Attention, credit card companies:
There is a God, and it’s not you
By Sue Maakestad
My brother in Las Vegas is dying of acute leukemia, and the credit card company I’ve
been loyal to for over a decade has just pulled the plug on his only hope.
To complicate matters, while he underwent aggressive chemotherapy for three weeks in a
hospital clean room last September, David’s wife went in for gall bladder surgery and
wasn’t given enough oxygen.
She went into a coma and died at home a few weeks later.
Chemo continued after the funeral for a full week out of every four.
In February the doctor called to say David is in remission at last – but his only shot for
survival is a bone marrow transplant.
My brother Steve and I, the only siblings, were immediately tested as donors but the lab
came back in March and said neither of us is compatible.
Next option: the national donor search database. Price: $10,000.
Steve and I decided to split the cost on credit cards, as the doctor says there are two
possible donors already waiting in the wings and this money kicks the program into gear
and finances the entire transplant and recovery.
I have two credit cards with Bank of America (my first mistake).
I called their authorization department on March 19th so they would know what was
going on and wouldn’t take it as credit card fraud (my second mistake).
The cards have sat unused for over a year and I was systematically throwing large chunks
at them every month to kill them off. My available credit stood at $8000 and $4500.
I explained my brother’s situation to the authorization department, asking to authorize
one specific charge for $5000 to one specific person in the financial department at UCLA
Medical Center who would call and charge it as a purchase within the next week.
No problem, they said, and I believed them (my last mistake).
After setting up David’s donor search account, UCLA called B of A on March 25th and
the card was declined for lack of funds.
I called and found they had summarily chopped my $12,000 line down to $3,900 and my
$10,000 line down to $5,200 – about a hundred dollars over each balance.
I picked my jaw up off the floor and spent the entire day – literally from 9 to 5 – speaking
with every possible supervisor all the way to the top.
How can they do this when they know the cards are my only recourse to save my
brother’s life, I asked.
“Sorry, ma’am,” is all I got. “Guess you’ll have to make other plans.”
“Other plans? This is not a cruise or a shopping spree. This is a life-or-death emergency
in the strictest sense. You may as well put a gun to my brother’s head and pull the
“Sorry, ma’am. I understand how you feel.”
“You do? Your brother is dying and someone has pulled the rug out from under you, too?
You can’t possibly know how I feel.”
“Sorry, ma’am. This is a credit decision.”
“How is this a credit decision? When have I ever been a credit risk to you? Have I ever
not paid my bill? Have I ever not paid extra on my bill?”
I was astounded. How can these folks destroy good customers without provocation?
The following week I received two perfunctory business letters from B of A stating that
reductions were done periodically based on an assessment of “account history, economic
trends and credit report,” as if the cuts had been made in some random fashion.
The letter was dated March 19th, the day I called the authorization department.
In point of fact, I have never had credit lines cut and have never received such a letter in
all my long years of doing business with these people.
I went down to my credit union the following day to see if they would extend our existing
line of credit by the needed $5,000.
After working on our documentation for two days, the loan officer called to say it was
“If you’d come two weeks ago we could have done this,” she said. “But by cutting your
available credit down so close, they’ve destroyed your debt-to-income ratio. They’ve
taken away $13,000 of your available credit. That makes a huge impact.”
Thankfully my children loaned me the money so the donor search can begin – but
without these resources it will take quite a while to pay them back.
At long last, laws are being enacted in an attempt to regulate credit card companies.
Better late than never.
But many more must follow to keep these companies from lashing out at the loyal
customers whose only sin was to shell out untold bucks to keep them in business.
These folks have outgrown several sets of britches.
Now it’s high time they grew a heart.