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Update on Operation Credit History : The Cell Bill

Even before I received my first credit card earlier this month, I had decided how I was going to use it. Pay for 1 thing (my cell bill) and then pay it off. Wise commentors reminded me to be sure to pay it off after the bill is posted and sent.

Here’s how it’s gone so far:

1) A couple days after getting the card, I set up my account with Capital One so that I can pay my bills online. I wanted to get a bank account linked ahead of time. Looks like that has all worked out.

About that experience, it was a lot harder to get the account set up than it should have been. Midway through, it would suddenly find itself unable to contact the server. Fortunately, if I went back a step, reloaded, and clicked forward it worked. Real hassle, though. I just decided to try that before calling customer service. Glad it worked.

Here’s a copy of the error message I received:

We’re sorry, but our system experienced an error while processing your request. Please try again later. If the problem continues, please contact us at 1-800-955-7070 (U.S. customers) or 1-800-481-3239 (Canadian customers). We’re here to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Mildly helpful since it had the numbers, but they need server support even more than Twitter does. At least Twitter is a FREE non-business site.

2) A few days after than and a few before it was due (as always), I logged into my cell provider account and paid the bill. This time, I used my new card.

Everything went smoothly.

3) I easily logged in to my C1 account a couple days after that and checked it out. The first billing hasn’t yet posted, but the transaction has registered. It’s so cute, I have less than $500 of available credit. I look at it and then I look at my bank account and ask why I’d use credit for anything…my freelance cushion is fine for emergencies. And it’s more than $500.

Logging in was smooth this time, though the third time I came back, I got the error message above two times before it accepted my password. And I checked, it’s a different error message than if you put in the wrong password…that returned a standard “The password you have entered does not match…” response.

4) So now I’m keeping tabs on it to catch it the moment it becomes due. Then I’ll pay it in full. I’ve also decided to receive paper statements as well (it was an opt-OUT, fortunately, so this took no effort on my part) because I don’t quite trust their website’s up-time. I’d probably pay by phone if the site wouldn’t work but I like the backup. Can’t have too much backup, at least right now.

I’ll let you know when I’ve paid it off.

Next month should be much smoother and less nervous on my part. I don’t fear using the card irresponsibly, what I feel is more like the apprehension of someone on a first date. You’ve probably thought a million times about what going on a date with this person would be like. You have some general frameworks for behavior at restaurant, who pays, etc. But you’re still nervous because you haven’t actually gone on a date with this person before. Dates with Micah don’t make me nervous. Evidence to the contrary, networking meetings and the like do.

Edit: Micah suggests this could also be compared to riding the DC metro for the first time. You’ve got your map and fare (or SmarTrip) and “know” your station, but it’s still an adventure if you’re not used to metro systems.

Once I get used to how everything works, once I’ve used all parts of the system, I’ll be a lot less nervous and know better about when to check in, pay it, what to expect, etc. But I’ll stay on my toes. Because like friends, husbands, jobs, and anything else we become comfortable with, credit cards can suddenly change on you.

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Credit History: First Payment
July 23, 2008 at 11:01 am

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

SP June 26, 2008 at 11:24 am

I hope this doesn’t come off as patronizing, but I think it is kind of cute that you are so nervous about the whole thing. Mrs. Micah’s first date with her credit card! I can see you eying the CC with apprehension, wondering if it’ll make a good partner. Ok, I’m taking the analogy too far I think.

I’ve been using (and paying off in full) a credit card since I was maybe 19 (I’m 25 now), so it is hard to relate. But I’m glad you will have a credit history, even if regular CC use isn’t your thing.

startsmart June 26, 2008 at 11:37 am

Be very careful with CapitalOne! If you opt to call in a payment they can charge you up to $10 each month for this “service”. Set up CapitalOne bill pay from your bank if you have this option as a back up.

deepali June 26, 2008 at 11:46 am

On my budget calendar (like a calender with dollars), I’ve marked the days each of my credit cards presents a bill. I’ve also marked the actual due date for each (I change them so they are all at the same time). As soon as the bill shows up (I do it all electronically), I log in and set the payment for one week before the due date. If I can’t log in for whatever reason, I just try again the next day. You usually have 3 weeks or so to make the payment.

Since you’ll have a fixed amount on your card, it might make sense to set up a recurring payment. (I know there are people who will disagree with that, but in 10 years and over a dozen cards, I’ve never had a problem with payments)

Tanya June 26, 2008 at 12:11 pm

I have Chase, and when I called them they let me set up an “autopay” for a few days before the bill is due. I never have to think about it, and they mail me my bill, so I can look it over to check it every month anyway. I recommend that if you’re nervous.

Aryn June 26, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Two things:
1. You can probably have your cell phone automatically billed to your credit card every month, so you don’t have to log-in to the cell account to pay.

2. It’s much easier to pay a credit card bill, and all other bills, from your bank’s online billing service than through each service’s individual site. You just log-in, enter the amount you want to pay and the date, and it goes when you want it to. You can also pay all your other bills at the same time.

Funny about Money June 26, 2008 at 7:27 pm


How excellent to know a computer-savvy young person is running into the same sorts of snafus I encountered. I thought it was just because my brain had petrified during the Cretaceous.

After considerable thrashing around, I ended up deciding it was far less hassle to let them send me a paper statement. Trick is, you need to open the mail immediately and calculate the turn-around time accurately, especially around holidays such as the 4th of July.

AMEX, for example, is due July 10. But what with the 4th and no mail service on Sundays, there are three “dead” USPS days between now and the due date.

No question if you want to pay online you should do so through your bank and not through the credit card’s “service.”

Money Maus June 26, 2008 at 8:06 pm

I got my first credit card this month as well – also from CapitalOne! Needless to say, I have been getting the *same* error message as you on various occasions and it IS annoying! I have also found that there is a bit of a delay (1-2 days) with the transfers. However, I am enjoying the experience so far & do not have many complaints – yet! πŸ™‚

Dad June 27, 2008 at 1:44 am

Sounds pretty good so far. I re-enforce someone else’s comment. For some strange reason while there are online options to pay your CC bill for no charge some charge for paying by phone. My bank explains that they contract with a third party (Checkfree I believe) to provide the phone service interface and they need to recover that fee. I’m still not sure why it happens that way. Making an online payment of the CC from my checking account at the CC website uses Checkfree (you can see their name on the bill pay website) and they don’t charge the customer any fees for that.

If you pay the CC by check, several important points. Leave enough time. This gets many in trouble. The Post Office may tell you it takes 3 days to get from California to the east coast. Don’t believe them. It may happen. It may happen often. But it doesn’t happen all the time and one failure means late fees and interest. As soon as you can learn the payment address and check how far it is from you. I would leave 10 days for coast to coast. Less time if it is closer.

Next, use their envelope and include the payment return slip they provide. Do not put anything else in the envelope except the check. The automated mail sorting systems used at such places handle that situation very fast. Anything else may get put in a pile for manual processing and they are allowed by law to credit your payment a day or two later than it arrived if you don’t follow the rules I stated above. It is a tricky point and many people do not know about this.

Allow for banking holidays. They may or may not process on a banking holiday. There are more bank holidays than other people get. If you pass a bank office regularly, you can watch for the notice on the door about upcoming holidays. Bank holidays are regulated by the Fed. New Years Day, President’s day, MLK day, Memorial day, July 4, Labor day, Columbus day, Veterens day, Thanksgiving day, and Christmas are the holidays I believe.

Use a reminder calendar to schedule your payment sending day to avoid forgetting. When you get the bill, you can make the reminder. Watch for changing due dates. Sometimes it is the same time each month but it can move around a bit. Check every bill.

Kathy June 27, 2008 at 8:26 am

I’m the mother of a 20 year old who is just beginning to build her credit. Her checking account doesn’t allow online bill pay so she’s paying by snail mail.

The advice I gave her is when the bill arrives, write the check and put it into the mail IMMEDIATELY! Dad’s comment above is SPOT ON… snail mail sucks and delays are the norm not the exception.

So far that system is working extremely well for her and she hasn’t had a late payment yet.

deepali June 27, 2008 at 11:08 am

I might be the only person who trusts her CC (ie, paying on the cc website) to make the payment go through, as opposed to her bank (ie, billpay). But then, I worked in banking for 3 years. πŸ˜‰

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