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Slugs with credit cards

Banana Slugs, that is.

My stepson and his girlfriend are both leaving for college in the fall and both applied to the same major bank for student credit cards.
Both got offered the initial $600 credit line - clearly this is the amount the risk model comes up with if there is no credit file to draw on
Both came in the mail with phone activation instructions
My son's girlfriend was able to activate over the phone just like you would expect- call from the home phone etc etc.
My son, however,was not – he was told to call the main customer service number. This started a long process:

  • The main customer service number told him he needed to bring multiple pieces of ID to a branch
  • He went into the branch, showed his ID to a (very helpful) member of staff and together they called the customer service number again
  • After being on hold etc the member of staff had to get the manager
  • She had to then prove she was the manager and look at the ID again
  • Then the customer service folks asked for another form of ID and my son ran off and got that
  • Everyone involved had to certify the IDs the branch staff then had to fax the IDs to the customer service folks
  • Lastly my son was told to go home and activate it from his home phone.

What on earth could have made this necessary?

Talking with my colleagues in the originations space the only thing we can think of is that he must have set off some sort of fraud flag - he may share a name with someone for instance (this is definitely not common), or the fact that he already had a card from the same bank through my account might have looked odd. Regardless it is hard to see what the bank gained from this besides a massive investment of their staff's time. I guess all these checks and balances fractionally increased their comfort level but, let's be blunt, it's a tiny credit line AND they already have his name, SSN, address etc on file from when I got him a card on my account!

Now I know there is achallenge for banks to strike the balance between security against fraud and good customer service but really...

Two things came out of this for me. The first is that no matter how nice and helpful your staff, if they are not empowered to make the decisions your customers need it won't matter - they will be unable to give good customer service and so your customers might take their business elsewhere. The second is that letting people know what's going on, explaining the process and perhaps acknowledging itwith a letter or a coupon to apologize for the extra steps would help a lot.

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