Friday, April 24, 2015

Boston Globe Charge Card

Maybe you can use it:

"Subprime borrowers often lured by high-fee credit cards" by Ann Carrns, New York Times  February 13, 2015

NEW YORK — Unsolicited credit card offers can sound appealing to people with blemished credit or a sparse borrowing history, since they lack alternatives, but so-called fee harvester cards targeting subprime consumers — those with low credit scores — can get these borrowers into deeper trouble.

The Continental Finance case highlights the traps consumers can face, said Lauren Saunders, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center. In a report, the law center noted that the fees can leave consumers with scant credit to use. In one example, a company offered a card with a $250 credit limit, which dropped to $72 after a $95 program fee, a $29 setup fee, a $6-a-month participation fee, and an annual fee of $48....

That's where I went for the $cissors.


But don't worry; they are giving it all back:

"American Express to debut multi-brand customer loyalty program" by Alex Veiga Associated Press  March 19, 2015

LOS ANGELES — American Express is preparing to launch a customer loyalty program in the United States that will enable shoppers at select retailers to rack up points that they can use toward future purchases at Macy’s, Exxon Mobil, AT&T, and other participating companies.

The free program, set to debut in May, is dubbed Plenti and will also include Nationwide, Rite Aid, Direct Energy, and Hulu, American Express said Wednesday.

US Loyalty, a unit of American Express, will operate the program. But Plenti is not exclusive to AmEx’s cardholders. Customers of the companies in the program can earn points regardless of whether they pay with cash or a debit or credit card from another card issuer.

American Express also will be rolling out a Plenti-branded credit card that will let users earn additional points.

“For every dollar, you spend you’re going to get a point on the credit card, plus whatever you get from that merchant,” said Abeer Bhatia, chief executive of US Loyalty.... 

Reads like a television commercial!


Oh, they doing this "free" favor for you (to encourage feeding the corporate bea$t) after raising rates!

"American Express raises interest rates on some credit cards" by Ken Sweet, Associated Press  February 26, 2015

NEW YORK — American Express has increased interest rates on some of its credit card accounts by an average of 2.5 percentage points in recent weeks.

Spokeswoman Elizabeth Crosta declined to say how many of the company’s 42 million cards are affected. But she said Wednesday that it was a ‘‘small percentage’’ of customers.

Did you read the bill and fine print?

American Express had been charging a lower interest rate, as much as 3.25 percentage points, compared with what its competitors charge for customers with similar credit scores, Crosta said. The new rates affect only new purchases and balance transfers.

American Express’s move is unusual for the industry: Card rates have been going down, not up.

Maybe they thought you wouldn't notice?

Card companies decide what interest to charge based on a number of factors. Two big ones are the bank’s borrowing costs and the risk a customer won’t pay a credit card bill.

Credit card delinquencies have remained stable or fallen. A report from the credit bureau TransUnion says the US credit card delinquency rate was 1.47 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, effectively unchanged from 1.48 percent in 2013.

When the Federal Reserve raises rates as it winds down its economic stimulus, “most Americans will see their credit card interest rates increase almost immediately,’’ said Matt Schulz, an analyst at ‘‘Other than that, however, it’s unlikely that rates will increase much, if at all, in the near future. The marketplace is just too competitive right now to allow that.”

But American Express has had a tough couple of months, and that could explain its rate increases.

How billions did they make?

Last week, a federal judge ruled American Express violated antitrust laws that bar merchants from asking customers to use one credit card over another. 

Oh, it's a fine.

And in January, the company said it was ending its exclusivity agreement with Costco, which had been one of its biggest merchants. JetBlue Airways is also ending its deal with AmEx.

And yet their television commercials are so witty and funny.

Most American Express cards are charge cards. There is no interest because the balance must be paid each month. 

Look, we are all Greece now.

As the Costco deal ends, the company may be seeking new revenue. Higher rates are one way companies can increase revenue, but it can come at a cost: Customers may use their cards less if rates rise.

I would $uggest not all if you can help it.


Got another card in your, you know.... ?

"Federal agencies looking into possible money laundering at Capital One" by Abha Bhattarai, Washington Post  February 26, 2015

WASHINGTON — The Justice and Treasury departments are investigating possible money laundering at Capital One Financial, the banking giant said in a regulatory filing.

Oh, no! Mace has turned to the dark $ide!

Capital One said it received requests for information related to its antimoney laundering protocols and check casher clients in early 2015. The requests came from the Justice Department and the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

The Justice Department is also looking into the company’s subprime auto finance business.

Related: Mass. AG probes Santander for auto lending practices

They bundled 'em like they did the mortgages and student loans.

Also seeSantander fined $6m for add-on charges

Yeah, at least they got their cut.

Six months ago, Capital One disclosed that the New York district attorney’s office had made similar requests for subpoenas and testimony related to its commercial banking business.

As one of the country’s largest credit card lenders, Capital One has long relied on credit card fees and interest payments for a significant portion of its revenue.

Last year it reported revenue of $4.43 billion.

The probe comes at a time when agencies are looking into questionable banking practices. JPMorgan Chase also said this week the Justice Department was looking into possible bias in its auto lending practices.

It's in a cla$$ way more than anything else.

Also on Wednesday, Morgan Stanley said it has agreed to pay $2.6 billion to settle with the federal government over its role in the mortgage bubble and subsequent financial crisis.

An "Oh, yeah," of an afterthought but it's there.


At least Americans are using them....

"Slight uptick in US consumer borrowing in January; Credit card use, however, dipped" by Martin Crutsinger, Associated Press  March 07, 2015

WASHINGTON — Consumers increased their borrowing in January at the slowest pace in more than a year, with borrowing on credit cards actually declining for the second time in the last three months.

Slight uptick but actually down. How di$ingenuou$!

Even though the January increase was more modest than the gains over the past year, it still pushed total borrowing to a fresh record of $3.33 trillion....

And that's a good thing?

The auto and student loan category has been growing faster than credit card debt since the 2007-2009 recession. That reflects in part the fact that many workers who lost jobs during the downturn decided to take out loans to go back to school and some students opted to stay in school longer because jobs were scarce.

As if facts were to be found in the bu$ine$$ $ection of the Bo$ton Globe!

The slowdown in credit card use could reflect greater caution among consumers about taking on debt to finance consumer spending. But economists are hoping that with job growth strengthening so much over the past year, consumers may step up their use of credit cards to finance purchases. That would give a boost to consumer spending and the overall economy....

Doesn't look like a slight uptick, does it?


Finally took a MasterCard:

"Target settles data breach lawsuit with MasterCard for $19m" by Anne D’Innocenzio and Marley Jay Associated Press  April 16, 2015

NEW YORK — Target and MasterCard say they’ve agreed to settle lawsuits over the discounter’s pre-Christmas 2013 massive data breach.

Target said late Wednesday it has set aside up to $19 million for banks and credit unions issuing MasterCards that were caught in the data breach that compromised 40 million credit and debit card accounts between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013.

MasterCard Inc. said the money will be available to banks and credit unions for operating costs and fraud-related losses on cards believed to have been affected....

Target’s high-profile breach pushed banks, retailers, and card companies to increase security by speeding the adoption of microchips in US credit and debit cards.

Meaning, in all likelihood, it was the government responsible for the hack, most likely coming from Silicon Valley.

So who has the contract and company that will $ervice it?

Supporters say chip cards are safer, because unlike magnetic strip cards that transfer a credit card number when they are swiped at a point-of-sale terminal, chip cards use a one-time code that moves between the chip and the retailer’s register. The result is a transfer of data that is useless to anyone except the parties involved. Chip cards are also nearly impossible to copy, experts say.

Safer still not to use any.

Target overhauled some of its divisions that handle security and technology. The company has also been upgrading its cash registers so they can accept the more secure cards in its nearly 1,800 stores.

I $mell an agenda.


Never caught 'em, did they?

But you charge something and you win a prize?

"Huge demand for the Lilly Pulitzer for Target collection has overwhelmed the Minneapolis retailer’s website. Many Lilly Pulitzer fans who tried to buy pieces from the limited-edition collection were greeted with website issues on early Sunday. Customers then learned that most items had already sold out online. And The Star Tribune reported that many Target stores sold out of the collection within minutes of their doors’ opening at 8 a.m. Sunday. Target said the website did not crash, but the retailer had to take steps to manage the site due to overwhelming traffic. That included limiting access at certain times. At one point, Target made the site inaccessible for about 15 minutes."

"Target’s top-end deals looked great, but proved elusive" by Anne D’Innocenzio Associated Press  April 21, 2015

NEW YORK — Target shoppers found out last weekend that when stores make deals to carry merchandise from high-end designers for a limited time, it can be, well, really limiting.

The discounter partnered with the Lilly Pulitzer brand to carry a collection of 250 pieces for a fraction of the price of the Palm Beach designer’s original merchandise. But the line, which included $38 pink shift dresses and $25 beach towels, was wrought with long lines in stores, quick sellouts online, and other problems.

The line shows the challenges that stores face when they offer limited-time collections. These lines typically consist of cheaper versions of designer pieces. They generate buzz from aspirational buyers who want to don upscale brands as well as avid wearers of the labels. But the high demand can be a double-edged sword: Often, customers encounter picked-over merchandise and website snafus.

Target, which pioneered these partnerships in the 1990s and has been followed by rivals like H&M, Gap, and Kohl’s, started selling the Lilly Pulitzer collection on Sunday online at about 4 a.m. EST and at stores at 8 a.m. EST. Demand was so heavy that Target took the site offline for 20 minutes, which caused angry chatter on social media. Ultimately, the items sold out online within a few hours and at many of the 1,800 stores within a half hour.

Target apologized for the online snafu, noting an ‘‘inconsistent experience for our guests.’’ Spokesman Joshua Thomas said pieces could still be found at stores.

‘‘We felt good about the amount of product, but you just don’t know until you give customers a chance to shop,’’ Thomas said.

The challenges that retailers face with limited-time partnerships include:

■ Hard-to-predict demand. Stores and analysts say it is hard to gauge what shoppers will actually buy since those items have not been sold before.

There was lot of buzz leading up to Target’s launch of its limited-time partnership with Neiman Marcus in 2012. Target increased production in anticipation of a sales blowout, but Target shoppers thought the line was too expensive, while well-heeled Neiman Marcus customers didn’t think it was high quality. Several weeks later, prices were slashed more than 50 percent.

■ Social media can hurt: Shoppers are increasingly turning to social media to air their complaints. Target drummed up so much hype around its collection with upscale Italian designer Missoni in 2011 that its website crashed and was shut down for most of the day of the launch. Shoppers voiced frustrations online and then threatened to boycott Target weeks later on social media because their online orders were being delayed and canceled.

‘‘Social media is like a megaphone,’’ said Craig Johnson, a retail consultant.

■ After-market sellers: Some shoppers use these partnerships to profit by selling the stuff on eBay.

For instance, there were sold-out Lilly Pulitzer items selling for at least three times Target’s original prices on eBay. That frustrates shoppers who want to buy items just for themselves.

‘‘I think it’s sad that it can’t be a fun experience,’’ said Meredith Forbes, 21, who was at Target’s East Harlem, N.Y., store Sunday.


Oh, I'm sorry, did you want to go in there?

Maybe you can take the kid with you?

"Safer credit cards slow in coming" by Deirdre Fernandes, Globe Staff  February 26, 2015

Have you received your new counterfeit-proof, microchip-based credit card?

If you haven’t, you’re not alone.

Despite high-profile data breaches in the last year and a looming deadline this fall, merchants and retailers have been slow to switch to credit cards with safer chip technology, according to a new report by, a consumer website.

Only three out of 10 cardholders in the United States are carrying chip cards in their wallets. Most of these cardholders have high incomes and live on the West Coast or in the Northeast, according to the survey, to be released Thursday.

Once again, an item in my propaganda pre$$ services wealth. 

The new credit cards, which are supposed to replace those with magnetic strips, have a small microchip in the front that makes them nearly impossible to duplicate.

That will get some folks riled up. 

Banks and card issuers must provide their customers with these new cards and merchants have to replace their checkout terminals with machines that allow cards to be inserted instead of swiped.

After October, if a security breach occurs and card numbers are exposed, the company that did not allow for chip card transaction, either the retailer (because it didn’t have a new machine) or the bank (because it did not issue a chip card), will have to cover the costs, according to rules adopted by card companies Visa, Mastercard, and Discover.

Currently, banks or the card companies bear costs of data breaches and any resulting fraud.

But the new chip cards and merchant card readers are expensive and that has slowed the process, experts said. They could cost the industries $8.6 billion, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, a California company that follows technology and financial institutions.

Large retailers, such as Walmart, have installed new card readers at sales terminals and are using them. But many other businesses have not replaced their old machines. Some have adopted the technology but have not turned it on yet because they need to train staff or integrate it into the company’s network.

Mercator Advisory Group, a Maynard consulting firm, estimates that by the end of this year, half the merchant terminals will have the equipment to accept chip cards, but only a quarter of them will be turned on.

These smart credit cards have been used in Europe since the 1990s, but adoption in the United States has lagged. After a data breach of the giant retailer Target in late 2013, the chip cards gained renewed attention from both consumers and businesses. Target moved more quickly to replace its store-brand credit cards with ones that contained the chip.

But if bank officials do not see a large number of merchants using chip-reading credit card terminals, they do not feel the urgency to spend money to replace the cards, analysts said. And if retailers do not have customers complaining that the terminals will not accept their smartcards, they do not see a reason to rush to buy new equipment, said Matt Schulz, a senior industry analyst for

What do they know that we are not being told?

Banks, however have been more aggressive at getting these chip cards to their wealthier customers, according to the survey, which found that nearly half of those with investment income of more than $100,000 had them. These are the customers that both retailers and banks want to keep the happiest, Schulz said. 

Do I have to repeat myself? They will be protected; you are prey.

They are also the ones most likely to travel abroad. As a result, many banks give them first priority on the card replacement cycle, because they would need these cards to shop overseas, said Ken Paterson, vice president of research operations at Mercator Advisory. That's nothing new.

Paterson said he expects faster adoption of chip cards after October, when banks and merchants could become liable for fraud costs. Still, experts warn that these new cards won’t eliminate credit card fraud or all data breaches. Cards can still be stolen or fraudulent purchases made online.

But they will be drawing more scrutiny as they gain mainstream acceptance.


"Local merchants not ready for more secure ‘chip and PIN’ cards" by Joram Borenstein   April 19, 2015

Massive data breaches at retailers like Home Depot and Target are finally pushing credit card issuers to adopt the technology known as “chip and PIN” which is much more secure than the magnetic swipe strips used in the United States.

The technology, which uses an embedded computer chip and a personal identification number, has been successful in Canada, Australia, Europe, and elsewhere. In the United States, a new industry standard is pushing widespread use of chip-based cards by October. Banks and merchants that fail to adopt the technology by then will become liable for the costs of fraud that result from data breaches, rather than issuers such as Visa and Mastercard.

What I $ee happening is them not issuing you one. You are not worth the ri$k unle$$ you are rich.

Knowing this was on the horizon, I was curious to find out if Greater Boston was ready for this transition. To make this determination, I simply tried to make purchases with the chip portion of my credit card at every store I visited — and kept a chart of my experiences....

You can go along with him. I'm maxed out.



"American Express will roll out a new loyalty program, Plenti, on Monday, allowing US shoppers for the first time to earn rewards points through a variety of purchases, from paying a phone bill to filling up at the pump. Customers will accumulate points through purchases at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Rite Aid, Macy’s, and other companies, which can then be used for discounts at any participating vendor. Plenti points built up by buying gas or a Nationwide insurance policy, for example, could earn discounts on an electric bill from Direct Energy or milk from Rite Aid. Some other features of the program:"

better check the fine print and order of billing. 

Ready for breakfast

Just put it on the card.

Also see: Judge rejects AmEx fee deal