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If You Know It’s Coming, It’s Not an Emergency

Yesterday I asked what causes you to dip into your emergency fund. Writing that article reminded me of a lady I spoke to while I was working in credit card customer service for a major bank.

There is a thing called an “emergency credit limit increase” on credit cards. If you are stranded on the side of the road and all you have with you is a maxed out credit card you can call and request an emergency credit limit increase. The bank does not have to give it to you and there are strict criteria that you have to meet to be eligible, but who knows. You can call and ask. If the bank agrees they will raise your limit a small amount, like $500, for 10 days or so. This will let you get to a safe place give you time to pay back the overage before your limit goes back to normal. If you don’t pay off the extra you will get over the limit fees.

So back to my story:

I was working on the supervisor line taking escalated calls from upset customers. I was transferred an elderly lady who was requesting an emergency credit limit increase. Her account actually fit the criteria for the emergency credit limit increase but her situation didn’t. She wasn’t having an emergency.

She tells me that she is about to leave on vacation. But she has been having tooth problems and thinks that while she is out-of-town she might need some dental work done. She wants an emergency credit limit increase in case she has to see the dentist while she is vacationing.

That’s not an emergency!

I tried to explain that an emergency is unexpected. An emergency is when you are in danger. If you know ahead of time that you are going to have an emergency then it no longer becomes an emergency. You can plan for it. In this case she could not go on vacation. Or she could pay her credit card balance down enough to be able to charge her dental work. Or have her dental work fixed before she goes away. She didn’t understand.

Another time I received a request for an emergency credit limit increase from a woman who was on vacation in Las Vegas. She said she had left her son with family to go on vacation and he had gone missing. She actually used the word kidnapped. She said she needed a credit limit increase for plane tickets to get home as soon as possible. I flipped! I was so panicked for her. I transferred her to my supervisor (I was “just” a front line rep at the time) but hung on the line to listen to rest of the call. Turns out she was a frequent caller and what she really wanted was some more gambling money.

Sigh. That’s not an emergency either.

What about you? Do you ever consider something an emergency when it’s really just a lack of planning? I’m not even going to ask you if you think running out of gambling money is an emergency. haha.

4 thoughts on “If You Know It’s Coming, It’s Not an Emergency”

  1. I guess I never realized credit cards extended lines of credit in an emergency. But you’re right, these are not emergencies. (of course, I’d think the lady with the kidnapped kid was an emergency until I realized she need more gambling money. 😉 ) Solution to this problem: Don’t max out your credit cards and pay them off each month!

  2. Kris @ Everyday Tips

    That was some fantastic advice you gave to the woman that possibly needed dental work while on vacation. You need to be at every house negotiation, car purchase, you name it.

    So, did you up her limit? I imagine you had to if she qualified.

  3. Thanks for this post. People overuse the term emergency. If you plan for something, set money aside for it, it’s not an emergency. You can actually get through life facing 1-2 (unforeseen) emergencies.

    Hence why I don’t like “emergency” funds. Most people know what is going to happen in their lives, the question is whether they will plan accordingly.

  4. @Kris: No, I didn’t up her limit. It’s for emergencies only and she wasn’t having an emergency. I told her to call back if she was having an emergency and we would review it at that time. 🙂 She didn’t like that answer.

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