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Losing the Visa Card but Keeping Costco

You may recall that when Costco dropped American Express and switched all its customers over to Citibank’s Visa card, I demurred — having enjoyed Citibank’s customer disservice in the past and had a bellyful. Instead, I decided to opt the wondrous benefits that attach to the Costco Visa card (which, it must be allowed, are considerable) and stick with a Visa card issued through my credit union.

This has worked OK. The CU’s Visa card even offers a few kickbacks, though of course nothing as generous as the Costco card provides.

But there have been a few problems. The biggest one has been getting the bills paid on time.

Item: When you use the credit union’s online bill-pay service — which should be transferring the payment electronically — the CU in fact pays Visa with a freaking paper check sent by snail-mail!!

This means it takes some ten days to arrive in Visa’s precincts. And then it takes another day or two for the check(!) to clear Visa’s bank. So if, say, the due date is April 10 and the check arrives there on April 10, payment is considered late!

The envelopes in which the CU-branded bills arrive are so discreet as to be practically incognito. It’s not obvious at first glance that a Visa statement (or any financial document) is inside. So it’s possible to simply miss an incoming statement, if you’re not paying attention.

I have paper statements sent as signals that it’s time to pony up some cash. This I favor over electronic statements, because a) my incoming email is a freaking NONSTOP tsunami, and sooner or later an electronic blat will get lost; and b) things computer make me tear my hair out. I do not want to deal with any more than I’ve already got, thank you.

So, if a statement doesn’t get here, chances are I will miss a payment.

This happened last month. The May statement seems to have been lost in the mail, and I never noticed that it hadn’t come and so hadn’t been paid.

This week, in comes a snarling wallop upside the head from Visa, saying they not only are gouging me $25 as a late payment penalty, they also are reporting me to all three credit bureaus as delinquent.

This morning I call and ask to get this reversed, which you usually can do if you don’t try it very often. WonderAccountant says most credit-card vendors will forgive one lapse a year.

Not so this outfit. The guy I reached, who sounded like a sweet enough young fella, said there was not a thing he could do about it. He pretended to absent himself long enough to make it look like he was talking to a boss, then came back on the line and said there was nothing they could do to reverse or undo the black blot with the credit bureau.

So I had to get in the car, traipse across the city to the credit union, and talk with the manager in person.

Forthwith, she got the late charge reversed and arranged to pay the bill in full. I said I wanted to close the account. She suggested not doing that. And yeah, I do know you really shouldn’t close a credit card account, because just closing it — whether or not a dispute is involved — will ding your credit rating. She did say that the credit ding was not slated to go through until the 22nd, and since we’re a long way from that date, there should be no report to the damned credit bureaus.

Okay. Well, that’s fine: I still have an active card. But there’s no way they can make me use it. It’s now in a file folder, hidden in a drawer.

In passing, I considered opening a Citibank Costco card, which after all would provide some rich kickbacks. But that is going to be a major hassle, with all the freezes on the three credit bureaus. When I talked with Citibank over the phone yesterday, their rep said they could not know which of the three credit bureaus they would use — apparently their software rotates among them  at random. So this would mean I would have to apply; then sit by the phone till I got a call from Citibank; then call the specified credit bureau; then demand a temporary lift of the freeze.

Yeah. Right.

Well, to start with, I have only one phone number that reaches a human (or did, the last time I called), and that’s with Experian. Trying to get through to those people is a headache of migraine intensity; as for the others…don’t even ask.

So. That leaves me with a Visa debit card, which I decidedly do not want to use at Costco’s gas pumps (or anyone else’s) and would prefer not to use at all.


I spend way too much money at Costco, AKA “Impulse Buy Hell.” Matter of fact, over the past six months, I’ve averaged $332 a month in store purchases and $36 a month in gasoline.

Really, that’s not all that terrible when you realize I buy most of my clothing there, most of my food (I don’t eat out, so this is significantly less than $10/day), ingredients for the dog’s spectacularly expensive DIY food, all my personal products, and most of my household goods. And a fair amount of the S-corp’s office supplies.

Still. I suspect that if I weren’t packing a credit card every time I shop there, I could cut the spending. A lot.

Sure don’t want to write checks, and I sure don’t want to have that much cash around.

So. I think what I’m going to do is this:

Figure out what would be a reasonable monthly budget for all those necessaries, absent the impulse buys. Let’s say about $275, maybe $300 at the outside. Add on enough to cover gasoline — around $40 just now, but rising fast. Then go into the store at the start of the month and buy a Costco cash card in the amount of, say, $340.

Be more careful about purchases…knowing there’s a palpable upper limit will help a lot with that. Use it till it’s gone, and then stop buying there until the next month. Or if push comes to shove, pay for any serious necessaries with the debit card.

I refuse to put a debit card into a gas pump, nor will I use one at a restaurant — there just aren’t enough consumer protections against theft. But the occasional restaurants I visit always accept AMEX, and if the tank runs dry after I run out of dollars on the cash card, I’ll just pay a couple bucks more to buy at a gas station that takes AMEX.

It’s really not that much hassle. If memory serves, the last time I bought a cash card I was able to get it at the regular checkout register, rather than having to stand in a different line. But even if you do have to buy from the customer service desk, so what? It’s not that big a deal.

I guess…

7 thoughts on “Losing the Visa Card but Keeping Costco”

  1. It makes zero sense that it takes so long for a credit card payment to post or that it requires a paper check to be issued when you are paying a credit card issued by the credit union with an account issued by the credit union. The money never leaves the credit union. It is the equivalent of having to cut a check to move money from a savings to checking account and the process taking 10 days. Based on my experience working in the corporate offices of a large regional bank, these transactions should be processed intraday, and anything short of it is very poor customer service.

    • Yes! That;s exactly it: if you believe what they say, they send themselves a check. Supposedly by snail-mail. Whaaaa?????

      If you ask an underling over the phone, the kid will say that’s exactly what’s going on and for that reason you should allow a “payment” (as it were…) a full ten days to post in the card issuer’s books. In other words, your bill is due January 15. You go online to billpay and arrange for the bill to be paid NOT on January 15 but on January 5; because it will take that long to cut and deliver the check. To be safe, you must figure it will take for this fine piece of paper 10 days to reach the credit card folks.

      It takes an employee that long to walk around the cubes to get to the credit-card department?

      There simply has to be something more to it than that.

      And I sincerely hope the “something more” is not a device to trip customers up so they end up paying a $25 “late fee” gouge for no good reason.

  2. For credit card payments, I’ve always done it the other way around, and had the credit card company withdraw from my bank / credit union with an ETF payment.

    • Yes. Their CSR suggested that (over and over, like a broken record). But I’m just too, too paranoid for that: I want to SEE those charges before the bank releases the money to cover them.

      What I’ve found with the utility, Medigap, and LT care auto-pay is that as convenient as they are, I tend to just forget them. Two bills that I don’t want to “just forget” as a computer extracts funds to cover them are the phone bill and the credit-card bill.

      • Well, I go in and schedule the payment. It’s not something that you never see. It just works that you schedule the payment for say June 1st. On that day your credit card balance is adjusted. Within a day or two you see the funds clear from your bank account. So I guess in your case you wouldn’t schedule the payment until you saw the funds sitting there in your CU account.

        Just something to consider. I love the Costco card because we get the rewards check once per year that turns into a nice chunk of change just for using the card on things we were going to buy anyway.

      • Hmmm… I think that’s kinda what I’m doing. You go to your account. You navigate to BillPay. You select the day you want the payment to take place. You click “Pay.” Supposedly, such payments are presto-digito transmitted electronically on the date you specify.

        But apparently with “Bill Pay,” the credit union doesn’t always pay electronically. It pays Cox, the water company, the power company, American Express, GPM Life, the long-term care insurance, Humana, Wellcare, the New York Review of Books, and the county tax collector electronically. But for reasons unexplained (because, apparently, inexplicable), they write a paper check to their own Visa provider.

        This is what makes me suspect that it’s a gimmick to trap people into late payments, so as to collect the penalties and, if you’re the kind of person who racks it up on the credit card, insure that you’ll never be able to pay off the balance.

  3. Yeah, I think that’s exactly what’s going on. I swear, I don’t trust credit card issuers any farther than I can throw them these days. But for a credit union to be so shady is disturbing. I THOUGHT CU’s were supposed to have superior customer service to banks. I can’t imagine my CU treating me, or any other customer, like that.

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