There's a Surprisingly Simple Way to Erase Credit Card Late Fees

October 27, 2015
Jared Kaltwasser

A study of more than 13,000 credit card complaints submitted to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found credit cards are often willing to waive late fees.

It turns out there’s a surprisingly easy way to get rid of credit card late fees: Complain.

The website ValuePenguin.com took a look at more than 13,000 credit card complaints submitted to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). It found that more than half (56%) of people who launched a complaint about a late fee ended up getting a refund.

“If you believe you were wrongfully issued a fee you have nothing to lose by contacting CFPB,” said Robert Harrow, a credit card analyst for the site. “Thousands of Americans are already doing this, and it’s likely that significantly more are missing out by not being aware of this option.”

The success of a given complaint can depend on a number of factors, including the type of complaint, the reason customers felt mistreated, and the bank they are doing business with.

To wit, Citibank gave 34% of late fee complainants a refund. Bank of America, on the other hand, rejected 82% of such complaints without explanation.

When asked if they were satisfied with how their credit card company resolved the complaint, Capital One and Discover had the most satisfied customers. However, American Express had the highest overall customer satisfaction, with Chase coming in a distant second.

Filing a complaint is relatively easy. Consumers can go to the CFPB’s website and choose the type of complaint they are making (credit card problem, credit reporting error, etc.). Next, they’ll be asked to describe what happened and what kind of resolution they are seeking. They’ll also have to provide contact and product information. Credit card companies are supposed to respond to customers and the CFPB within 15 days, though certain cases will take longer.

It’s also worth noting that late fee complaints were the only category for which more than half of complainants received monetary relief. Billing disputes, over-limit fees, and cash advance concerns all had refunds in only 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 cases.

The full 2015 Credit Card Complaint study is available at ValuePenguin.com.