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.

“Capital One Calls To Dun For Payment Before It’s Even Due”


Edit Your Comment

  1. Areia says:

    Although their communication of this policy could definitely use improvement, this sounds like more of a timing problem to me.

    Let’s say your payment is due on the 1st. You call them on the 15th to activate the plan, they tell you it takes 30 days, so you have to cover the next payment. You call them back 30 days later, so on the 15th or 16th. You now have two weeks until your next payment is due, so there’s no problem at all, and they start covering you.

    In this case, the OP happened to call close enough to his due date that 30 days later was not 5 days before the next one. They should absolutely have told him this, but it does mean that the policies don’t necessarily contradict each other.

    • katstermonster says:

      @Areia: I think they still should have told him about the 5-day rule, though, so he at least could have known it was going to be an issue before he was already too late.

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Sounds like an EECB is in order.

  3. 2 replies says:

    Discover tried to upsell me on card loss/theft protection WHILE I was reporting my card lost.
    I asked them what the extra protection included and the rep proceeded to list off features they already provide by default, (and I believe are required to provide BY LAW to provide; not being responsible for fraudulent charges, card replacement etc).

    I paused for a moment, and asked: “Isn’t that what I already have? Are you saying I won’t have those on my new card?”
    Rep: “Um no, you will”
    me: O_o “No thanks”

  4. PLATTWORX says:

    “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.”


    That is where we should stop the story. A credit card company trying to pitch extra services like this (which I am sure they charge you a fee for monthly) is a BAD BAD BAD idea.

  5. olderbudwizer says:

    This is a simple problem for a qualified Systems Analyst to solve. I run into this all the time, big companies don’t have their systems tuned well enough or haven’t tried to code for the unique scenarios that customers can fall into. Too much reliance on ‘automation’ and not enough QA/QC on the finished product.

  6. Blueskylaw says:

    Don’t these emergency payment protection plans have ridiculously complex and cover the credit card companies
    a@@ in almost every situation, making it nearly impossible to implement the plan?

    eg. You have to take any kind of work offered to you.
    So if you are a nu-ca-lear physicist and you refuse a job bagging groceries that was offered to you, the protection plan is null and void.

  7. jblake1 says:

    Unfortunately since you were not employed full-time I’m pretty sure you won’t be covered for anything. They sold you a service you can’t make a claim on.

    • Andon says:

      @jblake1: Actually, I was re-assured that the Unemployment Protection and the Emergency Payment Protection were two different things. I have both on my card, didn’t qualify for the former (because I wasn’t full time,) but I do qualify for the latter (which doesn’t stipulate that you have to have been employed full time.)

  8. Kishi says:

    They called me offering this a few weeks back. When I told them I was a full-time student and currently not employed anyway, they hesitated, and then tried to continue pushing a service that they told me I wouldn’t be able to use anyway. At least the person on the phone understood when I turned them down.

  9. bogartbrown says:

    I had a credit card company call me about a week ago to sell this crap on a $0 balance card. “What will you do if you can’t make your payments?”

    Uhm, I’m fairly certain even I could come up with $0.

  10. vastrightwing says:

    Q for all credit card cos. Is it possible to actually collect benefits from any card product? Like Best Buy, benefits have enough loose interpretations so that the vendor can deny benefits in seconds. BB: the serial # is removed. C1: You have to wait 30 days but not less than 5 days prior to your due date. In the event your due date is less than the previous 30 days, you can not collect the benefit and must wait another 30days. However, if you wait more than 35 days to file a claim, you may no longer file a claim unless an ultra super supervisor overrides this policy, which must be in writing, at which point a committee will decide. If you get employment at anytime during this time, your benefit can no longer be used.

    In short, you can’t collect. Ever.

  11. econobiker says:

    Breakage like any rebate or refund is what is encouraged by their rules/policies.

    They want you to pay (i.e. they make profit) for the plan ($x.xx per $100 of account balance) but then they have such an arcane system in place that actually claiming benefits (i.e. they pay out benefits) under the plan is near impossible.

  12. bbb111 says:

    The last time they tried to offer the Emergency Protection Plan I asked them if it would cover me if I laid myself off – I am the HR person in a two person company (along with a dozen or so other positions). The person was smart enough to understand, dropped the pitch and went on to deal with the issue I called about.

    I don’t get called for marketing because all my cards get opted-out of all marketing the day they arrive.

  13. winstonthorne says:

    I know what’s NOT in his wallet

  14. AllanG54 says:

    Take a cash advance for the minimum payment. Yeah, it’ll cost you some fee money but make the payment on the card. This way the account is current and the payments should go into effect.

    • steads says:

      @AllanG54: Yes, that will bring the acct current so the plan can pay his minimum payments for him while he is unemployed…
      -HOWEVER (I’m assuming) his balance is from purchases and the CC allocates payments to the lowest interest rate first (at least until february)…
      -SO while the benefit is paying the payments, the cash advance sits in the background and collects interest around 25% until he pays off the card.

  15. Javin says:

    “when it’s no fault of my own that my account isn’t current?”

    Wow, really? What’s WRONG with people today? For starters, you borrowed money knowing full-well you wouldn’t be able to pay it back. That’s your fault.

    Secondly, you signed up for a “payment protection plan” the bare minimum of time before you INTENDED to use it. This is akin to insurance fraud. The protection plan is insurance in case of a problem, NOT a bailout that you sign up for and then leech off of the banks a month later.

    Your “poor me” excuses are weak. Grow up and become a productive member of society instead of yet another leech. It sickens me how many commenters are on the OP’s side here. This “me, me, me” attitude is precisely what put the economy in the shitter in the first place.

    • Javin says:

      @Javin: Having re-read the post, I now see that the OP did not sign up knowing he was going to be downsized. I stand corrected, and bow my head. I accept my flames.

      • Andon says:

        @Javin: Yeah, I signed up months before I was downsized and actually needed the protection. I was making payments on my credit card just fine before that.

        In the future, I would hope that you please first read the topic and comments more carefully before launching into another attack (see [] and [] .)

  16. someonewhoisjusthere says:

    What this sounds like to me is a misunderstanding. First of all its not called emergency payment protection plan, its called Payment Protection Plan. Now there is a benefit with the payment protection that is called an emergency payment that you can you use once per calender year and you would have to call in 5 business days before the bill would be due not including the day you call. However there is also a unemployment benefit with the payment protection plan as well, which you do have to be out of work for 30 days before you can activate that benefit. All of this is stated in the payment protection agreement you receive after you enroll into the payment protection plan.