Last fortnight, I got a call en route to work. It was a girl who informed me that she was calling on behalf of a leading American bank. She said the bank had decided to phase out its Visa cash back card and replace it with another more powerful offering with another metallic name—titanium, tungsten or aluminium—I am not sure which. Such calls flash a “document alert” neon sign in my head, because I irrationally fear that such decisions of banks will invariably mean some re-submission of address proof, identity proof and such like.
“Are you giving your consent for swapping your card ma’am?” asked the girl. She had a slightly high-pitched voice and a south-of-the-Vindhyas lilt.
“Not if I have to submit any documents,” I said warily.
“No, no, Ma’am. No documents. Only you have to agree to the terms and conditions that I will tell you. Can I start ma’am?”
“Okay…,” I said unsurely. The last sentence sounded ominous, like this call would take really long. I couldn’t have been more right. Here’s what transpired:
Caller: First I will tell you the benefits ma’am. You can get 5% cash back on all movie spends, 5% cash back on all telephone and utility bills and up to 15% off on different restaurants in the country. There will be automatic cash back into your account in multiples of Rs 500.You can get 0.5% cash back on all other spends without any restriction of merchant or category. All cash back on your existing card would be transferred to your new cash back credit card in 100% ratio. Going forward, redemption of cash back would be available only on your new card…
Caller: …the credit and cash limit on the new card would be the same as on your existing card. The credit limit applies to any additional card issued to a member of your family.
Me: (louder) Hello! Please listen!
Caller: Any existing add on card... Yes ma’am? You were saying something ma’am?
Me: (wearily) Yes, I was saying this is taking too long. I have to go.
Caller: (earnestly) So you don’t want to swap the card ma’am?
Me: No, No! I do. It is my main card. So if you phase it out I’ll be in trouble. But can you go faster?
Caller: I have to read the benefits and mandatory conditions ma’am. Only then I can issue the card to you. Shall I start ma’am?
Me: (in a small voice) Okay.
Caller: Your existing card would remain valid till its expiry date, or 60 days from the date of swap, whichever is earlier. We request you to destroy your existing card plastic for protection from any misuse. All card outstanding, including any EMI (equated monthly instalment) facility or loan on the existing credit card or any insurance running on your existing card, would be transferred to the new card. All standing instructions maintained on your existing card would continue to exist…
Me: Hello! You are saying so many things, so fast. I am not even sure I understand.
Caller: Should I repeat ma’am?
Me: No, no! Please don’t repeat. Can’t we just close this call? I have been listening for twelve minutes now. I agree to whatever you are saying. Please, just send me the card!
Caller: No, ma’am. Unless I read out the mandatory conditions fully, I can’t issue the card to you ma’am. Shall I continue ma’am?
Me: (in a very small voice) Okay.
Caller: Your rate of interest initially is 2% per month (i.e. 24% annualized) and could vary up to 2.5%. This could increase up to 3.5% per month (i.e. 42% annualized) in the event of default. In case of a swap from your existing to the new cash back credit card, the premium rate for a credit shield cover will increase by approximately 2 basis points (i.e. Rs 2 for every Rs 10,000 balance outstanding on the card)…
Me: Hello? I just remembered something. In fact I am only concerned about one thing, because I am terrible at paying my bills. The auto debit that I have on my old card will continue, won’t it?
Caller: Sorry ma’am, about that I have no information. Shall I continue reading the remaining mandatory conditions ma’am?
Me: (Laughing. A resigned, philosophical laughter. The one that stems from what I call a Pyaasa moment where in an epiphany, a poet or an artist who has been struggling against the world, suddenly realizes how absurd the world actually is.)
Caller: Sorry ma’am? You said something ma’am?
Me: (still laughing) No, go on.
Caller: Your personal accident cover will change post the swap. The premium rate charged on your new credit card would be Rs 140 per month, and you would enjoy a cover of up to Rs 20 lakh…
(Epilogue: On the basis of this call, I received my new cash back credit card. I have no idea what are the terms and conditions, but I’ve got the card. That’s what matters.)
Vandana Vasudevan is a graduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and writes on mass urban consumer issues. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
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