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CapitalOne 360: how to lose a 14 year long customer

In summary...

  1. Instruct you customers to contact you through email, then never respond to their questions
  2. Train your phone representatives to only assist with well defined transactions per their script and ignore all other customer questions, comments and remarks.
  3. Advertise your corporate sponsorships - and make sure your customers can't reap any benefits of those. Well, that's how Capital One convinced me to cancel out my 14 year old accounts.
  4. And ignore any feedback you might receive indicating their is a customer service or customer issue (survey, manager escalation, customer escalation, ...)

And contrast this with: Marriott got it just right and delivered nicely on the same challenge !

This is a short story about Customer Service, and how it can quickly destruct a long term customer relationship. In this particular case, Capital One failed to provide me with even just a courtesy response despite many attempts (two departments through their listed email contact for existing customers, two phone customer service agents again on a number specific for existing customers) - ending a long (14 years) and happy relationship. At the end of the story, I'll tell you how Marriott Rewards reacted to the same question in a very different way - exceeding my expectations and cementing my loyalty.

So what happened... I asked Capital One as one of the seven Super Sponsors of the SXSW conference if I could get an invite to attend just one of the literary hundreds of sessions over this ten day event - and never got a response other than "I don't know" despite following every recommend way to contact them. Not a "no", definitely not a "yes" just a "well that's what it is going to be" statement.

Here are the details...

  • SXSW is a gigantic industry conference taking place in Austin, TX covering music, film and interactive media. It's an insider event for people within the industry - relying on expensive conference passes ($650 through $1745 to register) and exhibitor invitations.
  • SXSW has 7 Super-sponsors proudly advertised on all their materials... One of them is Capital One. The other ones are Esurance, Mazda, Monster, Bud Light, McDonalds and The Austin Chronicle as shown on the SXSW website. And there are 10 Major Music Sponsors - of which Capital One is also one.
  • Capital One broadly advertises their corporate sponsorships - of which they only have 5. SXSW being one of them (see the full list of five by clicking here (on their own website) ).
  • I'm (now was) a 14 year long customer of Capital One (since 2002, part of ING Direct acquired by Capital One and renamed Capital One 360). In all these years, I can't recall ever having contacted customer service. And yes, as a savings account it held a very significant amount of funds all through today.
  • I wanted to go and see the SXSW showcase session of Oscar & the Wolf on Friday March 18th in the Empire Garage venue - no tickets for these kind of sessions are being sold, you can only attend them as a conference attendee or be invited.
  • So... I decided to contact "my bank" to politely ask if as one of the few main sponsors, they could get me an invite to this session of the conference... I logged into my account, such that I would be identified as a customer, and followed the prompts in the "contact us" session... to arrive at an email address for the marketing department. Before the festival I sent a polite email... no acknowledgement and no response at all... then I sent a reminder... no acknowledgement, no answer.
  • But hey, we all know how email works, so... let's call the existing customer service number... The first representative I spoke listened, then went to ask a supervisor, then came back with "we don't know anything about that, there is nothing we can do". Euh yes, but your website says you are a main sponsor of this event, and so does the event, and hey you have my customer record - can you at least tell me who I should contact ? No.
  • Well alright, we all have our bad customer service moments, so let's call again. I got a different representative this time, called Marc, and this time I made sure he had my long standing and well funded account on his screen before launching into my question. Well... Marc didn't know what to do with my question... "was there any account transaction he could assist with ?"... I did the same story again... "well that is just what it is going to be - I can't assist with that". He went to ask a supervisor... came back with the same response: "there is nothing we can do - is there any account transaction I can assist with ?" - I was persistent and asked who I should contact if customer service couldn't even steer me in the right direction ? His answer: send an email to "".
  • So yes, I did send an email to The Office Of The President at Capital One 360... and I am still waiting for an acknowledgement of my question, let alone any meaningful response.

Let's be realistic... I wasn't expecting invitations flying my way. However, I was at least expecting a response. Kind of: "we only have 100 invitations, and you are not in our top-1000 list of customers, so we are sorry but we can't help". But... I was expecting a response. If you want to the world to know you are a corporate sponsor of this SXSW event, and if your logo is all over the festival's materials - you hope your customers will notice, and you should have an answer for them. No ? What else is marketing for, if you don't know what to do with the leads your advertising and exposure is getting you ? I'm puzzled.

So... if I don't even deserve a response, then this company does not deserve my loyalty or my money. Hence today I filed my application with Ally Bank - a direct competitor of the Capital One 360 products. The interest rate is higher, and the customer service can not get any worse so... let's give it a try.

Oh yes... I forgot to mention... The day after, I did get an online survey after my customer service calls... and of course I used the survey to provide the same information as I did in this blog. With the worst possible ratings (No, I will not recommend Capital One based on this customer service interaction, and here is why - No, my issue wasn't resolved - Yes, I contacted the bank through email and phone, ...). I'm still waiting for any follow-up from the survey... Perhaps they have way too many unhappy customers to do any follow-up or take any action at all. Then why do a survey ? Beats me.

One honorable mention...

On my way home, I did drive by a Capital One location near my home. So I just walked in. I wasn't a customer in that branch. I had never been there. I presented myself as a Capital One 360 customer, and handed over my account details. And I asked the same question. Kersten was friendly, accommodating, and helpful. She called her district manager later that day - and followed up with giving me a call. The next day she called another District Manager, and got the same response - and called me back. So instead of being an online customer ... perhaps I should just be a real-life customer. In a real agency. With real people. And higher cost to Capital One.


Marriott Rewards
One of the other 7 super sponsors on the SXSW festival website is Marriott Rewards. Yes, as a frequent traveler I have a Marriott Rewards membership. So I called them as well. The representative put me on a brief hold, as she needed to pull up some information. Next she walked me through the benefits of the sponsorship for Marriott Rewards numbers, and told me the sessions they could invite me to (all the ones with Universal Music artists) and how to get in. And told me how to find this information - so I could have it with me. Thumbs up. Great job - Marriott ! Now, unfortunately the session I wanted to see was hosted by Sony Music... not Universal... but at least I got a quick, easy and very nice answer on what Marriott's sponsorship of SXSW meant for their customers... Way to go !

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Jürgen's picture

No CapitalOne I won't come

No CapitalOne I won't come back... CapitalOne finally figured out that I did close my accounts, and wants me to come back... see their offer letter below... I guess they will figure out that it is much easier and cheaper to keep a good customer, than it is to win one back...


Jürgen's picture

May 15th... over and

May 15th... over and out.

Well here we are. I just sent the request to close my Capital-One accounts - after transferring all the funds to my new Discover and American Express Savings accounts...

I do have to mention one more thing related to the Capital One Customer Service "Office Of The President" escalation service... they do stick with their guns. After I finally did get a response (offering nothing, in fact stating that their customer representatives did the right thing by doing nothing at all to answer my question, and basically laughing with their own real-life bank person who did try to accommodate my request) I answered back to "The Office Of The President" and let them know how disappointed I was in the way they handled my request and the subsequent customer service escalation.

What I got back was a simple confirmation of their position... really nice and unbelievable. Let me quote a few sentences from their final response - so you get my drift...

We realize our previous response may not have been the response you were looking for, and we genuinely apologize for any negative connotation this situation has had for you in regards to Capital One and your 360 accounts. Please know it's not that we didn't want to assist you with your request for tickets to the SXSW Music Festival. But rather our inability to provide you with the outcome you were looking for. Regardless of whether tickets were or weren't available at any point in time for our Customers, as we stated in our previous message, tickets and additional festival access features weren't requests that we had the ability to fulfill at the time in which you were seeking them.

Please know the outcome would've been the same, regardless of whether our response was sent to you within the timeframe you requested in your email. While we wish that we would've been able to make this happen for you, and while we realize the entire situation (including our delayed response time) was less than ideal, unfortunately we were unable to do so.

The boiler plate disclaimer at the bottom of their message does not allow me to post the full correspondence, but I'll be glad to do so if I receive clearance, and/or communicate one on one with anyone who is interested.

Bye Bye Capital One. If you sponsor public events, and you advertise that you sponsor them, please figure out a decent way to answer your own customers.

Jürgen's picture

On Friday evening 3/25 I

On Friday evening 3/25 I received an email response from "The Office of the President" at Capital One... so that's just about 8 days after sending my escalation. The good news is that I finally did receive a response, but without making me feel any better (let alone providing any solution). I would share the email response with you - but the email disclaimer does not allow me to publish the Capital One "personal" response... so here is the summary:

Capital One acknowledges that the email address they publish on the contact page for existing customers ( is no longer monitored for incoming messages (!) - and neither has it been disabled (else I would have gotten a message failure).
Capital One says that "tickets and additional festival access weren't features that we were promoting to our Customers" - in other words... they keep the tickets and invites for themselves only ? They don't invite customers ? Well, that is not what the District Manager said...
The customer services agents who were unable to refer me to the correct person/email contact (or provide me with an answer) did their job: "our Associates correctly advised you that they were also unable to assist you with your request, as their purpose is to assist with the servicing of your account" - in other words: even if you have a relevant question related to Capital One - don't ask customer support as they won't help you if it is not in their script. And don't send an email because they don't read incoming messages on the published address. So really, what do you expect your customers to do Capital One ? [note that Marriott apparently does allow their customer phone representatives to help their customers... see above and thank you Marriott]

The following closing sentence sums it up: "We realize this festival has since come and gone, and we do apologize for the delay in our response, as well. We know we weren't able to assist this time around, but we hope we'll still be able to maintain our positive financial relationship going forward."

So... no pointers on how to address the same question next year (let alone an invite for next year)... just basically a too-bad we made mistakes and couldn't help you response. Well, with no outlook on a better future, I think I am making the right decision in saying bye bye to Capital One 360, and move on to a different bank. After 14 years of being a loyal customer with significant funds with them, I do believe a deserved something better.

Jürgen's picture

Quick update on Tuesday...

Quick update on Tuesday... Instead of opening an account with Ally Bank (former GMC affiliate) I opted to open an Online Savings Account with Discover today and started to wire funds from my Capital One 360 to my new account. The good news...

  • Instead of earning 0.90% APY with Capital One 360 I'll now be earning 0.95% APY
  • A sign-up bonus of $100 (see HMB offer here)

discover bank logo vs. ally bank The reasons to go with Discover versus Ally after a quick review... the customer service comments on Ally on the Internet... The better brand recognition & reputation of Discover... and the fact that in the future I might use more Discover services (although not planned right now).

Let's see how long it takes Capital One to detect the link between the poor customer service they delivered me (x4), my survey feedback, the ongoing transferring of my funds, and the account closure next week when the funds have been fully transferred. Will they ever notice ?