Another Weekend Fiasco with OCBC

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I thought my last run-in with OCBC was bad. Apparently, I thought wrong. Two months have lapsed since my last purchase at OCBC and I have paid 2 installments on my Simmons purchase.

While shopping at Marks & Spencer in Plaza Singapura on Saturday morning before the boy’s music class, the wife spotted a pair of waterproof leather boots that was ideal for her use during our Japan trip at the end of the year. As the outlet did not have the size that she wanted, she got the staff to reserve a pair at Centrepoint for collection on Sunday. The year-end trip is with the in-laws, so my wife decided to bring her mum along the next day to see if she would also fancy a pair.

On Sunday, we made our way to Centrepoint. While the wife and mother-in-law were shopping, I decided to deposit some extra cash in my OCBC Savings account, in case I needed to top-up my credit card account, based on my previous experience. I walked over to the OCBC branch in Orchard Point to deposit the cash.

As anticipated, the total purchase price after shopping will exceed the limit that I had on my OCBC Robinsons Card, I tried to top-up my account via Internet Banking, as I did previously. After trying for 15 minutes and getting several “Service Not Available” messages on the Internet Banking site, I had to resort to topping up via the ATM at Orchard Point.

After the top-up, we proceeded to make payment for the purchase. To our surprise, the credit card purchase was declined. We requested the Marks & Spencer staff to try both my main card and my wife’s supplementary card again, but the transactions were declined.

Hence, I called the OCBC hotline and spoke to a customer service officer named Aidi. He checked on both my accounts and verified that the deposit I did, and the top-up I performed was reflected in my accounts. Puzzled, he had to check with his credit card department to understand why the transaction was declined, and asked if he could call back once he got to the bottom of the matter. Reluctantly, I agreed.

10 minutes later, he called back and explained that while the accounts reflected the top-up, the amount was not available until a batch run was processed. For those unfamiliar with such systems, a batch run is basically done to reconcile accounts. When I requested to know what time the batch run will be performed, he told me it was only done end of day. He told me that if I wanted the purchase to go through, I had to request for the Marks & Spencer staff to get a manual approval. To his credit, Aidi stayed on the line and waited for the manual approval to be done. Kudos to the Marks & Spencer staff for their patience and understanding too, throughout the whole process till the manual approval got through.

Based on these two incidents that I experienced, I have many questions to “Ask OCBC”. Since all the accounts are within the bank, shouldn’t the transfers be real-time? Why is there a need for an end of day batch run reconciliation? Why was this top-up different from my previous top-ups?

I suspect that my questions will go unanswered, as I previously suggested, “Ask OCBC for what?”


Ask OCBC for what?

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Robinsons has always been one of our preferential department stores with their wide range of products, regular discounts and excellent service. However, this weekend we had an awful shopping experience at Robinsons.

No, it’s not caused by Robinsons. On the contrary, the staff there were very patient and understanding, as we have always had a pleasure of experiencing all these years. It was due to the inadequacy of the bank carrying the Robinsons co-brand credit card. Hence, the title of this blog post.

It all began on Thursday, when the wife wanted to go for an impromptu stress-relieving shopping session at Raffles City. When we were about to leave, she asked me for my opinion on an Agnes b. bag that caught her eye when she was window-shopping while waiting for me. The salesgirl at the Agnes b. shop informed us that there will be a late night shopping discount the next day and offered to reserve the bag for us to come back and enjoy the discount. Since the wife liked the bag a lot, we decided to come back the next day to do dinner and get the bag.

On Friday morning, while flipping the Straits Times, I saw a full page Robinsons advertisement on beds. We have been wanting to upgrade our bed to King for the longest time, as our little boy who sleeps with us is not that little anymore, if you know what I mean.

When evening came, we met up at Raffles City after I picked the boy after work. Since we still had about 45 minutes to our dinner reservation at Prego’s, we dropped by Robinsons bed section to check out the Simmons promotions and test out the mattresses.

We have been using Simmons all the while and found no reason to change. They had a BackCare 2 mattress promotion with a standard bedframe going at $1. The total cost added up to $3.4K. Another promotion was on the mattress provided to Resorts World Sentosa. It comes with a plush pillow top that felt awesome when I tested it. The total cost of the mattress together with our preferred bedframe was 4.5K. We couldn’t make up our minds on an empty stomach and decided to discuss over dinner.

We made our way to Prego’s to have our dinner. We dined on the ever warm and fluffy bread with salsa sauce, a mushroom soup drizzled with truffle sauce, a seafood linguine with tomato sauce and a ham and mushroom pizza with an extremely thin crust. It was an excellent dinner to kick off a great weekend, or so we thought. Over dinner, we decided to splurge on the more expensive promotion since we will spend at least one-third of each day on our bed. That was the beginning of my credit card limit nightmare.

We proceeded to approach the Robinsons staff that we spoke to before dinner to purchase the RWS promotion mattress. Everything was fine until we were trying to make payment. As usual, we used the OCBC Robinsons Platinum VISA card under my account to make payment in order to enjoy the 5% rebate. The cashier swiped the card and it was declined. She tried a few more times before she informed us. I suspected it could be the low credit limit as I had the card since I started work and have not increased my credit limit ever since. That was my oversight, as I never had a need for a credit limit over $4K until now.

The cashier offered to call the bank and explain to the customer service staff before handing the phone over to me. When I tried to ask for a temporary credit limit increase for the transaction to go through, I was shocked to hear that they were unable to entertain temporary credit limit increases for purchases. I never had a problem requesting for a temporary credit limit increase with any of my other credit cards with the other banks, such as DBS, UOB or Citibank. Citibank even has a fuss-free option via their Internet Banking site to request for a temporary credit limit increase. And the increase was almost instantaneous, which I was expecting to be the case, how wrong I was.

The bank staff then proceeded to explain that only under 4 circumstances would they be able to do it. I only caught the first two, which was funerals and hospitalizations, which made me ponder why would I even bother to use a card with such troublesome restrictions when I’m dead or sick. She said that she could not do anything about it and said that if we really wanted to use the card, we could do a top-up into the credit card account for the purchase to go through. I did the usual Singaporean thing by asking to speak to a manager. The staff explained that it was after office hours and there were no managers around till Monday. I had to make a big fuss before she agreed to get her manager to call me back. It took about 15 minutes for her manager to call back.

In the meanwhile, the Robinsons staff were kind enough to offer us alternatives such as breaking the payment over 2 cards or topping up the purchase with cash. As the purchase amount was rather big, the 5% rebate was rather substantial which means that we had to stick with the card one way or another. Apparently, this was not the first time they have encountered such an issue. The bed department staff told us that she once had a customer whose purchase was a few dollars off the credit limit and the bank refused to do anything. After speaking to the Robinsons staff, we decided to put down a deposit to lock the purchase in and come back over the weekend once we resolve the issue with the bank. Even though the whole episode was not their fault, they kept apologizing for the inconvenience caused. Kudos to Robinsons for their excellent customer service. I think all businesses in the service industry should strive for such excellence. Especially the co-brand bank.

When the manager from the bank called back, all she did was to regurgitate what her staff mentioned to me that they were unable to do anything. Personally, I think that it was more useless speaking to the manager than to the customer service staff. The manager didn’t do anything to defuse the situation and insisted that she was the highest authority. I am still waiting for the email she offered to send stating the 4 circumstances in which the bank will allow a temporary credit limit increase. I made an even bigger fuss until she said that she will get someone from the credit card department to call me on Monday. I will update this post after I take the call.

Ultimately, I had to do a top-up into my credit card for the purchase in the middle of the night as the bank was unable to do anything. Thankfully, I had an OCBC Savings account which I used to make payments for my school fees back in my NP days. I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I did not have the account. I transferred $1K into the account and ensured that the amount allowed on the card is more than the purchase amount after deducting the deposit. We had to go back to Raffles City on Saturday to complete the purchase.

This is not the first time I faced issues with OCBC. A few years ago, I made payment for the same credit card account using my Savings account and had an email acknowledgement on the payment. However, due to some glitch, the payment didn’t go through. The bank had the nerve to charge me late fees and interest. I had to insist and showed them the email as proof before they agreed to waive off the additional charges. At that time, I asked for an explanation on how such a thing could happen. To this day, I am still waiting for that explanation.

This incident also reminded me of the misleading advertisement from the bank that Kitchen Tigress so aptly proved at the beginning of the year. The OCBC slogan and catch phrase is “Ask OCBC”. I asked, and they did not deliver. I think it should be rephrased to be something more Singlish like, “Ask OCBC for what?“. Especially since they are unable to provide what they advertise.

Coincidentally, maybe I should try and ask them for a birthday cake on Monday.

Another person from the credit card call centre called and repeated everything I heard on Saturday. And she was the one who sent the official email to me, not the person whom I request it from. The other two circumstances are Weddings and Overseas Trips. I seriously wonder how they are going to enforce this. I could possibly request for a increase for an overseas trip and then proceed with my purchase. Would they be able to stop the purchase from going through?

Personally, I am not going to depend on OCBC for either, especially with all the hassle I might have to go through to get the increase. Imagine the IDD charges I might get just to increase the limit for a few hundred dollars. Who is going to pay for the charges?

In the end, I also didn’t bother asking for the birthday cake. No point spoiling my birthday over non-existent customer service.

Morale of the story: If “Ask OCBC” doesn’t help, I recommend asking another bank. No point wasting your energy. It’s just a contact centre, they can’t do much. Their contact centre and credit cards feels more like an after-thought. There just because others are doing it.