Refusing to pay could hurt you more than them

Oh, the injustice of it all.

Who among us hasn’t felt abused as a consumer? We get billed for stuff we didn’t receive, or that doesn’t work, or that didn’t live up to its hype. Companies charge us unexpected fees and insist the costs were revealed in the fine print. Health insurers take customer disservice to a whole new, awful level, inexplicably refusing to pay for services they promised to cover and deluging us with impossible-to-decrypt paperwork.

It’s understandable if you feel that enough is enough. But taking a righteous stand against paying an unfair bill can boomerang on you — hard.

In my latest for the Associated Press, situations where you might be tempted to refuse to pay, and what you might want to consider doing instead.

Credit card fraud alerts: don’t be too impressed

Dear Liz: My wife and I have had our bank’s airline cards a long time, but we want to change because it’s become almost impossible to cash in the miles. What I don’t see in various card-comparison articles are ratings of the card issuers for customer service and fraud protection. Our bank has been quite good at both, but what about the other issuers?

Answer: People are often unduly impressed when their credit card issuers contact them frequently about possibly fraudulent charges. The issuers are the only ones at risk in these situations, since under “zero liability” policies you can’t be held responsible for bogus charges. Also, if their software were better, they might do a better job of separating legitimate from fraudulent transactions and have to bother you less.

In any case, it’s tough to tell as a customer how good the issuer’s fraud prevention measures are. So perhaps a better metric to use is customer service, and J.D. Power publishes an annual credit card satisfaction study that tries to gauge six factors: interaction; credit card terms; billing and payment; rewards; benefits and services; and problem resolution. American Express has ranked at the top of the survey every year since it started seven years ago. Discover ranked second for 2013 and Chase ranked third.