Capital One Tricks Customer Into Not Activating Emergency Payment Protection Plan

Cory wrote in earlier to complain about Capital One‘s nasty habit of having their collection department call you to upsell you on other products. At almost the same time, Andon wrote to us to let us know that the company’s protection plan—the sort of thing they’re trying to sell to people like Cory—is useless unless you can manipulate time (Andon can’t).

Here’s his story:

I have a credit card with Capital One, and a few months ago I was contacted by them about setting up an Emergency Payment Protection Plan. Given the way the economy and job market have been, this sounded like a good idea. I should also note that I am also a full-time college student, and I suffered a medical emergency back in February, for which I am still paying. I worked about 24 hours a week (full time in the summer,) until I was downsized from my job on September 28th, 2009.

I called Capital One on September 30th to let them know this, and to try and activate my Emergency Payment Protection. When I talked with a representative in Payment Protection, they told me that I would have to wait 30 days from then, and—if I was still without a job at that point—then they would start taking care of my minimum payments for me. They also told me that I would have to take care of September’s payment, but both stipulations seemed reasonable enough to me. Essentially, I had to be unemployed for a month before they would begin covering my payments—fair enough, right?

So, I received my last paycheck at the end of September, and I spent nearly every dollar on utility bills, leaving me with literally no money throughout October. The end of the month comes around, and I call Capital One back to let them know that I need to activate my Emergency Payment Protection. They transfer me to Payment Protection, where I am told that I would have had to have called five days before October’s payment due date for them to cover my minimum payment.

I paused for a moment, and then explained the paradox: if I had to wait 30 days for them to cover my minimum payments, but I would have needed to have called five days in advance of the end of the month, then how could I feasibly, logically, realistically have sorted this out? The representative saw the problem, and told me that I would need to speak to someone at Capital One to get the retro-payment ordeal sorted out.

I go back and forth between both departments, until I finally speak to a supervisor at Capital One who tells me that they can waive the late fee for the October payment, but that now my account would have to be current before any Emergency Payment benefits would go into effect. I told them that I appreciated them doing that, but it still didn’t solve my problem.

TL;DR: I have no money, and I am stuck between Capital One and their Payment Protection department’s arbitrary rules. If I had to wait 30 days to activate my benefits, but I needed to do it five days before the due date, then that’s a logistics problem on their end, and also a physical impossibility (for the first month, at least.) I did nothing wrong—I followed their instructions exactly as they were prescribed to me—and yet, I feel like I am being punished.

I know my account has to be current for them to cover my minimum payments, but what happens when it’s no fault of my own that my account isn’t current? This is a problem that they need to sort out on their end. I have been a customer of theirs for over three years, and I don’t feel I should be punished for simply following the rules.

NOTE: Please know that everyone I spoke with during this ordeal was very kind and considerate. They recognized the problem and understood the situation, but they all told me that there was nothing they could do about it. This is not their fault, this is the fault of the company and their rules and regulations.

Update, November 6th, 2009: Andon wrote back with an update, and it looks like Capital One has agreed to activate the protection.

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