Friday, April 20, 2012

Fun With Call Centers: Chase Reconsideration Line And British Airways Hell

I have spent a considerable amount of time on the phone these past two days speaking to credit analysts and customer service representatives, so I thought I'd share my stories in case anyone else runs into the same situation.

Earlier in the week, Chase sent out a warning that all affiliate links for their Ink Bold business card with the old sign-up bonus offer would have to be pulled by Wednesday morning at 10:00 am EDT. This is the same bonus I have linked to my blog currently: 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 within 3 months. While my link (non-affiliate) still seems to be working, the new offer on the official Ink Bold website now advertises 25,000 bonus points after your first purchase, and the final 25,000 bonus points only after spending a whopping $10,000 within 3 months!

Since I've never owned an Ink Bold card before, I decided to jump on the gravy train and apply before the old offer is completely pulled. I had also planned to apply for the new United MileagePlus Explorer card for some time now, so I pulled the trigger on that one as well. As expected, I didn't get instant approvals for either of them (you should see the stack of old Chase cards I've owned). But no worries, many folks have shared their experience of calling the awesome Chase reconsideration line and gotten previous denials turned into approvals. I was determined to have the same outcome no matter what.

First, I called up the Chase personal credit analyst line (1-888-245-0625) and got a friendly female agent. I asked what the status of the United MileagePlus Explorer card was and she said unfortunately, it had been denied due to multiple applications. I explained to her my situation, saying that I had applied for the Ink Bold card at the same time, and also listed off the reasons why I actually needed the MileagePlus Explorer card. I told her my company has a partnership with United Airlines for all of our work travel, and that I would be putting the charges onto this card. She told me to hold for a minute, then came back and said that she could approve this card, but that I would have to close down one of my other Chase accounts first - my Priority Club Visa in this case. I debated for a minute and told her to go ahead and cancel that account and approve the United MileagePlus Explorer card.

This is where I realize I had made a mistake in the previous way I handled all of my Chase accounts. Every time I was approved for a new card, I would lower the credit limit to the minimum allowable. I did this because 1) I wanted to save more credit "space" in the future for more accounts and 2) I just didn't see a need for such large credit limits. Well, I realize now that a higher credit limit probably could have saved me from closing my Priority Club Visa account in this situation. She probably would have allowed me to just shift some of the credit line over to my new United MileagePlus Explorer card, but since the credit line for my Priority Club Visa (and all my other existing accounts) was already at the minimum, she was unable to do that. Oh well, live and learn.

Happy with the outcome with my United MileagePlus Explorer card, I proceeded to call the Chase business credit analyst line (1-800-453-9719) to ask about my Ink Bold application. I got a very gruff-sounding gentleman on the phone who was definitely no-nonsense. He said the application was still in process, but he could go ahead and take a look at it right now. After holding for a few minutes, he came back on the line and began asking a series of detailed questions regarding my business. Now, granted, you don't have to have a real business per se with high income and employees, but it's always to good to prepare yourself during these calls so you can answer their questions without hesitation. I told him what my business does, how long it's been active, how much expected income I'd have within the next 12 months (with how much of that being profit), expenditures, etc. Finally, after the quick grilling, he came back and said he'd gone ahead and approved my application!

The moral of the story is, never, ever just give up if you receive a denial from Chase. Always call their reconsideration line, but at the same time, be very well prepared to answer questions regarding why you need the card. Also, be ready to bargain for your credit line by moving them from existing accounts.


Next, I'll detail what happened when I called the British Airways Executive Club customer service line. First off, I have an Avios award booking on LAN to Easter Island this November. My one-way itinerary includes two legs: SFO-LIM and LIM-IPC. I have about a one-and-a-half hour layover in Lima, which is cutting it a bit close (especially given LAN's propensity for changes and delays), but I figured it should be fine.

Well, low and behold, last night, I received an email from British Airways stating that my LAN flights had a schedule change. The funny thing is they changed the time of my SFO-LIM flight so that it now arrives almost six hours after my LIM-IPC flight has already left! Needless to say, I would not be making it to Easter Island given my current itinerary.

On the email, it said to call British Airways Executive Club immediately, so that's exactly what I did. I told the gentleman my situation, who said he would have to check availability to make changes. I had already checked online first, of course, and noticed that I could move my SFO-LIM flight back by two days, enjoy a nice stopover in Lima, and then continue on to Easter Island. The British Airways website was showing the new flight as available as well.

Unfortunately, this agent could not see the new award seat. He insisted it wasn't there (not sure if the website was wrong or if he was wrong)... and then here's where it got good. He said I had two options, either wait it out to see if any award seats become available, or I could just cancel the booking. I found this slightly incredulous... so if an airline makes a seven-hour time change to a flight and renders it impossible for passengers to continue on their connecting flights, all those passengers are basically screwed? Even on award bookings, I've always had airlines accommodate me on a new flight - regardless of if an award seat was available or not - since this is really their fault, not mine.

I explained all this to the agent, but he was having none of it. He said it was not their responsibility to fix the itinerary if no other award seats are available. If anyone knows the official policy, I'd love to hear it, but his excuse just sounded completely illogical to me. Finally, I said to him, "so you're saying that because LAN changed their flight time, making it all but impossible for me to complete my itinerary, I have to cancel my entire vacation, hotel bookings, rental cars, etc?" His answer was "yep". Absurd.

I hung up and decided to call LAN directly. After a total of less than 10 minutes on the phone, the friendly agent reissued my ticket on the earlier SFO-LIM flight, allowing me to connect on the LIM-IPC flight two days later with no problem. Yet another lesson learned.

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