Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My evil credit card story

One thing which has stood out at me when reading the first few juz of the Qur'an is the very strong language about dealing in riba--it's haram, undoubtedly. And credit cards? Dealing in riba. Alhamdulillah, I've had some trouble recently with my credit card, which has helped me to take at least one step away from haraam, even if I'm not totally away from it.

Let me just mention this one passage:

O you who have believed, fear Allah and give up what remains [due to you] of interest, if you should be believers. nd if you do not, then be informed of a war [against you] from Allah and His Messenger. But if you repent, you may have your principal - [thus] you do no wrong, nor are you wronged. 2:278-279
So if you choose to deal with interest, then Allah tells you that you'll be going to war with Allah and His Messenger. Imagine standing in front of Allah holding a sword like you're going to fight... the thought is terrifying. So there's plenty of reason to take the prohibition on riba very seriously.

Now, on to my own credit card woes. About a month ago, I had stopped at a gas station and because I was in something of a hurry I wanted to use my credit card. I would sometimes use it to pay for gas instead of waiting in line to pay cash--I didn't have a debit card, you see. So I swiped the card, and found that it was declined. I tried again, and it's declined. So I had to go inside anyway, and of course inside it was declined again so I paid with cash and proceeded to fuel the car.

Once I was done, I immediately called the credit card company to find out why my card had been declined. And they wouldn't tell me. Apparently there was some kind of password on my account--I don't remember ever putting a password on the account, nor did I have any clue what it was (I even guessed several times and couldn't work it out.) And without my password, they refused to tell me anything about my account--including why my card was declined!

What they told me I needed to do, in order to even find out why my card was declined, was send them a fax to remove the password. I was given a fax number and told to send them a copy of my driver's license and to also include my social security number in the fax, along with the request to have the password removed. So I promptly sent the fax, that very evening.

The next day or so, I received a phone call from the credit card company. So I assumed they had received the fax and were now prepared to explain why my card was declined. In fact, they were actually calling to verify some charges on the account that seemed strange--charges that turned out to be fraudulent. So I was told that my credit card number would be changed and I should receive the new card in 7-10 days. That alone would a minor inconvenience, but was prepared to wait. It's not like I use the card on a regular basis, so I didn't think it would be much of a problem.

But after 10 business days (which actually amounted to more than 2 full weeks, including a holiday) I still hadn't received the card. So I called them again, and they wouldn't talk to me without--get this--my password! And that in fact was the reason my card had not even been sent--no password! Even though there was no mention of a password when I was called about the fraudulent charges. So I explained that I sent in a fax in order to have my password removed, only to discover that I can't have my password removed by sending a fax at all, I need to mail a letter!

So I took the address while they told me that I can mail it in or, if I remember my password, then I can call them and they will have the card shipped to me overnight. So I tried to remember my password, called in a few times and guessed, always wrong--still can't remember putting a password on the account, much less what such password would actually be. So I did finally send in a letter.

By then, life started to get inconvenient. I was planning to travel to DC for an Al-Maghrib seminar. Registering late, I would have to pay by check on site (very inconvenient), or by credit card. (Why do they not have a PayPal option, I wonder?) But check was an option, even though I still had to hope they wouldn't sell out. On the other hand, if I wanted to stay in a hotel, I would need a credit card at check-in. But I didn't have one. So I tried to apply to be hosted by the Qabeelah (alhamdulillah some sisters stepped forward to let me stay with them, may Allah reward them and all the folks involved for their hospitality), and by Friday afternoon finally got word that I'd have a place to stay.

On Thursday night before leaving, I called the credit card company again to see if they'd ever received my letter. I had more problems talking to people who wanted my password, but finally got to a supervisor of sorts who was able to find that yes, they did receive the letter! That's what he told me. But they hadn't "validated" it yet, whatever that means, but as soon as they did, they'd have the card sent out.

So I left the next day to travel for the class, and when I came back I realized I still haven't gotten that new credit card. So on Tuesday I called again, and they told me that they never received my letter. That's when I really started getting frustrated, because I had been told already, the Thursday prior, that they had in fact received my letter. She could only see that they had received my fax, almost a month ago! So she thought that when they told me they'd received my letter, it was the fax that they meant, and I was ready to mail in several more irritated letters. And she told me it would take 5-7 days for them to process the letter even after they got it.

So I took a break for a while, and then tackled them again, trying to go as far up the chain as possible. I would talk to one person who would transfer me somewhere else, then they'd give me their supervisor who would have trouble with their phone so I'd try to call back and nobody could direct me back to them. So they would transfer me around again and then I would just get cut off--the line completely disconnected.

Finally I got to talk to one person who said they had received the letter and that they would be sending the card asap. But I couldn't confirm it (bad connection again) and ended up calling back in, and yet again was just given the run-around. Finally I get back up to someone who can help, but who is incredibly rude and unhelpful.

All to just get a credit card sent. Now, they say that they sent it, and it should arrive in 2-3 days (because overnight to them means 2-3 days, or so I was told.) After spending hours on the phone with them, I was frustrated and irritated, especially with the people who were rude--the one lady wouldn't even let me speak to her supervisor, she didn't want to give me her name and didn't give me her number so I could even tell anyone the trouble I was having with her.

Today I checked and was finally able to log back into the account on line to view my statements and such (I don't get paper statements in the mail anymore, but while the account was restricted they wouldn't let me access anything online.) And you know what I saw, still there? One of the fraudulent charges that was never removed.

It really makes me wonder, why I would go through all this, just to stand in front of Allah with a little sword to go to war. It's so not worth it! The crime then is that I can't even just cancel it--because apparently there are times when only a credit card will be acceptable. And I hate that. But the whole fiasco did give me the impetus to apply for a debit card with my bank (I did have an ATM card for my checking account but not a debit card.) So hopefully one day soon I can do away with it altogether.

Alhamdulillah for everything. So much trouble, but still an excellent reminder for me that I shouldn't have a credit card in the first place. (MM on Credit Cards.)


Anonymous said...

I have had similar problems...I use my debit card makes me uncomfortable to use money directly from my account in some instances, but alhamdulillah, sometimes it's the only option. I took my credit card woes as a sign from Allah(SWT) that I shouldn't even be dealing with credit cards at all, a thief is a thief is a thief. :-)

Sadiyah said...

Subhanallah! I would've lost all patience at the first minute lol

Love your blog though, i'm gona add it to my blogroll when i get time inshallah

Amy said...

Haajar, I think you're right. The troubles I've had seemed to be a sign that I shouldn't be using it at all.

Thanks for the comment Sadiyah, and thanks for stopping by!

Hajar said...

Assalamualaikum sis. Your experience sounds terrible! I don't have a credit card for several reasons and I'm really glad I don't have one. :)

Anonymous said...

Um, if you're having problems of this nature, I would suggest choosing a bank with a branch within easy travel distrance of your home. All of this stuff with letters generally runs a lot more smoothly in person.

Second, I must say it seems as though your issue is not with interest on the credit card, but rather the incompetence of your bank's identity management and validation.

mom said...

I agree completely with anonymous. Your problems have nothing at all to do with credut cards. I have a credit card which I use for almost all of my financial transactions including automatic payment of bills. It makes things much more convenient,and I have NEVER paid interest once in 2o years.

What happens if someone fraudulently uses your debit card? Your account would be emptied quickly and I wonder what safety net is there for you in that case?

Amy said...

To the anonymous commenter and "mom:"

As a Muslim, I believe that dealing in interest has been prohibited by God. The problems I'm facing with the credit card might seem on the surface to have nothing to do with interest, but in my mind the entire situation is like playing with fire.

And when you play with fire, you get burned. I don't know if either of you are Muslim, but this is my worldview--and when I find that my Lord is making something that's forbidden difficult to do, then I feel even worse to persist in doing it.

I pray that He makes the lawful easy to do, and the unlawful difficult to do, and to help me stay firm on the straight path.

mezba said...

I think this is more of a stupid credit card company than the credit card system itself.

Having said that, the high interest rates they are allowed to charge in Canada is positively criminal!

The Gori Wife said...

If you pay your balance every month you can successfully use the card without having to deal with interest - it's not a credit card then, really - it's a "charge card." And another commenter is right that it's almost a necessity because you'd rather have fradulent charges on a card where they can be taken off without affecting you rather than having them actually DRAINING your bank account. Believe me, it's happened to me - getting something taken off a credit card is MUCH easier than getting a bank to actually refund your money once it's gone.

And I don't buy the argument (not that anyone's made it yet) that we shouldn't have charge cards just because these same institutions charge OTHER people interest. By that logic we couldn't use ANY banks or shop in any grocery store b/c they sell alcohol.

kash1f said...

Asalam o ALaikum wr wb,

Masha'ALLAH very nice blog and lesson for those like me who use credit card. I would encourage you all to visit this site for breath taking speeches , articles and other stuff by a very well known ALLAH wala. Though its in urdu, i don't know most of you could read or understand it.

Jazak'ALLAH Khair for read.

Shawna said...

SubhanAllah! What a series of unfortunate events. But Alhumdulillah you are taking something good out of it. Credit cards almost ended my marriage--I was living off student loans and my husband was also living off my loans after we had our nikah. We had a joint credit card. He ran up more than 1000 after spending my loan money. Alhumdulillah his parents paid it off for us (may Allah reward them). Anyway, it took another 1000 for him to cut up credit cards and turn finances over to me. Then three years and I turned finances over to him. Then more credit card debt and finally we only use our credit cards for medical bills or emergencies which Alhumdulillah we haven't had so far. This is a bit convoluted, but the point is that the freedom to spend that comes with a credit card was too much for us (at 18-21 years of age) and we almost lost the beautiful relationship Allah blessed us with. Now we only use it when the financial system we're in forces us to. Otherwise we live on a budget and even pay for groceries with cash only at this point. is useful if you need to set up a budget for your household btw.

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