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3 Ways to Get Faster Credit Card Help

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By Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D.
July 1, 2011

Ever had trouble getting through to a real person when you call your card issuer?

Unfortunately, customer service voicemails are as ubiquitous as ever. However, clever consumers are finding new ways to contact credit card issuers and other companies to get the answers they need.

According to a recent Consumer Reports study, Americans’ satisfaction with customer service is as low as ever, and voicemail appears to play a big role in that frustration.

A full 71 percent of those surveyed described themselves as “tremendously annoyed” when they were unable to reach a live person over the phone, while more than half (56 percent) were equally upset by having to make numerous calls to find the right person, or just any person, to talk with.

The good news for cardholders is that credit card issuers tend to rank above average in customer service. On the internal rating system of GetHuman.com, a website offering tips for reaching customer service departments faster, card issuers rank from 3.8 (Chase) to 4.5 (Discover) on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Visa and MasterCard come in somewhat lower, both scoring 3.2 out of 5.

“Credit card issuers in our database have scored very well in terms of providing quick, effective customer service,” said Adam Goldkamp, COO of GetHuman.com in an email. “While these ratings aren’t an exact science, in general, the company scores are much better than some of the worst offenders in our database, such as the cellphone and phone companies, cable companies and some of the Internet service providers.”

Luckily, the Internet has brought more options than ever to contact card issuers’ customer service departments. So, if you’re looking for ways to bypass your card issuer’s voicemail system or are simply looking for other alternatives to communicate, here is an overview of some of the new options available.

1. Twitter
Credit card issuers are increasingly establishing a presence on social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. For several issuers, this includes establishing actual customer service teams to deal directly with customer service issues via Twitter. Cardholders who tweet gripes about their card issuer may well find that they get a tweet back from the bank’s Twitter help team.

Pros: It’s quick. A recent tweet with a question about how to pay with a credit card while traveling overseas got a satisfactory response within two hours — and this was in the wee hours of the morning in the United States.

It’s also responsive. If the customer service issue can’t get resolved via Twitter, the bank’s Twitter team will often send a direct message via Twitter asking for your contact information. This can be a good way to reach the right person to speak to without having to go through a voicemail gauntlet.

Cons: It’s not always easy to find the Twitter handle of the card issuer’s customer service department. A simple search for Bank of America, for example, gave results for BofA News, BofA Community and a girl named Angela, who had managed to grab the @BofA Twitter handle. Other teams were quite easy to find, including American Express, Citi and Discover.

For your convenience, here are the Twitter handles for the customer service teams of most of the major card issuers:
American Express: @AskAmex
Bank of America: @BofA_Help
Capital One: @AskCapitalOne
Citi: @AskCiti
Discover: @Discover
Wells Fargo: @Ask_WellsFargo

2. Email or Online Chat
Most credit card issuer websites also feature online chat options for people applying for credit cards. In addition, email is a universal venue for submitting customer service questions, and a few card issuers have started to add chat options for customer service as well.

Pros: Most issuers enable cardholders to send secure email messages within their online account center. Apart from the comfort of the added security features, this also creates an automatic record of all correspondence with the issuer. Furthermore, when you do get a response, the inquiry has been routed to the correct department, potentially saving a lot of time on the phone.

Online chat can also serve as a quick and easy way to clarify credit card terms or get other questions answered when applying for credit cards.

Cons: Email inquiries generally take quite a long time to get a response – in most cases at least 24 hours and as much as two days. If it’s a matter that has to be resolved fairly quickly, this is not your best bet.

3. GetHuman.com or DialaHuman.com
Websites like GetHuman.com or DialaHuman.com were created to help frustrated consumers looking for easier ways to reach a company’s customer support department. Both websites feature an extensive list of tips for reaching a human being directly, including phone numbers and shortcut tips for the voicemail systems of most major U.S. companies.

GetHuman.com is the most extensive of the two sites. It offers additional useful resources, such as a list of companies’ email addresses, Live Chat listings (when available) and Twitter listings. GetHuman.com also allows users to rate each business’s customer service and discuss experiences with other users.

Pros: While online chat and Twitter undeniably seem like more sexy Customer Service 2.0 options, nothing beats talking to a real person on the phone—if you can reach someone. These websites show users how to cut to the chase and get to a human as quickly as possible. Another benefit is the extensive listing of other options on GetHuman.com, including Twitter and email — plus the ability to learn from other users’ experience with the company in question.

Cons: Not all companies are featured, so if you can’t find your card issuer, you’re out of luck. But you  can always try the old tried and true trick: Press 0 at every prompt, or alternately, just keeping saying “Operator.”