The GE Capital Retail Bank credit cards receive an astronomical number of complaints on the forums. Who’s to blame… their customer service or their customers?
Do you have a store credit card? If so, there’s a high probability that GE Capital Bank (formally GE Money Bank) is the issuer of it. They manage cards for several dozen retailers, across just about every industry. The list is astronomical. As of October 2012, here are the retailers listed on their website:
- Amazon (non Visa version)
- American Eagle
- Banana Republic
- Brooks Brothers
- Dick’s Sporting Goods
- Linens ‘n Things
- Lord & Taylor
- Men’s Wearhouse
- Old Navy
- Sam’s Club
- Shop NBC
- Stein Mart
And that’s only a partial list! There are plethora of others, many being specialty and regional retailers.
More cards = more complaints?
The amount of negative reviews I see is overwhelming. But in defense of GE Capital Retail Bank, it’s only fair to ask… is the reason for that simply because they issue so many credit cards? In other words, because they’re so prominent, are they being unfairly singled out?
Let’s take a look at these 3 criteria to decide…
1. Take aspirin before calling the customer service phone number?
As someone who has personally investigated their cards many times over the years, I can totally sympathize with all the complaints regarding their sub-par phone service. It gives me a headache every time!
For example, if you call their customer service it feels almost impossible to reach a live human if you are just calling with questions about their cards. I called eBay MasterCard’s customer service (1-866-419-4095) to give you an example of this:
Computer: The first 30 seconds are useless jibber-jabber about making payments online by an overly-perky female voice. Then after listening to that spiel, you have to press 1 to confirm you are calling about the eBay MasterCard (Duh! Obviously I am if I called their direct phone number for it!)
Computer: Please say or enter your account or card number
Me: I don’t have it
Computer: I think you said you don’t have your account number, is that correct?
Computer: [voice change] Alright. [pause, voice change back to perky woman] If you don’t have your account number, we can find it using your Social Security number. Please say your Social Security number or enter it using you’re your telephone keypad.
Me: I don’t have it.
Computer: I think you said you don’t have your Social Security number, is that correct?
Computer: Now if you’re finished, say goodbye and hang-up.
What the duck is up with this?!? Talk about a privacy invasion… the system tells me to “say goodbye and hangup” because I won’t give them my Social Security number. Really? GE Capital Bank’s customer service number doesn’t deserve to have the word “service” in its name!
Rather than fining the major credit card issuers, in my opinion THIS is who the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should be going after. If you want to apply for a GE Capital credit card and have questions/concerns about the payment terms and how they work, they make it nearly impossible to talk to a live phone rep.
And from my experience, the sales associates at stores are often grossly misinformed about how deferred interest works, so it’s imperative that potential customers be given access to knowledge phone reps.
Sometimes when I’ve called to inquire about one of their cards, I just keep pressing random buttons and after a couple minutes the computer will finally connect me to a live rep. But to add insult to injury, the live rep might be a foreigner who you can barely communicate with!
Verdict? They do have some US call centers, so not all of their phone reps are bad. But good luck getting thru to them! The bottom line is that GE Capital is unprecedented in how they make it so difficult for potential account holders to call up and ask questions. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of other credit card companies who do this.
2. Are people pissed about the payment terms?
Kill the messenger. Perhaps the GE Capital Retail Bank’s customer service reps aren’t the worst. But it’s easy for people to feel that way, when they’re the bearer of such bad news.
What bad news am I talking about? The terrible payment terms that come with almost every GECRB credit card. Here’s an example…
Is paying nearly 27% interest a bit excessive? I certainly think so. Major credit cards from banks typically have APRs that range from 12% to 23%. But with GE’s credit cards, many of them give that hideous 26.99% rate to everyone, even if you have good credit.
However there are some that have APRs less than the 26.99% (the Walmart and Paypal are two examples). But even those, from what I’ve seen, seem to often have APRs which are still above average.
But what makes this really bad is the deferred interest. Many of their cards come with deferred interest offers. That means there’s no interest charged only if you pay off the entire purchase before the promo period ends. But if you don’t, then interest gets tacked onto your purchase going back to day 1:
This “no interest if paid in full” gimmick can be quite confusing, because it’s rarely ever found on major credit cards with 0% offers (when those give 0%, you usually get it regardless of whether or not you pay off the purchase during the promo period).
And in addition to high interest rates, I’ve heard that the customer service at GE Capital Retail isn’t the most helpful if you ask them to waive a late fee.
3. Less credit-worthy customers?
I’m sure there are plenty of GECRB customers who have excellent credit scores. However the bottom line is that overall, store credit cards tend to attract less creditworthy customers. Why? Because many of them are easier to qualify for than say, a card with 5% cash back or good airline rewards.
So playing devil’s advocate, could the lower quality customer base be a reason for so many complaints? In other words – to put it bluntly – they have more financially irresponsible cardholders, and in turn, receive more complaints about customer service? I think that’s possible.
But just to be clear, if you have one of their credit cards I am NOT saying you fall into the less creditworthy category. Rather I’m just making the point that their cards attract a greater percentage of sub-prime customers than say, American Express or Chase credit cards do.
The worst… true or false?
So does the GE Capital Bank have the worst credit card customer service or not? I’m not sure the answer is clear cut.
In some ways – like calling their phone number – it is an absolute nightmare and they probably are the worst in that regard. Ditto to the excessive APRs. However I think part of the reason for there being so many complaints is because the crowd of customers they attract is often (but not always) less creditworthy.
And who has the BEST customer service?
AmEx and Discover often occupy the top 2 spots in the annual JD Power credit card satisfaction survey. However if I had to pick 3 specific cards for 2013 here’s what they would be: