Friday, May 14, 2021

Now that’s one expensive cab ride

by TERRI DICKERSON/ CDA Press Consumer Gal
| October 29, 2020 1:00 AM

A Coeur d’Alene reader and his wife went to Santiago, Chile, in March to celebrate their 30-year wedding anniversary. As a precaution, they decided to secure some Chilean pesos prior to leaving so there would be no need to use credit cards or U.S. money while traveling.

All was well until our readers had to pay for a short cab ride from the airport to the hotel. They were prepared to pay the cab fare with Chilean pesos but were told by the cab driver that the company didn’t take cash. Their option, they were told, was to pay by credit card.

The husband presented his Chase Visa card to pay the fare and was told his credit card charge did not go through. They had the cabbie run the wife’s card too but were told that credit card also didn’t accept the charge. Having no other way to pay the fare, the cab driver reluctantly took the pesos as payment — about a $20 U.S. cab fare.

The rest of the trip went without incident until their credit card statement arrived in the mail in April. The wife’s Chase card had a charge of $1,215.54 and the husband’s Chase card included a charge of $1,202.17 while in Chile. They did not think they used their credit cards while in Chile but it was clear that the charges originated from Chile because the exchange rate for the transaction was for Chilean pesos.

The couple ended up disputing the charges and were issued a provisional credit while Chase investigated the situation. As a precaution, the accounts were closed and new cards were issued.

After thoroughly investigating the charges, Chase determined that the couple did receive a benefit from this transaction so the company deemed the charges were valid, meaning the customers were responsible to pay. A quick Google search revealed that the charges came from the taxi cab company and the first thing that popped up in the search was fraudulent taxi service charges in Santiago, Chile. Surely a company like Chase with a well-funded fraud department could have easily figured this out.

So our readers appealed to Chase’s upper management to review the disputed charges again. At some point, they remembered the incident with the declined cab fare to their hotel and let Chase know the charges were declined. However, in the end their appeal went nowhere as upper management upheld that the charges were valid. Why? Because our readers received benefit from this transaction and they “willingly gave” the taxi cab driver the credit cards to run for the charges, thereby agreeing to the transaction and holding the company harmless.

A $20 cab ride turned into a $2,417.71 cab ride because the vendor really did charge both credit cards for an exorbitant amount. To add insult to injury, Chase also assessed a charge of 2.99% for the exchange rate fee for foreign money transactions, adding another $72.29 to this already expensive cab ride.

The vendor, not surprisingly, was smart enough to have the charges run as slightly different amounts so they could not be explained away as a duplicate even though the charges were run by the same company and on the same day. Since the customer didn’t realize the charges went through until they received their statement, the charges were paid to the fraudulent company and the credit card company claimed the money was unrecoverable.

So as it now stands, our readers are on the hook to pay just shy of $2,500 for a $20 cab ride because the vendor tricked the customer into thinking they had to pay with their credit cards. The fact that our readers had an account for 30 years with Chase, were in good standing and never missed a payment all meant nothing to the company. Instead, management directed the customer to review their contract, explaining why they were ultimately responsible for the charges.

This incident seems to fly in the face of the protections we as consumers expect from such fraudulent vendors. Understandably the customers are upset and are left with the option to hire a lawyer or go to small claims court to fight the credit card company.

Moral to the story: If you have a situation where your credit card is declined and you don’t know why, call the credit card company right away. This allows you to alert the company to a potential problem and gives the company the ability to decline fraudulent charges that may appear on your card.

Remember: I’m on your side.

If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.