NY DMV Doesn't Believe I Already Paid Fee, Wants More Money

New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t believe that Danjalier already paid the fees to have his driver’s license un-suspended. Never mind that he used a credit card, the charge from the DMV posted to his credit card, and the credit card company (American Express) tried to convince the DMV that yes, Danjalier had in fact already paid them.

Some back story: Due to events that occurred a few weeks ago, I had to suffer a visit to the [redacted], NY DMV to have my license unsuspended and to apply for a Restricted Use License. I charged the $50 suspended license revocation fee and another $37.50 for the restricted use license to my American Express Card. I received a receipt for this transaction totaling $87.50 at the DMV, as well as an interim restricted use license. A week later I received a proper license.

Today, October 27th, I receive a PAYMENT DUE NOTICE letter from the NYS DMV which claims “Due to a system problem, your credit card was not debited and DMV did not receive payment of the required fee(s). Therefore, the payment receipt that you were given is invalid as proof of payment. Although the problem was not caused by your credit card or your credit card company, you may wish to verify with your credit card company that your account was not charged for the DMV transaction(s).”

I promptly checked my credit card statement online and found that my account had indeed been charged 87.50 on the date I visited by “New York State DMV 167”.

The letter informs me that payment is still due and to avoid further action by the DMV I must pay within 15 days. Not only that, but I cannot bring payment to any local DMV offices due to the nature of the system problem. It must be payed via check or money order to the DMV’s central office in Albany NY. Seeing the option to pay by credit card over the phone, I called the provided number only to hear: “Due to reasons beyond our control, we are unable to receive your call at this time. Please try again later. Thank you.”

At this point I called card services for American Express. I spoke with a customer service representative whose name I unfortunately cannot recall. She told me that I had indeed been charged and the DMV did receive payment. She attempted for at least 25 minutes to convince the DMV that I had paid them, keeping me abreast of the situation the whole way through. I explained to her that not only did I have my receipt, but a valid NYS restricted use driver’s license as well. This didn’t seem to mean anything to the DMV, who continued to claim that I still owed them payment. She also called the number I had called and received the same automated message. Finally she suggested that we simply dispute the charge and then re-charge my card the amount. I made sure to question whether any extra fees would be levied against me and she told me none would be charged whatsoever.

At this point I was transferred to a dispute department representative named [D.] He explained to me the process of disputing the charge and with my permission would go about doing such. I said yes and was placed on hold.

After 5 more minutes [D.] came back and told me AMEX can do nothing for me. Because I had received a valid NYS driver’s license, the merchant (NY DMV) had provided the service I payed for. I am told that my next course of action is to explain to the NYS DMV that their payment processor is in error.

I feel as though 2 Titans have clashed in epic battle, and the one on my side pretty much told me to handle it myself and bailed. Considering AMEX told me that the DMV says it never received my $87.50, I can pretty much expect another PAYMENT DUE NOTICE letter to arrive shortly for the remaining $37.50. Logically speaking, if I have in my possession a receipt for $87.50 from the DMV, as well as a new New York State Driver’s License, how can the DMV not have received payment? Why would they simply hand me a state issued legally valid form of identification? And yes, I can already see the sordid juxtaposition of “Logic” with “DMV” and the onslaught of jokes to come.

Aside from sending the DMV a copy of my license and my receipt and my credit card statement, and telling them that they should consider changing payment processors, what can I do? AMEX basically told them this already and they didn’t budge. I’m also afraid that the DMV will simply tell me “We had a system error and can’t prove you exist.”

You know things are bad when the credit card company comes out looking almost heroic. Forgive the civil servants at the DMV; like employees of many governments, they’re short-handed and fearful of layoffs. (Full disclosure: I write about government workers for another publication.)

Sending photocopies of the receipt, credit card statement, and license is a good place to start. Even a bureaucrat should acknowledge the validity of a receipt from their own agency. We hope.