Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mega Hassle

In these modern times, a credit card is a necessity, even by Indonesian standards.  I limit myself to one credit card for online purchases and other monthly expenses.  Some people I know have a virtual smorgasbord of credit cards for multiple reasons.  One is to constantly float money, using one credit card to pay off another one each month.  This theoretically prevents them from ever having to pay interest on their constant debt.  Another reason for a multitude of credit cards is for discounts.  Many restaurants around town offer a 20% or more discount on food and beverages if you pay with a certain type of credit card.  Experts in this area will have whichever credit card needed in order to get a discount.  How they remember to pay all of these bills is beyond my comprehension

This brings me to the issue of paying my own bill.  I always pay my bill off as soon as I receive my statement, that is if I actually ever get one.  Over the last 9 months, I have received a whopping 2 credit card statements.  Have I complained? YES!  Have I called to re-confirm that they have my correct address and postal code? YES!  Am I about to lose my mind? YES!!!!

This all started around a year and a half ago when I moved.  I only moved 2 doors down from where I had previously been living and was still able to get my mail since a friend was living in my old house.  After a couple of incidences of her dog chewing up my mail, I decided to get my address changed.  I called up the credit card company and requested to have my billing details changed.  A month went by and neither address received a monthly statement.  Again, I called them up to confirm the address change.  They assured me that the new address was in their system and that I would receive my statement.  Sure enough, the following month's statement was mailed to my new house.  My only gripe was that (as it usually does) the statement arrived 2 days before the due date for payment.  I was proud of myself that I had been able to change my address using Bahasa Indonesia over the phone.

Come the following month, no statement.  I called the credit card company and they assured me that it had been mailed.  I explained that I needed to know how much I owed in order to pay and they repeatedly told me the minimum payment amount.  I explained to them that I wished to pay off the entire balance  After a lot of pointless back and forth conversation, they gave me the total amount owing.  They seemed to be amazed by the fact that I planned on paying the entire balance off.

The next month, it was the same story only this time, they had begun to send me text messages on an almost daily basis.  Most of these messages were to tell me that Coca-Cola was discounted by 15% if I used my "Bank Mega Credit Card" to purchase it between now and next Tuesday.  I patiently waited for my bill to come, which it never did.  Thanks to this, I missed the deadline for my minimum payment.  Lo and behold, I received a text message from Bank Mega the very next day detailing the total amount owing and the minimum payment amount.  I found it very convenient that they had sent this to me the day after the deadline in order to ensure that I had to pay interest on my outstanding bill.  Once again I called to inquire and they assured me that they did indeed have the correct address and that a billing statement had been sent.  I asked if it was possible for them to send me a text message detailing the amount owing and the operator told me they didn't know anything about that.  I looked into online billing statements, they don't exist for that bank.

For the next few months, I tried to meticulously keep track of how much I owed and made it a point to remember to pay my balance before the deadline.  I made it a point to call them every month as well and request a bill which never came.  This system seemed to work for the most part.  Whenever I underpaid, it was usually by a small amount which meant minimal interest.  I think I even overpaid a few times.  I would know this by the text message they would send me the day after the due date stating how much I owed.  Then one day months later, I received a billing statement.  I was stunned.  I opened it up only to realize that I had been charged for a monthly service that I had cancelled months ago.  I immediately called them and had them put a stop payment.  I foolishly realized that I had been paying this stopped service for many months.  Since it was $15 a month, I did not notice.  I assumed that all was good and that I would now receive a statement every month.  Never again did another statement come to my house.  However, the junk mail type text messages grew in frequency.  They read (translated into English......)

"Save 10 cents on fabric softener"

"Buy 2 get 1 free instant noodles"

"Free sponge with purchase of bleach"

and so on and so forth.

I had had enough.  I called them and demanded that I be removed from their calling list and to stop sending me text messages.  At this point, I was receiving 2 or 3 a day.  Many of them were reminders for the same promotions "Only one day left to get your free sponge".  They informed me that they didn't control that at the bank and that they didn't know who sent or how I got those messages.  I threatened to cancel my card and they pointed out that I would probably still receive text messages even if I did cancel.

I accepted my fate and decided to stick with my card as it was better than having no card.  Getting a credit card as an expat in this country can be very tedious and difficult.  I had previously been denied 3 times for different reasons despite making more money than probably 80% of the inhabitants of this country.  I also needed my card as I was going out of the country for a big trip.

While on this trip, I realized that it was impossible to pay my bill as I did not have access to my banking information.  Upon returning, I made it a priority to pay my bill as soon as possible as it was already at least 6 days late.  Astonishingly, I did not receive any statements in the mail from Bank Mega the whole time I was gone.  The morning after I arrived back in Jakarta, I paid my bill in full.  The following 2 weeks were filled with reminders to pay my bill from the bank.  They had someone call me 4 to 5 times a day and sent me 3 text messages a day saying how much I owed.  I answered the phone the first couple of times and told them that I had paid (which I had) but they didn't believe me.  After that, I would just not answer whenever they called.  The worst part was that the frequency of promotional text messages increased to around 6 a day.  This meant that I was receiving 4 to 5 phone calls and around 9 text messages a day from Bank Mega yet still not receiving a billing statement in the mail.  Looks like I'm going to have to change my phone number if this gets any worse...... 

I give up.  In the past, I have found some way to get around these situations but I have no fight left in me.  Am I becoming Indonesian?