What To Do When You Love Your Credit Card But Aren't 'In Love' With It Anymore

Reader Suzanne may be on to something that may save credit card users anguish: Try to view your relationship with plastic as a romantic comedy.

Having been fed up with the way Capital One treated her, Suzanne decided she should see other cards. Hers is a story of a doomed relationship complete with the grand romantic gesture at the climax. But Suzanne chose to write her own ending:

Last week Capital One sent me a pretty pamphlet explaining that on August 2 they would raise my interest rate despite my long, blameless relationship with them. I’d heard the rumors that a Dear John letter was in the cards, but that didn’t prepare me for the shock. For a few minutes I replayed conversations in my head, trying to figure out what I’d done wrong. Maybe I’d been too good for too long. Things were getting boring and needed shaking up. After a few minutes of self-loathing, I decided I deserved better than the 15.9% rate they were offering and declined the changes. I, too, have moved on and don’t really need Capital One anymore.

The next order of business was picking up my belongings. I had a small balance of Rewards points. The pretty pamphlet said I had until August 2 to use the points or they would be forfeited so I quickly placed an order for something I’d been wanting. I was left with a small balance of 1, 721 points or $3.44, enough for a toothbrush. I didn’t really need it, but my wounded ego told me Capital One had taken enough from me over the years that this time I should fight for what’s mine. Any self-respecting girl would do the same thing. Try as I might, though, I could not get my hands on the points. The folks at customer service said I needed a minimum of 2000 points to use them, and unfortunately, the points would be forfeited.

I was angry and, well, a little obsessed. I went to my computer and looked at the Consumerist to see if anyone else had written about Rewards Points. The first thing that popped up, though, was the name and email address of Rich Fairbank, the CEO of Capital One. “Rich. Fair. Bank.” It had to be the name of some kind of automated customer service system. Just to feel better, I quickly fired off the following email:

Dear Mr. Fairbank,

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the new terms and conditions of my Capital One account. I’ve already responded that I’m opting out.

Now that we’re breaking up, I need to redeem my rewards points before August 2 or I will forfeit them. This afternoon I ordered the Bushnell PowerView 12 x 25 Binoculars worth 10,750 points so I can watch birds from my back porch. There are 1,721 points remaining in my account. Your customer service supervisor Blake (extension 73904) tells me I can’t use my points because the cheapest thing I can order requires 2000 points. I’m not allowed to have the points credited to my account and I’m allowed to give the points to charity. Sure, it’s only $3.44 worth of points, enough for a cup of coffee, but it’s mine, not yours, and I want it. I’m sure there are a lot of people who are in my same position, and if you keep everyone’s $3.44, then you’re keeping a whole lot of money that doesn’t belong to you.

Please tell me how to get my $3.44 worth of points out of your bank before our relationship ends on August 2.

Sincerely yours,
Suzanne D.

I went on with my life and had sort of forgotten about the whole thing, then yesterday my husband casually mentioned that someone from Capital One called him at the office last week. The person said based on the email I sent him, he’d credited the $3.44 worth of points to my credit card balance. My husband couldn’t remember the name of the guy on the phone but was struck by how he didn’t seem like your typical customer service representative. In disbelief, I checked online and sure enough, my Rewards balance was 0, and $3.44 had been credited to my credit card balance. I dug a little deeper, and sure enough, Rich Fairbank is, in fact, the CEO of Capital One.

Dang it. I was almost over Capital One then they go and do something kind of charming. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t make me feel a little warm and tingly, even a little nostalgic. I mean, it’s hard to say goodbye after all the time we were together. We definitely had some laughs. Remember those funny barbarian ads? But I’ve been here before. I know what Captial One is trying to do. A credit card has needs and it’s nice to have customers waiting on the periphery. But I know I’m ready for a credit card that’s in it for the long haul, that will stick by me through thick and thin, that will show me the same respect I’ve shown it. And I know I’ll always be the one that got away.

Props to Suzanne for staying strong when Capital One went into extreme schmooze mode. Those financial institutions may seem all nice, cuddly and sweet at times, but we all know they’re only after one thing.