In today’s scope if you’re a travel/points/miles enthusiast you’re bombarded daily with blogs pitching you the latest and greatest credit card deal to jump on, the next card to churn and on and on. I won’t be completely hypocritical, I pay attention to that information and utilize it not only for myself but as material for this blog, but in my personal phylosphy the should be something a bit more substantial, something a bit more material than simply hacking points — and I try to consider it every time a new offer pops up.
Credit cards are a major part of our lives, and as I mentioned previously you should really go out of your way to substitute as close to 100% of your cash spend as possible. In a sense, you should consider credit cards — or technically credit card companies — as partners in your every day finances. Just as you select a bank or any other financial intitution based on their solvency, customer support, ease of access, etc., you should do the same thing with a credit company. And unless you’re a “blogger” with 6 figure income, 100+K advertisement budget and you’re managing 23 credit cards with annual fees in excess of $2900 you really should narrow down 2-4 cards and utilize them to the fullest for any given year.
There’s at least one credit card from a specific company that’s always in my wallet and I really don’t leave home without it…unless I’m on a run. And the simple reason is because of service and because of service in one specific example when I really needed help.
A few years ago, my wife, her parents, sister and my parents all decided to go to Europe over Thanksgiving and celebrate it there: We ended up traveling through smaller towns of England, then off to London and then finally to Paris, where the actual celebration was held. While we all had booked separate rooms at inns and hotels in England because we were going to be in only one city — Paris — in France we decided to look into renting an appartment. It was my first and only introduction with Airbnb and I found a “luxury” apartment that had 3 full bedrooms and a couch to accomodate all of us in comfort. Pictures of the appartment looked great and location was central and convenient. After multiple communications with the owner when we actually got to the apartment, outside of many other things that were shortcoming with the place it actually didn’t have beds in the full bedrooms and the bathroom somehow got renovated to have a massive 6 person hottub in it with no actual shower or bath for that matter — I think you were supposed to bathe in a hottub, with multiple people in it at once. Apparently the guy went through a divorce sometime prior to me booking the trip but he forgot to mention that his wife moved out half the furniture even though he knew how many of us were coming for months. Instead he had cots that were used for his two little boys when he had them visiting “available” for us. Having been too exhausted from travel we settled in for the night with a thought that we’d try to make some changes the next day.
Convinently enough the “available wifi” in the apartment was actually a password to the public Paris Wifi that didn’t really work and I couldn’t contact the owner about letting him know that we will pay for the one night that we stayed with him but we’d like to leave immediatelly as no one – especially older parents – wanted to sleep on cots for a full week. I couldn’t get ahold of him so I sent an email asking for help from Airbnb which promptly told me that I out to bring up all disputes up with owner and only they can issue any changes. When I did get a hold of the owner he had no intention of letting us out with a refund for remaining stays and would not contact Airbnb about initiating anything and when I tried contacting Airbnb for a second time they said something to the effect that by now I’ve stayed in the apartment for longer than 24 hours and I “owned” the contract.
Desperate and defeated I decided to contact the credit card company so me and the father in-law walked over to the train station so I could use his pre-paid phonecard at one of the public phones there. I dialed the international number on the back of my card, collect, and asked for customer support. A nice gentleman listerend to my story and then said “thank you for being our customer, I see the transaction that you’re talking about, what do you think they owe you?”. I had to think about his answer for a moment and asked him what he meant, he replied “don’t worry, just give me an estimate of what you think Airbnb/owner owe you for a refund and leave the place, we’ll take care of everything from our side and if we need something more from you we will call you when you get back to the states — enjoy the rest of your vacation and sorry for the inconvenience”.
Even as I write this now, 3 years it brings great emotional gratification and appreciation. To be in a completely different country where you don’t speak the language, to be there with your immediate and your extended family, to be responsible for their comfort and to have such painless help and resolution felt amazing. My wife promptly scored us an amazing last-minute bid-your-own price deal for 3 separate hotel rooms in a Marriott and out we went…
That help and service that I’ve received left has left an everlasting impression and made me a customer for life. And I’ve never booked anything else with Airbnb and most likely never will, for the same reason.