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Can a credit card company really go to your house?

Capital One can, according to the fine print in its cardholder agreement. But the bank says it doesn't visit customers.

By Money Staff Feb 18, 2014 3:30PM

This post comes from Bob Sullivan at partner site on MSN MoneyThere's a new reason to carefully read the fine print in contracts you sign: to find out who might be coming for dinner.

L.A. Times consumer reporter David Lazarus reported this week that credit card issuer Capital One's cardholder agreement includes some surprising terms. According to Lazarus, the agreement says the company may "contact you in any manner we choose," including a visit "at your home and at your place of employment."

But the "What's in Your Wallet" company isn't going to be in your kitchen, according to Capital One spokeswoman Pam Girardo.

"This language is not new to Capital One agreements. The agreement was recently sent to a group of customers as part of the ongoing HSBC integration," Girardo said. Those mailings stirred up attention, but customers shouldn't be concerned, she said. "Capital One does not visit our cardholders, nor do we send debt collectors to their homes or work."

Girardo said that the company is reviewing the language "because we do not want to create any unnecessary insecurity among our customers."

The confusion stems from an exception to the statement that Cap One doesn't visit customers at home: Capital One does sometimes repossess sports vehicles it has financed when customers don't pay their bills.

Capital One credit card Credit: © Philip Bramhill/Alamy
To end the confusion, Cap One is "considering creating two separate agreements, given this language doesn’t apply to our general cardholder base," Girardo said.

It's important to note that the Capital One language doesn't grant the company any rights it doesn't already have.  Anyone can knock on your door. This isn't unconstitutional or illegal. Think of Cap One as a vacuum cleaner salesman. Anyone who wants can try to knock on your front door. In fact, the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that door-to-door solicitation is basically a form of protected commercial free speech. Municipalities often have rules designed to curtail solicitation, but it's generally unclear how these rules would hold up to a challenge in federal court.

It's interesting to note that other nations have taken an alternative tack. In Australia, residents can put up "Do Not Knock" signs, and shoo away salespeople, who face stiff penalties for ignoring them. On the other hand, American door-to-door professionals will tell you that folks with "no soliciting" signs on the front door make the best targets, as they are identifying themselves as bad at saying no.

Of course, just because someone knocks doesn't mean you have to answer. As is your right with the phone, you can just let them knock, or you can tell whoever it is to leave and never come back.  Returning, or refusing to leave, would probably constitute criminal trespass.

Rules governing solicitation on commercial property (that is, at your place of employment) are a little less clear. But suffice to say it's very hard for large businesses, such as malls, to kick out solicitors.

More important, however, are consumers' rights regarding debt collection, which are made abundantly clear in the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.  No one -- not Capital One or anyone else -- can call you and demand payment during unusual hours. If you tell collectors to stop calling, they have to stop calling, or you can win a pretty easy judgment against them for $1,000 per violation.

In other words, it pays to read the fine print.

Consumers can learn much more about their rights under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and about new rules governing debt collectors.

More from

Feb 18, 2014 5:14PM

I had Capital One for my business and was out of town for extended periods and was late for one payment. Interest rate jumped to 27%. I put several hundred dollars or more a month for fuel and lodging on the card and paid it monthly. Didn't matter to them, they refused to drop the interest rate. So I dropped them! They lost a $20,000 + account and USAA gained it and gave me a lower rate than I had to begin with with Capital One.

I would never use them or recommend them to anyone again.

Feb 18, 2014 4:18PM
Capital One is easily the worst credit card company in the last two decades. It preys on sub-prime borrowers. 

Feb 18, 2014 5:09PM
That could be dangerous for A bill collector to show up at some ones front door. Enough said. 
Feb 18, 2014 4:59PM
I'm cancelling my card with Capitol One until that language is removed.  IF it is not important and not in use then cancel it, Capitol One.
Feb 18, 2014 5:07PM
Easy solution: Do not apply for a Capital One Card or if you have one, cancel it.  Problem solved.
Feb 18, 2014 4:37PM
New meaning to "What's in Your Wallet?"
And Capital One I am sure paid their legal department to run over the agreement verrrry well before they sent it out to cardholders....

Gessh ya just cant hire good help these days......

Feb 18, 2014 5:13PM
I dropped my Capital One account decades ago. Their tactics are unethical and they are not worth doing business with at all. Yes, what else is hidden in the fine print that none of us have the time to read?
Feb 18, 2014 5:12PM

The banks charge Maffia type rates. Now they are taking a page out of the Mafia. I will comne to your house / work. Don't make me break your legs.


How about this. If banks break laws like they do everyday... then the public gets the CEOs and Presidents  home addresses  so we can show up at their CEOs door with torches.


Just because the Big Banks own Congress Flat out. Banksters do not go to prison because they own Congress and the legal system... Does not mean they can offically act like the Mafia that they are.


Stop crimonal enterprise. Stop the buying off of Congress by big Banks and Billionaires. These people are the Face of Evil destroyiong the American way.

Feb 18, 2014 5:04PM
Most if all credit card companies are scum. I feel bad for some of their employees because they are good people just doing their job.  Everyone needs a job even with companies that the executives are SCUM. They sucker people in by raising their credit limit then when they have trouble paying want to run them through the ringer. 
Feb 18, 2014 5:11PM

What's in your closet ??

Dropped these idiots years ago when they doubled my interest rate !!

Feb 18, 2014 5:13PM
Capital One also will not work out any kind of payment agreement with you if you are having trouble paying your bills. I know a person who lost his business because they would not work with him.
Feb 18, 2014 5:09PM
Think of them as a vacuum cleaner salesman. ...yeah the kind of one that sucks everything it can !  Pay cash or don't buy it or get a bank over draft account an manage it !! 
Feb 18, 2014 5:04PM

get out asap

anyone notice msn is pussing out with their comments lately ???

just another puss

Feb 18, 2014 5:14PM
I think what they're trying to say is, if you pay your bill on time then we will leave you alone. If not and you go delinquent, we have every right to harass you via mail, phone, or a visit to your work or home.
Feb 18, 2014 5:21PM
It's very simple: don't get a Capital One card and, if you have one, cancel it.
Feb 18, 2014 5:22PM
This policy if in fact practiced is fraught with problems if not danger!!!!
Feb 18, 2014 5:10PM
a few years back cards or some  cards  were at 6.9 to 9.9 %   now cards or  most are at 10 to12.5 % so add that percentage today  debt  of couse  its  higher   more  smoke and mirrors 
Feb 18, 2014 5:23PM
been using capital one for a year and a half now.  never an issue.  but I pay my bills.
Feb 18, 2014 5:50PM
I had a couple of Capitol One cards with very high interest rates. I was never late on payments and always paid more than they wanted as a monthly payment. I paid off all of my cards and was in the process of looking at interest rates and if they were high like Capitol One cards I would close them and keep lower interest ones open. When I called Capitol One to close my cards they wanted to know what they could do to keep my business and I asked them to lower the interest rate.Now mind you I have a credit score in the low 800's and after having their cards for way over five years they said that I haven't earned  a lower interest rate. I tole them to close the accounts they haven't earned the right for my business. 
Whats in my wallet Not a Capitol One card 
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