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Credit card customer services and call centres

Last Edit: 29/11/18

Part and parcel of being a credit card company is providing a customer services telephone number, so that customers can phone up with general enquiries about their account, and hopefully get their request/problem rectified with a minimum of fuss. It should be noted that telephoning credit card customer services is not always free: some customers services do use freephone numbers -- that start with 0800 or 0808 -- others use telephone numbers that start with 0370, which can be charged at the same rate as telephoning a normal home or business landline. While some financial companies have moved their call centres overseas -- typically to India -- most banks and card providers still have their call centres located in the UK: HSBC has a call centre located in South Lanarkshire; Ulster Bank has a call centre located in Belfast; Lloyds Bank has a call centre located in Dunfermline; Barclays has a call centre located in Northamptonshire and Glasgow; and the Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank has a call centre located in Kilmarnock. Scotland has often been labeled the 'call centre nation' -- due to the Scottish accent being rated as trustworthy -- and therefore it should be of no surprise that many banks have their call centres located in Scotland. While banks and credit card providers have flirted with the idea of cost cutting, and moving call centres to India, there has been a backlash from customers, which led to Lloyds TSB announcing (2017) that it was closing its Mumbai call centre.

Customer services employee handling a call in a typical call centre booth
(Pictured: Customer services employee handling a call in a typical call centre booth)

Most credit card customer services / call centres handle the following issues:

  1. Requests from the customer for an increase in their credit limit (how much credit can be borrowed at any one time).
  2. Reject a future credit limit increase that has proposed by the credit card provider (the customer may not wish to be tempted by additional credit and end up with debt problems).
  3. Requests from the customer for a reduction in their credit limit (if their spending habits or financial situation has changed).
  4. Ask for information about the current exchange rate for a credit card, and any fees/charges that are incurred by using the card overseas.
  5. Tell the credit card provider about changes in circumstances (address, employment, telephone number, contact details).
  6. Ask for information about a rejected transaction (is a common issue for large online purchases from an unknown retailer etc).
  7. Inform the card provider about a payment or transaction that is incorrect.
  8. Get a card restored if it has been suspended due to unusual behaviour or unknown transactions.

The cost of calling credit card customer services can be different when phoning from a mobile phones or a landline: It will depend on the call centre telephone number. In 2015, Ofcom announced a change to telephone numbers and charges, and this change resulted in telephone numbers, beginning with 0800 or 0808, being free to call from mobile phones -- they were already free for landlines. But, as noted already, not all credit card customers services are provided on freephone (0800 or 0808) numbers. So, due to some customer services charging customers to phone them, the cost will vary because mobile and landline operators -- such as: Vodafone, EE (including Orange and T-Mobile), Virgin Media, BT, O2, Three, Tesco Mobile, TalkTalk, giffgaff and Sky -- all differ in their number access charges. At present, if a customer is being charged per minute by their telecoms provider, it is usually cheaper to call customer services from a landline rather than a mobile phone.