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February 19, 2018

Don’t Bank on Higher Interest on Savings

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:17 am

Have you noticed that interest rates on savings accounts have been creeping up over the past few months? A review of bank ads a couple of weeks ago from the Boston Globe reveals some of the rate hikes.

Admirals-1

This is certainly much better than the fractions of one-percent that have been offered in recent years. But this bank has tucked a nasty provision in the fine print.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Admirals-2

That’s right, to get the advertised rate you have to deposit a minimum of $200,000. Thanks for nothing, Admirals Bank.

Of course, this was not the only bank ad in the Globe. A few days earlier, HarborOne bank offered a higher rate with better terms.

HarborOne-1

*MOUSE PRINT:

HarborOne-2

This bank only requires one-eighth the minimum deposit of the first bank — $25,000 — to get a higher interest rate.

But we are not done. Another ad in the same paper as the Admirals Bank ad is even more generous.

Metro-1

*MOUSE PRINT:

Metro-2

Now we’re up to 1.50 percent with a $25,000 deposit. But one final ad in the same paper tops them all.

Belmont-1

*MOUSE PRINT:

Belmont-2
Belmont-3

Bingo. One and a half percent on balances of only $10 or more from Belmont Savings Bank. But why hide that great fact in the fine print?

To the other banks: How about being upfront and posting your minimum deposit requirement right next to the advertised rate that grabbed the reader’s attention?




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November 6, 2017

Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts:
Free Quicken 2018 CDs Come with Costly Catch

Filed under: Computers,Finance,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 4:50 am

Quicken 2018 Upgrade CDOver a million Quicken software users are in for a costly surprise if they install the free upgrade CD that many received in the mail last week. Consumer World is warning them that the 2018 upgrade could triple their cost of the popular personal money management program.

Starting with the 2018 edition, the new owner of Quicken (H.I.G. Capital) is converting the software to a subscription service and charging a regular annual fee of $49.99 for Quicken Deluxe. If not renewed, the user faces the loss of online functionality to update account transactions and pay bills.

Quicken $49.99

The previous owner, Intuit, required purchasers to upgrade only every three years or lose online access. The list price for the three year program then was $74.99, but was often on sale for $50 or less, and even lower when bundled with TurboTax.

“This is a pure money grab by Quicken’s new owners,” commented Consumer World founder Edgar Dworsky. “The original intentional crippling of the software after three years was bad enough, but now reducing it to just one year in essence triples the cost for many, and will drive away thousands of users.”

How did the new management disclose their major change in terms for 2018 in the fancy three-fold mailer that accompanied the upgrade CD? It was only in a hard-to-read fine print footnote.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Quicken 2018 fine print Click to enlarge

For those who cannot read that, it says that a purchase would entitle users to [only] one year of Quicken, that data downloads stop at the end of the term, and that users’ memberships would be automatically renewed each year and users charged the then current renewal rate.

When Quicken introduced annual subscriptions in Canada earlier this year, it utilized an additional ploy to encourage annual renewals. It disabled the ability to even add transactions manually if the software was not renewed after a year. Following public criticism alleging that the company was holding users’ data hostage, they relented and lifted that restriction.

Echoing the company CEO’s open letter to customers about the changes, a spokesperson for Quicken explained that the primary reason for instituting annual renewals was so that their technical team can concentrate on continually improving a single version of the software. Currently the company has to separately update the 2015, 2016, and 2017 editions. He did acknowledge, however, that they are getting “negative feedback” about the pricing change.

Dworsky challenged the company’s justification suggesting that they could have just as easily introduced a single version of the software good for three years from the date of installation rather than just one year.

Quicken was spun off from a company that also engaged in tactics to “encourage” customers to upgrade. Two years ago, Intuit created a self-inflicted public relations nightmare when it changed the functionality of its most popular version of TurboTax tax preparation software to force users to upgrade to a more expensive version. After a public outcry, the company restored the software to its original form.

Consumer World recommends that current users of Quicken 2016 and 2017 continue using those versions since they are still fully functional until April 2019 and April 2020, respectively. But, they should lodge a complaint with the company now (here and here) if they are upset by the pricing changes.




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September 25, 2017

LifeLock Capitalizing on Equifax Breach, But Has a Secret!

Filed under: Finance,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:12 am

LifeLock, which for years has touted its identity theft services, is doing big business in the wake of the Equifax data breach. And they are not shy about capitalizing on Equifax’s woes.

Lifelock

But as first reported by the L.A. Times, LifeLock has a little secret buried in its terms and conditions:

“You consent and authorize LifeLock and its Service Providers, including but not limited to Equifax, to access your personal credit information in order to (i) confirm your identity, (ii) display your credit data to you related to your use and enjoyment of the product and (iii) provide your Equifax credit data to LifeLock so that LifeLock may create and deliver to you, certain fraud alert products.” [color added for emphasis]

That’s right, LifeLock buys some of its services from Equifax, the very company that had a breach that LifeLock’s protection services are trying to alert you about.

The L.A. Times story also notes that LifeLock may share personal information with Equifax including information not normally found in Equifax’s files such as your driver’s license number, passport number, and your email address.




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May 22, 2017

Understanding (or Misunderstanding) Reward Credit Card Offers

Filed under: Finance,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:46 am

MrConsumer received an email from one of his favorite stores, Christmas Tree Shops, advertising a new rewards credit card. It seems to pay back 1%, 2%, and 5% in various categories and then they throw in some type of “$10 reward certificate” for every $10 in regular rewards that you earn.

Christmas Tree Offer

So, I am trying to figure out what kind of $10 reward certificate this is because it sounds too good to be true. I bet it is really more like a coupon — get $10 off a $50 purchase — I said to myself.

Maybe the fine print will explain it.

*MOUSE PRINT:

*Reward Certificates are issued in $10 increments with your billing statement. Restrictions and exclusions apply, see Reward Certificate for details.

Thanks for nothing.

Clicking through from the email to their website does not offer any clearer explanation. In fact, it repeats the same exact claims and footnote.

Only after clicking “apply” and then “rewards terms and conditions” do the full details come up.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Reward Dollars will automatically be redeemed for Christmas Tree Shops andThat! Reward Certificates when the below threshold is met. Reward Certificates are issued in $10 increments via your monthly billing statement. $10 Reward Dollars = $10 Christmas Tree Shops andThat! Reward Certificate. … Once a Reward Certificate is issued, your Reward Dollars balance will be reduced by the number of Reward Dollars used to obtain the Reward Certificate(s).

So, it appears that the 1%, 2%, and 5% reward earnings are called “reward dollars” and when you accumulate $10 in reward dollars they automatically convert those into “reward certificates” good for purchases at Christmas Tree Shops, Bed, Bath and Beyond, etc.

There is no bonus of a separate $10 reward certificate for every $10 in rewards that you accumulate.

How did you, dear reader, understand this offer? Did you think that you got some type of extra $10 certificate for every $10 in rewards that you accumulated? Or, did you understand that all reward earnings were converted automatically to reward certificates when you had reached the $10 level of earnings? Add your comments below.




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• • •

December 5, 2016

Citi’s Credit Card Agreement Contains Another Nasty Ploy

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:01 am

In October, we told you about an unexpected move by Citi to let credit card customers opt-out of the mandatory arbitration clause in their credit card agreements. The catch: they required you to write an old-fashioned letter to them to do so. (See story.)

We heard from a reader, Daniel D., who says that is not the only dirty trick that Citi employs with respect to its arbitration clause. He said his bank account contract had a very similarly worded provision to this one in the new Citi credit card agreements:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Citi arbitration clause

What does this sound like to you? It sounds pretty positive as an additional way to avoid arbitration. It certainly gives the impression that the customer was free to go to small claims court system instead of being forced into arbitration.

And that is exactly what our reader did. He had a dispute with Citi over some late fees imposed despite his having overdraft protection. There was about $350 in dispute.

To his amazement, once he filed in small claims court, Citi requested the case be moved to a higher court. That action caused the case to no longer “stay in small claims court” and thus Citi could force him into arbitration.

What?

Anyone reading the small claims court provision would come away with the understanding that it was the plaintiff’s decision to keep a case in small claims court and definitely not Citi’s. Implied in every contract is a covenant of good faith, and it certainly seems to be a breach of that good faith for Citi to force this consumer into arbitration by a bit of legal trickery.

Daniel’s problem with Citi began in 2010 and appeared to end when he won the arbitration this past August. There were just two problems: (1) Daniel was not awarded anywhere near the $100,000 he said this whole fiasco cost him, and (2) Citi is appealing.

For more details of Daniel’s misadventures in Citiland, see this CBS MoneyWatch story, and his own account.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts below.




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