Late Credit Card Payment Fees

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When I became a widow I had a credit score of 800.

My husband liked to sign up for credit cards.  At his death, there were 33 on his credit report. I started canceling the credit cards in his name. Of course, I was the second card holder on many of those cards.

As I talked to financial advisors, going to classes on financial management and credit, and started purchasing a house, I was advised to STOP CANCELING THE CREDIT CARDS – that it would have an adverse effect on my credit score. Fine. So I stopped. The credit cards are in a drawer. I really don’t know where my credit score is right now. Last time I checked (when I got the mortgage on my townhome) it had dropped to 760.  I suppose I should go to the bank and ask if my current mortgage holder will run another score for me.

Then today, when I picked up the mail, I had a letter from American Express that my last payment was late, and it had triggered the Penalty APR (27.24%). American Express has the fastest turn-around of all the cards/payments that I am required to make. After returning from our cruise in December, I realized that I was close to a late payment on AmEx, so called and made the payment on the phone. I also changed my address in their files.

Imagine my surprise when I got another bill at the old address, and the payment by phone was not recorded as timely.

Soooo…I called American Express.  On the letter where I received the notice of “late payment” there was a number to call to pay online.  However, they could not assist with my late penalty challenge.

So I called the number on the regular monthly bill I had received.  This card is the required Costco Amex. That bill actually had a “Customer Care and Billings” number listed. Please keep in mind that Costco is one of my favorite vendors. The stores are well run, their CEO takes a reasonable salary, the staff are well compensated. I was not surprised that there was a Customer Care number. And I was not disappointed.

After passing through three or four suggestions that I handle my business by computer, I actually was able to talk to a very polite, efficient and effective young man. I explained my challenge with the address change.  He confirmed that the new one was now the one of record, that the latest statement had still gone to the old address , but all future correspondence would be correct.  I also explained to him that as a new widow I was experiencing some challenges with creditors as the changes in address and primary account holder were being made. He could see that I had been a cardholder for sixteen years, and that my payment record was excellent.

Now here was the amazing part – I tried to pay the amount on the statement.  He could see that the prior statement had been paid, and that the only new charge was the $26 late payment fee.  He waived the fee, and confirmed that there was no current balance. He also confirmed that the 27.24% late penalty APR would not go into effect, and that no report would be made to the credit bureaus. It will be interesting to confirm that in the next month or so.

Through all this my little black kitty has been sitting beside me, walking across the keyboard, crawling over the shelves/printer, and making me laugh.  She just somehow knew that I needed some comic relief.

House Sale Price Incentive (Lower the Price)

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After having the house on the market for 12 weeks, it’s time to increase the buyer’s incentive by lowering the price.  I learned that if you change the price, the listing goes back up to the top of Multiple Listings – plus the potential buyers are encouraged by “bargain buying”.  We lowered the price from $350,000 to $339,900.  My Move Manager immediately noted that the decrease “looks bigger than it is”… a concept that would not have occurred to me, but is absolutely true.  By reducing it to $339,900 instead of $340,000, it gives the impression of a much lower price by putting it in the 330,000s group instead of the 340,000s group.  Now, at Christmas time, we are having our highest traffic level to date.  When I expressed my surprise, Mr. Manager stated that if large corporations are going to transfer families (by giving the employee a big job opportunity in another city), they will often give notice to the employee in October, so that they have time to travel to the new site over the Holidays with their families to scope out the possibilities.

As the weeks go by, my out-of-pocket costs related to the “empty” house on the market have stabilized, but are still at $1400 per month. Granted, this is all not real expense, because after living in the house for 25 years, most of the payments now go to capital rather than paying for interest.  I will get most of the money back when I sell the house. But, the cash out is still $1400, and I’m paying it out-of-pocket.  That was also a factor in “speeding up” the sale by reducing the price.

An interesting technology experience came from the real estate agent sending me an Agency Agreement Amendment through DocuSign. I was not able to make the signature function work on my Smart Phone (an Android). When I tried to add the signature, the next screen was blank, but it did fine through Gmail, and I was able to print it for my file after a little encouragement.

We will see how the latest “trick of the trade” affects the sale of my lovely old house.