I'm calling to close my account

Over the years I picked up a great many credit cards, far more than a fiscally prudent person needs.

I found all these cards very useful, however, because I could minimize finance charges on a large credit card debt (OK, I wasn't always fiscally prudent) by taking advantage of low-interest balance-transfer opportunities. You know, "Save lots of money by transferring your high interest-rate balances to our card at just x.9%*." Naturally the * is always very important, because it is only by reading the fine print that you find you that this wonderful rate will expire in just a couple of months and thereafter the normal usurious interest will apply.

I became quite adept at the balance-transfer game, shuffling debt from card to card, staving off financial crisis. Over time, however, I managed to pay off the debts and closed many of the accounts.

Which brings us to yesterday, when I decided to close the last two unnecessary accounts.

AT&T Universal Card

I had had this card since the very beginning. In fact, my card was imprinted "Charter Member." It was the last card to be paid because the last balance-transfer offer I used carried a very low rate with no expiration — good until the debt was paid.

Cancelling this card was routine.

I'm calling to cancel my account.

Do you mind telling me why you want to cancel? Is there some problem with the card?

No, there's no problem. I just have too many credit cards and I'm simplifying my financial life.

Is there anything I can do to change your mind?

No, I'm not calling to negotiate, I just want to cancel.

I'm sorry to hear it. But I would like to thank you for your business.

MBNA

This card was part of the online banking package I had gotten from Comerica Bank. The card was their way of providing overdraft protection. Although the card was branded Comerica, it was provided by MBNA.

Since I had also closed my Comerica bank account (more simplification — I kept only my account at the credit union), this card was now also redundant.

What initially got me steamed was the automated phone system. Normally when you call one of those systems, the final choice on the menu is "Speak to a customer service representative." But no such choice on MBNA's menu. Or so it seemed! Following a rather lengthy silence after the menu was apparently completed, however, more choices were offered. After that menu was apparently finished, a long silence was followed by another menu of more choices. This went on four times before I was finally given the choice to speak to someone. Lest anyone think I could have just pressed 0 and short-circuited these menus, 0 was "an incorrect key" until the final menu.

So, I'm already in a foul mood when I finally connect with a real person. Who, of course, must transfer me to "an account representative" to cancel the card.

Hello, Mr Williamson. How can I help you with your Comerica Platinum card today? Now this much is good. They've got a system that transfers the customer information with the phone call so you don't have to go through the litany of account number, address, mother's maiden name, shoe size, etc. ("for verification purposes").

I'm calling to cancel my account.

I can see that you've been with us since 1988, and I'd be happy to discuss your account with you....

I'm calling to cancel my account.

Why do you want to cancel the account?

Too many cards, simplifying, ....

Are you keeping any of your cards?

Yes, but not this one.

What is it about the ones you are keeping that made you decide to keep those?

Look, I've already made up my mind. I just want to cancel this account.

Let's talk about some of the options that are available to you.

I've already said three times that I am calling to cancel this account.

We could offer you ....

[interrupting] If there had been any chance that I might have wanted to keep this card, two things have absolutely convinced me not to. First, there's the phone tree from hell that made me go through four levels of menus before getting the option to speak to a representative. Second, your insistence on trying to negotiate when I've several times flat-out said I'm not calling to negotiate, I just want to cancel the card!

[silence, then] I've closed your account as of today. Make sure to cut up your card and any checks you may have.

Now both of these representatives did what they should do. They tried to uncover any problem that might be behind my request so they could try to fix it. They both have clearly been indoctrinated about keeping customers versus trying to get new customers. But this second guy just went completely over the line by failing to listen and believe what his customer, me, was saying. As usual, the law of unintended consequences applies, and I became more determined and irritated, not less. Finally, he didn't even have the grace to thank me for my patronage.

The lesson

There is a lesson in all this. The easiest way to get your credit card rate lowered or your annual fee waived is to simply call and say you want to cancel. Every single card that I've ever cancelled has always been ready to sweeten the terms if I'll just not cancel. And I've found that none of them has ever had an answer to "If I'm such a good customer that you didn't want to lose, why didn't you offer these terms before instead of waiting until now when I've decided to cancel?"