Tag Archives: American Express

Will consumers pay a fee to swipe their credit card?

Credit card cash registerWill the cost of swiping plastic get more expensive starting this weekend? It depends on who you ask.

On Sunday, January 27, businesses who take Visa and MasterCard can begin imposing a surcharge on consumers who use credit. This new fee for consumers is being called a “checkout fee.” It can only be applied to credit cards, and not debit cards.

The surcharge can’t be more than the amount the business typically pays to accept credit cards. That fee ranges from 1.5% to 3% of the transaction amount.

While stores will have the ability to charge this fee, the National Retail Federation told me consumers don’t need to worry about this fee because the majority of businesses will not pass it on to the consumer. The Retail Federation called it “propaganda from the credit card industry.”

This all stems from a lawsuit settlement involving the retail industry and the credit card giants. The suit is still being debated in court, but these fees would start on Sunday. The retail industry filed the suit to bring down swipe fees. The NRF says the intent was not to pass the charge onto consumers.

“Surcharging therefore would run 180 degrees to the intent of the suit,” the NRF said in a statement. “While there can always be exceptions, merchants in general have no intention of surcharging.” According to the NRF, they don’t know any business that’s passing this charge along.

Business exclusions
Even if a business wanted to pass along the fees, the NRF said that would be difficult due to state and credit card laws.

The settlement won’t trump state law. In ten states, laws prohibit these fees. You won’t have to worry about these fees if you live in the following states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The second reason the NRF believes very few stores will charge these fees to consumers deals with the cardholder rules. In a phone conversation and prepared statement sent to me, the NRF said Visa and MasterCard rules require retailers to handle all credit card transactions the same way in all their stores. Therefore, a chain that operates in one of the ten states which prohibits the surcharge, won’t be able to apply the surcharge to any of its stores. The same would apply to regional chains with a store in one of the prohibited states.

Courtesy Visa

Courtesy Visa

However, Visa has a different view on how the state exclusions impact this fee. The Frequently Asked Questions section for Visa states the following, “If a merchant is prohibited from surcharging in one state, Visa’s rules do not prevent the merchant from surcharging in other states that allow the practice.”

I think if a merchant actually did this, consumers would be outraged. Those who live near the state line would simply shop in the other state. This could cause all sorts of problems for businesses and governments who might lose a tax base. I think there is far too much to lose for the big stores to create an unlevel playing field for consumers. Stores are already trying all sorts of marketing techniques to get consumers to spend their money in stores rather than online. This could be a disaster for a store.

The NRF said American Express agreements reduce the number of stores who could charge this fee even more. The settlement says that if you surcharge Visa and MasterCard the same must happen with AmEx. The NRF said the AmEx agreement prohibits the fee.

With all these exclusions, the NRF said very few stores could charge this fee.

I think the most likely candidates for this fee are mom and pop stores where these fees cut too deep into their bottom line. However, the NRF said they don’t even think that will happen because it will be too time-consuming and costly to to re-configure their computer system to accommodate the change. Time will tell. I think at best this will be hit or miss.

Disclosure is key
You will know if a business is charging a checkout fee. For retail stores, there needs to be a sign at the entrance and point of sale. If you are shopping online, the homepage will disclose the fee. The disclosure will have lots of fine print. For the consumer, the most important thing to look for is the amount of the surcharge. Your receipt will also disclose the dollar amount of the surcharge.

The settlement is still pending in court and appeals have already been filed.

If we ever even see these fees, they may be delayed. The stores need to give MasterCard and Visa 30 days notice.

If you see a store charging this fee, let me know on Facebook and Twitter. Would this fee make you shop somewhere else or use cash? Join the conversation by clicking “comment” below.

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Earn money while shopping on Cyber Monday

The focus is turning from retail stores to the Internet for Cyber Monday, and there are lots of ways to save on your online purchase.

1. Look for discount codes
Retailmenot shows promotional codes that will save you money your purchase and shipping. If there is a discount code, Retailmenot typically has it listed. You can also search the store you are shopping and “promotional code” in Google to find a discount.

2. Shop with Ebates
Ebates is one of my favorite sites. I earn money for shopping. Every quarter, I get a check in the mail. To qualify, sign up for an account. Then, when you’re ready to shop type in the name of the store. You’ll see if it participates in the program and the percentage you will earn back. Not every store participates in the money back program, but many do. When you find one, click on the link from Ebates and start shopping.

3. Get free shipping
Retailmenot will also let you know if free shipping is available. Also, Google your store and “free shipping” to find a discount code. Many stores require you spend $50 or $100 to earn free shipping.

If you are shopping Amazon, consider a monthly membership to Prime if you think you’ll do more shopping in the future. The membership was once only sold for a year, but recently the e-retailer began offering month long memberships. It might be worth it to join for a month or two at $7.99, and then cancel your membership after the holidays. You get two day free shipping in qualifying purchases.

4. Look for discounts on social media
If you’re looking to buy a certain product from a certain company, consider “liking” their Facebook page or following the business on Twitter. Exclusive deals are given to friends and followers on social media. Read more on publicizing your purchase to save money

Also, look in your Facebook news feed for deals. While some deals are only for followers, others are publicized through social media. Perhaps you’ve seen these coupons in your news feed when a friend of yours claims the offer. Toys “R” Us has an offer right now for 20% off a regular priced item.

Once you claim the offer, it shows up in your news feed so your other friends see it. It’s a way for businesses to promote their sales and deals and it’s a way for you to find out about sales.

Third, consider linking your credit card to your Facebook or Twitter page. American Express allows you to Tweet and Facebook your way to savings. These offers are limited, but offer more significant discounts like $10+ off your purchase.

Related links you may like:
Ebates pays you to shop
Publicize your purchase to save money
Tweet your way to savings

“Thank you for your business”

What a week of contrasts — thankfulness and greed. Just hours after we finished our Thanksgiving meal with family and gave thanks to all we have in our lives, people lined up to rush into stores to grab a good deal. Some people fought to get what they wanted. Thanksgiving has become Black Friday or Gray Thursday. Whatever you call it, corporate greed and survival is the focus on a day we’re supposed to be reflective and thankful for what we have.

Black Friday camper.

You can’t just blame the stores. Shoppers are so desperate to gobble up the doors they line up a week early.

This holiday, the stakes are higher than ever. Stores are desperate to pad their bottom line, as Internet businesses are making it tough for retail stores to keep their doors open. I think some retailers will disappear before the next shopping season if their sales are not good. Stores have all sorts of gimmicks and promotions to get you to shop like Thanksgiving day doorbusters and price matching policies even for Internet stores and prices. That’s an unprecedented move as retailers are desperate to keep their doors open.

Gordon Square. Cleveland, OH

It’s not just corporations looking to keep their doors open, but small businesses as well. The mom and pop stores of the world. The ones opened by your neighbors who live in your community and support it when their business thrives. Saturday, the corporate credit card company American Express, is promoting “Small Business Saturday.”

It’s a way to get you to support your local business. The ones that are the framework of your community. For every $25 you spend at a participating AmEx small business, you’ll get a $25 statement credit. It’s a free $25. A nice incentive to support your local stores.

I stopped in a few the other day, and I must say it opened my eyes to the unique gifts and good people behind these storefronts that I buzz by every day. You really can find gifts you won’t find anywhere else. You may pay a bit more for your gift, but you get so much more.

Service anyone? When was the  last time you got service at a store? It’s a rarity at a big business. Free gift wrap and packaging? It’s just part of the standard package at a small business. Check one out this weekend. I think you’ll be surprised.

I got a surprise from a local business this week — unrelated to holiday shopping. I needed three tire valve caps to keep the air pressure in our tires. I went to Lakefront Automotive Parts in Cleveland to pick up the caps. I like walking in there because the staff is friendly and always willing to help you find what you need. You’re in and out in less than five minutes and get service with a smile.

The salesman told me they didn’t sell just three caps. They came in a packet of 100. I was willing to accept it and go someplace else. Then, he grabbed the package off the shelf. He opened it up and handed me three. He said, “We’ll get you next time. Have a great day.”

I offered to pay and he refused. The cost  would have been less than a $1, but it didn’t matter. It was the gesture that will remain in my mind. He went out of his way to make sure I was a satisfied customer. It’s something you hardly get anymore. Such a small thing, but it left a big impression on me. It’s the small things in life that leave the most lasting impressions.

Don’t forget to Shop a store this holiday that truly is thankful for your business.

Publicizing your purchase to save money

Retailers are looking for new and creative ways to advertise as mass media shifts from television and print to online. Social media plays a huge role in making nothing — something. Tweets, re-tweets, and shares on Facebook are great ways to expose a new product or service to potentially new customers.  Special promotions are often offered to followers or those who like a page. Now, companies are finding ways for you to make money by sharing their product on social media sites.

When you buy a product online, you’re asked if you want to let others know about it. You can share it on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter , and other sites. Soon, your news feed will be filled with more than just the news story your friend read, game they played, or the music they listened to. I think it’s a matter of time before our feeds are filled with items people bought at stores as more and more people share their purchases. Their may be good reason to share that purchase — it may earn you cash!

American Express is offering a program it calls “Tweet your way to savings.” However, this takes the marketing to a whole new level because you have to sync your eligible American Express card with Twitter, and tweet special offer #hashtags to get exclusive savings on your card. The savings are great, but is it really such a good idea to link your Twitter account with your credit card information?

To answer that question, it depends how much you value a deal.  American Express says it doesn’t share your card information with Twitter. Instead, the company said a unique identifier is used to link the accounts. That’s one thing to consider.

Also, consider the work you need to do to cash in on the savings. Is it worth it, and are you buying something to simply save money? Only certain companies participate in the promotion. To find the offers, you have to go to American Express’s Twitter page and read the Tweets under the Favorites section.

Here’s a look at some of the current offers: Zappos is offering $10 back on your next purchase, H&M is offering $10 on a $50 purchase, Gulf Oil is offering $5 back on $25 purchase, Whole Foods is offering $20 back on a $75 purchase, and Virgin America is offering 10% off a main cabin ticket. For example, for Zappos you tweet #AmexZappos and you get your statement credit within a few days as long as you meet the minimum purchase requirement.

This is not the first coupon venture for American Express if you link your card to a social media site. In July 2011, I wrote about their “Link, Like, Love” Facebook promotion. It works in a similar fashion in that you link your American Express card to your Facebook page, and based on your interests and your friends interests you’ll get special offers and deals. You can also browse the promotions.

I think this is the wave of the future. It’s the latest way for companies to get their product in front of a broader audience. All, for free.

Other ways to make money online without publicizing your purchase
The linking of my credit card to a social media site, even though they say it’s not shared, makes me a little uneasy. I think I’ll stick with other ways to make money. When I shop online, I look to Ebates or my credit card company to see if they have a special promotion with the company I’m shopping. I seek out the savings when I’m ready to buy rather than buying just because I see a good deal.

On Ebates, I earn cash back if I link to a retailer through the Ebates site.  They don’t credit my credit card because they don’t have that sensitive information. The money comes in the form of a check each quarter. Of course, someone is making money because they’re tracking my purchases. So, that’s not exactly the most private service but it’s nice to get that check in the mail every quarter.

With my credit card company, they already have my personal information and if I link through them to a retailer I earn more points than I normally receive. Sometimes, the offers are 3 and 4x more points than I normally earn.

Both of these money saving and earning options are potentially not as valuable as the $10 offer from American Express’s social media savings programs, but there are no strings attached. Plus, I don’t overbuy because I don’t have to make a minimum purchase. Finally, there are far more retailers participating in these other offers. That may change as the marketing changes as I think American Express is on to a new trend.

For now, I’ll spare my social media connections tweets and Facebook posts about my purchases. Will you? Click comment below and share your thoughts on this new type of marketing.

Best rewards cards

My mailbox fills up with credit card offers from the airlines. With the ever increasing airline fees, I have to admit the cards are tempting. The annual fees are holding me back. I hate to pay a fee for rewards.

A survey by NextAdvisor found the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express is tops for if you want to earn points. You can rack up points fast at Starwood hotels where you get 4-5 points for every $1 spent. It’s the standard point per $1 spent on all other purchase.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards card pays the most for airline miles.  You earn 2 points for every $1 spent on a Southwest flight, and 1 point for all other purchases.

You also need to consider the perks. With Southwest, you can earn a free flight with your first purchase. With the United MileagePlus Explorer Card you get priority boarding, first checked bag free, and two passes to the United Club.

Consider all your options by shopping around on the card’s website or search a site like Bankrate. Always do the math. Take into account annual fees even if they are waived the first year. Then figure out how many points it takes to earn a free flight, and compare the cards based on your habits. If you frequent a certain airline or hotel, these travel cards may be right for you because you can earn points faster.

Here’s a look at all the results:

Airline point value per $100 spent
Starwood Preferred Guest – $2.10
American Airlines Advantage – $1
Marriott Rewards – 80-cents
United MileagePlus – 70-cents
Hilton HHonors – 50-cents

Flight point value per $100 spent
Southwest Rapid Rewards – $1.70
Starwood Preferred Guest – $1.20
United MileagePlus – $1.10
Delta Skymiles – $1
American Airlines AAdvantage – 90-cents
Continental Airlines OnePass – 90-cents

Free extended warranty if you pay with an eligible credit card

Warranties are big selling points for manufacturers, but they often offer little protection for consumers. Most warranties are a year or two, and so many products break at the two and three year mark so the basic, free warranty doesn’t apply. So, should you buy an extended warranty? There may be a better, free option.

Consumer Reports typically does not recommend extended warranties, and I agree with them with the exception of newer televisions. I’ve done too many stories on slick new TVs that break or don’t function properly in just a few years. Do your research before you buy a TV. Understand the new technology is not as good as the old technology. My tube TV is still going strong 12 years after I bought it, and it survived a plunge to the ground. Yet, I’ve done plenty of stories with owners of plasma, LCD, etc. that have problems within a year of purchase. With a TV, consider the extended warranty. Plus, consider another FREE option.

Extend your warranty for free
With most credit cards, you can get extend your manufacturer’s warranty up to one year if you make that purchase on your qualified credit card. American Express offers protection on eligible purchases that come with a valid U.S. manufacturer’s warranty of five years or less. The warranty is extended for the same length of time as the original warranty up to one year. To qualify, just charge the product to your card.

Make sure you keep all your original receipts in case you need to file a claim. With American Express, you’ll need original store receipts, AMEX receipt, original manufacturer warranty, and the product requiring repair. AMEX will decide if the item will be repaired, replaced, or if the original cost will be refunded. The service does not pay shipping and handling fees, installation, assembly, or other service charges. It’s still better than nothing. To file a claim, call 1-800-225-3750.

Visa Extended Warranty Options
Visa Signature offers warranty registration and extended warranty protection. The extended warranty is doubled up to one year on eligible purchases that come with an original manufacturer’s warranty of three years or less. Visa makes it easy to file a claim, because the company offers to keep track of the important information for you.

There are exceptions to what’s covered including boats, automobiles, aircraft, and any other motorized vehicle and their motor, equipment, or accessories, resale items, items for professional or commercial use, real estate and items like garage doors or ceiling fans that become part of real estate, computer software, rented or leased items, medical equipment, and used or pre-owned equipment.

When you buy a product, send Visa your sales receipts and warranty information and register your product. Then, when you have a problem you don’t need to search for your paperwork. Just call 1-800-882-8057. You don’t have to register your product, but it’s a good second layer of protection. I’d still keep your own documentation just in case it gets lost at the credit card company.

Visa Signature cardholders have up to sixty days after the product fails to notify the card company of a claim. 

Visa also offers an extended warranty you can buy 
Visa also offers its own extended warranty called Visa Performance Guarantee. It allows you to extend your warranty up to five years from the date of purchase. Just understand that you are not buying a five year extended warranty, but probably just a three year extension because you automatically get the standard one year warranty and the one year credit card warranty.  It doesn’t appear to be five years on top of the built-in warranties. This is a common practice in the warranty business. Just understand what you are buying.

The price of the extended Visa warranty depends on the price you paid for the item. For an extra three years, you’ll pay $40.99 for a $150-250.99 purchase and $58.99 for a five year extension. You’ll pay slightly more for computer equipment.

MasterCard options
MasterCard also doubles warranty coverage up to a year on eligible purchases, but you need to call for details of the plan.

Make sure your credit card is covered by these FREE extended warranties before you make your next big purchase.

Related links you may like:
Could warranty paperwork be a thing of the past?
Fake invoice for consumer advocate used to sell warranty?

Can’t return an item to a store? Return it to your credit card

Buyer’s remorse? It’s easy to get especially as our economy is still uncertain. Forget about dealing with those annoying return policies that are impossible to keep straight. There is another way to get added protection.

American Express and other credit card companies offer Return Protection that provides a standard 90 day return policy if the store’s policy is not as good. So, if the store won’t take back an item you’re not satisfied with, you can get a refund up to $300 a product excluding shipping and handling from American Express. There is a $1000 cap per year for this protection.

There are some catches to the program like you have to still have the receipt from the store, the product must be in new condition, and it only covers charges to your American Express card made in the U.S.

Secondly, there is a long list of exclusions including one of a kind items (antiques, artwork, and furs), limited edition items, going-out-of business sale items, consumable or perishable goods with a limited life span (light bulbs, non-rechargable batteries, perfume), jewelry, watches,  rare and precious coins, refurbished and rebuilt items, custom-built items, cell phones, pagers, computer software, firmware (console games and Nintendo), maps, books, tickets, formal wear, motor vehicles, and items permanently affixed to your home, office, or car.

The list of exclusions is long, but it’s to prevent against fraud like using the product and then returning it. When your return is processed by the credit card company, you mail back the product and get a refund.  Click here to read all the terms

Visa also offers return protection on some  cards. The website says to check with your issuer to see if it’s offered on your card.

MasterCard offers a refund up to 60 days for purchases of $250 or less.

Just check with your credit card company to make sure these protections are included with your card.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about other protections credit cards offer that you may not know about.

Credit card company offers Facebook deals if you link your credit card

Link, like, love. I’ll link and like your site, but I”m not loving this new social media app from American Express.

The credit card company’s “link, like, love” campaign offers deals, and access based on the likes, interests, and social connections of American Express cardholders and their friends.  Sounds like a good idea until you learn you have to link your Facebook account and credit card information.

You go to the American Express Facebook page, and link your card so you can choose your favorite deals. It’s billed as an easy way to cash in on money-saving deals without the coupons. Your credit card statement is credited.

For example, if you like Dunkin’ Donuts on Facebook or check-in to a DD with Facebook Places, you may see a deal for the donut / coffee shop. If your friends like “Glee” or has it as an interest, you may see an exclusive offer to the Glee 3D movie.

The deals won’t be exclusive to the cardholder. You can share them with friends.

Right now, some of the deals American Express shows without signing up include $5 back if you spend $20 at Whole Foods or get $25 back if you spend $100 with Lord & Taylor.

I am all about saving money and have taken surveys to get frequent flier miles or other rewards, and earn rewards when I shop online. However, this is a little too personal for me. I get that when I earn cash back for shopping at an online retailer, the two sites are sharing my shopping history. However, the two sites don’t share my credit card information as far as I know.

With this social media application, I’m not convinced my personal information is kept private. I like to save money, but I won’t compromise my personal identity and that of my friends.

What do you think? Join the conversation by clicking “comment.”

Top companies for customer service

Shopper

Image via Wikipedia

We typically remember the bad experiences with a company, but the National Retail Foundation and American Express wanted to know about your positive experiences.  The Customers’ Choice survey rated Zappos.com tops among 9,200 shoppers for customer service.

Consumers were asked, “Thinking of all the different retail formats (store, catalog, internet, or home shopping), which retailer delivers the best customer service?”

Newegg (eretailer) jumped five spots to make the top 10 for 2011.

Here’s a look at the top 10:

1. Zappos.com

2. Amazon.com

3. LL Bean

4. Overstock.com

5. Lands’ End

6. JC Penney

7. Kohls

8. QVC

9. Nordstrom

10. Newegg.com

Best & worst credit cards

Too Much Credit

Image by Andres Rueda via Flickr

It’s Golden Globe weekend, so let’s take a look at some golden credit cards.  CardRatings.com released the best and worst credit cards of 2010 after asking readers to rate their favorite.

Best Cash Back Credit Card: Blue Cash from American Express
Runner Up: Chase Freedom

Best Airline Credit Card: Blue Sky from American Express
Runner Up (tie): USAA World MasterCard and Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

Best Reward Points Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Card
Runner Up: Blue from American Express

Best Value Credit Card: USAA World MasterCard
Runner Up: Clear from American Express

Best Customer Service: American Express
Runner Up: Discover

American Express was the overall winner. None of its cards has an annual fee.

When choosing a card, see how many points it takes to redeem rewards. Check the type of rewards you can buy with your points. Some programs offer better and cheaper rewards than others. Finally, make sure you check for fees.

“Despite the fact that most credit cards have become much more attractive in the past several months, there have been a few credit card offers that have not followed suit and are in fact what some consumer advocates would label as downright rip-offs. Avoid these cards like the plague and, if you do, you will be glad you did in 2011.” said Curtis Arnold, founder of CardRatings.com.

CardRatings.com worst cards of 2010:

Highest Interest Rate: First Premier MasterCard

Most Hated: Kardashian Kard

Least Disclosure: Best Buy Reward Zone MasterCard

Most Expensive Way to Rebuild Credit: Applied Bank Unsecured Visa Gold Card

If you’re looking for a new card, Bankrate has a good comparison tool. You can search by card type whether you’re looking to transfer funds or earn rewards, by your credit score, or the issuer.