ShittyBank – The Conclusion

My post two weeks ago on Shittybank received an incredible number of hits, with several thousand readers from here and abroad not only reading the post, but spending an average of 8-9 minutes on it, an eternity in the blogosphere where clicks and attention spans are measured in nanoseconds. Here is my follow-up to that Shittybank post and the earlier post on liabilities on stolen cards. I find that the subject matter is incredibly timely, given all of the recent press regarding credit card identity theft (e.g., unscrupulous waiters swiping your card and selling the info) and a recent conference on credit card fraud. I suspect, and sincerely hope, that this credit card discussion will shortly become a national issue, in the same manner that those massive godawful billboards have finally begun to come tumbling down (literally and figuratively). And that took many years after several intelligent folks started to criticize them in their columns and speeches.

If you recall, I left off in the last Shittybank post waiting for a definitive written letter of explanation/apology from the bank. I am happy to report that they did in fact have a definitive verbal answer for me within 40 hours of my writing the post and with the help of several readers who forwarded my rant to the right people at the bank. I would describe the essence of their verbal answer in the following distilled version, as voiced by an Assistant Vice President of the Quality Office and earlier conversations with Credit Card Staff:

1. On the issue of the unauthorized breach of my supplementary card credit limits…

– The bank confirms that I had requested limits of PHP20,000 for employee A and PHP30,000 for employee B on their supplementary credit cards; this was on file for nearly two years. My main card for this account had a PHP75,000 credit limit.
– Sometime in May 2006, the bank increased my credit limit without first seeking my approval and simply informed me after the fact in their monthly statement. I called them at the time and requested that the limit be reduced back to PHP75,000. I asked for no changes to the limits of the supplementary cards.
– In May 2006, when the request for reduced limits came in, someone at the bank’s maintenance or administration unit decided to increase the credit limit of Employee A to PHP75,000. It is now not clear if Employee B’s limit was likewise raised, one banker says yes, the AVP says no. Both are on tape.
In October 2006, Employee A breached his presumed limit by PHP20,000+ and I called the bank and that resulted in the Shittybank post two weeks ago.
The bank personnel/managers all agree the breach of limit should not have occurred.

The bottom line? The bank verbally agreed that I indeed had lower limits on the supplementary cards, I never requested that they be subsequently increased, that I did reduce my overall limit when they doubled it last May and that Employee A did in fact breach a pre-stated and pre-approved limit of PHP20,000.

2. On the issue of potential liability in the event my card(s) are stolen and used by the thieves before I have a chance to call Shittybank (including time spent unable to reach Shittybank due to highly congested telephone lines and voice recordings)…

– Several staff and managers confirmed that YES, THE CARDHOLDER IS LIABLE FOR ALL CHARGES THAT ARE MADE ON STOLEN CARDS until the card is reported lost (the only exception I have found so far is American Express).
– Therefore, it follows that if my Employee A’s card was STOLEN and used by thieves, we could have been liable for up to PHP75,000 instead of the PHP20,000 limit we thought we had.

The bottom line? Consumers may be liable for the entire amount of their credit limit if they are unable to report their card lost and thieves use it to charge items on your card. I never even had the discussion what happens with IDENTITY THEFT where they get your information but you never lose your card.

So that all sounds good right? The bank clarifies that they were completely in the wrong. That they somehow inadvertently increased my Employee A’s limit without authority and defying any cross-checks and balances that should have been in place. And better yet, they tell me that THEY WILL CREDIT ME WITH THE ENTIRE EXCESS OVER APPROVED LIMIT IN THE AMOUNT OF PHP20,831.34 — A RELATIVELY UNPRECEDENTED STEP FOR A BANK. WOW! ADMIT MISTAKE AND REFUND SERIOUS MONEY AS WELL!!! I was actually impressed with the verbal discussion and I asked that this all be placed in writing and sent to me. That was late on a Friday evening, October 13. On October 16, late in the afternoon, I received this facsimile letter which I reproduce here (except names):

October 15, 2006
Mr. Marketman

Dear Mr. Marketman,

This is in reference to the phone conversation we had last Friday, October 13, 2006 regarding your account.

First of all, let me thank you for the feedback as it gave us the opportunity to take action.

We are pleased to inform you that we re-adjusted the credit limit of the supplementary card (####), assigned to Employee A, from PHP75,000 to PHP20,000 on October 11, 2006.

We understand your disappointment over this incident and wish to extend our apology. Rest assured that this is an isolated case and that a reminder has been issued to all concerned to prevent a repeat of the incident.

In closing, we wish to confirm that we have reversed the transaction amount in excess of the assigned credit limit of your supplementary card as mentioned in our phone conversation. The credit adjustments will be reflected in your November 2006 statement of account.

Once again, thank you for bringing the matter to our attention.

Sincerely yours,

Assistant Vice-President

I was out of town when this facsimile and subsequent original arrived but I did play phone tag with the person until Wednesday when I made it clear in no uncertain terms that the letter did not mirror what was discussed verbally. I requested that they put the actual cause of the mistake, how it happened, when it happened and what was going to be done to correct it. Then I also asked that the amount that they were refunding should be put in the letter as well. They refused. They were standing by their letter and were not willing to change it to, in my personal opinion, explicitly state that the error was completely theirs and that the large refund was a result of their careless error.

So here is my conclusion from this entire affair. I am grateful that the bank verbally and on tape admitted candidly that they were completely at fault in this case. I am grateful that they saw fit to completely refund the excess charges of PHP20,000+ above the approved credit limit. However, I am disappointed that they couldn’t take the next step and record this on paper, the first step to really truly acknowledging the gravity of the issue and forcing them to take real action. I even assured them I wouldn’t think to sue them if they just sent me the letter with the facts. But no go. Hmmm, I wonder how many lawyers were consulted for this brief paper of correspondence. What are they afraid of? That this isn’t an isolated case and that others may start clamoring for refunds in similar situations? That admitting the error in writing will cause them more losses than the refund offered? That their bosses would nail them if they admitted liability in writing? And oddly, the stationery had nary a phone number, fax number or email address on it. And more, the fax sent to me didn’t show the fax number of the sender — thank Buddha I have caller ID on all our phones now; yes, I have the numbers of the powers that be thanks to so many readers and others who have forwarded them to me.


I am seriously thinking of taking the entire PHP20,831 windfall as a result of my complaint and I will add my own money to it to take out a 1/8th page or 1/4th page (whatever I can afford) advertisement in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and/or Businessworld that warns all credit card users in the Philippines about the possible liabilities in the event of card loss and the recent practice of credit card companies of increasing credit limits without first seeking cardholder approval. I would consider this Marketmanila’s Christmas present to the several hundred thousand credit card holders in the Philippines… (Postscript: The entire amount was donated to a Feeding Program for Undernourished Public School Children)

In addition, if I find the time and energy, I intend to write Speaker of the House and an intelligent Senator to try and raise awareness about the consumer unfriendly nature of the credit card laws currently in place in the Philippines. I might even volunteer to testify at any public hearings on the matter and do some research and presentations necessary to get this issue the attention it deserves. I would ask all of my readers to give your friends and colleagues a heads up about rampant increases in credit limits and the risks of loss if and when their cards are stolen. I actually hope this isn’t the end of the issue yet… Do you think it’s worth the effort???


49 Responses

  1. The people need your voice MM. Now I really appreciate the time spent by the merchandiser to call my —-bank and ask for a telephone approval. It really takes a lot of time and I have to carry my passport with me everytime I do grocery shopping in Manila because they will not honor other Ids that do not look familiar to them. I’ve had a very bad experience once when I had to leave all my grocery shopping just because I do not have a ‘valid’ philippine id. Aside from the hassle in Manila, I have no complaints with my credit card.There is just the added inconvenience of calling the credit card company everytime I go to Manila to tell them that I will be there for a certain period of time. Your post helped me to refuse an offer to increase my limit, hehehe.

  2. A resounding YES!!!

    It is worth all the effort to actually start the corrective measures on existing credit card laws…

    I will gladly offer to sign any petition if that will come up in the future.

  3. A timely post on Credit cards. I’m 100% behind you, Marketman. We need people like you…if you need any help…you can be assure of my support. Keep us update especially the one you plan to put up the advertisement. Will look forward to it.

  4. Please do so, it may take time to get enough people on board, but considering the number of credit card holders, it’s a very important issue. Of course you know that it will only receive maximum exposure if a senator is the victim of identity theft. Or maybe Secretary of Finance!

  5. I should say that in my experience, most of the credit cards I had would just increase credit limits without ever asking. So they cannot say it is an isolated case. They do it to everyone.

  6. Thank you Market Man, for being our voice on this issue! You will surely make the credit card using public happy by going all the way in pursuing this matter. The credit card laws
    in our country really suck, and it’s about time we all take action. Let us know on how we can help.

  7. YES!!! It is worth all the effort. I will tell you this, MM that is not an isolated case. I think it is really the credit card companies practice to increase credit limits without informing the cardholders.

    I don’t use credit card anymore, thank God I already stripped myself of the inconvenience of this plastic money.

  8. Not just a Christmas present but a heroic voice speaking up for the rest of us. An advanced, heartfelt thank you, Marketman! Go for it!

  9. A bank will simply never admit a mistake, probably on the advise of it’s legal department. For example, my bank credited the IRS with $26,000. in tax payments when the correct amount, written out in words was $2,600. They promptly corrected the error upon my complaint by refunding the difference and advising the IRS of the error but refused to admit the mistake in writing. You are wasting your time unless you can lobby like a bank. If we all stopped using credit cards things would change very quickly… but that of course is highly unlikely.

  10. Yes, definitely worth the effort! Credit card users need to be made aware of the various dodgy practices that these companies employ.

  11. I echo Lani, YES it is worth all the effort
    it’s definitely not an isolated case of increasing your credit limit without your authorisation, it happened to me as well, I think it’s their REAL standard procedure. I’m just really ignorant on our laws on credit cards that I don’t really think on what negative effect it can have.
    I’m one of those who just assume that you won’t be liable to any purchases when you lost your card. Now I know better. Thanks for caring MM.

  12. Yes, do it, MM!

    I recently had an unsolicited pre-aaproved card delivered to my doorstep with a sticker for intructions on how to activate it. Thanks to you I bothered to read the fine print on this one, and it says that EVEN IF the bank receives and acknowledges my verbal notification that my card had been stolen, all charges made on the card for FIFTEEN (15) DAYS AFTER will be charged to me.

    The gall…the gall! Hay, email me if you want to know which bank and which credit card facility. Imagine. The gall!

  13. Ria, yes, please send me info by email, I want to add it to my list of horrors and abuses. Consumers really need to rise up against this…particularly consumers with good credit histories. Imagine what kind of message it would send if 50,000 folks like us didn’t use their cards even once for a one or two week period (at an average charge of 10,000 that would be 500 million pesos in charges that wouldn’t be made)…that would have the banks scratching their heads!!! Personally, from now until Christmas, I will try to cut out at least 60-70% of my charges on my local cards…

  14. i wish i have the same determination as you do…
    looking forward to that ad in the inquirer!! haha!

  15. Jus like Ria, the hubby and I received a pre-approved card sometime ago. We did not apply for said card so we were surprised to get it. Anyway, we have kept the pre-approved cards in our safe, under lock and key just to make sure we don’t lose or misplace it and then end up paying a whole lot of money for something which we didn’t buy. Can you imagine if the courier service had a conniving messenger who managed to get his hands on those cards?!!

  16. MM,

    It’s DEFINITELY worth it, and your posts are definitely worth my 8-9 minutes!!!Keep it up!! And to quote Jack Black again, you gotta “STICK IT TO THE MAN.”

  17. It definitely is worth your time and effort! I think it’s about time for all the consumers to be really INFORMED on this. Am looking forward to it and 100% behind you.

    I previously worked in a credit card company. The bank not only derive income from the usual annual fees, past due interests, minimum fee interests, service charges, cash advance fees and charges. They also get a share of the merchant fees on a monthly basis. The merchant’s account is paid/credited net of the approved merchant fee.

    Goodluck, MM!

  18. Yes, I think you should go and do it. I just had a a very shitty experience with that shitty bank yesterday.

    The antecedent events:

    I paid for my credit card’s outstanding balance via shitty phone a day before it was due. One of shitty bank’s customer representative spoke to me and told me that their system was being upgraded/offline and they couldnt credit my payment at that particular moment. So, the customer service representative asked me my personal details inorder to effect the transfer of money from my shitty bank account to pay for my oustanding credit card balance. Furthermore, she told me that she will call me if the transfer was not consummated. So, i assumed that everything was ok because i didnt get a call from the shitty bank representative.

    Today’s event:

    I ate at Old Manila today. The use of my credit card was declined. I wondered why. I didnt have cash. So, no choice,I called the bank to check. It turns out that I was over my credit limit because I apparently did not pay for my outstanding balance. Calmly, I had to explain to them that I had this conversation with this shitty bank representative 2 weeks ago and that shitty person should have made the payment upon my instructions because the bank’s shitty system was being upgraded/down/offline at the time that i wanted make the payment. Shitty Customer Representative #8&&& even told me to pay at least PHP20,000.00 ASAP to be able to use my credit card. I told her I will call again and check my records.

    I called my secretary to check the notes I made on the particular day I made the call to Shitty bank to pay my credit card balance. (I make it a point to note the time of my call and the name of the person i talk to when i call hotlines of credit cards or other companies.) After that, i called shitty bank again and gave them all the damn details of my conversation with their representative 2 weeks ago. So, they said that i can now use my credit card but the restaurant should call them for the approval code. So, i told the manager and she called and i was able to use my credit card.

    The whole process took about an hour! I was inconvenienced and it wasnt even my fault. Not, this happened to me a number of times already and i just so hate it.

    I think Shitty Bank should really shape up.

    MM, I have a feeling that you are a very private person and contemplating on testifying about this whole thing in a Senate or House inquiry is such a bold move for you. I guess you are really pissed. Go and do it! Be my voice!

  19. Go MM! The people need to be aware of this and yes, I personally think it is worth the effort; for the reason that hundreds of credit card users need to be warned of such things. If you need help with the research, I offer my services.

    And your posts are definitely worth my 9 minutes.

  20. wow!! ar last, somebody to fight for the people’s right against these banks!! goodluck and i will be waiting for the ad!! do inform us when you will be posting it so i can also tell my family, friends, relatives and even neighbors to buy a copy and spread it to everybody they know who uses a creditcard!!

  21. Yeeeyyyy!!!! Bravo, MarketMan!!!! It served them right, hah!!! At last, a very responsible individual with the right knowledge and power like you taught them a lesson.

    I hope those cellular companies would learn something from this, too. As they are increasing credit limits without approval of their subscribers and holding the subscribers liable for the charges incurred when the subscribers’ cellphones are stolen.

  22. I can’t believe how the bank in the Philippines operate. It seems that they are not customer oriented and not properly trained in the banking business. It is pretty scary to say the least that it takes a long time to react to a situation. They need further training in the banking industry.

  23. Now that is a real Christmas present!!!!! from the heart, and real unselfishness. . . .

  24. Yes, Marketman, let’s get on with this. I’ve had a thousand and one nightmares caused by Shittybank.

  25. Go, go, go. You will be making a heroic act on behalf of the numerous cardholders they harass. May people in power be more like you. Thank you in advance.

  26. An insurance company sent me a credit card thru snail mail without any request. I don’t know how they got my name and address as they misspelled my last name (I suspect it was from my university alumni directory). Since there were instructions on how to activate it (call or fax certain documents), I thought that if I don’t activate it it would remain dormant. A year later, they send me a bill for it’s yearly service charge. It took me 3 phone calls before the card was stopped.

  27. To all the lawyers out there, here’s a question: why can banks singularly impose increases in our credit limits AND hold us responsible for the increased liability (in case of theft for instance)?

  28. Go Marketman! This is a great Christmas present to all hardworking, honest consumers. And like someone said, it is time to STICK IT TO THE MAN. ;-) Looking forward to your advert.

  29. GO MM! God bless you more for your unselfishness and concern for the public.
    If at least 10% of the Filipinos will be like you, not apathetic and inward-looking only … If our politicians who are supposed to be public servants will only think like this and act on it … Oh well

  30. I’m with you on this, MM. As a foreigner planning to live full-time in the Philippines I realize my opinion doesnt count that much in some ways. But this whole credit cards situation helps me to understand a little better now why it’s so hard to do business in the Philippines from the rest of the world … and it scares me a bit too, because I witnessed many of the same egregious legalized frauds perpetrated in the US until some years ago the US Congress had to pass strict laws making a credit card issuer responsible for charges not the fault of the card holder. I’m in general a “small government”, “less laws the better” sort of guy but in this case I think government intervention is long overdue. The situation is not only hurting thousands of Filipinos every day individually, but it gives the entire country a black eye in the view of the rest of the world. Shitty .. I mean Citi Bank manages to make a fortune in the US operating under laws that protect the consumer, there’s no reason except greed (or apathy) that they couldn’t make money in the Philippines while still protecting their customers.

  31. the marketman EB should also be a venue to start a signature campaign against shitty bank practices (and maybe even inept customer care) -and for people to chip in a few more pesos for that inquirer ad!

  32. Dear Market Man,

    Indeed credit card practices should be reviewed by the lawmakers and laws should be enacted to protect consumer interests.


  33. MM,
    you are the voice of (us) ccardholders who have been harrassed, mistreated (like 2nd class citizens), abused, taken for granted, and exploited. (if these are not enough, you may add as you please.)

    as you can see, your unfortunate experience has turned into a wake up call for the many and many are actually behind you and supporting you including me.

    thanks and more power.:O


  34. Yes, MM. Thanks for being the voice. But to all of us, let’s not just wait for some brave and unselfish soul (like MM, bless his heart!) to speak up for us. We MUST learn to speak up for ourselves! We have the power as we are the consumers! Fire off letters and ring up a storm. Irritate the credit card companies into action…And remember the Pinoy saying: “Talo ang pikon”. Don’t let them get your goat. Cook theirs!!!!

  35. Yes, why can credit card companies increase your credit limit without being asked and hold you responsible for acts that you did not commit. Imagine how many more people out there who are responsible credit card holders have complaints and nobody listens to them and this applies not only to banks but other suppliers of products and services. Fair weather friends aren’t they? There goes the saying…nakahanap ka rin ng katapat…in MM.

  36. what about those cards with the customer’s photo on the front? do they really deter theives from using them? do sales clerks really look at the picture?

  37. Go for it, MM!

    These usurious institutions which call themselves banks in the Philippines ought to know that not all of us are willing to be victims of their highway robbery any longer!

    Thanks to your post, I will call HSBC immediately to get them to cap my credit limit pronto! I hardly use my Phil credit card anyway, only when I’m in the country.

    More power!

  38. Wait a minute! Isn’t it the merchant’s look-out if there is an inconsistency in the signature and what if the credit card has a photo ( like mine)’s also the merchant’s look-out hence, if they missed on these “safeguards” they should shoulder the bill…not the credit card holder. I notice that some merchants do not check the signature of the customer vs. the one on the card.

  39. Hi MM,

    What is the advantage of a shredder in situations like receiving a pre-approved card or multiple CC apps? We religiously shred all of our loan applications here and after having our ch 7 taken care of, we receive about 7 apps a day!

    What a waste of paper, money and effort. May I ask if shredding apps is common practice among Filipinos there?

    I can’t wait to see you ad on the newspaper. This should be fun!!

  40. Thank you so much! I didn’t ever think of that. I called my bank while reading your blog and brought down my credit limit in a hurry… thanks for the warning!

  41. MM, I fully agree with your thoughts and sentiments about this issue and I admire your noble intention with the windfall. However, taking out one ad (not full page even) in one broadsheet for one day may not reach as many people as you might hope. Not to mention that the ad may not give you enough space to clarify the issue. A more efficient and cost-effective way by far may be to write up your experience into an email, circulate that, and ask that it be passed on (by email or by word of mouth) to others. And it definitely will. People will be very concerned for themselves and for their family and friends. Bon courage!

  42. MM,

    The your voice is heard by the thousands of pinoys who have philippine issue credit cards. We encourage you to have a talk with some of our politikos regarding this matter.

  43. There is only one reason for increasing your limit without asking your approval: more annual fee.

    For example:
    classic/silver MC/Visa: P1,200/yr
    GOLD MC/Visa: P2,500/yr

    I believe the separation between a classic and a gold card at Shittybank is around P75k credit limit, so when your card reaches 75k, it turns gold automatically, and Shittybank charges you more annual fee.

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