Really, we’re just trying to help

Last Thursday evening I called my bank to report my bank card had been lost. I answered a bunch of questions and the person said they’d mail me my new card within five to seven business days. Boy was I surprised when a new card showed up in next day’s mail. The following day a new PIN code came in another letter. I called up to activate my new card and strangely, the person on the line asked me a whole lot of questions including one that I couldn’t answer–what date did I open my account? I’ve had my bank account so long I didn’t remember. After being placed on hold and asked a few more questions that I could answer, the person said my card had been activated. Boy this was excellent service!

Except it wasn’t…Sunday the ATM refused my transaction with a cryptic “your card couldn’t help us” message. Today I again tried my card (maybe I’m dense),with no luck. I went inside and told the teller my new card wouldn’t work. She looked me up in the computer after checking my ATM card and my ID and said that this wasn’t my new card, it was my old card. It had been reported lost or stolen so I couldn’t use it. All I could do is sit tight and wait a few days for my new card.

What happened? Why did my card show up early? I think I’ve figured this out. The last time I used my bank card I’m guessing that I left it at the machine. Thinking they’d be helpful, I suspect my bank then initiated a process to send me a “replacement” card which with same card number as my swallowed card, but requiring a new PIN.

If I had held off phoning in my lost card for one more day, that mysterious “replacement” card would have shown up and I would’ve been set (after I received my new PIN code in another mail). But once I reported my card as lost that nixed my old card for good. Bummer.

I have some gripes about my “replacement” card’s arrival. There were no clues about why it was being sent. Secondly, a separate mail came a day later advising me of a new PIN code, again, without explanation.

I can see some analyst pondering what to when a card has been left at a machine. Did they test the replacement procedure on real people (or eager phoning people like me)? How likely is it that someone might report a lost before the replacement mysteriously showed up? Why should phoning in a lost card invalidate the replacement process (I think I know the answer to that one as the original lost and replacement cards, having the same card number, aren’t unique…so how can the bank tell which card I was reporting as lost?)

I would’ve been happier if the person who answered the phone when I called to activate my replacement had told me, “No your card isn’t activated.” But maybe she didn’t know that it wasn’t usable. Or maybe she was just being obscure to throw off the card thief. I can only wonder. After the conversation ended, I knew my card had been activated and thought I could use it. But I couldn’t.

I know my bank was trying to be helpful by sending me a magic replacement card. But after one confusing activation phone call, two unsuccessful ATM episodes, and one helpful conversation with the bank teller, I finally figured it out. I’m crossing my fingers until my new card shows up and I use it for the first time.