With so many things that already happened, 2020 has yet run out of “surprises” for me. Just yesterday, I came really close to losing my domain registration of runningpinoy.com! No thanks to my bank that did not do their obligation.
The primary reason that I still keep spending my own money annually to maintain ownership of runningpinoy.com despite not really earning monetarily is to prevent identity theft. Years ago, when this blog was still using the free WordPress.com address, a non-Filipino registered runningpinoy.com, created an imitation site, and even a Facebook page that’s still around and ironically has more “likes” than my official page. And judging by how many of my contacts liked the fake page instead of the official one, it’s easy to see how gullible many people are. Since then I’ve been very protective of my brand and how it may be misused and put myself into trouble. I grabbed the registration as soon as it expired and never let it off my grip ever since.
My domain registration expired yesterday. Thankfully, WordPress.com is managing my registration and reminded me to ensure that my payment would succeed. As my credit card was hacked just before the quarantine started, the one I registered was already invalid. Who would’ve thought that four months is not enough for my bank, BPI, to deliver a credit card?
When I realized that my card was hacked, a good friend came to the rescue and helped me connect with the right contacts to block my card and start the dispute process. It was already in the midst of the quarantine and I was absolutely grateful that BPI has such dedicated people! The problem was when it came to issuing the replacement card. I had requested that it be delivered in my home address (as practically all offices are closed at the time) but to my surprise, I got a text message the following month of an attempt to deliver my card—in the office! I immediately reached out to them to just have it picked up in one of their branches close to me, but they refused and asked for my home address again. It was two months ago yesterday since the delivery attempt failed and I don’t have any idea if the card was forgotten in their warehouse or got lost in the mail.
Imagine living through four months (and counting) into the pandemic without a credit card. It’s a good thing that I can use my ATM as a debit card as we’re encouraged to go cashless. It would be a great inconvenience if I had to find an ATM to just get cash and be mindful of bringing enough when I go to the supermarket. But it’s such a waste that I was practically paying all in cash (instead of deferred using a card) and I was losing a lot of points in the process. It also meant that I can’t pay in installment for big ticket items, and I actually had to go back to a mall twice because my DSL bills from BayanTel is not allowed to be paid using a debit card. I had accumulated about four months’ worth of bills at the time so I expectedly don’t have enough cash to pay. Their terminal only accepts credit cards which I never realized as I always paid using a card.
Going back to yesterday’s harrowing incident, I tried using my debit card to pay for renewal via WordPress.com. Unfortunately, their site has issues with handling debit cards. First, their site doesn’t have any means of simply replacing a credit card with a debit card. They only allow a different credit card to be entered. Second, when I figured out that the only way to enter a debit card is to actually pay (instead of waiting for the registration to automatically renew), their system wasn’t accepting my debit card despite being activated for international and online use. At that point, I was starting to panic. The realization that I might lose my registration of runningpinoy.com was starting to sink in.
As a last resort, I looked at PayPal. I never got to update my account since my last credit card registered in their site expired but fortunately my account is still valid. Thankfully, they allow debit cards issued by local banks to be used and I was actually able to register mine without any issues. As soon as I saved it on my profile, WordPress.com was able to perform the renewal. My renewal now got earlier by a day because of this, but I guess losing a day is better than losing a domain.
This was another major inconvenience that was totally avoidable had my bank fulfilled their obligation of sending in my replacement card in a reasonable time. I don’t get what the excuse was as I know that the card is already ready two months ago and my delivery address is still within the same National Capital Region where the card is most like at. I had imports of much bigger packages from abroad that got delivered to my home in less than three days! How is one of the Philippines’ largest banks not capable of delivering such a small package over a really short distance?
This again is a reminder to myself not to put all my eggs in one basket. I was in a similar predicament before, but the learnings got lost to my misplaced trust that my bank was reliable. This pandemic really brings out the best and the worst in everyone. I’m just glad that again I was able to avoid a serious problem that the bank’s failure is bringing my way, but I’m really getting tired of their failure.
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For those who only have a debit card at their disposal, ensure that you exercise utmost caution when using your card in public and online as they are your cash! Turn on international and online use only when you really need it and set withdrawal and purchase limit to as low as you would need and your bank would allow. For BPI users, you can set this in their app by opening the menu, tapping on Other Services > Card Control and tapping on Show Card Settings on the card you want to set. You should also always check your balance as soon as convenient (and safe) after your transactions to check how much was actually deducted from your balance. By doing so, you’d know outright if there were extra charges.
As with my PayPal routine, I discovered that they outright charged me $1 upon registering my debit card. They also charged ₱100 to “confirm your card” (to remove the spending or withdrawal limits) which should be refundable (but I can’t as of now as I can’t see what four-digit code they provided with the transaction, as BPI’s app and site doesn’t show this detail). Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have taken this option since I really wanted to enforce that limit and now, I have an extra ₱100 charge that I may never be able to get back. Anyway, it was a good call that I asked PayPal not to do the conversion of USD to PHP as their rates are preposterous! The conversion was done by my bank instead and it was much reasonable.