When To Contact Credit Card Customer Service

Credit cards are a ubiquitous part of modern life. But while increasingly advanced websites and smartphone apps give you a lot of control over your credit cards and accounts, it’s sometimes best to speak to a live customer service representative over the phone to get something done. The following are situations when making that call makes the most sense.

You notice suspicious activity

If you notice any kind of suspicious activity on your credit account, make a call. Some transactional organizations may appear on your statements that you do not recognize, and calling customer service can help shed light on the activity — whether it turns out to be fraudulent or not. According to credit management expert LaToya Irby, “you’re…legally protected from any fraudulent charges made using your credit card while your card is in your possession.” If charges appear that you can identify as fraudulent, call customer service to have them removed. Though keep in mind that to ensure it doesn’t happen again, you may need to be issued a new credit card.

You are planning to travel

If you are planning a trip, call your credit card issuer to let them know where you are traveling and how long you will be there. This will ensure they do not mark your transactions as fraudulent. It’s better to call before you travel than after you’ve arrived, just in case you don’t have good phone reception at your destination. Do this even if you are traveling domestically.

Additionally, many credit card issuers offer travel perks. “Before your vacation is fully planned out, call and ask if there are any hotel discounts, entertainment access or other travel offers,” recommends Randy Hopper, senior vice president of a major financial institution. You should also verify if your credit card will work where you are going, and bring some local currency to cover you in places that do not accept credit cards.

Your credit card is missing

If your credit card has gone missing, don’t wait. Call customer service right away. “The sooner you let your credit card issuer know your credit card is missing, the less responsibility you’ll have for any charges made on your credit card,” Irby says. You may need to go online to find the customer service number, as you won’t be able to look for it on the back of your card. The representative will ask you about the last transactions you remember making, then deactivate your credit card and issue a new one.

You need a favor

In times of need, your financial institution may be more willing to work with you than you think. If you need a favor — like requesting a late-fee waiver or appealing a denial — picking up the phone makes more sense than writing an email. “If it’s your first offense and you’ve been an otherwise exemplary customer, the bank may forgive the oversight and waive the late fee,” writes NerdWallet’s Kenley Young. In general, if you need to plead a case, being able to explain, negotiate and demonstrate courtesy to a real person in real time can make all the difference.

It’s also wise to call credit card customer service if you are struggling financially. “Don’t be afraid of reaching out if you might be getting into financial trouble,” says Katie Ross, education and development manager for American Consumer Credit Counseling. “If you can show a good faith effort to make your payments on time, it will be easier to get assistance.” Many financial institutions have hardship programs designed to help you pay your bills.

No matter the reason for your call, remember that manners count. A polite and friendly discourse is more likely to get you what you want than confrontation and cursing. Prepare for the call before dialing, be courteous and be assertive.

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