I, the Card

Most problems relating to plastic money stem from the user’s lack of knowledge of rules and procedures. 

Namrata Dadwal chances upon a credit card’s autobiography which reveals that most problems relating to plastic money stem from the user’s lack of knowledge of rules and procedures.

What a life I have! Always on the move, never a moment of rest as I move from the wallet to the POST (point of sale terminal) and get repeatedly swiped. Sometimes I envy those coins and currency notes that keep moving out, changing hands and going for a wash too. Life must be so exciting with all the exposure. Yet, they are my best friends within the deep crevice of the wallet where we all reside.

My life is a series of ups and downs. On some days, I am a villain in the eyes of my owner when I don't get cleared through the swiping machine. On other days, I become a darling when his wallet is empty and he has only me to fall back on. Yet, I get along very well with my f e l l o w beings—the crisp notes that are sometimes discoloured and those coins that bring sparkle and glitter inside the wallet.

 Complaint Procedures
How a credit card complaint works and what you can do

*CUSTOMERS are given 60 days to present their complaints and grievances
*ALL CARD companies and banks have a redress unit which has to be contacted
*THE BANK is supposed to respond to the complainant within a fixed time frame
*IF A COMPLAINANT does not get a satisfactory response within 30 days,
he can approach the Banking Ombudsman
Sometimes life feels just like a public address system— I am swiped on a machine that rattles up an acceptance from the powers that govern me; who allow the transaction to be cleared through me, have a merchant who is happy to get one more transaction added up for the day and, of course, my owner who likes to put me back into the safe custody of his wallet.

Yet, I am proud of myself because I play such an important role in the life of so many people. For, after all, I am the best substitute to cash—the king. Without me, people would not be spending as much as they do today. But the saddest part is when those who own me face problems, or are deprived of the defined benefits that I bring up on the menu.

So, with all good intentions the National Consumer Helpline, which is situated in the Delhi University campus, set up the process of a toll-free helpline where agony aunts would hear all the complaints against all the problems that all my siblings and fellow beings offer to our owners. Most of these problems are the result of misunderstandings and wrong usage on the part of our owners. But then, such is life. We are there to be praised one day and complained about the other.

 User Rights

Know your rights in case of a dispute with your cre dit card company

 The issuing bank needs to first assess the buying power of the purchaser before sanctioning a card. The calculation of interest and penal interest should be explained with at least two examples. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Indian Bank’s Association have a fair practice code for card issuers which clearly say bills for each purchase must be sent to the consumer well in advance so as to enable him to repay the amount within the interest-free period.

More importantly, collection should be conducted in a civil manner. So, if you get threatening calls from your card issuer stand up to it. As a card holder, it is your right to get your card issuer to answer all your queries. Most problems stem from ignorance, but the card issuer should not take advantage of this situation. If you are not satisfied with the bank’s solution, the RBI has empowered the Banking Ombudsman of every state to step in and protect the cardholder’s rights.

My experience with Bhopalbased Shishir Gupta shook me as well as the poor man. Gupta had to cough up for a health insurance plan that he had not opted for. And as the easy payment option, I too had a role in the drama. In this case the convenience that I demonstrate was being misused. Not only did Gupta lose his peace of mind, he also lost some money. His mistake was that he signed documents without realising what he was getting into.

It was sheer bad luck for Mumbai-based Giselle Salve, who did not realise my hidden powers before going ahead and using me. Salve’s lack of awareness cost her quite a bit because the bank for whom I work is a modern day Shylock. She ran up a bill that she did not pay in full resulting in interest charges and late fees being slapped on her. The due amount started from Rs 400 and steadily grew to Rs 7,500 and eventually to Rs 13,000. Today, she is one disgruntled individual who hates my very sight for no fault of mine.

It is not as if people who own and carry me with them like prized possessions always have complaints where they lose out. There are instances when they have genuine grievances that are sorted in their favour. But this is something that would amount to self-pontification. For instance, how a certain J. Bhaskar very conveniently forgot me after running up a huge bill. But he was treated leniently by the bank and got away with a minor penalty for late payment.

It is a fact that nobody is perfect, and like all good things I too carry grey shades that can become ugly. But there is a recourse for all those who own me and my siblings. Sachin Khandelwal, head of cards product group for ICICI Bank, takes you through the 10 most common problems that cardholders like you face because of me (page 47). While some of the problems are a result of my bank’s doing, most disputes stem from the lack of awareness among my owners about the rules and procedures that govern me. I request my owners to go through the user’s manual that explains in detail how I should be used, what to avoid and how to safeguard my security.

But all that some other time. Right now my owner wants me to slide through the magnetic sensor of a swiping machine to validate a purchase. M m m m . . . H e ’ s bought some chocolate for his girlfriend. That is life for us card, always on the go...

(Based on case studies sourced from the National Consumer Helpline)