The man at the credit union was blown away.

"You've knocked out the high point credit score," he said. "I've never seen one this high."

I smiled modestly and ruefully. It was nice to know but it's an honor that was hard won.

Did he have any idea how many phone calls to India I've made to make that happen?

Does he appreciate the time I've spent waiting to get through phone menus and customer service lines to maintain my good reputation?

I think my accounts are red flagged all over America and in off-site billing houses. ("If that obnoxious lady calls again, do whatever it takes to make her go away!")

I consider it a good day when I can bring in the mail, go through the bills and not have any new battles to wage.

You see, I learned long ago that banks and credit card companies and title companies and Internet and Dish Network services make honest mistakes.

They'll own up to the mistakes if they are pointed out, but you have to point them out.

Late fees and service charges go away if you are willing to put in the time it takes to get to a live person and make your case.

Over the years, I've probably saved us several hundred dollars by catching mistakes and refusing to give away our money.

The escrow money from a recent refinance came in $600 short. Three phone calls and some serious research later, we're good.

Double charges have been refunded.

The money I spent online for train tickets to nowhere on a Sunday was returned.

Charges for magazines I did not order have been waived.

Here's some of what I've learned:

Payments left in drop boxes don't always get credited that same day or even the next day. It's better to pay at a service desk or cashier so you have a receipt.

Always read your bills and the little letters they sometimes send. Credit card companies change due dates and due times and interest rates a lot. A bill due on the 15th may now be due at 8 a.m. on the 15th.

Policies change — stay on the alert, especially as stressed-out businesses try to get you to change over to automatic payment plans or Internet billing.

Don't assume you made the mistake or paid late. Computers and people add wrong, miss a line, sometimes even try to get away with something.

It's a never-ending fight, but I've fought on. To me, it's the principle of the thing.

As a result I have six kids who read their bank statements and bills carefully and double check their receipts from the grocery store.

They take no guff.

And I have a husband who hides if I find an error. He can't bear to watch the battles.

He just doesn't see the sense in worrying about it.

But then, he doesn't have a credit score on the wall of honor either.


E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com