Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hassles with the "no hassle" card

While we were in San Francisco, I signed up for a Capital One credit card because they don’t charge fees for foreign currency transactions. Soon after I was approved, I got a call from the fraud department at Capital One to verify my identity, Smith being a common name. During that call, I explained to the agent that we were sailing internationally. She gave me the number for the fraud department, and I gave her the date that we were leaving the US for Mexico. When the card arrived at the boat after being forwarded by our mail-forwarding service, I went through the whole song and dance again when I activated the card.

We used the card for the first time on Saturday to pay for breakfast at the Baja Cantina in Cabo San Lucas. Two hours later we tried to use it again, but it was denied. “Ah ha,” I thought, “it’s the fraud alert. I’ll call tomorrow when I have the computer ashore.” I did call and confirmed that there was a fraud hold on the card, but – and this is a big one – the people I was talking with couldn’t clear it. I’d have to call back on Monday. I was pretty annoyed, but what could I do? I called back on Monday. Then I learned that it was a holiday (Veteran’s Day, but the call center operator didn’t even know what holiday), and I’d have to call back tomorrow. We were planning to leave Cabo Monday afternoon, so I figured I’d deal with it when we got to Mazatlan.

Since we stayed in Cabo one more night after all, I’m trying to clear the account today. We’re at anchor and have good enough wi-fi that I’ve been able to get through to the IVR tree seven times. Four of those times, however, my call was dropped while I was on hold for longer than three minutes before talking with any agent. Three times it was dropped while I held for an equally long time as the initial agent tried to transfer me to someone who could correct my problem. We’re hoping that the dropped calls are because we’re swinging on the anchor and not some automatic feature of Skype that ends calls on terminal hold. I’ll be taking a panga to shore to test that theory in a couple of hours since we’ve already loaded the dinghy back on the boat.

Later… My Skype theory was correct. Once I was on land with a good Internet connection, I was able to hold the line through 30+ minutes of holding and transferring to get the no-hassle card straightened out. It took about 45 minutes altogether, but we were able to buy fuel and water on the card 15 minutes later and saved the cost of the panga ride in exchange fees.

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