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Card … short for Cardbored

I’ve been finding it increasingly frustrating on my travels, thanks to one of my credit card companies.

My travelling depends on two credit cards: a bank issued corporate MasterCard and American Express. The reason I carry these two is that the MasterCard works across Europe, where quite a few countries do not accept American Express; meanwhile, my American Express card has no limits (within reason), whereas my MasterCard has a limit above which payments are rejected.

All well and good, so far, and my happiness level is high with both most of the time. They both recognise that I ceaselessly travel and rarely reject an overseas payment. They operate globally for paying except on rare occasions, as in China where cards are not accepted in general as the nation has moved to mobile payments.

So why am I frustrated?

Well, my MasterCard annoys me a lot. It’s a bank issued corporate card that, as mentioned, has a credit limit. It’s quite a high limit, but I’m finding it easy to hit. I’ve called the bank several times to raise the limit, which they have, but because of these frustrations I use the card less and less. Nevertheless, I have to use it. For example, I recently relocated to Warsaw, Poland. Most Polish retailers do not accept American Express, and so I’ve been forced to use MasterCard all the time and often hit that limit.

It’s fairly stupid the bank doesn’t double or remove the credit limit – they know I’m good for the money – but it’s the way their old processes work. There has to be a limit.

And this is where my frustration lies: they have creaking old systems that act like a straitjacket for the customer. Here’s three real reasons why it’s annoying.

One, I recently could not find the card. It’s worrying if you’ve mislaid a card, and so I called the bank and asked them to reissue the card. After a lengthy ten-minute conversation that, as usual, included my having to remember transactions from two months ago, my inside leg measurement and blood type, they agreed it was me and reissued the card. It took five days for the card to reach me and, as mentioned, a ten-minute phone call but, new card in hand, I’m good to go.

Two, the bank then caught what they thought was a fraudulent transaction on my new card. It wasn’t a fraudulent transaction, it was me. They just thought it was a fraudulent transaction, so they blocked the use of my card.

Three, I called the bank and asked them to unblock the card as there had been no fraudulent transaction. The (overseas) call centre operator said that the card was unblocked, and issue resolved. However, the next day, I had a business lunch with a client and the waiter came to take the payment and the card was rejected. Twice. This was in Poland, so I could not pay with my other card (American Express). Major embarrassment.

I called the bank and it turns out the call centre guy had not removed the block on the card the day before. Another ten-minutes wasted in an expensive call and the block has finally been removed.

However, for all of these actions – the credit limit, the time to get a new card, the arbitrary blocking of the card, the poor customer service and the time overhead involved in regularly having to call the bank to debate credit limits and remove blocks – I’ve given up on that bank issued card and moved to a challenger bank card.

The challenger bank card has one simple idea in the app: a user block. The user block allows me to choose when and why to block the card usage. Lost the card in the house somewhere? Block the card until you find it again, and then simply unblock. No card reissue, which saves the bank money, and no worry for me if I’ve temporarily lost the card.

A fraudulent transaction suspected? The app tells me and asks: was that you? It also tells me every time the card is used, with alerts if I want them. Great.

And unblocking the card if the bank has blocked it is also all in-app. No lengthy telephone calls required, wasting my time and causing me frustration.

The only real difference between the challenger bank card and my old bank issued card, is thinking about the user experience and having modern systems developed that can handle simple changes. The focus upon the user experience is the frustrations I outlined in the three annoyances above; the modern systems developed means that they can provide me with alerts and simple block and unblock functionality, which the old bank card system cannot.

Is it any wonder that challenger banks see great opportunity in targeting the fuddy-duddy old legacy bank approach?

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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