Saturday, February 27, 2010

Discover Card is Mean, Evil and Unethical

I've heard that if you believe that people are nice, the people you meet will turn out to be nice. I'd like to add to that saying. If you believe financial services companies are nice, you will pay for that belief.

I started my relationship (mental note: try not to anthropormorphise corporations - people, they ain't) with Discover Card in 1986. I worked at a radio station that carried the Minnesota Twins and 1986 was good year for them. I decided to attend a few games the next season. Having heard the commercials for the Twins ticket office a gazillion times, I knew that they only accepted Discover Card, so I applied for one. I attended a few games, the Twins won the World Series and a few other nice things happened in 1987. Life was good.

At first, Discover was my only credit card but others joined it. I began using it as a cash management tool. I always made a payment and only during periods of unemployment did I ever carry a balance. Over the past 24 years, I've charged over $78,000 dollars in purchases and paid only $140 in interest and fees.

Until December, 2009. We now live in the internet age, so to make a payment, I simply go to their web site, select a date and amount, and like financial liposuction, money magically jumps from my account to theirs. Like an idiot, I looked for a way to improve on relative perfection. I saw that Discover allowed a person to schedule automatic payments. OK, if I ever forgot to schedule a payment, WHICH BOTH GOOGLE AND QUICKEN AUTOMATICALLY REMIND ME TO DO EVERY MONTH, Discover would take care of it. I opted to have the minimum payment go automatically, which means I would have to schedule the remaining balance. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I did this in October, 2009, and received an e-mail stating that my first auto-payment would happen on December 20. Since the statement cycle date is the 20th, that seemed like perfect timing - the minimum monthly payment would show up on the last day of the cycle. In mid-December, I scheduled a payment of the remainder of the balance. Let's say my total payment was $500 and the minimum was $20. I entered $480 in the manual payment amount and got on with my life.

Until the next statement came, which showed that I hadn't made the minimum part of the payment. My $480 was there, just not the $20. Because of that, I was dinged over $10 in interest. Not happy. A forensic review was instigated.

From my perspective, two things went wrong. From Discover Card's perspective, two things went right. First, the minimum payment date. The e-mail said the payment would be processed on the 20th. But, as I discovered, the 20th is not the last day of the billing cycle, it's the first of the next. The minimum payment - the AUTOMATIC minimum payment for the cycle - was scheduled for the FOLLOWING cycle. Discover Card has rigged it so that if you use their help to make payments, you will always be one cycle behind, which allows them to charge you interest every month. That's evil. The web site says they are doing something wonderful for you while they are really using your gullibility or lack of attention to detail to maximize their financial grip on you.

The other thing that went wrong was that the automatic payment never happened. Not on the 20th, not in the week or so after, either. They intentionally skipped the payment in order to allow the interest charges to pile up another month. My guess is the first minimum payment would have happened on January 20 and most people would've blamed themselves for miscalculating when the payments would start. Bastards. Unethical bastards.

Well, that's what you get for trusting a big nameless, faceless corporation (Discover Card CEO: David Nelms. Bastard). Discover Card has been my primary card for 24 years and they screwed me over like I was just a guy on the street. Which is what I really am. I should know better.

In all fairness, I am not their best customer. I pay my balance every month - unless they “help” - so I don't pay $39 late fees or 19% interest. Intentionally. No, they only make money off of me by taking a 2.1% fee from the businesses I patronize. So, $78,000 over 24 years, that's $1600. Not much for saving me from hundreds of extra trips to the cash machine or having to carry a checkbook. Still, they make 2.1% on every transaction and last year I put almost $6000 on my Discover Card. They made $126 off me last year and stood to make that much indefinitely. That's not a bad return on the service delivered. It's getting greedy that turns people evil and unethical.

So what's my recourse? No longer giving them the 2.1% on my $6000? That's a no brainer. I'll keep the card but just stop using it. But there's a twist. Discover has a cash back program. They credit your account 1/4 of 1% of the balance every month. I haven't been paying much attention to that part of my statement so it grew to several hundred dollars. They only let you cash out $50 of that credit at a time, and wouldn't you know it, I am $4 from the next $50 multiple. I'm going to have to continue using the card until the 0.25% rebate gives me that even $50 then I'm outa there. The card will sit in a drawer until my righteous umbrage goes away. Years, maybe forever.

But, of course, there's more. Discover is one of two cards I carry, so I'm able to not only deprive Discover of the fees they would've gotten from me on the usual charges but I get to give them to another company. Ha. And $6000 in routine purchases last year? It would have been much more this year, what with new appliances and more work on the house. Ha ha. You wanted $10 interest; you lost hundreds in fees. Over the the next few years, you lost maybe several thousands of dollars. That's what you get for being mean, evil and unethical. But you got that $10.

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