Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Today's Credit Card Offer

Today's credit card offer is from Discover. Inside the envelope is a faux plastic card with some sort of blue bubble design. Very attractive, I'd be happy to see this pretty little card coming out of my wallet, but of course I don't apply for credit cards willy nilly. Let's see what Discover is offering today...

Unfortunately it appears this is a worse offer than I could get from Discover if I just applied online. They're giving me the lowest interest rate shown online and the standard 5% back on Get More purchases (the offer would be more attractive if they made it clear upfront exactly what these Get More purchases will be throughout the year) as well as the "up to" 1% Cashback Bonus on everything else.

HOWEVER, they're only offering me a 0% rate on purchases until February of 2007, when they offer a full year online. They are offering 0% balance transfers until September of '07, which is an upgrade over the online offer by about 3 months, but I don't need a BT. Maybe I shouldn't say this is a worse offer than what is online, it's just different, worse for me but maybe better for someone who's got a big balance to move to a 0% home.

I also received an American Express Membership Rewards booklet, geared toward electronics. I've only got about 10,000 points at the moment, let's see if I can get anything... ooh, if I had 520,000 points I could get this 50-inch plasma TV. What could I spent another $510,000 on really fast to get to that level? Hmmm. I'm going to have to ask for an increase in my credit line.

The only thing I can get in this catalog at the moment is a Panasonic 256MB SD memory card. Looks like that's for a digital video camera, or maybe a regular digital camera? Says "...lets you save video, digital still images, music and more." So could I use that in my regular digital camera? Sounds like it, but I'm not sure.

The only other thing in this catalog I'm close to is the Panasonic Clock Radio with built-in CD player for 11,000 points. Says it's MP3 compatible. I don't care about that; I just want it to wake me up.

Why's everything Panasonic? Or is that just on the low end of the rewards? Oh, wait, the whole catalog's Panasonic stuff. They must have some sort of deal with Amex to push their stuff in a separate catalog. I knew this wasn't all the stuff from Membership Rewards.

I love rewards.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Catching Up on My Credit Card Offers

So I haven't been blogging about my credit card offers like I'm supposed to be. They're still paying me, but still I should probably do what I've been assigned. I've been saving them all in a stack for the last couple weeks. Here's what I got:

- Costco American Express Card - I get this one regularly. Not even gonna open it.

- Something from Capital One, with a return address from "Pat W. Johnston Director of New Accounts." Capital One is the king of crazy attempts to make their mail look important, as if the director has chosen to make personal contact with me. I'll at least open it, since they spent so much time... oh, jeez, it's the No Hassle Miles Ultra MasterCard. I've seen this one before.

- Here's another one. Hey, it's Capital One again, with the Same Pat W. Johnston return address. It's for the exact same card! But wait, the last one said 10,000 bonus miles, this one says 20,000! That's a lot of miles. I already ripped up the last one so I can't compare the rest of the offer to see if they differ in any other way. Oh, well.

- Chase sent me a $20 check if I'll get their Chase Payment Protector Plan. No thanks, guys.

- I've gotten two sets of those "convenience checks" from Chase as well. One set offers a 1.99% APR and 4.99% APR while the other set offers a 0% APR and 5.99% APR. I'm not even going to look at what those are for because I get these checks constantly, but it's interesting to see how they vary the offers to try to get you to bite.

- Another one fromn Pat W. Johnston at Capital One. Let's see what Pat's got up his/her sleeve this time... It's that darned No Hassle Miles Ultra MasterCard again! This time the come on is that I'll earn miles 25% faster. I'm too rushed for time to learn how. I admire Capital One's perseverence.

- Citi sent me one. I don't get much from them as I have a Citi card already. This is for their Diamond Preferred Rewards card. Looks like the standard offer, but a 9.99% interest rate, which I totally deserve, but doesn't really move me because I don't carry balances.

- Advanta BusinessCard. This the 2.99% for life balance transfer offer card. Don't need that.

- Another from Capital One. As you may have guessed, I hold no Capital One cards, and they'd like me to. This one not from Pat W. Johnston, and has some fancy calligraphy-like lettering. Oh, it's a small business card, that's why. Don't have time to open it.

- Finally, another from--guess who--Captal One. Fifth one from them in the last 2 weeks. This one looks very industrial, sort of a Nine Inch Nails theme to the envelope, whatever that means. I don't even know what I'm talking about anymore. You'd have to see it to know what I mean. Unfortunately, I have to go to the bathroom and won't be able to open this one, either. I promise I'll open them next time, Capital One!

"I would like you to lower my interest rate now, please."

Finance writer Greg Karp has an article today about haggling over credit card interest rates that I thought was amusing.

Karp quotes from an e-book called "Credit Card Insider Tips" by financial coach Cindy Morus. Basically the article tells you that it's just fine to call your credit card company and ask for better terms on your interest rate, credit line, etc.

What I found amusing was the script that apparently is in the e-book, which tells you exactly what to say over the phone. I've used phone scripts for various reasons in my life, and they always crack me up, because they are always written in ways that are completely un-conversational. This one's no exception. From the article:

You: "Hi, can you tell me what my current interest rate is?"

Operator: "Your current interest rate is X percent."

You: "Hmmm. I would like you to lower my interest rate now, please." Don't say another word.

The ball is in their court, and they'll fill the silence with an offer.

Operator: "OK, I can lower it to X percent."

You: "That's not enough, but I will take that for now. Thank you for your help. I'd like to tell your supervisor how helpful you've been. Could you pass me over?"

Supervisor: "How can I help you?"

You: "First, I wanted to let you know how helpful the operator was. She/he did an excellent job of helping me.

"Now, can you tell me what my interest rate is?"

First off, I don't believe they're going to lower your interest rate just based on your robotic "Hmmm. I would like you to lower my interest rate now, please." What it's actually going to take are threats. And this pass-off-to-the-supervisor thing to get a second shot at lowering the interest rate? Not going to work. If you got the reduction in the first place, do you really think the supervisor isn't going to know you just got a reduction and say, "we just gave you a reduction"? These companies track everything--you're not going to fool them that easily."

Here's a script that is more likely to work for you...

You: My interest rate is 15% right now and I'd like to see about getting it reduced.

Operator: Well, sir/ma'am, that's the interest rate we've determined is correct for you. I can't do anything about that. I'm sorry.

You: OK, well, I think I'm just going to transfer this balance to another credit card. I got a pretty nice zero-percent offer in the mail yesterday......"

Operator: Well, let me see if there's anything I can offer you.... O.K. I can actually offer you a 13 percent interest rate."

You: Mmmmm....

Operator: Does that work for you?

You: Mmmm...

Operator: Sir/Ma'am?

You: Mmmm...

(Awkward silence.)

You: Well, I've got an offer for a 10.99% card. I don't really want to switch because it's a hassle and I don't like opening up all these credit lines. Think you can match that & I'll just leave it alone?"

Operator: Can you hold please?

You: Sure.

(Short hold period while operator pretends she's getting authorization from a higher power to give you new, amazing low rate.)

Operator: Sir, Ma'am?

You: Uh huh.

Operator: I'm happy to tell you that I can offer you the 10.99% rate you requested.

You: Great.

I should really write an e-book on this stuff.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Today's Credit Card Offer

I've been bad about chronicling my credit card offers, but, rest assured, they're still coming.

Today I got a special invite from the First Equity Platinum Business Card, and I'm a little confused by it because it seems to be telling me that I could get an APR for purchases that is 0%. That's not an introductory offer--that's the ongoing rate. It's a variable-rate card, so I also could get a rate of 23.99% or somewhere in between, but I've never seen a credit card that offers the potential for a 0% interest rate on an ongoing basis.

I'm suspicious.

It's issued by Columbus Bank & Trust, who I've heard of but I'm not sure if I've heard of positively or negatively.

I'm passing. I don't really need a credit card, and I tend to live by the adage that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Hotel Key Cards Do NOT Store Your Personal Information

There's sort of an urban legend out there that says hotels are putting your personal info on those key cards you use to get in your room. For a while this was attributed to a warning from the Pasadena Police Department (which denies ever issuing this warning), and was stoked a bit by this article last year.

In reality, hotels only link your key card back to their computers to know which card corresponds to what room, and if you don't take the card with youat the end of the trip, no one will be scanning it to use your credit card number. If you think about this for a moment, having your credit card number on the key card wouldn't even matter anyway, unless you lost the card. Hotel employees already have your credit card number at the front desk and could steal it that way if they wanted to. But, no matter. Your info's not on there.

This rumor seems to have come about because some criminals do get their hands on hotel key cards and then reprogram with credit card information that they have stolen by other means. So, if someone manages to find out your card number, they could use a blank hotel key card, program the card with your numbers, and use that card at an ATM machine to withdraw cash (assuming they also knew your PIN). But that's a longshot, and it certainly has nothing to do with anything the hotel has done.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Credit Card Sent to My Pinky Toe!

Every so often I see a news story like this one about a 13-month-old baby getting solicited for a credit card. A while back I read one about someone sending their solicitation back with the name Stop Killing Trees as the name and they got a credit card back. And there was also one about the guy who ripped his credit card solicitation into tiny pieces then taped them back together and sent it in to see if he'd still get the card no questions asked. He did.

This is going to date me, but I remember back before MP3s and iPods. Back in those olden days, a lot of us would do the offers from BMG or Columbia House where you get 6 or 10 free CDS if you agree to buy 3 more or 6 more or whatever over the ensuing three years. I always went with BMG because it was a smaller commitment and even though you got fewer CDS, I calculated out that it was cheaper per CD once you factored in the ones you actually had to purchase as part of the commitment.

Armed with this information, I pulled a fast one on BMG. I made up a new first name (Roger) and sent BMG another application for free CDs, with my same address and everything. Soon I was getting double free CDS from BMG. Boy was I crafty. Gaming the sytem. Those suckers at BMG were eating out my hand.

It wasn't long before I started to get other mail sent to my fictitious alter ego, Roger. I considered getting a credit card in Roger's name, but I was too scared.

No real point to this story. Sorry if you read it all hoping for some greater wisdom that came from this experience.