Posts Tagged ‘American Express’

Service of Billions in Limbo–Not in Recipient’s Pockets

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

Are you accessing all the money due you? Banks and businesses have pots of money left behind.

We’ve heard of gift cards with unused balances that reside in wallets, bureau and desk drawers. “At any given time, 10% to 19% of gift card balances remain unredeemed — and around 6% of gift cards are never even used,” wrote Zachary Crockett in thehustle.com. In 2019, Americans bought some $171 billion worth.

And what about the cards themselves? Crockett reported that 70 percent of gift cards are redeemed within six months but after a year, almost 80 percent aren’t. That’s a tidy sum for the issuers in addition to the fees many charge while they also make money on the interest.

It’s not just gift card balances that are unclaimed. Without proper documentation or an estate bank account, checks made out to an estate cannot be deposited in a widow, widower or other beneficiary’s retail bank account even if they are named executor in the will. For some, the cost to pay a lawyer to acquire documentation may represent more than the lost money. A friend said that each of several checks for interest on an investment made to her husband’s estate were for less than $100. The issuer of the checks kept the money because two banks in her town refused to cash or deposit them.  Long after the checks had expired someone said she could have helped her retrieve the money.

Another friend got a check from a bank made out to his wife’s estate for well over $3,000. It had a life of 180 days. The issuer said that no other check could be cut after that and it could not write a check to his name. Predicament was solved because a proactive customer service person figured out a solution. Otherwise, if the lawyer hadn’t open an estate account in time this money would have remained in bank coffers unclaimed.

This must happen to the bereaved countless times a year.

Do you use gift cards immediately? If you’ve not spent the entire amount, do you remember to use the remainder? Do you prefer gift cards from a business or ones  like American Express? Have you forfeited money because you weren’t able to cash a check in time for any reason?

Service of Status Symbols: Really?

Monday, December 16th, 2019

I once cut up a platinum colored credit card that came in the mail because I didn’t want to pay a premium. The standard one from this company was dark blue. I called and asked for a blue one and was told “Didn’t you read the note we sent in May?” It was November. “We aren’t charging extra for platinum ones anymore.” In the day, a platinum card meant something special to some people–but not to me. The company sent me a new card.

Status symbols don’t impress me but apparently metal credit cards should. “Customers typically can’t ask their bank to swap out their plastic cards, but at least 20 types of credit cards in the U.S. contain metal, including offerings from JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., and Wells Fargo & Co., wrote Michael Bucher in The Wall Street Journal.

“Like other luxuries once restricted to the wealthy—cellphones, private airport lounges and French handbags—metal credit cards have trickled down the income stream.” A trade magazine Bucher quoted estimates that by 2022 the number of metal cards will quadruple from the 32 million there are worldwide today.

It’s funny that heavier cards appeal to the public according to Citi when I keep trying to carry around less weight. “American Express Co. introduced its black card, named Centurion, in 1999. The titanium card still is issued only by invitation. Customers pay a $10,000 initiation fee and $5,000 annually.” What a waste of money! If you never heard of the Centurion–they didn’t advertise–it may be because you missed it in James Bond flicks, “Entourage” on HBO and in Kanye West songs.

Marriott customers complained when its card went from metal to plastic. [Imagine the savings for the lighter card in postage alone!]

Not only is the card heavier, it requires special care. Apple advises customers to protect its titanium card from pocket change or keys that could harm it. “The Apple guide instructs cardholders to clean the card with rubbing alcohol.”

Bucher wrote about a supermarket employee who has handled the metal AmEx cards of affluent shoppers.  Capital One replaced her plastic card with one in metal.  “I opened it up and I was like, ’Whoa.’ It really did make me feel important instantly.”

There are tangible benefits: titanium ones are handy to scrape ice off a windshield or to tighten the screws on a drawer’s loose handle though if you need to destroy one, it’s nigh impossible reported Bucher.

What status symbols impress you? Do you have any metal credit cards? Do they give you bragging rights?

Service of Cart Before the Horse: Corporations Collaborate When Foolproof Locks on Internet Security Don’t Exist

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

Thank goodness all giant corporations aren’t leaping into bed together to share respective expertise and information although some are inching in that direction and others are raring to go. It won’t be long.

But first a digression: In arriving at the topic for this post I counted seven fuzzy attributions in one newspaper article. Isn’t that a lot? Laced throughout a recent front page article in The Wall Street Journal I read: “According to people familiar with the conversations; the people said; a person familiar with the discussions said; some of the people said; said people familiar with the matter; some of the people said and people familiar with the matter said.”

Nevertheless I believe the topic is valid and am troubled by its implications. The title and subtitle: “Facebook to Banks: Give Us Your Data, We’ll Give You Our Users. Facebook has asked large U.S. banks to share detailed financial information about customers as it seeks to boost user engagement data.”

Reporters Emily Glazer, Deepa Seetharaman and AnnaMaria Andriotis wrote that Facebook had spoken with people at JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and U.S. Bancorp “to discuss potential offerings it could host for bank customers on Facebook Messenger.” Facebook Messenger is a messaging app and platform.

What did “people say” about the conversations? “Facebook has talked about a feature that would show its users their checking-account balances, the people said. It has also pitched fraud alerts.” In addition, “Facebook asked banks for information about where their users are shopping with their debit and credit cards outside of purchases they make using Facebook Messenger.” Messenger has 1.3 billion active monthly users according to the reporters.

Timing could be better for this outreach. The reporters reminded readers about current investigations in which Cambridge Analytica accessed data on some 87 million Facebook users without user OK. “‘We don’t use purchase data from banks or credit-card companies for ads,’ [Facebook] spokeswoman Elisabeth Diana said. ‘We also don’t have special relationships, partnerships or contracts with banks or credit-card companies to use their customers’ purchase data for ads.’”

Banks are tempted by the digital reach and doing business with online platforms with healthy and growing businesses. Even though Facebook has introduced what it says are safety features, “Bank executives are worried about the breadth of information being sought, even if it means their bank might not being available on certain platforms their customers use.”

While PayPal and Square have beaten banks to the punch in the world of mobile commerce many customers continue to be comfortable with traditional ways of paying such as credit and debit cards, cash and checks.

Some deals between big players are already struck though I question their purpose: American Express members can reach a rep through Facebook. [Why would you need to do that?] Paypal users can send money through Facebook Messenger and Mastercard’s Masterpass digital wallet lets customers place online orders with some merchants.

Before all these mergers of communications, customers and data happen, shouldn’t there first be a firm grasp on digital customer privacy? Why are we becoming so lazy: Is it so onerous to check a balance on your bank’s website that you need Facebook do it for you? Can you believe that AmEx members can’t reach out to a company rep but instead need Facebook to do it for them? These “benefits” appear to potentially favor everyone but the consumer—do you agree?  Do you pay for things via mobile wallet, credit or debit cards, cash or checks? And last, does an article with more than a few generic attributions disturb you?

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