Is AmEx Customer Service Better Than Citi?

Last year, the Costco branded credit card switched from American Express to Citi.  Since we use ours to gather the maximum cash back rewards, we decided to carry both.  We opened an American Express card after the switch.  This is a great strategy for us.  When the switched was announced, we heard a lot of complaints about customer service.  Specifically, many said that American Express had good customer service, and that Citi did not.  I decided to give a spot test.  While this isn’t conclusive, I thought it’d be fun to share whether AmEx customer service came out ahead, behind or equal to Citi.

Traveling Notification

We were heading on vacation.  I always like to notify the credit card companies.  That way, the company won’t see us making a bunch of charges from an unusual location and disallow charges for potential fraud.  I couldn’t imagine it’d be fun to be on vacation and have your card come up declined.

Since we’ll probably be using both of these cards during our trip, I decided to call and notify both companies.

Honestly, the process and the experience was about equal.

Number

Both cards had the phone number for customer service on the back of the card.

Routing

Both cards pick up and ask what you’re calling about.  The voice recigniton systems used are very similar, if not actually the same software package.  They will try to get your request handled. I knew I’d want to speak to an agent so I told it ‘Customer Service’.  Both of them tried to convince me to provide more detail, but after repeating ‘Customer Service’ took me to the next step.

Verification

Both systems knew that I was calling from my primary number.  Citi only asked me to punch in the last four digits of my card.  American Express made me punch in my full card number as well as the last four digits of my social security number.

Helpfulness

Both of the calls were picked up right away.  Both of the agents were friendly.  They both knew exactly what I was calling to do when I explained it to them.  They both made sure to verify the dates and locations where I’d be making charges.  Both thanked me and wished us a good trip.

Follow Up

Citi actually sent me an e-mail verifying the conversation and the travel information.  I thought that was a nice touch.

Summary

In the end, both companies provided top notch service.  I know it was a simple request and it was only one, but both experiences made me happy to be a customer with their company.  That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Readers, have you had any really good or really awful experiences with a credit card company?  Please share your experiences in the comments below.  Thanks very much for reading!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Free Cash: Why We Use Cash Back Credit Cards

We use cash back credit cards for just about every purchase that we possibly can.  Why?  The answer is simple, because we earn free cash and it adds up to a good amount.  Below is how much cash we’ve earned in the last twelve months.

Costco Visa Card

This is our primary spending card.  It has the most rewards that we use.  We get 4% cash back on gas, 3% at restaurants, 2% at Costco, and 1% on everything else.

They issue a certificate once per year that you take into the store to cash.  This year we’ll be getting $281.88.

American Express Blue Everyday Card

When Costco switched from American Express to Visa, we took an offer to open one of these cards.  We primarily use this at grocery stores, as we get 3% cash back.  We do make other purchases on here as well.

Since we opened this last year, we’ve earned $159.32 in cash back.

In addition to this, American Express has the best ‘offers’ of any card I’ve seen.  In addition to the above, we’ve saved money on statement credits just for using American Express to pay our cell phone bill, visit a Mobil station, or even just to sign in to their online app.  Plus we got a big statement credit just for spending a certain amount on the card within 90 days.  Without looking, I’d say we got over $350 in statement credits on top of the cash back.

Citi Dividends Cards

These were the first cash back cards we ever opened, and I don’t think you can even get them as new members anymore.  But, for these (just like everything else) we get 1% cash back on everything, plus 5% on rotating categories that change every quarter.

We pretty much keep these because they’re our oldest cards, and having a card established for that long is good for our credit scores.  We’ll use this for camping reservations or other purchases that don’t give bonus money on any other card.

Between my card and my wife’s card, we have earned $125.41 over the past twelve months since we last cashed out.

Grand Total Earned From Cash Back Credit Cards

Adding all of that up, we have earned $566.81 in cash back just by using our cards.  We pay our cards off in full every month, so we aren’t paying a nickel in interest.  Nor do we pay an annual fee for any of these cards.  That’s basically us buying things or making purchases on things we’re going to anyways, and ending up with over $500.  That is a pretty good deal if you ask me.

In the past, we’ve used our cash back rewards cards to purchase electronics.  All of our flat screen TVs have been purchased with cash back rewards money.  We’ve also applied this toward a vacation in years we haven’t needed anything new.

Readers, do you use cash back reward cards?  Do you make sure to use them to your full advantage?  If so, what tricks or tips do you have?  Please let me know how things work for you in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

7 Steps To Improve Your Credit Score

Few things are worse than finding out that you have a bad credit score.  Many people know that they have this hanging over their head, where others are taken completely by surprise when they go to take a loan or just do a check.

If you have a bad credit score, then don’t wait to start fixing it.  Every step you take can count and help improve your score, and the faster you get started, the faster you can see your score move in the right direction.

Check your credit report for accuracy.

The first thing you should do is check your credit report to make sure that everything is accurate.  A bad score can come about with inaccurate information or if you’ve been the victim of identity theft and there are items that you don’t even know are there.

Work through any late payments.

If you’re late on any payments, you need to get this taken care of in order to gain any sort of traction at all.

Reduce your available debt.

If you have a lot of credit lines open, you can often improve your score by selectively closing credit cards or calling credit companies and asking for a lower credit limit.  Less available credit is often seen as less risk of default, which can improve your score.

Reduce the number of open balances.

If you are carrying a lot of different credit cards with balances, you want to start reducing this number as fast as possible. If you owe $5,000, it’s more favorable to have two cards splitting that balance than it is to have six or seven.  You can start by paying off cards that have the lowest balances.  You may also look for an existing card that will offer a good rate on balance transfers and bring some or all of your credit balances together into one spot.

Pay off your loans faster.

If you’re only making the minimum payments, you need to start bumping this number up.  Sell some stuff.  Take on a side gig.  Make lifestyle changes.  Whatever it takes, you want to start lowering your balances, which will improve your score.

Stop applying for credit.

Newer lines of credit are seen as riskier than older ones.  Every ‘new’ credit card you take can potentially damage your score.  As a general rule, don’t apply for any additional credit.

Stop charging.

If you pay off $500 on your balances but then add $400 in the month, you’re not going to get very far at all.  Make your purchases for what you need today via cash, check or a debit card.  This way, any activity on your cards is only serving to lower it.  Knowing that goes a long way.

The bottom line is that bad credit scores are awful, but they don’t last forever.  You may not be able to change it overnight.  However, you can certainly do so with an organized and disciplined approach.

Readers, have you ever actively taken measures to improve your credit score? How did it go?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Have You Ever Had A Financial Freak Out Moment?

Have you ever had a moment where you just flipped out about something money related? That happened to me last week.  The worst part is that my financial freak out ended up being a total false alarm!

Costco Rewards Time Is Almost Near

Around the beginning part of the year, holders of the Costco American Express card receive a paper certificate, on the last page of which contains your certificate for the rewards you’ve earned by making purchases on the card throughout the year.

We use the American Express for a lot, so the 3% rewards on gas is usually a big driver, plus 1% on everyday purchases.  This year, we got a big boost because travel purchases receive 2%, and so we put the entirety of the trip to Disney World on the trip, earning a nice chunk of change.

All told, our reward for the year was over $350!

The Paper Statement Memory

We also have a couple of other cash back reward cards, both through Citi Master Card.  We use these cards as they often have rotating categories of up to 5%.  Both of the cards that my wife and I use had amounts over the $50 threshold for which you can request a redemption.

I decided to submit the claim for the rewards around the same time, so we would have the full amount of all of our rewards available around the same time.

Even though I logged into both of our accounts, my wife still got the e-mail verification about her card, and commented about it.  I told her the plan to get all three rewards piled together, at which point we could decide how to use the funds.

I remembered that a week or two prior, we’d gotten a statement from American Express. Since we do everything electronically, I imprinted a memory that it was probably the statement with the rewards certificate, as that’s the only time they ever send us a paper statement.

I casually mentioned to my wife that she just needed to take the certificate in next time she went to Costco, and get it redeemed for cash, which we could then deposit.

The Worst Two Words I Could Hear

My heart kind of sank when she said “What certificate?”

I mentioned that it was with the statement that we had received a couple of weeks ago.  Still calm, I reminded her that she had even pointed out that we had a statement.  I also pointed out (by this time, my voice probably raising a couple of octaves) that she always takes mail that I need to keep and sticks it in a little organizer that we use.

I went to the organizer and it wasn’t there.  She had no recollection of putting it there.

Financial Freak Out: Not A  Good Five Minutes

After that it was a pretty chaotic few minutes.  I was blaming her for not putting the piece of mail in the right spot where she usually puts all mail.  She claimed that she didn’t remember even seeing the statement.

It wasn’t a very fun conversation (if you could even call it that).

I looked online about what to do if you lose a certificate, and the answer was not good.  I found a few forums that said that they don’t re-issue the certificates if they’re lost.

Basically, you’re S.O.L.

This didn’t help the tone of the conversation.mb-2014-12stressed

Confusion On Multiple Ends

My wife decided to find out for herself if this was correct. By now, we were past the yelling stage and trying to figure out what to do.  I was even debating going out to the recycling bin and seeing if it was in there.  But, she called American Express and asked what would happen if it was lost or we didn’t receive it.

The agent on the end was a bit confused and said that it hadn’t been mailed out yet.  It was scheduled to be mailed out with our February 24th statement.

I got a bit confused.

But at least we calmed down.

Presenting….My Brian Williams Moment

Then, the next day it hit me.  It all came down to the paper statement.  See, I knew we’d received one.   We received a statement because we closed a different card, and apparently they send you a final statement in paper form.

So, I had my Brian Williams moment.   My financial freak out moment.  Luckily for me, my ‘conflation’ didn’t cost me my job or reputation, and it didn’t even cost me any money.

Though I did have to eat a bit of crow as I apologized to my wife…who was right all along!  As they usually are, of course!  A lesson I just need to remember….

🙂

Readers, what financial freak out moments have you had, and have you had one recently where it was all for nothing?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.