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Billing snafus led to some overcharges

The Tribune is reporting that about 400 CTA customers actually were overcharged a total of about $9,000 in the billing problems we wrote about Monday.

The CTA's customer alert only suggests that there was a delay in collecting payment from customers. It doesn't mention overcharges.

Metavante, the company that processes the payments for the CTA, says 26 customers reported being charged overdrafts by their banks. Metavante confirmed six overcharges and will cover them.

The big problem here is the sudden appearance of unexpected -- but legit -- charges for folks who may be on tight budgets. From the Tribune report:

Many more users, like Robert Harris of Calumet Park, said they were inconvenienced by the influx of charges. Harris found his bank account suddenly $200 smaller from legitimate charges Friday, he said. The charges, which he assumes have built up since he began using the machines in April, didn't cause him any overdraft fees, but they will prevent him from making his last student loan on time, Harris said.

"I have monthly bills," Harris said. "I have a student loan payment due at the end of this month. . . . I can't make that payment now."


If you've bought $200 worth of passes from a CTA machine since April and your account hasn't been charged, you obviously know you've been taking advantage of an error and riding free for the last couple of months. So now that the error has been found and corrected, the fact that you went ahead and spent that money on other things is your own problem.

legit charges are one thing, overcharges are another...and as pointed out yesterday, after a certain amount of time the processors have violated the terms of their agreement and are on shaky legal grounds actually collecting them if the payer protests.

I gave kudos to the CTA for actually admitting the error and trying to fix it, but it looks like yet again they haven't given us the full story...surprise, surprise.

I've never bought from these machines, my work deducts 1/2 of a 30 day pass from my check directly 2 times a month and then sends the $75 directly to the CTA.

The only time I've had a problem is when I've been charged an "extra fare" because of the high time limit that the CTA puts on using your card on a bus...i.e. I have to wait 17 minutes before I can travel on a bus in the same direction on the same route. It's pretty lame that I can't drop off some videos and then continue on the same route, same direction without waiting almost 20 minutes for a billing delay. One time this put my balance below 75 and I got a notice in advance that there was a problem. After a few calls I got them to reimburse the charges for the "extra rides" and I was back in business. I've been paying through work, pre-tax, so my $75 actually saves me about $5-10 per month.


[I gave kudos to the CTA for actually admitting the error and trying to fix it, but it looks like yet again they haven't given us the full story...surprise, surprise.]

It does say that the overcharges were refunded after being discovered on Friday, which was the same day the CTA alert was issued. So it's likely that the CTA simply didn't know about that problem at that time.

But I think the article is fuzzy on what happened after that. Did Metavante notify CTA of the overcharges? It's not clear from the article if they did or not; there's no CTA comment about the overcharges at all.

I'm also not sure what to make of Krysten Lynn Ryba's story, about being overcharged by $65. Is her claim intended to contradict Metavante's claim that the overcharges were refunded? Or did Metavante's refusal occur before the overcharging error was discovered, and her charges were refunded along with the other overcharges on Friday?

Melissa, if you're reading, could you clarify these points?

"Metavante reports 7 percent 2Q revenue growth"


Looks like Metavante is benefiting no matter the inconvenience to CTA riders.

The story doesn't shed any light at all onto what really happened. All we know about the problem is that an error occured. The rest of the story deals with what has happened as a result of the error correction, but fails to tell us anything about the error. It's half a story at best.

The overcharge issue is very under covered. Were the overcharges things that happened over a period of time? Or were the overcharges something that happened during the correction of the missing changes thus a seperate error that had to be corrected?

As for how this has effected people, I have empathy for people who were missing a charge or two, and it was just enough to trigger an overdraft when they finally went through without warning. Especially if we're talking about a joint checking account where one person isn't always aware of the other person's charges unless they're posted in a timely manner.

But I don't have empathy for a single guy who spent $200 over less than three months, and now is having trouble making ends meet. You're going to have a harder time convincing me that his issue is anything more than poor money management skills solely on his shoulders. Missing a $50 charge by your joint account holder is one thing. Missing $200 worth of charges you made yourself is another thing.

But still, I'm very disappointed that the Tribune hasn't reported on what caused the snafu. In a past era when journalists actually went out and reported the news, the main story would be about the error, and how it happened (the hard news), and some cub reporters would have done a sidebar story on the personal effects (a human interest story). It's very disappointing that they chose to ignore the hard news, and instead are presenting a human interest sidebar as their main story. Sad. Very sad.

If memory serves, there was some kind of internal CTA overcharge/embezzlement problem last year. I recall that a co-worker of mine was a victim. When she first noticed extra (unauthorized) charges showing up on her credit card bill, she attempted to notify the CTA and was told (on more than one occasion) by customer service that such a thing couldn't possibly be happening and the error was hers. Later the CTA admitted the truth, but I don't know if she ever got an apology, or whether it ever registered with anyone in charge that customers attempting to report the problem were given the brush-off.

So, two reasons now why I won't give the CTA access to my credit card--for me it's strictly cash on my Chicago Card.

Joe Blow is exactly right. It's annoying this is happening, and it shouldn't be, but it's still the customer's responsibility to manage their own account.

Most people assume, understandably, that all of the things they have payed for will have been charged to their credit card within a few days. It is silly to expect people to remember every little thing and to therefore not assume that if they have enough available credit to pay for something that they have enough. Yes, it is the customer's responsibility. But normal people under normal circumstances would not have kept detailed records of this and may have allowed the accounts to be overdrawn. Being billed for something several months late is not normal and can cause major inconveniences. That is just fact.

Agreed, MK. Expecially if you're talking about small, everyday-type purchases. If I buy a pizza, I expect to see it in my list of purchases in my online account. If it doesn't appear there, well, two weeks later I might not remember that there's a pizza purchase missing.

This is even more true if it's a joint account. Who remembers to tell their joint account holder of every little purchase made?

And banks are encouraging people to use their online services to keep track of your purchases. While it's all nice and good to say it's the account holder's responsiblity to keep their own records, who really does keep, record, and reconcile every little purchase? If that's what's expected of account holders, then credit and debit cards are no longer as convinent as cash, let alone more convinient.

However, this applies to everyday purchases.

IMHO, if I buy a pizza every week, and it never shows up in my online account, that's a red flag. And if I make a large purchase that doesn't show up, that's a red flag, too. We're not talking little, inconsequential purchases that should fall within a cushion that I plan for.

So I think they should take care of the overdraft fees. That's a reasonable expectation. But I draw the line at having any empathy for someone who hasn't realized that $200 he spent never got posted. That's not a pizza. That's not something a joint account holder did, and forgot to tell him about. That's his transportation budget -- a significant amount that he should have noticed wasn't getting posted.

If he's not even noticing over $200 of purchases isn't posting, that's pretty bad. He should be happy that he's not affected by overdraft fees, but he does need to keep better track of his significant purchases.

You've got to draw the line somewhere. And I think I'm choosing a reasonable place to draw the line.

Seems as though they're having similar troubles in the big city. New York's Metrocard vending machines have been refusing to take debit or credit cards since Monday. These are the same brand of machines the CTA rolled out in March to handle debit and credit transactions. There are over 2,000 of the machines in NYC and a majority of riders obtain their Metrocards from them using plastic. The New York Times has been documenting the angst closely.


Sounds like maybe Rusty has had some joint-account misadventures in the past?

Anyway, if your checking account is so habitually low that a few minor CTA purchases not registering on time is enough to cause overdraft charges down the road, you *should* be balancing your account regularly, as well as reserving funds for purchases you know you've made that haven't hit your account yet. Plus, especially with online banking, it's pretty easy to do!

I agree with Mike and Joe. It's called a ledger. He should have used it.

Be also careful of standing too close next to the machine on the bus that reads your bus pass. I carry mine in my purse. If I am standing by the door with the purse right next to that reader, it has one time charged me a fare. I did not find out that $1.75 wass taken out of my credit card until i was looking at the CTA website which records all your buses and trains you took. Since I paid for a monthly pass, and then my standing too close hit the reader again, the reader thought that i was paying for another passenger, and then charged me the $1.75. I dont know if Im explaining it right. But that $1.75 could lead to other bounced charges if my bank balance was too low.

So what im saying is, you could be honestly keeping up with it, and not realizing you accidentally stood too close to the CTA card reader and bam you now have a charge on your credit card.

Or... move back so you aren't blocking entering and departing passengers and blocking access to the pass reader for entering passengers...

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