The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one of the most-recommended¹ cards for frequent travelers² – a category we definitely fall into – on account of its good rewards program, no foreign transaction fees, and suite of “premium” benefits³. We picked one up before we started traveling and put our major pre-trip purchases on it (new phones & laptop) to take advantage of the purchase protection benefits. But when we needed to actually use those benefits, we found the limits of the card’s appeal… and tested the limits of our own sanity.
We’ve had a number of issues with our Surface Pro 4. First we suffered the infamous flickergate↗ right at the end of the original warranty period. When the replacement stopped charging (or holding a charge) – this time just after its warranty elapsed – we decided the only avenue left to us was our Chase card’s Extended Warranty benefit. We expected a quick and painless turnaround; unfortunately, that was not the case.
Jump straight to our tips for dealing with Card Benefit Services here.
Filing a claim
Benefits claimants don’t deal directly with Chase. When I called to start my claim, I was simply referred to a website: CardBenefitServices.com.
Filing a claim was straightforward enough. I provided all of the required documents: sales receipt, credit card statement, and manufacturer warranty. According to the FAQ, I should expect to be contacted in 5 to 7 business days with an update. The claim could be finalized in as little as 5 business days.
After 8 business days, I started to get anxious. I reached out to Card Benefit Services to ask for an update. Supposedly I could expect a response to that message within another 5 business days.
November 16 (13 days)
I finally receive a response from Card Benefit Services, a form letter email requesting “A copy of a diagnostic from an authorized service center stating what is wrong with the product and whether it is cost effective to repair it.”
November 28 (25 days)
As it turns out, nobody had any idea how to provide this. Every PC repair shop I contacted in 4 countries (Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Germany) turned me down on the grounds that they couldn’t repair Microsoft Surface devices.
After some back-and-forth with Card Benefit Services, they offered me an alternative: mail my computer to a warehouse in Texas for inspection. At my own expense.
We already had experience shipping this computer internationally, sending it from Chile to the US and back for the in-warranty repair. That “free” repair cost us well over $300. The most we could hope to be reimbursed on this claim was €450 (the out-of-warranty repair cost at the nearest Microsoft Service Center). Giving us the choice to pay about that much in shipping costs and lose our computer for several weeks was no choice at all. There were too many ways it could go wrong.
Getting a diagnostic
December 7 (34 days)
Time to try something else. If only the manufacturer could repair a Surface, we’d go straight to the source. Microsoft Support’s detailed online diagnostic tools corroborated my battery was faulty and needed to be sent in for repair. I submitted this report as my diagnostic and repair estimate.
December 15 (42 days)
No response. Card Benefit Services eventually left me a voicemail, but only to demand I ship the device to their warehouse. Again, at my own expense.
After more hand-wringing from front-end support, I learned that they did receive the Microsoft Support diagnostic but rejected it out of hand and just never told me. More pushing revealed that only in-person diagnostics were accepted. This was never stated previously.
I asked about the fine print regarding an “authorized service center.” They were adamant that any PC repair shop would be fine. And if nobody could fix it? “Don’t worry if you can’t find a repair shop to actually perform the repair. The diagnostic just needs to show what is wrong with the computer.”
January 8 (66 days)
A miracle! On a whim, I stepped into a small repair shop in Victoria, Gozo. I gave my standard spiel, and incredibly, the guy behind the counter agreed to take a look at my Surface. Before long I was out the door, with a report in hand. At long last, a diagnostic!
I uploaded it the second I got home.
January 23 (81 days)
It’d been over two weeks since I uploaded the diagnostic with absolutely no forward movement. The call center representatives continued to feed us excuses; bad weather one day, a computer glitch the next. I think they were trying to run out the clock, or hoping I’d get frustrated and give up.
Instead, I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
I know, it’s silly. Who ever heard of that actually working? But I did it, clearly and concisely laying out my interactions with Card Benefit Services. How they came up with new requirements seemingly on the fly. How they’d dragged out the claim process far beyond what is reasonable, demonstrating “a pattern of disregard and evasiveness.” Couldn’t hurt to try.
January 25 (83 days)
New voicemail! It was Lauren, from Card Benefit Services.
My upload was received on January 8. But now the diagnostic, which they’d previously assured me just had to state the problem, required a repair estimate. I emailed back, asking for clarification. I submitted a repair estimate 7 weeks ago.
January 29 (87 days)
Lauren called again and left another voicemail. No acknowledgement of my email. Instead, she again demanded a new diagnostic and repair estimate, despite already being in possession of both.
I emailed again, this time taking care to point out the absurdity of the demand. What they were asking for was impossible. According to my Guide to Benefits (pdf), only repairs at the manufacturer’s authorized repair facility were covered. Only Microsoft repairs Surface Pro devices, so only they could provide the repair estimate. My claims examiner needed a diagnosis and a repair estimate, and the documents I uploaded provided both.
For good measure, I added the relevant fine print and standard price list from Microsoft’s support website and fully translated it to English. My documentation list had ballooned out of control:
February 6 (95 days)
At long last, I received an email from the Better Business Bureau that Card Benefit Services had finally responded to my complaint. My claim “…was paid out today afer [sic] receipt of the requested documentation for $614.90 (the flat rate exchange plus taxes). The examiner called and left him a voicemail.” It was finally over. I won!
Now, here’s the fun part. When I filed my complaint, I put down as my proposed resolution a payout of €500. €450 for the repair and €50 to reimburse me for diagnosis fees. This reimbursement seemed like a standard concession based on my research. However, I waited to upload the €50 receipt until Card Benefit Services asked for it. It was an experiment: if they settled my claim, would it be through the standard channels (€450) or the BBB (€500)?
In the end, the figure they decided on was $614.90. Five hundred euros, and nothing about the receipt. After all of that time and effort, all the phone calls and emails and documentation and fighting, the only reason they paid up was to settle a BBB complaint.
February 14 (103 days)
Contrary to their statement, I never did get a final voicemail from Card Benefit Services. The complaint response was their only contact with me between the January 29 voicemail (still pressuring for more documentation) and the check arriving in the mail.
I waited as long as I could to respond. I wanted to make sure the check actually showed. On practically the last day of the response window, it came in the mail. $614.90 on February 14, Valentine’s Day.
From beginning to end, settling my extended warranty claim took 3 months and 11 days. The process spanned 6 different countries, with 5000 km of travel in between. All to fix a damn computer battery.
Would it have gone faster or more smoothly if I was in the United States? Based on the number of complaints I’ve encountered against Card Benefit Services, I doubt it. And anyway, the whole point of our Chase Sapphire Preferred was for travel. If the benefits are practically unusable abroad, what good are they?
Somewhere on the long road to resolution, I did what any millennial fed up with a company would do. I tweeted @Chase. That tweet ended up sparking a formal investigation. Armondo from the Chase Executive Office left me a voicemail a few days later to let me know about it. After about a month, Armondo called again to say the investigation was all wrapped up.
A few weeks after that, this report arrived in the mail:
Their response was little more than condescension and gaslighting. My claim didn’t just “take longer than expected,” I had to fight tooth and nail for it to be taken at all. We were given the runaround until our complaint forced their hand. It shouldn’t take three months and third-party intervention to authorize a battery replacement. And as for “confirming” that they left me a voicemail, I did a little confirming of my own voicemail inbox – zero messages on February 5.
Tips for dealing with Card Benefit Services
Over the course of my 103-day claim process, I did a lot of research to figure out whether these kinds of tricks were standard operating procedure for Card Benefit Services. I consulted dozens of complaints in the BBB database and elsewhere. Most were strikingly similar to my own. Many were settled in the end, but they clearly don’t make it easy. These tips might help a little here or there, but regardless, steel yourself for a fight.
- If you can, preempt any made-up “missing documentation” issues and over-document your case up front. They will ask for more than the bare minimum. Don’t waste your time waiting for them to drip-feed you their demands.
- Be polite but firm with the front-end customer service representatives. The individuals at their call center are usually sugar-sweet. Which is great! But they’ll also lie through their teeth to get you off the phone, and it can be easy to believe them given their pleasant demeanor. Don’t take placations at face value. Demand accountability.
- Initiate all contact via email. In almost every interaction, I requested our current and future correspondence take place over email (as was my right, according to their own FAQ). This request was constantly ignored. Representatives far prefer to communicate on the phone since it leaves no paper trail; that way they’re free to lie with impunity. Try to get everything in writing regardless. If your state allows it, record all telephone conversations so no communication goes undocumented.
- Don’t use the web contact form. I made that mistake a few times before switching to email (email@example.com, for the record). They do seem to receive web form messages, but there’s no “paper trail” with this method. It just disappears into the ether.
- Push on them to respond as soon as you can. Trust me, it’s not mean. Not once was I contacted in “within 5 business days.” They honestly don’t even appear to look at new information until a week has passed, and then only to find the lowest-effort means of kicking the ball back to the customer. They’re trying to wait you out, hoping you’ll forget, or quit!
- Read your card benefits policy thoroughly. This was key for us to be able to identify black-and-white instances of Card Benefit Services trying to catch us out. It won’t stop them from doing that, of course. But if it comes time to complain, the ability to point to specific examples of bad-faith interaction is incredibly valuable.
- File a complaint at the first sign of run-around. Complaints take a long time in and of themselves. Don’t waste your time playing their game once it becomes clear they don’t intend to play fair.
How to complain
As far as I can tell, there are three main options for going “up the chain”: the Better Business Bureau, Chase, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Each has its own pros and cons.
The Better Business Bureau is itself a business. They have no regulatory power, only the coercive appeal of avoiding a negative rating. Still, sometime that’s enough. It worked for us! But the company behind Card Benefit Services, Chubb Ltd, seems to have put pressure on the BBB to bury old complaints, including mine. New reviews and complaints can be submitted via the company’s profile page found right here↗.
Complaining directly to Chase is another option. Maybe the @ChaseSupport↗ social media team does have some power to move things along behind the scenes. My impression is that Chase handling complaints about itself is a conflict of interest though, and unlikely to yield positive results.
A superior alternative, and my probable next recourse if the previous two options failed, is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Unlike the BBB, the CFPB is an actual government agency with regulatory authority. CFPB complaints can result in real consequences for the companies involved, and therefore the most effective way of getting an issue taken seriously and dealt with quickly and fairly. This should only be applied as a last resort. Make sure your case is thorough and well-documented, then file a complaint here↗.
Before this incident, we were actually quite happy with our Chase Sapphire card. But it’s interactions like this that show a company’s true colors. The sheer time and effort we wasted⁴ on something that was supposed to be a consumer benefit was simply appalling.
Consider voting with your wallet. I found plenty of evidence that Amex, for example, administers their extended warranty benefit much more fairly. There may be other competitors with even better offerings. Seek them out!
If Chase is still your preferred card, at least give them an earful when they abdicate responsibility for a good customer experience. It doesn’t matter if it’s a third party doing the dirty work; Chase hand-picked the third party and is wholly responsible for the quality of care with which it treats their customers.
And if you don’t want to do any of that, you can still earn 50,000 bonus points with Chase Sapphire Preferred if you sign up here↗. We can be rewarded too if you apply with our affiliate link and get approved for the card. Maybe we can get some blood out of that stone yet!
¹ creditcards.com – Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review
² thepointsguy.com – 5 Reasons Chase Sapphire Preferred Should Be Your First Card
³ nerdwallet.com – Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
⁴ Pretty sure Elon owes me royalties after all the self-driving cars I taught on those obnoxious captchas