Consumer Choices: What I learned today about CapitalOne Visa
Based on what I know to date, the credit cards issued by CapitalOne are among the few left that do not charge fees for foreign currency transactions. That's something worth considering among Go players since most of our high-end goods (like Mr. Kuroki's wares) are likely to be purchased from Japan. Foreign currency fees are typically assessed at 3% of your transaction amount.
I got a chance to deal with CapitalOne's customer service and their transaction-dispute departments yesterday and today. I was having trouble getting a timely refund for a guitar that I had returned to an eBay merchant. My experience shed some light on CapitalOne's operations and how they're able to reduce their costs (thereby reducing the fees charged to the customer).
Outsourced Call Center
Both of the service reps, Richard and Steve, had heavy Indian accents and the lines had a slight level of static. Both reps spoke clearly but in slow and halting English. These would seem to suggest that the main call center is located in India. I spoke to both during the mid-morning, Pacific Coast time.
The line to the transaction-dispute department was clear and the representative, Dee, had an East Coast accent which suggested that this department was located in the US. I expected that any "escalations" would still be handled locally.
I was told that CapitalOne does not open a dispute until 30 days after the transaction has closed or 30 days after the date that the merchant claims to have issued a refund; whichever is later. Until the dispute is resolved, the transaction stays on the card owner's account and he/she is still obligated to pay it. Otherwise, normal credit card interest will be applied on any unpaid balance.
Comparison to CitiCard
To the best of my knowledge, Citbank's call centers are all still located nationally and I haven't yet seen any indication of an overseas operation when calling late in the evening.
With regards to contested transactions, Citibank assumes that the customer is right and immediately issues a credit for the disputed amount so that the card owner is not obligated to pay for it. If there is a difference between the claimed amount and the settled amount, the balance is debited/credited to the account on the date of settlement. The final settlement usually takes about two months to complete.
Overall, this was a good learning experience and it will help me decide when to use my CapitalOne credit card. It's best suited for transactions with trusted merchants (Amazon.com, UPS, your grocery store) and, obviously, with trusted merchants dealing in foreign currency (like Mr. Kuroki).
For yet-untested merchants, it's probably best to handle the transaction with a more service-oriented credit card issuer like Citibank. I've been their cardholder since my first year of college and they haven't yet disappointed me. I still remember the time that they upped my credit limit so that I could buy a gift for ChiyoMama when we were in Hawaii.