Tag: american express

“Dispute Charge” is your friend – use it

“Dispute Charge” is your friend – use it

All of us have probably been cheated out of some money by a merchant at some point or another (if not, consider yourself very very lucky).

The next step is often arguing with them, either in person, over the phone, or online. If you’re lucky (and/or they care more about your repeat business than a small amount of money), maybe you get your money back. But as is sometimes the case with larger, more indifferent corporations, they may just put you through endless customer service loops (and/or just say “No”).

Unfortunately, this is where many people tend to stop the process, cut their losses, and move on. But if you paid for the transaction with a credit card (or even debit card), it doesn’t need to stop here (which is yet another reason to never pay for anything in cash if you don’t have to).

When you make a credit card or debit card transaction, you’re not actually paying the merchant, rather, you’re paying the credit card company, who takes a cut out of the payment, as does the payment organization (Visa/Mastercard/AMEX/Discover), which transfers the money to the bank of the merchant (the processor also takes a cut, as it allows the merchant to accept credit cards).

All major credit card companies will allow you to dispute a charge if you feel that you have unfairly been charged for something. In this case, they will usually ask you a series of questions about why you’re disputing the charge, then temporarily remove the charge from your statement so that you’re not responsible for it, and begin their investigation.

During the investigation, they will reach out to the merchant to get the merchant’s side of the story. If the merchant doesn’t answer within a certain amount of time (usually 2-4) weeks, then you will automatically be ruled in favor of and have the money refunded back to you. More often though, the merchant will respond and it will then be up to the credit card company to decide. During this process, you may receive a call for them asking for additional information and/or further documentation. The more documentation you can provide, the better! Note that before you file a dispute, you must make an attempt to resolve it with the merchant first. If you do not, they will reject it and tell you to first try that.

In the end, you hope the company rules in favor of you, though there have been situations where I have contested the original decision and won.

So far, I have never lost a dispute, but part of that is also being rational about what I dispute and what I don’t dispute. For one, any attempts to try and game the system to get something for free will not only be rejected, but probably hurt your relationship with your credit card company and the merchant (if applicable), reducing the amount of effort they put into future requests. For example, you can’t buy a $1,000 airline ticket then dispute that based on the fact that you didn’t realize how expensive it was. You also can’t dispute a restaurant bill saying that you didn’t like the food.

So what kind of things have I used it for?

-A rental car company added on a charge that wasn’t part of the contract I signed.

-I returned merchandise (within the stated terms) but never received a credit for it.

-The third-party software I use to book work travel added on an extra fee to book my reservation.

-FedEx delivered my package a week later than they said they would (in this case, it’s likely that had I actually gotten through to someone at FedEx they would have handled it internally, but their online dispute system was down and I never got off hold).

-I paid for a tour in advance and then was charged again for certain items once I arrived on the tour.

I think you get the picture.

Inequal advocacy

Unfortunately, your chances of winning the dispute are not only based on the merit of your claim, but also the quality of the disputers at your credit card company. I have by far found American Express to be the best at disputing claims (both for their easy method of filing one online, and their quick resolution, always in my favor). As a result, whenever I’m dealing with a merchant whom I may be suspicious of, I’ll try to pay with an American Express card so that I’m covered in case something happens.

Chase and Citi also allow for online filing of disputes, but tend to be a little slower. Barclaycard unfortunately requires you to call in order to file a dispute, which is super frustrating.

Generally though, as long as your claim has merit, you should come out with your money back; it just may take a little while depending on who’s disputing your claim.

Feel free to post any good dispute stories in the comments!

 

The importance of doing your own research before determining the best credit card offer

The importance of doing your own research before determining the best credit card offer

I just got approved for a credit card with a $600 airfare credit, $85 annual fee (which you can offset by redeeming 5,000 points)  $25 in-flight credit per airline ticket, a Global Entry credit, triple points on restaurants, double points on gas stations and airfare, and a free rental car day every year. Best of all, I only have to spend $2,000 in four months to get all of these perks (while I’m not saying this is insignificant, it’s much better than the $3,000-$4,000 in three months required by other great credit cards).

While some of you at first may have thought I was referring to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you probably realized later that it was a different card.

But unless you follow credit card offers very closely, you probably don’t know about it, even though it’s issued by a major financial institution. It’s the US Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express card (it’s processed on the American Express network, but issued by US Bank).

Why doesn’t this get more attention? Well, in short, unlike other cards (such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred), blogs don’t make any money if they get people to sign up for it. Next time you read a major blog with a link to signup for a credit card, look carefully at the URL it immediately redirects to. Most of the time, it contains the site name in it, and clicking on it will eventually redirect you to the signup page for the credit card, but not without first notifying the bank which page they came there from. This is known as an affiliate link, which banks will give (either directly or indirectly) to sites with a certain amount of monthly traffic.

While the amount that a blog makes every time someone signs up through their link is a tightly guarded secret, it’s generally rumored to be in the low hundreds of dollars, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred yielding a payout rumored as high as $350 per signup.

Not surprisingly, despite claims of impartiality by bloggers, anyone who knows the industry can easily find examples where a particular card (which pays a commission) is being promoted over a better card that does not pay a commission. On top of that, it also does not always lead to the best signup bonus for the card (for example the publicly available link to the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card will lead you to an offer for 25,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in three months, whereas doing a little bit of research can get you to an offer that will give you 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 in three months).

Full disclosure: Given how infrequently I update my blog, I don’t generate enough traffic to receive affiliate links, but even if I did, I still wouldn’t accept them, unless I one day get corrupted by money and power).

On top of that, accepting affiliate links also gives the financial institution the power to threaten to remove your links if you post content they don’t like. (As it is, I already have received a letter from Barclaycard threatening legal action against this blog if I spell Barclaycard any other way, such as removing the “-card” suffix and replacing it with an “s”).

So where am I going with this? First, I don’t dislike the Chase Sapphire Preferred. I think it’s an excellent card (and for most people, even better than the US Bank FlexPerks Gold Card), though not as good as the Citi Prestige or American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. One card it certainly is better than is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, which essentially gives you a bonus of $420 with few of the other perks. But due to the commission that Barclaycard pays bloggers who get people to sign up for this card, you’ll see this card promoted much more heavily, as US Bank does not pay commissions (and for what it’s worth, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card is roughly on par with the Capital One Venture, which also does not get promoted nearly as much for the same reason).

So what’s the solution? First, try not to use affiliate links to sign up for cards unless you can’t find the offer anywhere else (which does happen from time to time), and instead try to find a friend who can refer you for the card, so s/he earns money. Second, try to follow blogs (the amazing Doctor of Credit blog is my personal favorite) which don’t accept affiliate links and only focus on the absolute best offers out there. The excellent r/churning thread is also a great resource, especially their frequently updated database of best card offers.

And may you earn many great future signup bonuses in the future!

The really easy way to get free access to some of the best lounges in the world for at least a year

The really easy way to get free access to some of the best lounges in the world for at least a year

At one point in my life, I used to think that airport lounges were only for business travelers who flew every week, and figured it was something I would probably never get to experience.

I finally did get to experience my first airport lounge several years ago, when I was able to use one of the lounge passes that came with my United MileagePlus Explorer card to experience the Singapore Airlines lounge at the Taipei-Taoyuan airport. (I would not actually recommend applying for the card through that link, as there are routinely higher offers of 50,000 miles).

Unfortunately, having two lounge passes a year with limited use wasn’t really going to cut it with my travel schedule.

Thankfully, I discovered the American Express Platinum Card from Ameriprise. Now, some of you may have heard of the AMEX Platinum Card before, given its reputation as a fancy, high-end card. But you may have been turned off by the annual fee of $450. Luckily there are several different types of Platinum cards, and the Ameriprise-branded one does not come with an annual fee the first year (and despite the terms and conditions saying otherwise, you do not need to have an Ameriprise account to be eligible for one).

Now, the Platinum Card is awesome for many reasons, but let’s focus on the lounge access for this post. With the card, you get access to:

All American Express Centurion Lounges, which have kitchens run by high-end chefs that will prepare buffets with amazing gourmet food (like the braised chicken and other items below, from the lounge in Las Vegas), and a bar with incredible mixed drinks.

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All Priority Pass lounges, a global network of over 900 lounges in most major airports in the world, including 13 of the top 15 airports in the US (sorry Denver and Charlotte). Now, to be fair, these generally aren’t as nice as the Centurion lounges, and can vary widely in quality. The Priority Pass lounge at the Seymour Airport in the Galapagos consists of just a couch with free chips, coffee, and juice (though the fact that this airport even had a lounge was shocking to me). On the other hand, the Airport Wellness Oasis Lounge at Singapore’s Changi Airport offers complimentary fish spa massages (definitely try it if you haven’t) in addition to a wide range of food and drink. But for the most part, a Priority Pass Lounge will usually give you complimentary soft drinks, juices and certain alcoholic drinks, hot and cold food that doesn’t require much preparation, and free wi-fi (like the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at LAX pictured below). And even the most limited lounges are still often better than the noise of the airport terminal where nothing is free.

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All Delta Sky Clubsif you’re flying Delta. Out of the three major US carriers (United, American, and Delta), I find that Delta generally has the best lounges. Again, they’re no Centurion Lounge, but they’re generally very modern, clean, and offer a decent selection of food and drink. (I’m quite excited to try the one at JFK next week which has a roof deck).

All Airspace loungesa weird network of four fairly subpar lounges at SAN (San Diego), JFK (New York), BWI (Baltimore-Washington), and CLE (Cleveland). When you enter, they give you a $10 credit that you can use, as nothing is free. The one at the San Diego Airport is nice enough, especially as you can watch planes taking off, but I’d avoid the one at JFK in favor of the much nicer Priority Pass lounges there in other terminals.

 

Now as you may have noticed in the title, I said “at least a year” of free access. Yes, if you hold on to the card for more than a year, you will be billed a $450 annual fee. However, one of the other benefits of the Platinum card is that you get $200 in airline credit per calendar year (i.e. if you get it now, you would get $200 now, then be eligible for $200 again on January 1). So if you spend at least $400 on airfare per year, the annual fee almost pays for itself the next year (though actually getting the credit can be a complicated process with very specific requirements, well-detailed on FlyerTalk). On top of that, you get a $100 one-time Global Entry credit, which is also good for TSA PreCheck. Essentially, you have no annual fee the first year and $500 of benefits, which will more than cancel out the annual fee the next year. Not a bad deal. And once you start regularly flying with TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and frequent lounge, you’ll realize you don’t dread airports as much as you used to, and it might be hard to go back to old ways.

 

One important caveat though is that other than the Centurion and Airspace lounges, you will have to pay for any guests you bring with you to the Priority Pass lounges. If you regularly travel with guests (like a family) and want to make sure they can also get in for free, you might want to consider the Citi Prestige card, which allows you up to two guests for free (or more if family) at all Priority Pass lounges and American Airlines Admirals Clubs if you and the guests are flying American. Of course, it is good for many other reasons too.

 

Have a question about something? Feel free to email me or post in the comments.

 

Pictured above: The Virgin America Loft at LAX, a lounge which looks very nice, but overall lacks substance.