Chase Rep Thinks Deaf People Can't Have Credit Cards

Dheeraj’s father is a silent partner in the business that they own together. They made him the personal guarantor when applying for a new business credit card from Chase recently, not realizing how many problems it would cause while trying to get the father’s card activated. See, Dheeraj’s father is deaf, and Chase was completely lost when it came to ways for him to prove his identity and activate the card. Now the account is frozen because all of Chase’s ways for business credit card customers to prove their identities depend on speaking directly with the cardholder on the phone.

A little over a month ago, my father and I decided to respond to an offer from Chase for their Ink Business MasterCard. We’re both principals in the business I own. He’s deaf; I’m not. (These details will be relevant shortly.) In the application process, they request the SSN of one of the principals of the business. Though my father is basically a silent partner — he doesn’t participate in the day-to-day operations of the business, but he was a definite financial contributor — we agreed to have him be the personal guarantor, as his credit is virtually flawless. It doesn’t really matter which one of us did the personal guarantee, as we’re both principals in the business, and there’s only room for one guarantor.

Sure enough, we were approved, and both our cards arrived shortly. I activated mine and was able to make some purchases. After a while, I wanted to set up my account for online access at chase.com. My attempts to register online failed, so I called Chase, which is when the nightmare began.

We were soon sidetracked because my father’s card hadn’t been activated (though mine had been). Fair enough; I can see why they want both cards to be acknowledged and activated, even if my father isn’t very likely to use his card. (As I mentioned, he isn’t involved in the day-to-day affairs of the business.) So I tried to work with them to activate his card over the phone, with me being the interpreter. Even though my parents have always been able to do this in my past — with my mother (who can hear) serving as interpreter whenever activating a card — the customer service agent immediately shot down this option. Annoying, but . . . OK, how about a customer service number for the deaf and hearing impaired? He put me on hold for a bit, but came back and said he couldn’t find any information on that.

Hmmm. I see. Is there some sort of procedure for processing card activations for cardmembers who can’t hear? This is where it gets good. The customer service agent suggested that the hearing impaired “probably can’t” have a card. I informed him that this is probably very illegal, and that it’d be news to American Express, the Charles Schwab Visa people, PNC Bank, and the various other companies that my father has credit with currently. He still seemed to think that Chase probably wouldn’t be able to offer him a card.

“I’m quite sure there are laws against that,” I pointed out, which seemed to unnerve him enough to put me on hold, this time for a little longer. When he returned, I was informed that my father was welcome to use his choice of relay service to call in and have the card activated. An annoying hassle, to be sure, but worth a shot. So my father got out his laptop and signed on to a video relay service that allowed him and the relay agent to communicate via sign language, while the relay agent spoke on the phone with Chase.

It seemed we were making some progress, until the Chase agent (someone else, this time) decided to verify the business information, and him being a principal, by calling the store. Yet, they said that if they called the store and spoke with me, that wouldn’t be acceptable. (Why even bother calling, then, one wonders?) And sure enough, they didn’t even bother to call — as I verified by checking the call logs of our phone system.

So now we’re at an impasse. The cards are effectively frozen until Chase feels everything’s been resolved to their satisfaction. But as long as they continue to shoot down anything we try to do to help resolve this issue, we’re stuck. You’d think they’d have some procedures in place to work with deaf and hearing-impaired cardholders, but it appears you’d be wrong.

Absolutely brilliant.

Maybe executive customer service can untangle this mess. Try giving them a call (maybe even through relay!) to see if they can help.