possession, verified the most recent three or four charges, and apologized for the inconvenience. She asked where I was (proactively!) and if a new card mailed to my home address would reach me. (It was sent the following day via UPS next day delivery.)
She asked (again proactively) if I had plans to use the card. I told her I was out of town and planned to check into a hotel that evening. Even though they were taking the precaution of sending a new card, she offered to reenable the compromised card!!! She said it would only work for swiped charges (no online or phone charges), only in California, and only until I activated my new card. Amazing! Chase took a risk, albeit a very small and measured risk, to make me less upset about something I didn’t cause.
Of course the new card arrived on time and I’m again accumulating Ultimate Rewards points. I’m more devoted to Chase (and less to Wells Fargo) than ever.
Now, being of similar temperament to Scottrick, I have to suggest what might make it better: A call or text or smoke signal from Chase would have been nice. Being embarrassed in front of a client, or worse (as I was) in front of the younger generation, is never good. Second, I’d like to know who compromised my credit card number. I prefer not to do business with sloppy people and I might (maybe) change my buying habits with that information. If I’m more selective about my vendors, that ultimately helps the card companies avoid compromised cards.
One more unusual thing: I normally cut up old cards and throw them out. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is reportedly made of titanium. I didn’t try to cut it, and I’m sure I could have found a way to destroy it, but with my new card Chase included a reply envelope with instructions to return my old card to them for secure destruction. Maybe they created the problem, but at least they offered to fix it.
Closing note from Scottrick: I first got Dad hooked on Chase when I found out he had well over 200,000 Wells Fargo Rewards points — and they’d been expiring due to inactivity. He still thinks what I do is crazy.
I know that some readers have criticized me for keeping the Chase Sapphire Preferred after the first year because the 7.5% annual dividend on earned points is rarely enough to make up for the $95 annual fee. If Ultimate Rewards points are worth 2 cents each, you’d need to earn over 70,000 points each year to make it worthwhile.
However, if Dad is liking the premium service, there is an even better option. He has been angling to get a true Chip + PIN credit card for a while. Wells Fargo was testing one with select customers but refused to include him in the trial. Another option is the J.P. Morgan Palladium Card, also from Chase. It’s similar to the Sapphire Preferred except the annual fee is $595 and the 2X bonus points only apply to travel only, not dining. There’s also no sign-up bonus, but you can get a 35,000-point bonus each year you spend over $100,000.
What do you think? Is it worth it to fork over $95, or even $595, for better customer service? If you’re the kind of guy like my dad who hates wasting his time and prefers the simplicity of a single card, there is a good case to be made for paying an annual fee even if he doesn’t earn that back in monetary rewards every year.