Entries Tagged as 'Credit Cards'

STOP • THINK • CLICK

I’ve mentioned the Internet Crime Complain Centerbefore, but the US Government also sponsors OnGuard Online with the slogan

STOP • THINK • CLICK

While most savvy internet users should be aware of most everything on the site, there’s no harm in taking a minute out and visiting it to see if there’s any suggestions that might make your online experience safer.  You may also want to recommend that your bank, credit union, and credit card company link to them.

Originally posted 2009-01-07 12:00:50.

Virtual Credit Card Numbers

Virtual credit card numbers are numbers that you generate (through your credit card issuer) to use for purchases on line.

Most of the companies that support these allow you to set time and amount limits for charges against the cards, and allow you to terminate the card at will (you cannot prevent a charge that has already been authorized, but you can prevent any future charge).

These financial institutions support virtual cards:

  • Bank of America (acquired from MBNA)
  • Citi Bank
  • Discover

These financial institutions do not support virtual cards:

  • Chase
  • Most credit union issued cards

Citi Bank and Bank of America have very similar systems; the each allow you to set limits and the card immediately binds to the merchant who first authorizes a charge against the number (no other merchant can use the number, which can create issues on PayPal, Yahoo Shops, Google Checkout, and Price Grabber to name a few — the solution is create a new card each time you want to buy something on those sites and destroy the old one).

Citi Bank and Discover have an applet you can download to your PC which will create numbers and auto-fill web forms.

Virtual credit cards give you a great deal of control over your finances, you set the limits of who much a vendor can charge and for how long they can access your credit card account.  While your liability is always limited (zero liability with VISA, Mastercard, and Discover) virtual cards help you avoid hassles.

When you say NO MORE, you end it… you can’t be caught by surprise by horrendous shipping and handling charges, you can’t be over-billed… and you don’t have to worry about recurring charges.

I use virtual card numbers to pay my utilities (electric, water, gas, cable, telephone, cellular); tolls (FastTrak); purchases on line; basically any time I give someone a credit card number via phone, mail, or internet… and I encourage you to do the same.

For one time purchases, terminate the card immediately after the charge is authorized, and THAT IS THAT… for recurring charges, re-authorize the new amount a little before the charge, or go ahead and setup for a year at a time (you can always terminate the card before an authorization).

Originally posted 2008-08-07 20:35:05.

Check Cards

If you have a bank issued “check card” — that’s an ATM card that bears a VISA of Master Card logo merchants will always try and get you to authorize a PINned transaction, DON’T DO IT.

Why?

There are several reasons not to perform PINned transactions…

  • When you do a transaction with a PIN, you’re allowing the merchant to immediately remove money from your bank account.  They likely use a transaction network to do this, but there aren’t as many safe guards or controls on that network as their are a credit card authorization network.
  • When you do a transaction with a PIN, you’re not protected by VISA or Master Cards ZERO LIABILITY guarantee, you’re subject to the rules imposed by the merchant, processing network, bank, state, and federal laws.  If you’re defrauded you might find it’s a long and tedious process to get your money back, and you might find that your bank freezes assets in your account until the matter is resolved.
  • When you do a transaction with a PIN the money is immediately removed from your account (and sometimes immediate means instantly — but certainly within 24-hours, often even on non-banking days); however, when you go through the credit card processing system you’ll see at least an extra day, and generally those transactions are only posted on banking days.
  • When you do a transaction with a PIN your PIN could be intercepted (either electronically of through surveillance) and put you at risk of fraud (which may be hard to prove it’s fraud).

If your bank doesn’t offer VISA or Master Card logo’d check cards, change banks.

If you have access to a small local bank, or better yet, credit union open an account there (after making sure they have VISA or Master Card logo’d check cards and offer totally free services).

It’s your money, make the most of it… and protect it.  As the economy get’s worse and worse we’re going to see more and more “clever” schemes to try and take your hard earned money; start fighting back now.

And remember, if you are a victim, immediately contact your financial institution and any merchant you believe may be responsible via telephone and follow it up in a letter sent via the United States Postal Service (referring to the phone call) to preserve your rights.  You may also want to send an email (possibly using a DEA — disposable email address) as well; but you must send a letter via USPS!

Check cards are also called ATM Debit Cards or ATM Cards, the important thing is that you can use them as a credit card by signing the transaction form (they will have a VISA or Master Card logo).

It’s fine to use those cards at your bank’s ATM as long as you take reasonable precautions.

While using a check card through the VISA or Master Card network is preferable to a PINned transaction, if you can get a credit card, and can use it responsibly you’re even better off to use a real VISA or Master Card and simply pay the balance off every month (transfer the money from your checking account weekly if you need to, and track the expenses on your credit card as you would transactions from your checking account, your bank can probably provide you with online access to your credit card to help you — if they don’t find another credit card issuer).

NOTE:

I haven’t gotten confirmation yet, but it appears Lowes is responsible for leak of bank card numbers and PINs that are currently being used to defraud consumers.  If you have performed a PINned transaction at Lowes within the last several weeks call your bank and have your bank card terminated and re-issued with a different number (tell them you lost it).

Originally posted 2008-12-12 12:00:04.

How To Use Credit Cards To Your Advantage

If you’re a savvy shopper you know that you can save a great deal of money watching for sales and taking advantage of lost leaders.

It’s your money, so you might as well save as much of it as you can; not like some ones just handing it out to you without hard work.

One of the easiest ways to make your money go further is to take advantage of special offers from credit card companies that pay you money back to use their cards.  Most of the programs are complicated, and maximizing your benefits takes a little bit of discipline, but you can end up with quite a bit of money back every year.

The cards I recommend (in order) are:

  • Citibank Rewards Dividend Platinum Card (Master Card)
  • Chase Freedom (VISA)
  • Citibank Cash Returns (Master Card)

I recommend you get all three of them, and here’s why.

There are limits on the Citi Rewards and Chase Freedom cards, but if you use them right you can get 3% cash back, and with the Chase card as much as 5%!  But if you use your card a great deal you’ll cap it out before the end of the year.

The Citi Cash Returns Card doesn’t have a cap, but only pays 1% (1.2% for the first year).

I believe all Citi cards also provide you with virtual account numbers, which give you control of who can change what to your card when.  Chase unfortunately does not offer virtual cards numbers.  If you must have a VISA with virtual account numbers, Bank of America has several cards with decent rewards programs (more like the Citi Premier Pass Card utilizing the “Thank-You Network”).

There are of course many other cards that you might be able to save money with.

For instance I have a Chase Amazon (VISA) Card, mainly because they gave me $30 off my first purchase (since then they’ve given me $20 for $100 in charges, and $30 for $100 in charges to encourage me to use the card; but since I don’t purchase from Amazon much, it really isn’t that great a card for me).

The other way to make a credit card work for you is use it any time a merchant accepts it; they’ve built it into their pricing, so you might as well get 1-3% cash back for using your card; of course you do need to make sure you pay your bill in full before the due date every month, or those “savings” will quickly disappear with the interest charges!

On other word of advice, don’t acquire a huge number of credit cards; it will adversely effect your credit rating even if you don’t use them or carry a balance.  The immediate hit of lots of credit inquiries will make it harder to get credit, and having a large number of open accounts trims down your score as well.  And honestly, you don’t really need lots of cards, companies like Citi and Chase will provide you with INSANE credit limits.

Originally posted 2008-05-16 21:28:07.

eBay Master Card

GE Money Bank provides the private labeled eBay Master Card and they’ve been running promotions here of late to give you a fairly substantial cash back bonus (generally up to $25.00) on your eBay purchases (applied as a statement credit, instantly).

This might be a good choice if you have an eBay purchase in mind — but there are many better cash back credit cards out there.

For general purpose use the Pentagon Federal Credit Union VISA card is one the the sweetest.

For private label cards, the Chase Amazon.com VISA offers a $30 instant bonus and 6% cash back for the first 90 days; the Chase Buy.com VISA offers a $40 instant bonus; the GE Money Bank Sam’s Club Discover offers a $40 instant bonus; and the GE Money Bank Walmart Discover offers a $10 instant bonus (plus additional $10 bonuses for using the card at places other than Walmat and Sam’s Club).

You can certainly put a little money back in your pocket by playing the credit card game — of course you have to be careful that you understand the rules for getting the cash back (and make sure you follow them).

A couple things to keep in mind.

GE Money Bank is a major credit card issuer — but they are a very low rent credit card company; and you certainly will not be treated like a “valued” customer or even a customer that has a choice.  Both Chase and Citibank are far better large credit card companies to do business with — and Pentagon Federal Credit Union has out of this world customer service and does value your business.

Your credit score can be negatively impacted by applying for a large number of credit cards in a short period of time (regardless of whether or not you are approved, the credit inquiries may lower your FICO score).  To protect yourself, and insure that you get the best credit offers, don’t apply for more than two credit cards in any one month — and try not to apply for more than four in any consecutive three month period.

Originally posted 2010-10-07 02:00:44.

Citi Mobile SM for Cards

Citibank has rolled out a mobile banking application for many phones on most major cellular carriers.

Personally I’m not sure why we’ve gone to a model where vendors seem to believe we need all kinds of applications to do simple things that could be done through a web browser… perhaps that’s an unfortunate side-effect of the iPhone craze (or perhaps better said as crazies).

I think it’s great that banking institutions are thinking about ways to provide services to individuals who have cellular data plans, but I think it’s unfortunate that we can’t just use simple standards — after all, the point is to enable the flow of information, not to make an application that people play with like a game.

To use the Citi Mobile application, you need a supported handset on a supported carrier, and you have to sign up, download, and activate it through the Citi “My Account” web portal.

Originally posted 2009-01-28 01:00:03.

Amazon Merchants

Once again I’ve been disappointed with the “service” and “products” provided by an Amazon merchant.

I’ve ask Amazon how to inhibit the display of any and all items except those sold by them; I don’t care to deal with the questionable merchants that use Amazon’s sites.  And obviously Amazon doesn’t stand behind them either (look over their A-Z Guarantee, and notice that a person who buys an item every day has the same lifetime limits as one who rarely buys — sounds to me like Amazon is afraid to offer a real guarantee — why should I have more confidence).

Anyway, rather than play the game with Amazon I’ve just opened a charge dispute with my credit card company (which in this case happens to be an Amazon credit card).

If Amazon doesn’t have a way to block the display non-Amazon merchandise I’ll close my account (and credit card).

Originally posted 2009-04-08 12:00:24.

Where Can You Use Credit Cards?

Here’s a quick list:

  • Grocery stores (3% category on Citi & Chase)
  • Gasoline (3% category on Citi & Chase)
  • Pharmacies (3% category on Citi)
  • Fast Food (3% category on Chase; bonuses for Blinx)
  • Electric & Gas Bills (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Telephone Bills (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Cellular Bills (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Cable Bills (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Traffic Fines (provided there’s no convenience fee,  I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Property Taxes (provided there’s no convenience fee,  I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Retail
  • Dining Out
  • Movies
  • Movie Rentals
  • Online Shopping (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Colleges and Schools
  • Travel
  • Hotels

There’s virtually no limit to where you can use credit cards; and every place you use cards that pay cash back gives you cash back (up to you limit, and then just switch cards).

Then you can pay your credit card with you bill payment service; or you can have your credit card company issue an ACH directly from you checking, savings, or money market account (this actually keeps the money in your account longer, and instantly credits to your credit card — of course you’re authorizing your credit card company to withdraw from your cash accounts, so you have decide if it’s right for you and you generally have the option of either automatic payment or directed payments).

———-

Blinx is Chase’s name for PayWay / PayPoint / FastPay — the RFID enabled credit card way to pay (Chase embeds RFID chips inside of many of their credit cards); currently they provide incentives to get people to use RFID style payment.

Virtual Credit Card Numbers are available through services offered by a number of credit card companies.  They differ slightly in implementation, but essentially allow you to set charge amount limits, and expiry dates.  Once an authorization is done to a virtual credit card number the card can only be charged against by that merchant.  You can generally extend the expiry date and charge amount at any time you want.  And you can terminate the card at any time you want (you cannot prevent already authorized charges from being committed to the card).  This is an excellent fraud deterrent, and prevents companies from charging any authorized fees to your account (which saves you the trouble of having to file a charge back).  I’ve used virtual card number ever since I had an MBNA VISA card (MBNA was acquired by Bank of America), they were one of the big innovators in this technology.

Originally posted 2008-05-16 21:35:48.

Credit Card Game

So you’re looking to add another credit card to your wallet… here’s a few options and things to consider ad you play the credit card game and get the financial institutions to pay you.

Discover — promo offer, spend $500 and get $50 cash back; but you’ll only get 0.25% cash back in the first tier (but they do have on going special categories, and the cash back percentage goes up as you spend more; but certainly their are better options).

Walmart Discover — promo offer will give you $20 cash back if you spend $100 on it the day you apply at a Walmart store (you get a check with your first statement).  Keep in mind that the Walmart Discover isn’t actually issued by Discover Financial Service, but rather by GE Money Bank (so it has to be managed through the Walmart portal, not Discover; and it doesn’t have many of the features of a regular Discover card).

NOTE: Discover branded card allow you to get cash back at a Walmart or Sam’s Club (which is charged as a purchase, not cash advance).

Citi Diamond Preferred MC (or AMEX) — promo “5% bonus” on gas, drugstores, and supermarkets for the first year; if you spend $300 in the first three months you get a $50 gift card; 1% normally — virtual credit card numbers

Citi Dividend MC — “bonus” categories change; 1% minimum ($300 max rebate per year) — virtual credit card numbers.

Chase Freedom VISA — promo 5% on gas and travel right now, the “bonus” categories change; 1% minimum.

CapitalOne Platinum VISA — 2% on gas and groceries, 1% minimum — low rent bank; but pay your bills and you will be fine.

Costco AMEX — 3% gas and dining; 2% travel, 1% minimum (requires paid Costco membership; $3000 purchase limit on 3% gas, 1% afterwards).

Most all the cash back cards now don’t offer good cash back rates for long (you have to play the promo game)… one way to avoid that is get a “branded” card at a place you do lots of business (like if you bought Shell gas most of the time get the Shell VISA — but it only works if there’s a card from place you do a lot of business and it pays say 5% there and 1% elsewhere; Chase has lots of those types of cards).

My feeling is the right number of credit cards is THREE

  • VISA
  • Master Card
  • Discover

You can argue four if you like AMEX — and that would probably be either the Costco or Citi AMEX for the best deal.

I would say acquire a credit card no more often than every three months until you’re at the level you want… if you find a card you like better than one you have — acquire it and just don’t use the other card (you can close it as well, but that really doesn’t buy you anything). DO NOT apply for more than a single credit card per month; and be careful about opening a bank account AND applying for a credit card in the same thirty day window (do the credit card first).

NOTE: Use credit cards responsibly.  If you can’t afford to pay the balance off every month — don’t make the purchase.  While many people keep revolving balances on credit cards, the interest rate (even a good interest rate for a credit card) makes the cost of what you’re purchasing ridiculous.  If you feel you won’t use a credit card responsibly — look for a financial institution that offers rewards on their debit card.

If I were applying for a new card right now it would probably be the Citi Diamond Preferred; and I’m considering applying for a Citi Diamond once the Chase 5% gas deal is over.

NOTE: I have a Discover, Walmart Discover, Citi Dividend, and Chase Freedom (along with others that I have not included on the this list).  I do not have (nor do I want) any AMEX card; nor do I personally want to do business with CapitolOne.

Originally posted 2010-07-23 02:00:19.

Citibank World Dividends Master Card

I got home Friday evening and had an alert from Citibank that a statement was ready on my Citibank World Dividends Master Card account… this is an account they’d converted from their Dividends reward card that had a really nice cash back program to a card that really didn’t have a very good program at all, so I really didn’t use the card much; but I’d done a small charge on it a couple months ago, and then paid it off when the bill was issued.

So, the alert was notifying me that I had a statement ready that would have a zero balance, and would only be showing a posted payment.

The problem was… there wasn’t a PDF of the statement available.  And the same thing had happened to me about eight months previously; so I actually knew exactly what it was.

The bottom line was some programmer at Citi decided (or was instructed to) not produce PDF statements for account with zero balances period… ignoring the fact that federal law requires a credit card company to issue out a statement with a zero balance should there be any transactions in the period the statement covers.

Certainly the supervisor I was transferred understood the requirement that a statement be issued when there was transactions during that period…

But, once again, I was sent over to a on-line technical support agent; who insisted the problem was my browser… Firefox 8; so we tried it in Internet Explorer 9… same thing, no PDF statement… then we tried it in Internet Explorer 8, Internet Explorer 7, and Firefox 5… guess what, still no PDF statement (she of course wouldn’t have it that I’d gone through all of this before — she had to make sure she wasted the maximum amount of my time that she could); then the technical support representative decide that maybe she should actually ask someone about this issue… and –SURPRISE– she was told that there was an issue in the system and in fact PDF statements were not issued out on account that had a zero balance, that they had to be requested to be generated.

While normally I believe in the three strikes you’re out paradigm, for a financial institution as well run as Citibank I made an exception… I decided because they managed to waste 50 minutes of my life today; and another about 90 minutes of my life several months ago on the exact same issue, that they were OUT!

I requested a return to a supervisor and canceled my account.

As always, I wished her the best of luck finding another job when the financial institution she worked for went out of business, and assured her that I would do everything in my power to encourage everyone I knew to dump Citibank.

The only unfortunate thing about cancelling the account was losing the $13.56 in Dividend reward points, but I certainly wasn’t going to keep the card until I had accumulated the $50.00 in reward points necessary to request a check.

I still have a two other Citibank credit cards (one VISA and one Master Card)… and while I may keep those cards for the moment (since Citibank and Bank of America are the only two financial institutions in this country that provide virtual credit card numbers)… but I will guarantee you I’ll make sure as little money as possible is charged through Citibank, and should one of my credit unions add virtual credit cards Citibank will be history for me.


UPDATE:

On Sunday I received an email from Citibank telling me that there was a PDF of my statement available for download.  Guess what — no statement.  I called up the clueless people at Citibank (again) to waste (more) of my time…

I guess maybe they’ll just have to change the spelling of their company to Shittybank.

Originally posted 2011-11-20 02:00:27.