Credit Card Woes

sailor credit card We haven't had many issues with our credit cards while traveling the past 15 years until recently. Oh, sure, we get frustrated when charges don't go through, but we usually don't have issues with unauthorized charges. The current problem is not a fraud thing, though we've had a few charges on our account from time to time that weren't ours. We had an issue in Chile once when buying diesel where the owner knowingly charged us twice. Luckily, I caught it before we left Puerto Montt … he had done the same thing to another cruiser as well. We visited him with the proof of the duplicate charges. He said it was just a little mix-up and sheepishly handed us back cash on the spot.

This time, it's a little different. I noticed a duplicate charge on our Visa card account at the end of May. I called the little restaurant that charged us twice, explained the issue to the manager, but was met with a bit of resistance. Bring your receipt and come to the restaurant, she said. Well, I didn't have the receipt any longer and the restaurant wasn't convenient to get to. I lodged an on-line dispute with the credit card company and let it go at that.

About a week later, another duplicate charge showed up … different vendor. This place had a customer service department and the woman promised to look into it immediately and credit out the dupe charge. She was good on her word, but of course, the rand exchange had changed and so the credit was for a bit less than the duplicate charge. Only 25 cents, no big deal. No problem.

Recently, however, I checked our account and saw a duplicate charge for all that rope we just bought, as well as a dupe charge for several items purchased at the chandlery. Now, we were starting to talk serious money and it didn't appear it was the vendors who were at fault, but rather a communication snag between the banks and the credit card company.

I had the miserable task of calling the credit card company. We only have a local cell phone and overseas charges are not cheap. I opted to use Skype which has, in the past, worked well for us. The first step is establishing your card number and passing all the security codes … no problem. Then getting to a representative … relatively easy. After explaining the problem in detail, Don from Tampa, admitted he couldn't help me. I had to talk to the Disputes Department … but they don't work 24x7 and they'd just left for the day. Drat!

I called back during Disputes business hours and had to go through the same rigamarole with establishing account number, security, etc., got to a  representative who insisted I give her the rundown before she switched me once again to Disputes. My Disputes rep, Buddy, had an odd accent. No comment on that. Once again, I explained the issues and after delineating each charge and duplicate charge and explaining that the differences in charges in dollars were due to the fluctuating Rand exchange rate, he put me on hold … forever. After a 25 minute hold-time, I was disconnected.

When I tried calling back, the credit card company was “experiencing a high volume of calls, but be patient while our customer service representatives work hard to handle your call as soon as possible.” Another 20 minute wait had me identifying myself to Chris from Somewhere and explaining the problem. She was sympathetic … anything to pass the crazy woman on to another representative … and held the line while she patched me through to Disputes David from Tampa.

Disputes David knew his stuff, but admitted he'd never heard of this particular problem before (dupe charges from several different vendors) and had no idea how to even go about fixing it. He did, however, provide me with a direct line to follow up with him and promised to credit our account for the dupe charges while he was investigating further. He took my cell phone number and actually called back later in the day. He wondered how I was swiping the card … maybe that accounted for the problem? Really … swiping the card incorrectly could account for dupe charges. I expressed my doubt about this possibility. He promised to work on the problem some more.

I checked my account again today and sure enough, Disputes David had credited the dupe charges, however he'd credited them incorrectly. He credited out not only the dupe, but the original charge on one and didn't credit out the dupes on two others. Sigh! This is going to take awhile, I fear.

I guess the moral of the story is to check your credit card charges frequently and carefully. It's so easy to sneak an unauthorized charge onto your account, especially if you use your card frequently and the transactions list is long. Most banks/credit card companies allow 90-120 days to dispute charges and we're not liable for the duplicate charges. It's just the hassle of straightening it all out from afar.