I received an email the other day from a company I have a subscription with. The subject line was “Payment Declined.”
Like many of our bills, this one is on autopay, so it just gets processed each month. The subject line told me fairly clearly that this one did not get processed.
I opened the email. It read, “The card you recently tried to use to pay for your subscription is not valid. Happens to the best of us.”
My first reaction: The “Happens to the best of us” is a nice touch not to make folks feel bad. My second reaction: Whoa, wait a minute. My bank card is tied to that account.
I grabbed my wallet and checked my card to see that it was still valid. Good through 2023.
My next step was to call my wife, as she is the financial brains in our household. She handles all the bills and does the taxes and all that other stuff regarding money in our house. It’s really a tradeoff. She tends to the important financial things, and I walk the dog each night. We both really do our part to keep the house afloat.
I asked my wife if she knew what was up. She told me she did not, and did offer a rather smart suggestion. She said I should probably go try and use my card somewhere to see if there was a problem, in particular because this was a Friday afternoon and if it was a problem, I’d be without any way to pay for things for the weekend.
I went to a gas station. I didn’t need gas, so I went inside and grabbed a few items. I took them to the counter, and the clerk rung up my purchase. I swiped my card. Card declined
“Can you run it again, please?” I asked.
The clerk looked at me kinda sadly. “Oh, sure thing. I’ll run it again.” Card declined. Great.
I decided to head to my bank. It was about 20 minutes away, so I figured I would call the toll free number for my bank to see if I could reach a customer service person before I got to the bank. After a few minutes of arguing with the automated menu (“I DON’T KNOW MY ACCOUNT!!! OPERATOR!!!!”) I was on the phone with a live person.
I told him that my card had been declined at a couple of places and I didn’t know why. He said, “Oh, your account was part of a mass data breach and your card was suspended. A new card should have been sent to you.” Ok, first off, mass data breach? Great. Second, well it apparently never made it to me.
I told him that I was near a local bank and asked him if I could get a temporary card so I could, you know, buy groceries and the like. Indeed I could.
I pulled in about an hour before the bank closed for the weekend. I explained what was going on. The bank teller asked, “Did you get a notification?” Yes, I told her. From a subscription service and the gas station. Other than that, no.
In short order, I had a temporary card, and a new card is on its way. I wasn’t given any information on what exactly the “mass data breach” was, and my guess is I will never find out. It’s kind of unsettling that most of our money isn’t actual money, but just a bunch of digital footprints. I’m considering going old school and just keeping my money in coffee cans I bury in my backyard. I hope my online subscriptions can figure out how to come find it each month.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.