Have you ever noticed how many negative articles there are on credit cards out there? All this nonsense about how credit cards put someone in debt, made them go bankrupt, or ruined their lives! Speaking as someone who was $30,000 in the hole (with credit cards alone) at one point, I can attest that it was my fault, not my poor little credit cards fault. Most people are probably familiar with the basic benefits of having a credit card. You can get rewards in the form of gift cards, cash, statement credits, or even tangible items like a coffee maker. You also probably know that most cards come with extended travel insurance. Heck, most even provide additional extended warranties on consumer goods above and beyond that of the manufacturer. I will admit that I just recently learned that tid bit last year. But for a moment let’s forget about all of those amazing benefits of having and using a credit card, instead let’s focus on the most important aspect of them all, the power of disputing credit card charges!
I can’t emphasize this enough, this is the most powerful consumer protection tool ever invented! When you pay for an item, a trip, or even a service on your credit card then you have the ability to dispute that charge (provided it’s on the same card you made the purchase) if you didn’t receive the goods or service as promised. Just like when you go camping the first thing you make sure you are equipped with is that all-purpose Swiss army knife, when it’s time to go shopping ALL you need is your trusty all-purpose credit card. Between the rewards and a layer of protection thicker than the Earth’s crust, it’s a no-brainer that every purchase be made on a credit card no matter how much cash you have. I have been putting every purchase since I was 18 years old on a credit card, the only difference is that within the last couple years I’ve actually had enough money to pay the bill at the end of each month.
Some friends came over to visit with my wife and I this past weekend, and since we recently moved to a new home we are constantly being asked about any new projects being done around the house. I’m not the handiest person in the world, so we tend to outsource those tasks, when we can afford anyways. That topic got us talking about all the crappy service I have received from just about every vendor, person, or good I’ve purchased in the last few years. Perhaps you’ve read my earlier article about how the movers destroyed our belongings and refused to take responsibility and/or reimburse us a dime…nor would they even agree to file an insurance claim on our behalf as they didn’t want to raise their own rates. A shady company with fake online reviews got me again! Or wait a minute, did you hear about how the travel agent that booked our honeymoon who took our reservations actually booked us in a much lower class room than we had agreed to, and then charged us the nightly rate for a room much higher than we agreed too? Not only did we not get to stay where we wanted, he failed to return our calls and address it while on our honeymoon, and then got angry with me when we got back and I asked him to (at the VERY least) reimburse us for the difference in what we paid and what we received. Oh wait, here is another one for you, a few years back a bunch of us took a vacation to Mexico for a winter getaway, and we found an amazing deal online! Well, remember the adage that “you get what you pay for”. We booked an oceanview room with a balcony. Upon arrival we were given the “ghetto slums” view with a broken toilet, phone, and television! No worries, they promptly moved us the next evening to another room that subsequently flooded and soaked our belongings and ruined the next couple days of the trip.
I’m telling ya…my luck really is that bad! Those are only a tiny synopsis of a few incidents that have happened over the past couple years only. No joke I could write an entire “buyer beware” series of books.
So back to credit cards…how the hell did I stray this far off?!?!? I told my friends that as pissed as I was about all of those incidents, I got the last “F you” on every last one of those companies! First things first, I wrote negative reviews on Trip Advisor, Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google reviews! Don’t just stop at leaving one review kids! Oh and if possible, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau as well.
While leaving a negative review can make you feel a little better, nothing beats the magical healing power of disputing the charge on your credit card! I was shocked when I told my friend how I had disputed all these items and he thought it was a belabored and difficult process usually not worth the time and effort. The truth is, just about every credit card allows you to dispute a credit card charge online, for just about any reason you can think of, and it takes all of 5 minutes! Just on those three issues I had where I had gone out of my way to contact the vendors dozens of times to come up with some kind of amicable resolutions, I was ultimately able to solve them with 15 total minutes of time disputing the charge online. Of these 3 specific cases, the travel agent cut me a $500 check the next day, the movers lost out on their $700 moving fee after a 3 month period where they were unable to prove that they weren’t at fault, and the resort I stayed at reimbursed me for 3 of the botched nights I was there. Not so bad for 15 minutes of time, huh?
It’s gotten to the point where I stay away from vendors that don’t take credit cards, not only because it’s neat and easy, but because I receive the end all be all of consumer protection by using them. When I swipe that little piece of plastic I know that I have several months ahead of me to ensure that I receive exactly what I paid for. As long as you stay within a 3 to 6 month window of the purchase (depending on the card) it’s free reign to do as you please. That being said, I have never disputed a charge just to get out of paying for something, that is unethical, and just like the boy who cried wolf, your credit card company will back you a lot less if they find you are being dishonest.
The moral of the story is…when you make a purchase use your credit card as often as possible, and if you are treating unjustly as a result of said purchase, then don’t take it lying down…DISPUTE THAT CHARGE and put the onus on the company to solve the problem. I promise, you will relieve the stress of dealing with unscrupulous a**holes if you do.