Thursday, December 02, 2004


I dumped my AAA Financial Services credit card, finally, after calling to confirm I’d been assessed a $29 fee for being late on a $44 bill.

The customer service representative agreed it was the $44 September T pass bill on which I’d been late. Then he explained the late fee structure: about $15 for less than $100 and $29 for more.

Hunh? What $100, then? He’d just agreed the total bill was $44.

Well, see, on the October statement on which the late fee appears, there was another $44 bill for the next month’s T pass, $20.50 at Loew’s Boston Common movie theater and $15.65 for Brother’s Pizza & Grill in Belmont, a total of $80.15 ...

... which means the only way the late fee is justified at the higher rate is by including the fee itself, for a total of $109.15.

The logic was so tortured that I couldn’t, at first, deal with that last violent twist. I began to grapple with it only after canceling the card and hanging up with the customer service rep.

Hours later, I’m still mystified why a company would play such an absurd game with late fees — and be so quick to agree to ending an until-recently functional relationship — with someone getting an average of two credit card solicitations per day from every company under the sun and probably a few on it. AAA Financial Services itself had been asking me to move up to its platinum card.

Perhaps I should have. Maybe the advantage of being a platinum-card holder is that the late-fee rules make sense. On the other hand, following their logic, perhaps platinum-card late fees are assessed before a check is late. Or before the card is used. Or before the card arrives in the mail.


Anonymous said...

Good job! Now go one better and ditch anything else to do with AAA. They're a huge anti-public-transportation and pro-huge-highway-project lobbyer. There are other roadside assistance organizations you could belong to that do not take such an active role in promoting car dependence.

eric said...

Probably a good move to dump AAA credit card. We only use AmEx and haven't had a problem in (ghast!) 15 years. But I disagree with dumping AAA completely. I've been in some nasty situation were they came and helped. Even when I was in someone else's car. Heck...I even got towed home after an office Christmas party many years ago...he "wrote" it up as "too much alcohol in the tank." Still cracks me up. That was a 40-mile trip.

Scape7 said...

I use my American Express card for almost everything. I keep a Visa/Mastercard around for those rare occasions American Express isn't accepted — which is mainly on Fareways T pass sales. I'd say that at on at least two-thirds of my AAA Financial Services statements, the $44 T pass cost was the only expense.

Being a big proponent of public transit — so long as they're trains and not those bloody buses — I will look into dumping AAA. Hell, I don't even own a car right now, so it's probably a good time.

Anonymous said...

Here is one place that provides the same roadside assistance as AAA (most likely, they contract with the exact same towtruck guys as AAA does... and as VW does for their roadside assistance program... AAA is not the exclusive provider of roadside assistance by a long shot).