Q: Last week my stove went out and I needed a repair. I called Sears and they requested my credit card number prior to accepting the service call. I refused. I called a second local company, and they also requested a credit card number, which I also refused. I found an excellent service company in Fairview Park, and the gentleman did the repair work to my satisfaction.
Is this now the new “norm” for securing a repair service?
D.G., North Olmsted
A: I have honestly never heard of this before. I also poked around a bit on consumer forums and couldn’t find questions or complaints about this. So I’d say, no, it’s not the norm.
Regardless, even if something were “normal,” that doesn’t mean you have to do it. It’s normal for banks and other companies to ask for your mother’s maiden name. But I never give mine. It’s normal for some stores at the mall to ask for your phone number when you’re checking out. But I never give mine.
A credit card to even schedule a service call? That’s outrageous. I wouldn’t do it and I wouldn’t advise anyone to do it.
Oh so many reasons: There are things you may pay for in advance but a service call isn’t one of them. You risk your card number being compromised. You risk being charged and then not getting the service call. You risk being overcharged and having a trouble disputing it, since you wouldn’t be able to review the charges before signing off.
And then there’s the whole Sears thing. If I were going to give a card number to any company in advance of work, Sears would be way down the list. I like Sears. I’ve bought many appliances from Sears. But Sears is in financial trouble and has been closing stores left and right and many analysts believe the iconic retailer could declare bankruptcy this year. What happens if Sears pre-charges you for a service call and then declares bankruptcy before the repair person comes out? That’s going to be a headache.
I could possibly understand a repair company asking for payment for the service call itself — say $50 or whatever — when the repair person arrives at your home. And then the person could charge at the end for any parts or additional time spent on the repair.Can you imagine calling your mechanic and the garage asking for your credit card number before making the appointment? Can you imagine calling your hairdresser for a haircut and having the shop ask for your credit card number before scheduling your visit? Puh-leeze.
Sears spokesman Larry Costello said the policy of asking customers for a credit card upfront is “new” and “optional.” I buy the first. You said it wasn’t optional if you wanted the appointment.
Customers are asked whether they’d like to provide a card number and, if they do, “nothing is charged to the member’s credit card until service is completed,” Costello said. Providing a card up front can save time and doesn’t require giving the card information to the technician, he said. If a customer doesn’t want to provide a card number up front, she can pay by check when the service call is over.
I can imagine Sears’ side of the call as it layers on all of the reasons a rep gives about why a customer would be messing up by not providing the card number up front. You should never feel pressured to do something that you don’t feel comfortable doing. Always take a breath. Say no. Say wait. Talk to others.
Q: I have had a credit card with Capital One for 18 years. I have excellent credit. They recently notified me my credit limit was being reduced from $18,000 to $10,000. I sometimes use my card but never carry a large balance or transfer any balances. It is usually paid in full by the next month or within a few months. I have never been late. Capital One said the reason for cutting my line: “Current account(s) not used enough for assigned credit limit(s) and balances on non-Capital One revolving trades are too low.”
The way I take it, I am not making enough money for them. I am concerned about this hurting my credit score and what if I needed a bigger limit in the future.
I contacted Capital One and talked to an account supervisor. She told me she could not help and gave me an address to appeal in writing. It is the same address that would be used for a purchase dispute. I am so angry. Would you advise getting a different card?
V.L., Highland Heights
A: Banks don’t have an endless well of credit they can make available. You’re correct that you’re not making enough money for Capital One through merchant transaction fees and possibly interest/ finance charges. It’s a good business practice for Capital One that, if you’re not using much of your $18,000 limit, for the bank to make that available to someone who will. It’s nothing personal against you.
I’m not sure whether your anger stems from your perception that Capital One is being nasty to you (it’s not) or whether you’re concerned your credit score may go down (it might a little, but not a lot) or whether you think you might need a good chunk of that $18,000 someday.
If it’s the last scenario, you may want to get an another card in addition to the Capital One card. Otherwise, my advice is move on.