How To Never Wait On Hold With Your Credit Card Company

Reader Jamie shares a neat workaround so that he never has to wait on hold with his credit card company. He says that whenever he calls, “I do not use the 800-number on the back of the card. Instead, I use their outside-the-US instructions on the back of the card and call them collect at their regular phone number. When the credit card thinks that they are paying international collect call charges, they do NOT put you on hold – they take your call right away!”

Sorry if this makes you sad, companies, but this what your interminable queue times have driven us to. We’re not going to sit in your cattle chutes anymore. You’ve wasted enough of our time, now we’re going to waste your money.

(Photo: JCardinal18)


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  1. varco says:

    pure awesome. thanks for the tip.

  2. UpsetPanda says:

    What happens when they find out you’re in fact, in the U.S.? To me, they would probably tell you that you called the wrong number.

  3. Imaginary_Friend says:

    That’s fricken delicious! Pure, unadulterated evil. You can bet I’m using that one next time.

  4. qwickone says:

    I don’t know if I’m extraordinarily lucky, but I’ve never had a hold time in excess of 2 min from my credit card company. Well, any of them for that matter. And some of my cards are platinum cards and some are just regular. The only credit card companies I use are AmEx, Citi, and Chase.

  5. shan6 says:

    Score! Thanks for sharing that gem. And I would think that by the time they know you are in the U.S. they would probably just fix your problem (hopefully) and move on to their next caller.

  6. JayDeEm says:

    I have also had some success by not pressing anything at all. Some systems assume you still have a rotary phone and connect you to a live person. This is in no way fool proof, but getting an operator is usually better than dealing with vague menu options and endless loops.

    The only thing that worries me about the collect call method in the article is that eventually, banks will start putting collect call charges on the accounts of customers who use this trick.

  7. jtheletter says:

    Related, if you’re stuck in automated voice prompt hell most of them have some sort of “frustration detection” set up and will transfer you to an operator immediately if you just start screaming obscenities into the phone. Doesn’t work for all voice prompt systems, but saves a lot of time when it does!

  8. Coder4Life says:

    @qwickone: The only credit card companies you use are those 3. Damn man.. HOw many cards do you have total???

  9. timmus says:

    “The other day, I used an outside-the-US number from inside the US to phone a call center that was outside the US. My phone rang before I made the call. It was me on the other end.”
    – Steven Wright, “Things I Might Say If I Were on Consumerist”

  10. forgottenpassword says:

    LOL! Hit them in their pocketbooks to get better service. BRILLIANT!

    I rarely have problems with my credit card cust. service… probably because i make calls to them in the middle of the night (I work nights & do my financial/budgeting at work).

  11. cartmants says:

    This has now been added to Digg! Help other people notice it! I thank you for this information, I’ll try it even for non-credit card companies that give an “Outside-the-US” Number

  12. forever_knight says:

    i guess this shifts the cost burden from the company to the consumer. in other words, the consumer ends up paying for a long distance call but saves time. The company actually saves money (800 numbers cost them cash).

    it’s easy for them to see where you are calling from. it’s called caller id.

  13. misstic says:

    we’re still paying for it in a roundabout way in the form of interest and fees. this sounds like a feel good idea. I’m sure it will come in handy though. I hate waiting. I used to have one of those “how to reach a human” lists for all of the major CC’s…..

  14. humbleish says:

    I think the companies have caught on by now. I’ve never called the companies collect, but I have called the non-800 number before to get the immediate service. It used to work flawlessly, and you would sometimes even hear an automated “we accept the charges” message. The last time I tried this (with Capital One since I actually couldn’t find a way to get a human on the phone through the regular 1-800 number), it seemed as though they could tell I was calling within the US and just made me go through the regular phone-menu/hold system.

    I don’t think it’s right to make them pay for a collect call just to get faster service though. That’s fairly abusive and would probably lead to them just forcing you to pay for your own calls while you’re outside the US.

  15. dogmatixx says:

    And now that only chumps pay for long distance, it would seem to be a win-win to not waste their money by calling their 800 number, which still costs them a few cents per minute. It always bugs me a little when I use by cell or VoIP to dial toll free numbers.

  16. SadSam says:

    Can I ask why when calling a cc you have to punch in acct number, ss# digits, zip code, etc. but when you finally reach a live person they ask for all that info you just punched in.

  17. mtaylor924 says:

    Hold on…this can’t cost them much extra than the 800 numbers. Companies that have 800 numbers are in essence letting you call them collect – the only difference is that it’s only available to callers in the US. Toll-free doesn’t actually mean toll-free…it means the caller doesn’t pay the tolls, just the entity leasing the number from the phone company.

    Calling the international collect number shouldn’t cost much extra, because the phone company won’t charge international connection rates for the collect call if you are calling from inside the US. It may cost slightly more if there isn’t a corporate or volume discount rate on the international collect line, but in essence it’s the same thing.

    Brilliant idea!

  18. mtaylor924 says:

    @SadSam: Because in theory, your account info should pop up on their screens when the live person answers your call. In practice, this never works properly (I’m assuming) so they have to ask all over again.

    I would assume it’s a case of all these companies not using the technology to it’s fullest extent.

  19. uricmu says:

    Another trick is to mistype your account number. In many systems, mistyping your account number or SSN or birthdate or whatever gets you to a human.

  20. xamarshahx says:

    This will just screw all the international travelers when they really do need help since the wait times will be longer or they may just require you to pay the long distance charges.

  21. uricmu says:

    @SadSam: They do it because they need to get a voice recording of you giving that info in case there is an issue later. Using touch-tone is anonymous, and someone could just do the redial.

  22. Rando says:

    False, just fyi. Does not work with most companies.

  23. rouftop says:

    I called Washington Mutual’s collect-call line from Argentina and was placed on hold for 30 minutes. Knowing how much it was costing them was the only joyful thing about the experience.

  24. juniper says:

    Another good opportunity to remind everyone of []

  25. FromThisSoil says:

    Good information to know. My girlfriend and I have Bank of America, she lost her card and found out while we were together. I gave her the number off the back of my card to call and cancel the card.

    She waited on hold for a half hour and got disconnected, called back and waited on hold for another 45 minutes (this was Saturday around 2PM).

    Do you have any idea what it’s like to be on hold for almost and hour and a half while your card is lost or stolen? Every minute counts in this day and age to avoid someone using your card.

  26. czarandy says:

    As long as you report it in a timely fashion you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges.

  27. DallasDMD says:

    @randotheking: So you’re contradicting the experiences of people who say it does? ROFL.

  28. Eilonwynn says:

    This trick also works really well if you’re having difficulty with a VOIP phone – with 1800 numbers, for some reason, it doesn’t properly register where you’re located and sends you to a completely random call centre. I finally just started looking up the out-of-area numbers and calling them directly – even though I wasn’t calling collect, I was connected right away.

  29. aparsons says:

    I have a corporate citi card, and also have personal citi bank card. So whenever I have a problem, i call the corporate 800 number and a REAL LIFE AMERICAN picks up! Whoa! Then, I politely tell him/her that I’m having problems with my personal citi card to which they respond, “no problem sir, I’d be happy to take care of that for you.”

  30. Fierock says:

    coincidentally I spent several hours and several attempts at getting a hold of someone at Mosaik Mastercard to talk to today. I think everyone is getting back into normal life at the same time because Mosaik (they don’t even have an international collect number to call) hung up on me three times because all their lines were busy, even at their secondary call center which it forwards to when busy (so I couldn’t even wait on hold until several attempts later, and when I finally did it took more than 45 minutes to get through to a pleasant sounding lady on the other end).

  31. coren says:

    @jtheletter: That’s because some calls are not only recorded, but monitored by quality control or managers or what have you, who are on the line before the CSR is.

  32. Compact says:

    Slightly off topic, but for those in the UK, who don’t know this one.
    Instead of calling the standard number, 0870, 0845 which may be slightly more expensive, you can find the local telephone number which routes you into the call centre and which, I find gets answered quicker.


  33. dazzlezak says:

    because the info doesn’t come up on the screen/system@SadSam:

  34. bonzombiekitty says:

    I’ve never had a problem with holding either. Any time I’ve had to call them (usually due to security flags on my card), it’s taken me less than 5 minutes to complete the call. Both my credit cards are Citi cards.

  35. Hambriq says:

    Ah. Now I know why the companies have those “interminable queue times”. Instead of waiting on people who call the legitimate 1-800 number, they’re pandering to people who are basically cutting in line. Thanks Jamie, for making everyone else’s hold time even longer! You’re a good consumer!

    [/rant off] Don’t get me wrong, it’s unfortunate that hold times tend to be so long with credit card companies. But don’t kid yourself: this is just cutting in line, plain and simple. There’s not a CSR waiting on call to handle international collect calls. You’re getting transferred to a CSR who would otherwise be helping someone who actually has been waiting on hold. Oh, and then what about the money the company spent on that collect call? I’ll remember who to thank when I get another letter in the mail letting me know my interest rate went up by .75%.

  36. iEddie says:

    For decent credit card companies, that don’t put you on hold, just call the 800 number. But if yours puts you on hold, collect call them – but make sure you use one of those shoddy phone companies (like the ones at some pay phones and some hotels) that charges like a million dollars per minute for collect calls.

  37. Jamie Beckland says:

    This is my tip, and I was hesitant to share it. Please don’t abuse it!

    @forever_knight: If you are using a cell phone, obviously you will use your minutes whether you are calling an 800 number or regular toll number.

    Also, if you just toll dial these numbers, you will get put into the queue. You have to call collect.

    @xamarshahx: This doesn’t screw international travelers because international travelers are in a queue with in-country callers. There is no dedicated traveler’s hotline.

    @randotheking: Um. OK. I have been doing this for years. If it doesn’t work for you, I guess don’t do it. YMMV.

    @Hambriq: I don’t think that a small group of consumerist readers (and diggers) are the problem with credit card customer service. And I really don’t think collect calls are going to break any of these banks. Cutting in line? What about different ‘levels’ of card membership that have dedicated concierges? Is that cutting in line? This is not cutting – it’s moving to a shorter line. Blame the victim much?

  38. tawker says:

    @FIEROCK – 514-877-0330 is the international call collect for BMO Mosaik – maybe it’s just not on your card.

  39. @JD: On a collect call, there’s no way to get caller ID.

  40. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @Prolific Programmer: That’s not true. Whenever you call an 800/toll free number, your real phone number is available to whomever you’re calling on their caller ID, even if your number is unlisted or blocked normally. Callers can’t block their number from being revealed to toll free numbers supposedly because the party called needs to know who is calling to detect abuse.

    @JD – I just used this method a this morning to call one of my credit card companies and it worked. After keying in my account number, a real, live [English speaking] human answered the phone on the second ring and processed my request in about 5 minutes.
    Usually when I call their 800 number, I’m forced to endure at least 5 minutes of their marketing spiels before I’m even transfered to a customer service agent (usually in India).

    Thanks, Jamie!

  41. Lazlo Nibble says:

    @Imaginary_Friend: A collect call is not an 800 number.

  42. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @LAZLONIBBLE: I never said it was. Perhaps I should clarify: Normally when I call my cc company, I use the 800 or 888 number on the back of the card. Consequently, that results in having to key my account number in, being forced through half a dozen voice mail prompts, unusually long hold times, unnecessary marketing spiels during the wait, and more often than not, and a difficult to understand, non English speaking customer service rep (no offense intended, just making a point) when one finally answers the phone.

    This morning, after taking the OP’s advice and calling the non 800 number, my call was answered on the second ring, a recorded voice from the other end said, “Operator, we accept all charges…”, an English speaking rep then took over the call, and my request was processed quite expeditiously. Hope that clears it up.

  43. Fierock says:

    @tawker: Ah, thanks for that (and nope, that number is not on back of my card) though I’m too civilized to jump the queue like that anyway…

  44. smiler127 says:

    As someone who works in the Masaik callcentre I can honestly say that they are doing the best they can to get the wait times down for people. Like any callcentre, it can be a meat grinder as people come and go, moving onwards into other departments (as it is an entry position) or to other jobs for various reasons.

    The wait times are frustrating for everyone, the consumer, the cso taking the call, and the supervizors who take the complaints and escalations. On average, it takes about 6 weeks for a new hire to feel comfortable enough to take calls on their own, as there are so many processes to learn.

    My advice, no matter how frustrated you are for waiting, remember that it’s also a person on the other end of the phone and they probably get yelled at by angry people all day long, and I’ll be very honest, no matter how mad you are, legitimate or otherwise, you will get far more help and better results if you are polite to the agent you speak to on the phone.

    Afterall, most people in their right minds would never trade places with someone in a callcentre.