my personal blog

May 26, 2005

Ever Read The Fine Print?

Filed under: business,rants — Tags: , — Alfonso Surroca @ 2:35 am

I used to be a cash-only type of guy. It was only after being nagged by my parents about building my credit that I finally succumbed and got myself a credit card. Recently, I opened an account with Bank of America and got their credit card because of an offer for $35. Now, I find in the midst of the paperwork for a mortgage loan I’m going to get, I need to have a third credit card.

I settled on the Chase PerfectCard because it gives me some money back on fuel, and so forth, instead of offering me garbage “rewards” I’ll never use such as frequent flyer miles (I’ve never flown). I treat every credit card deal as a scam, perhaps just a notch or two more credible than your average Nigerian e-mail. So, I make sure to read the fine print. In this case:

To help the government fight the funding of terrorism and money laundering activities, Federal law requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify, and record information that identifies each person who opens an account.

That’s the (in)famous USA PATRIOT Act at work there. In the old days, credit card companies took down your personal information and ran credit checks because they wanted to make sure you could pay your bills. Now, they’re doing it to fight terrorism. Apparently.

You agree that we may share personal and account information about you with our affiliates for the purpose of marketing to you their products and services, including banking, insurance and investment products.

Once they’ve collected your personal information and made sure that you’re not a terrorist, they’re going to send it off to their affiliates so that you can receive more junk mail. Here, I’m waiving my right to not receive junk mail.

The Cardmember Agreement contains a binding arbitration provision which may affect your rights to go to court, including your right to a jury trial or your right to participate in a class action or similar proceeding.

And here, I’m basically waiving my right to join a class-action lawsuit against Chase, should the need ever arise. When I agree to settle any disputes through arbitration. You’d be surprised how many times you sign away your right to sue a large company without knowing it. Many license agreements have an arbitration clause.

No annual fee first year. Thereafter, the $19 annual fee will be waived if at least nine (9) purchase transactions were made in the prior year.

And here’s the kicker. Most credit cards have no annual fee, and they make sure to make a big deal about this fact. Except, it’s not true. If I don’t use my card enough, that annual fee magically manifests itself.

Nothing I read about this credit card screamed “deal breaker”, and I sent in my application. I’m just glad to know that I have to use this card at least nine times this year to waive the supposedly nonexistent annual fee. I’m not a terrorist or criminal, I’m not planning on suing anyone, and my personal information (like yours, like everyone’s) is already for sale.

Just remember to read the fine print, people.

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