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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.


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.


*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.


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:


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.


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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October 31, 2016

Citi Enlarges the Fine Print, But a Clever Ploy Lurks Within

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:09 am

We all periodically receive a “card agreement” from credit card issuers. It is usually a small, sixteen panel, accordion-pleated booklet full of fine print about how finance charges are calculated, how fees and payments will be applied, etc.

Citi card agreement

Citi, however, has seen the light. They just sent out a new and improved version on 8-1/2 by 11 paper, divided into numbered sections, printed using a decent size font, and written in relatively plain English.

new agreement

The new document is 15 pages long, however, which probably won’t encourage too many people to sit down and read it.

One big change in terms is Citi’s mandatory arbitration provision. They have heard regulators and advocates complain about these legal provisions that prohibit cardholders from going to court or participating in a class action lawsuit against the card issuer. Citi is giving their customers a one-time chance to opt-out of arbitration.

(Larger than usual) *MOUSE PRINT:

arbitration provision

You only have until December 22 to notify Citi that you want out of arbitration. But lest we think that Citi has completely become pro-consumer, they required you sent them a physical letter with your request to opt-out. You cannot call (we tried) and you cannot email. You have to write a real letter (remember them) and put a stamp on the envelope.

Citi has certainly taken an approach to assure that the fewest possible cardholders will take advantage of this one-time offer. At least they didn’t require the request to be notarized and sent via certified mail.




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April 25, 2016

Early Withdrawal Penalties Reach New High (or Low)

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:47 am

Dave S. recently wrote to Mouse Print* about an eye-opening notice he received from Wings Financial Credit Union when his certificate of deposit matured. It announced a change in their early withdrawal penalties.



Unbelievably, the credit union will now charge two-years-worth of interest on any CD over a year if you withdraw money early. In other words, if you opened one of their 26-month CDs with $25,000 paying 1.00% interest, and decide three months after opening the account that you need the money for another purpose, they will confiscate the interest you’ve already earned and put it toward a total charge of $500 in penalties! You will actually lose principal.

Mouse Print* contacted Wings Financial to question the severity of their new penalties. A customer service representative replied:

…we have had many members express the same frustration. We are awaiting Board approval to reduce the penalty…

This credit union is not alone in jacking up early withdrawal penalties. Gone are the days of the simple three months loss of interest for early withdrawals. Even MrConsumer’s own credit union is clamping down.


USAlliance terms

Here, the penalty is only a year of interest. How generous of them.

We’ve always thought of credit unions as being very member-driven, and offering better rates and terms than the big banks. That apparently is not always the case.




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