I’ve been called many things in my life, but “inactive” is not one of them. I’m physically active (I’ve raced Ironman), I’m sexually active (I don’t kiss and tell), and I’m proactive (I get things done). So when Scotiabank charged my No-Fee Scotia Momentum Visa a $10 “inactive fee” this month, I nearly fell off my reactive butt.
What the heck is an “inactive fee”, and how did I attract such idiocy into my wallet? I skulked around the interwebs for a possible answer, ’cause the interwebs are comprised of cranky credit card customers, right?
Turns out I’m not the only lackadaisical shopper stooped by inactivity and charged with inane Visa fees. But since most people are plastic happy and find comfort in credit, locating others with my inactivity problem required some serious Back to the Future ninja $hit — I had to return to the year 2006 without a DeLorean. That’s the year the internet was called “Web 2.0″ and Britney was still married to K-Fed. Anyways.
Use this simple script to cut your credit card interest rate today.
The Red Flag Deals Forum — a vocal group of fiscal frugalists — had 2006 experience with no-fee Visas and $10 inactivity fees. Some thought the idle fee was automagically billed if you failed to shop while carrying a credit balance for a year — which means the plastic bastards owe YOU money. Others thought the fee was just plain stupid.
I thunk both. Turns out Scotiabank Visa has owed me the princely sum of 33 cents for nearly 12 months. I should charge those jerks interest — maybe then I could afford that DeLorean.
Now, being who I am (a curious blogger thing) with a love for most things Michael J. Fox (Teen Wolf sucked), I decided to DO something, and sitting idle with inactivity wasn’t one of them. So I called Visa (while wearing my purple Calvin Klein underwear).
This is how the call went down:
Visa: Please choose your own adventure by punching a bunch of dumb menu options. Enter your credit card digits, say your name, give us your birth date, tell us your Mother’s maiden name, give us those three numbers on the back of your card, enter your bra size, and verify the age you lost your virginity. Perfect, now listen to Muzak…
Me: Thinking … I wanna eat my phone … 8 minutes later … RIIIIINNNG!
Visa: Hello, please verify your card number and the digits on the back.
Me: I already entered that stuff, and I don’t want to revisit the whole virginity thing again.
Visa: You just need to verify, Ma’am.
Me: I’d rather verify my $10 inactive fee, and clarify that we can do something more awesome with that money, like reverse the charge! Is it ’cause Visa owes me 33 cents?
Visa: The $10 inactive fee is charged to all cardholders who have not used their no-fee credit card for 12 consecutive months. Nothing to do with the 33 cents. Many credit cards charge this fee, Ma’am.
Me: So I’m being punished for not shopping enough? AND you jerks owe me money!
Visa: Laughter. I guess so. But I can credit your account if you buy something small, something worth $10.
Me: So, I have to spend $10 before Visa will let me have my ten bucks back? This is a financial hostage situation. I don’t like the math.
Visa: I’ll monitor your account for the fee reversal. Have a nice day.
My inactive Visa situation is not unusual — many credit card companies will punish you for taking a year off shopping. Buy nothing for 12 months and get slapped with a cool $10 to $25 inactive fee. The power is in being familiar with your cardholder agreement, and keeping up with the ever changing world of credit card fees.
Sleuthing your credit card fees
I don’t love reading cardholder agreements either — the text is small and the language is painfully unfun. But do try. There are other places you can sleuth to see the fee-hungry damage various financial institutions can inpart on your plastic, though.
Canadians can start with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s Credit Service Fees Comparison Table. Give this page a scan, find your credit card, read the footnotes, and get in the know.
Americans have the Federal Reserve’s Credit Card Consumer Guide to get a plastic education. Go read it, now.
Next, take a peek at your bank’s website. Most financial institutions have a credit card section where they list ‘fees at a glace’. If you don’t like what you see, switch cards.
This nutty $2 recipe could save you thousands in credit card interest.
What did I buy for $10?
When a bank holds my money hostage because I don’t shop enough, I get a little hostile. I then get creative.
Since the cash was basically a wash, I decided to clean my hands of the insanity by spending the $10 on something that makes me happy. So I walked into my grocery store and bought a bunch of non-perishable food items. I then donated the lot to a local food bank. I figured, while many banks can be bunch of a$$holes, other banks are pretty darn good.
I’ll be cancelling this credit card once the fee is reversed.
Until then, maybe someone could donate a DeLorean to us? I have an active imagination, and cruising past Scotiabank in a cool car with one less inactive credit card could be fun. We could flip them our doors. I’ll wear my purple panties. Promise.
Your Turn: Got a crappy credit card fee (or story) you wanna warn us about? The more the merrier.
If you enjoyed this article and would like more, enter your email address in the box below. Articles from Squawkfox.com will be sent to your email inbox for free. Your email will not be shared. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Plus, you'll get this free 92-page ebook.