It’s not every day a bank refunds thousands of dollars, but that’s what’s happening for some people who checked their credit card statements after reading a CBC story about credit card insurance in early February.
“My jaw hit the floor,” Toronto resident Allison Brown wrote in an email to CBC.
Brown is one of 13 people who have contacted CBC in the past three months to report they’ve been refunded a combined total of more than $50,000.
Credit card insurance is a product banks market as a way to help with credit card payments if a person loses their job or gets sick, but some customers have said they were signed up without their knowledge.
Critics say the insurance can be expensive, hard to claim and may cover only the minimum monthly payment or a small percentage of the balance owing.
Brown said she has had insurance on her PC Financial Mastercard since 2009. Until she read the CBC story, she thought it was mandatory. She was refunded almost immediately after asking for proof that she’d signed up.
“They were unable to tell me how this ended up on my account and I have zero recollection of ever having a discussion about this,” she said. “They called me back less than 24 hours after my initial call to let me know they were refunding the entire amount. All $7,452.90 of it.”
Not taking no for an answer
The CBC story Brown read was about Dartmouth, N.S., resident Sheila MacIsaac, who had started the ball rolling after seeing a Marketplace story about banks charging the insurance to credit cards without the customers’ permission.
When MacIsaac inquired about the “balance protection” on her RBC Visa, she was played a recording of a sales call.
“It was me years ago talking to some man [who was] telling me all the benefits of balance protection and you’ll hear me saying ‘Oh, I see,’ but that’s not saying I signed up for it,” she said earlier this year.
After she was told the case was closed, she contacted CBC. CBC contacted RBC, and MacIsaac was refunded almost $4,000 in what the bank called a customer service gesture.
Since that story, CBC has been contacted by many people who checked their credit cards and discovered the insurance.
“Only one phone call produced a letter notifying me of my full refund,” Milton, Ont., resident Reg Evans wrote in an email about the credit card protection charges on his TD credit card.
It wasn’t as easy for David Hayne in Country Harbour, N.S.
Hayne, who is retired and now works as a farrier, said it took him more than a month and hours on the phone to finally be told he would be refunded $4,300.
He’s expecting to see the credit on his next statement, scheduled to arrive any day. He noted the money is welcome at this time because the COVID-19 pandemic has largely shut down his work.
In Calgary, Lianne Moseley was having health issues and discovered during a meeting with her bank, CIBC, that she had been paying for insurance since she got her first credit card at 19.
However, when she tried to apply for coverage to help with some of her credit card payments, she said she was told she was not eligible and never should have been approved for the insurance in the first place.
When she asked for proof that she’d agreed to the insurance, she said she was told she must have known about it because she applied for benefits. She reminded the bank she only knew about the insurance because they had made her aware of it. The bank was unable to provide proof that she had agreed to it.
She has been trying to get a refund since early February. This week, she was promised her credit card will be credited approximately $2,100 within the next month.
$120K and counting
Others haven’t yet had their inquiries answered.
Some have been told it will take four to six weeks, while another person was told that by making payments on their credit card bill, they were agreeing to the insurance. Still, others received a sales pitch on why they should keep it.
People reported refunds as low as $200 and as high as more than $9,000.
Coupled with emails received by Marketplace, consumers have been refunded more than $120,000 since the original Marketplace story aired a year ago.
The insurance is often identified on credit card statements as balance protection, balance protector or credit card insurance. Customers who don’t recall agreeing to it can call their credit card company for proof they signed up for it, such as paperwork or a call recording.
Consumer advocates like John Lawford of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre caution about agreeing to anything when a salesperson calls with a pitch, because there are always terms and conditions attached that may not be explained in the call.
Instead, he recommends asking for material to review before making a commitment.