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August 5, 2019

Get 3% on Savings and 3% Cash Back on Purchases… BUT

Filed under: Finance,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

The TV airwaves have been flooded by a new advertising campaign from Green Dot. Mostly known for their prepaid cards, Green Dot is branching out into bank accounts with an almost too-good-to-be-true offer.

They are offering a 3-percent interest rate on your savings account, and 3-percent cash back when you make purchases with the debit card that comes with that account. Unheard of benefits on both scores.

Don’t get too excited however. Their fine print is sure to put a damper on your enthusiasm.

The deposit agreement for the Unlimited Cash Back account is full of goodies.

*MOUSE PRINT:

The offer promises 3-percent interest on your savings up to $10,000. Well, how much is the interest rate on amounts over $10,000?

Answer:

Green Dot interest

So, you get no interest on larger deposits, and it is possible that the 3-percent interest rate could change.

That possible change in interest rate is an important disclosure because of the following additional disclosure:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Interest is only credited once a year, and at the rate in effect at that time!

Green Dot once a year

And the bank has fees for this account. If you make a deposit in cash at a retailer, you can be charged up $5.95. Here are two more fees.

*MOUSE PRINT:

fees

You have to pay $7.95 a month unless you spend $1,000 using their debit card. That seems pretty steep on both scores.

If you do spend any money with the card, you do get 3-percent cash back, but even that has some key restrictions.

*MOUSE PRINT:

in-app purchases

Only purchases made via an app or online qualify for the 3-percent back. And even certain of those purchases don’t count either, like airline tickets, person-to-person payments, bill payments, gift card purchases, etc. And to add insult to injury, the cash back you are entitled to is only credited to your account once a year.

With all these restrictions, you may not become green with envy of anyone using this card.




 

 

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July 29, 2019

Cash Back Credit Card Correction;

Group Asks FTC to Investigate Prime Day Promotions

Filed under: Finance,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:05 am

CORRECTION AND UPDATE:

Before our main story, I wanted to advise readers that the PayPal 2% Cashback credit card mentioned here two weeks ago as a good substitute for the Citi Double Cash card which is dropping almost all benefits soon does NOT have the benefits referred to on its website nor as confirmed by its customer service agents with whom I double-checked. That card only has one benefit – ID theft protection — but not extended warranty, price protection, return protection, CDW coverage, lost luggage coverage, etc. contrary to the link from the benefits section of its website states. I apologize to anyone who applied for this card as a result of the recommendation. I will be cutting up my card shortly. Synchrony Bank, the card’s issuer, just provided us with a response that basically says they are going to correct their link:

…we are taking some action to help further clarify the specific benefits of the PayPal Cashback Mastercard when a consumer is looking on the web. Already consumers can see the two key benefits including ID Theft Protection and Microchip technology. Additionally, we plan to post a specific version of the guide to benefits that you can find here.


Last week, Public Citizen, a Washington-based public interest consumer advocacy organization, sent a letter to the FTC asking them to crack down on websites that promote the sale of products from Amazon.com without clearly disclosing when they have a financial incentive to tout those items.

The group pointed out dozens of instances of stories published two weeks ago on popular websites and through social media that spotlighted certain items as great deals during Amazon’s big Prime Day sale. In most cases, the affiliate relationship the publisher had with Amazon was either not disclosed at all or poorly disclosed. (We documented this very issue last December in this story.)

In an affiliate relationship, a publisher or even a person with just a social media presence can earn a small commission on the sale of products if a reader clicks a link from the website or post and actually purchases the item. Under the Federal Trade Commission’s testimonial and endorsement guidelines if there is a financial connection between an endorser and the product being touted, that fact must be clearly disclosed. Similarly under the FTC’s native advertising guidelines when advertising masquerades as editorial content, clear disclosure of a sponsorship relationship must be made.

As one example of what is going on, Public Citizen cited this story from the Today Show website:

Today Show promotion

The story recommended a couple of dozen items as “the best Prime Day deals.” What the reader didn’t know was that NBC had a financial interest in the sale of those items.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Only if the reader clicked the “read more” link (and they would have no particular reason to do so based on the content that was already showing), would they learn NBC’s little secret).

NBC Today Show disclosure

The program makes a small commission if a reader buys any of the items featured through the links provided.

The problem here was that NBC hid that fact instead of openly disclosing it. At least their specific choice of which items to highlight was an independent editorial decision based on merit. This is how Consumer World selects its Bargain of the Week (which very rarely contains an affiliate link).

Last year, we called out ABC and others for an even bigger problem — running entire “deal” segments on their morning shows, where the network was getting a cut of the sale of each item featured, and not clearly disclosing that fact at the beginning of the segment. See our story.




 

 

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July 1, 2019

Citi Double Cash Card to Drop Almost All Benefits

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:24 am

Citi Double Cash CardCiti had bad news for credit card holders last week. If you have the popular Citi Double Cash Card that pays two percent cash back on all purchases, the bank announced it was dropping most benefits that come with the card.

If you happen to go to look at your account online and click “benefits,” the following fine print popup appears:

MOUSE PRINT:

The following is a summary of changes that are being made to your card benefits.

Effective September 22, 2019, Worldwide Car Rental Insurance, Trip Cancellation & Interruption Protection, Worldwide Travel Accident Insurance, Citi® Price Rewind, 90 Day Return Protection, Damage & Theft Purchase Protection, and Extended Warranty will be discontinued and will no longer be provided for purchases made on or after that date. Coverage for purchases made before that date will continue to be available, and you may continue to file for benefits in accordance with the current benefit terms.

We are making these changes so that we can continue providing the key benefits that our customers use and value most at no additional cost. This change requires no action on your part. See FAQs under Card Benefits for answers to Frequently Asked Questions regarding these changes.

As a cardmember, you will continue to receive a range of other card benefits including FICO® Credit Score, Citi® Identity Theft Solutions, and Citi Entertainment.

So, starting September 22, even the most basic of benefits that almost any card offers like collision damage waiver when you rent a car and protection for purchases damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase are being discontinued. And then the great benefits they offered like adding two extra years of coverage to any length manufacturers warranty, giving back the difference if an item goes on sale after you buy it (“Price Rewind”), and giving you a full refund on an otherwise unreturnable purchase within 90 days are all disappearing too.

The bank says that too few people took advantage of these benefits compared to their costs of providing them. However, by Citi’s own calculation, the Price Rewind benefit was enjoyed by close to 700,000 cardholders last year, and returned over $17-million to them.

Citi Price Rewind

According to MarketWatch, here is a full list of benefits being discontinued on some or all Citi cards including the Citi Prestige Card, the Citi Premier Card, the Citi Double Cash Card, and Citi’s co-branded cards with American Airlines:

•Worldwide Car Rental Insurance
•Trip Cancellation & Interruption Protection
•Worldwide Travel Accident Insurance
•Trip Delay Protection
•Baggage Delay Protection
•Lost Baggage Protection
•Roadside Assistance Dispatch Service
•Travel & Emergency Assistance
•Damage & Theft Purchase Protection
•Extended Warranty
•Medical Evacuation
•Missed Event Ticket Protection
•Citi Price Rewind
• 90 Day Return Protection

UPDATE: The Costco Visa card is also affected according to Clark.com and Citi. At a minimum, trip cancellation coverage and Price Rewind are being discontinued on that card.

There is no obvious go-to substitute for the Citi Double Cash card. Fidelity Investments has a 2-percent cash back card, but the money has to go into a free Fidelity account and only gets deposited after you spend $2,500. It does have traditional Visa benefits but not the price guarantee or return protection.

This article lists cards that still offer the price protection benefit (but in many cases the benefit is set to be eliminated). Feel free to suggest other alternative credit cards in the comments that are rich in benefits and cash back.




 

 

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• • •

September 24, 2018

Senator Sent “Official Summons” to Potential Donors

Filed under: Finance,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:38 am

Residents in some Texas counties recently received a mailing in an official looking brown envelope that said “Summons Enclosed…Open Immediately.”

Cruz envelope

Who wouldn’t open that right away if it was in their mailbox? The first line of the return address had the name of the local county and indicated it was an official summons:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Official Summons

Inside was a standard solicitation to make a campaign contribution to Senator Ted Cruz for his re-election campaign. And his name was also in small type on the outside of the envelope.

Cruz inside mailer

A spokesperson for the Federal Election Commission told the New York Times that the mailers were not illegal, as “the F.E.C.’s regulations don’t speak to how candidates may choose to word particular solicitations to potential contributors.”

However, Texas state criminal law may have been violated:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Texas Penal Code – PENAL § 32.48 – Simulating Legal Process

(a) A person commits an offense if the person recklessly causes to be delivered to another any document that simulates a summons, [emphasis added] complaint, judgment, or other court process with the intent to:

(2) cause another to:

(B) take any action or refrain from taking any action in response to the document, in compliance with the document, or on the basis of the document.

(c) It is not a defense to prosecution under this section that the simulating document:

(2) purports to have been issued or authorized by a person or entity who did not have lawful authority to issue or authorize the document.

So, simulating a summons, even if the real sender is disclosed, is a misdemeanor in Texas.

The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act also prohibits the sending of a solicitation that misrepresents or implies it was sent on behalf of a governmental entity. This law is probably not applicable because it relates to commercial enterprises.

And under United States Postal Service rules, government lookalike mailings, such as using brown envelopes requesting donations for political causes, are not allowed unless the envelope has an explicit disclosure that there is no governmental connection. Misuse of a federal agency’s name or official seal is usually necessary, however.

So what does the Cruz campaign say?

“…there were a few complaints that came not to us but through the local media or twitter,” a campaign spokesperson said. “Our mail efforts have been both effective and critical to identifying and engaging our supporters, and getting them involved in our campaign efforts to keep Texas strong.”

The aide also said that the campaign “believe(s) we are in full compliance legally.”




 

 

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• • •

June 4, 2018

Citi Cuts Back on Credit Card Benefits

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:58 am

Don’t you hate those credit card notices that announce “important updates” or “changes,” but don’t tell you what the old terms were so you can compare?

Citi sent out an email last week announcing revised terms for many of its credit card benefits starting July 29. But without referring to the old brochure, you would have no idea if the particular benefits were improved or cut back. (Hint: those notices rarely contain good news.)

So Mouse Print* looked up the old benefits to compare them with the new changed ones.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Citi benefit changes

As you can see, some benefits like roadside and travel assistance were eliminated. Other benefits were cut back substantially, but not eliminated (thank goodness).

One of the benefits that has remained the same is Citi’s extended warranty. Unlike any other credit card, Citi (at least on its Double Cash card) will add 24 months of extended warranty coverage free to almost every manufacturer’s warranty. So a one-year warranty becomes a three-year warranty. This benefit is substantially better than other cards that merely promise to double the manufacturer’s warranty for up to an additional (one) year.




 

 

  ADV


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