Then I examined the rest of the bill. The minimum payment that month was $18. But I was looking for something else: a credit adjustment. I spotted a credit adjustment of $27.32 (larger than that month's minimum payment) and picked up the phone to call Discover. They immediately agreed to refund the late $39 fee.
You only get fee refunds on your credit card bill if you are watching it closely yourself. The credit card company will never call to say "Oh, I think this fee that we've charged you is sorta superfluous. Maybe we'll just give it back to you." It's simply not in their nature. At the same time, I also saw some smaller charges: (2) for $2.77 and (1) $2.64 from GTC Telecommunications. GTC is a long distance company that provides service at .05 cents per minute, which used to be a great price for long distance phone services, but now is sort of "so-so." Since I disconnected the "land line" phone at my Los Angeles apartment in December, it seems inappropriate that I still pay charges beyond January.
I also asked Discover to dispute those charges. They said they would be happy to send me the forms.
I've "disputed" items before. If you haven't, please consider doing it. Credit card companies are required to allow you to dispute the services for things such as low quality, broken, or otherwise returned merchandise, things not ordered or received, and services not rendered. You contact the credit card company, request the dispute, and they will ask you "did you try to work this out with the merchant/vendor?" Ultimately, they will send you the dispute forms and they ask you to fill them out, sign the affidavit and return it within about a two week period. I did have one credit card company several years back try to tell me that they couldn't refund the money because the merchant had already been paid. I contacted some friends in the public affairs office at the FTC for clarification, and then called the credit card company back. The money was refunded. Fortunately, most credit card companies don't try that bluff with consumers anymore. But if they do, federal law states you have 60 days from receipt of the credit card statement to file a dispute. Some days, you may need more protection than that. I recently ordered a product. On arrival, the items were so poorly made that I felt cheated. I looked in the box, but there was no return form. I checked the website. No return form. I called the company and got a simple answer: they don't accept returns. I said "Some of your product is broken, but even so, none of it is acceptable. I am returning it."
They said they would send more product to replace the broken items, but they "do not ever accept returns and that they would not ever.... " (They were still yelling when I hung up.)
The fact is that they do accept returns, whether they want to admit it or not. You have the right to return merchandise that is not as shown or as ordered. You just put it in the mail and return it. You are well-advised to get both insurance and require a signature on the delivery, but that's easy enough.
Here's where the whole thing took a twist: when I contacted the credit card company to dispute this charge, they said "Ms. Johnson, you may want to close this account and re-open another one. Otherwise, this company will just re-bill you for the full amount next month. And the month after that. And the month after that." (The customer service person said the merchant had a history with them.) Result: that credit card number is gone.
The rule is: change the credit card account number when necessary to avoid being taken advantage of by unscrupulous merchants. And try not to deal with unscrupulous merchants ever again.
Credit card companies have a reputation for being difficult to deal with. But if you know what the laws state and take the time to review your statements carefully, you can have successful dealings with them.
Because as someone once told me, "Nobody takes care of baby like Mama herself." Go ahead and baby your credit. It may pay off for you, too.