Bamboozled: Small victory: Credit score, MVC updates

Bamboozled follows a few mantras: Little things do matter. Follow-up is vital to getting something done. No question is a stupidBB branding one.

That said, from time to time in this space we’ll tell you about the smaller victories we’ve helped consumers achieve, and we’ll fill you in on anything new we’ve learned about previously explored topics. Here’s a taste.

Update: MVC double-name dilemma

Last month, Bamboozled revealed how drivers with multiple first or last names are unable to get their legal names on their New Jersey driver’s licenses. The Motor Vehicle Commission’s inflexible computer system can’t print extra spaces or apostrophes, forcing drivers with names such as Stephen Dello Russo, Mary Jane Smith and John O’Connor to accept licenses with modified names.

Dozens of readers wrote to share their frustration with the antiquated computer system’s inability to accept a space as a character.

But not Marlene Manela Sincaglia of Berkeley Heights. She said her license, issued in Springfield, showed both of her last names, space intact.

Did Springfield figure out a way to enter that much-sought-after space character?

No.

It turns out Manela Sincaglia has her space because her license was first issued in the 1980s, when the computer system could accept a space.

“It comes down to history. If that’s the way a name was entered into the system from the time you first got a license, it would carry through,” said MVC spokesman Michael Horan. “If they made a change to the license through the years, like an address change, they wouldn’t be able to still have the space in their name.”

Horan says when MVC implemented the Commercial Drivers’ License Act of 1992, it programmed its computers to follow the national standard recommended by the American Association of Motor Vehicles Administrators, which issues voluntary guidelines to promote continuity among state licenses. That standard included eliminating the space. Newer AAMVA standards recommend offering the space, but MVC doesn’t yet meet those updated standards.

“The character limitation issue is just as frustrating to us as it is to our customers,” said Horan, who added the agency is working on an overhaul of the computer system, which would address the space problem and other issues.

It may help readers like “Christiana,” who has 10 letters in her first name. Because there are only nine character spaces for a first name, her license reads “Christian,” suggesting she’s a man. She said she uses her passport regularly to avoid confusion.

The system will be up and running “within three years,” Horan said. Looks like you double-namers may have to wait till then.

Reader Sallie from Westfield gets the final word. She wrote: “It seems ironic to me that a state with a two-word name has this difficulty. Maybe the driver’s licenses should be from Newjersey.”

Lost referral fee suddenly found

In this economy, every dollar counts — especially if it’s money you’ve been promised.

Stan Morton has been a satisfied customer of Route 22 Honda in Hillside since 2004. When his wife, Vonda, needed a new car, the couple returned to the dealership and left with some new wheels. The salesperson told Morton he’d receive a $100 referral check for bringing in business to the dealership.

“He took my personal information and informed me that I should receive a check in about six weeks,” Morton said.

That was on Jan. 6. No check.

Morton called to follow up, and the salesperson said he’d check it out and call with an update. No call.

Morton left three more messages for the salesperson plus one for the sales manager, but again, no calls back. In mid-March, Morton contacted Bamboozled.

Within one minute of a call to Route 22 Honda, Morton’s paperwork was located. The sales manager, who asked not to be identified, said they were waiting for some personal information from Morton — the same information Morton said he gave at the time of purchase.

Morton then called the sales manager and within a few days he received his $100 check.

Thank you, Route 22 Honda, for living up to your promise. The dealership still offers a $100 referral fee to customers who bring in new business.

Perhaps it needs a seminar about returning messages from customers.

Update: Interest rate hikes and your credit score

Bamboozled told the story of Annmarie Asch, a Capitol One customer who received notice that her credit card interest rate would be hiked from 11.9 to 17.9 percent, despite her flawless payment history.

Several readers asked what would happen to their credit scores if they canceled their cards or if their credit lines were lowered.

In both cases, your credit score could fall. Part of your score is determined by your “credit utilization ratio,” a ratio of your balances compared to available credit. A low ratio is better than a high one. Canceling cards or otherwise lowering credit limits increases your ratio and could be a negative for your score.

It’s a temporary blip. If you make timely payments, your score will rise again. Wait before canceling cards if you plan to refinance or seek other loans in the near future, but if you don’t plan to borrow, canceling a card won’t do permanent damage.