OOTD: Outstanding Credit Card Dues

So, I cancelled my SBI credit card today.

Last night, I tried to buy a few apps on the Google Play store and found, much to my surprise that my SBI credit card got declined. Thinking that it was probably a mistake, I tried again. Same result. I called up the SBI call-center and after the usual IVRS maze, I found myself speaking to a courteous customer-care executive who told me that I had an outstanding of INR 111.50/- on my card.

A little back-story here.

I am the kind of guy who pays the entire outstanding amount on the bill – not just the minimum balance. Heck, I round off the amount and end up paying a little over the outstanding amount and keep my card in negative credit. Having a positive outstanding debt on my card, therefore, was an unimaginable scenario for me.

When the executive explained the situation, I was not only baffled but pissed off to the extent of writing this blog post/rant.

A few months back, they had sent someone to pick up a cheque for the last bill because I had been busy and my work required me to shuttle often between Mumbai & Pune. I asked them (in jest) whether there were any cheque-pickup charges and they promptly denied. So, as usual, I wrote a cheque for the outstanding amount rounding it off to the nearest convenient number and sending my debt into negative numbers yet again.

To my surprise, the subsequent bill still showed a positive debt! Aparently, they tacked on INR 90/- as ‘cheque-pickup’ charges. Now, the rounded-off amount I had paid via cheque ended up covering a part of the quietly tacked-on cheque-pickup charges but not all of it. The resulting debt was less than the minimum balance payable. The outstanding amount on my credit card statement was too small (< INR 100/-) to actually warrant making a payment.

Why?

A cash payment would mean an additional INR 50/- as ‘cash-transaction’ charges. A cheque payment would mean a trip to the nearest ATM or additional cheque-pickup charges of INR 90/- again – though, I must admit, I was blissfully unaware of the latter during the time. A quick cost-benefit analysis told me it was better to wait until I used the card again and then pay off the whole thing in one fell swoop. I did not give it any further thought assuming, as usual, that it would get carried forward until the outstanding grew larger than minimum balance payable. Makes sense, right?

NOPE.

Turns out that is NOT how it works.

Your bank charges are separate from your credit amount. The credit amount can be paid off in instalments. The bank charges have to be paid immediately with each bill, however. So, if you have, say, an outstanding debt of INR 5000/- and late fee charges of INR 150/-, your minimum due is INR 150/- + the minimum repayable amount on the debt that the bank calculates. Were you to pay INR 200/-, INR 150 would go to settling the late fee charges and INR 50/- would go towards settling the INR 5000/- debt. In case you have an outstanding debt of ZERO and late fee charges of INR 150/-, your minimum due is INR 150. Period. Not paying this leads to your card being suspended/declined.

Now, this latter scenario (zero debt + bank fees) is NOT explained anywhere specifically – not the site, not on the back of your statement. You have to be unfortunate enough or forgetful enough or both to stumble on to it.

The outstanding bank fees, thus, kept accruing interest on my suspended card. Worse, they never even bothered to inform me that my card was suspended. You can’t tell me they didn’t have my number. I know for a fact that they do because they (and their so-called third-party associates) keep calling me at random times of the day to pimp their other products! This, in spite of me having registered on the NDNC, by-the-by.

Had they informed me of the additional cheque-pickup charges, I would have added them right then and there in the cheque and this situation would have been relegated to a mere ‘what-if’ footnote. They didn’t and it wasn’t. Hence, this post and this rant.

So, I did the best thing I could. I simply cancelled my credit card.

[TL;DR] SBI levied funny charges on my card, didn’t bother to tell me. Suspended my card, didn’t bother to tell me. I cancelled my SBI Credit Card, I DID bother to tell them. My money is safe from those thieves at SBI Credit Cards. For now, at least.

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I am sure there will be some that say, a hundred bucks is no big deal. That I sound like a pathetic whining idiot in this post. That I should probably pay it and get on with life. That my outrage is not worth much because one customer is hardly going to affect them or their eventual revenue. That whichever credit card I pick up is eventually going to screw me out of my hard-earned money one way or the other. That they are probably laughing their asses off reading a rant-post by some insignificant little piece of shit who couldn’t wrap his head around the financial shenanigans that some wise-ass with a FinSchool degree came up with.

You know what, you are right. I or my money don’t matter to them. Not one bit. And I am not going to refute that saying, “It’s a matter of principle,” either. Because it is much more than that. It is about MY money. I am not doing this because I want it to affect THEM in the future. I am doing this because I don’t want it to affect ME in the future.

You may or may not have faced the same situation yourself. You may or may not choose to react the same way I do. I am not going to judge you if you choose to ignore hidden charges and unscrupulous fees in your credit card statements. I hope you don’t judge me for choosing NOT to, either.

I hate outrage. I feel it is nothing but a form of cathartic aggression that we like to hide behind because it helpfully leaves us with no energy for anything else. It is, in plain words, a cop out.

However, I have also had enough of the “What can we do?” attitude that seems to have thrown all of us into a state of lethargic acceptance and mute submission. I personally hate that feeling and believe that the only alternative to outrage is to find a solution. And since a solution for this problem doesn’t exist for now, I’m gonna start working on it.

I don’t know if I will ever have an answer to it but I will, at least, have a head-start.

This OOTD (Outrage of the Day) has been brought to you by SBI Credit Cards & their hidden charges. Thank you for reading till the very end.

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