Keeping American Express In Light Of The Costco Switch

One of our favorite credit cards is our Costco American Express card.  We signed up for the card several years ago because it offered a lot of great rewards.  These included:

  • 1% cash back on all purchases.
  • 3% cash back on gas purchases.
  • 2% on restaurant and travel purchases.
  • AmEx is the only credit card accepted for purchase inside a Costco store.

It’s grown into one of our favorite cards, but within a short time, it will soon be history.  Costco has announced that they’ll be partnering with Visa, and while the specifics haven’t been announced, they will only accept Visa cards once the switch takes effect.

Costco American Express Will Soon Become Costco Visa

Presumably, there will be a ‘Costco Visa’ card that will likely offer the same or similar rewards.

mb-201402creditcard400However, this is a big loss for American Express.  I know that the stock price actually took a several percentage drop on the day the loss of Costco was announced last year.  They likely generate a lot of revenue from Costco, and I’m sure they don’t want to lose it.

My wife and I were talking about how much we like having an American Express card, and that we would need to potentially continue to use them in some fashion.  The reasons we wanted to keep an American Express card were:

  • It’s nice to have options.
  • They have special offers in the form of statement credits that pop up from time to time.  We’ve had a credit just for charging our Sprint bill, and shopping at Amazon, just in the last few months.
  • There are often special offers associated with using an AmEx card.  For example, we got the opportunity to buy advance tickets for a concert last year by making the charge on our American Express card.

We did have two American Express cards for a time, as we had opened one last year so that we could get a tremendous deal on Delta on our plane ticket purchase (it didn’t lower the cost of the tickets, but we got a ton of free miles and free luggage check-in), but we just cancelled that because after one year, an annual fee was about to kick in.

American Express Wants To Keep Costco Customers

Someone must have been reading my mind!  For not more than a couple of days after that conversation, an offer popped up right after I logged into our American Express card.

They noted that our current card will soon be ‘deactivated’ and that we’re pre-approved for a Blue Cash Everyday card.  They have a pretty tempting rewards structure:

  • 1% cash back on all purchases.
  • 3% on grocery store purchases.
  • 2% on gas and department store purchases.
  • On top of it, if we make $2,500 in purchases over the first three months after opening the card, we will get a $300 statement credit. Their standard offer, so far as I’ve been able to tell, is a $100 offer after charging $1,000, so while the spending amount goes up, the bonus reward is pretty awesome!

This sounds like a great fit.  Unfortunately, the offer only appeared for a day and by the time I spoke to my wife about it and we agreed it was a good offer, it was gone.  I’m thinking that they’ll be looking to retain current customer, especially as the end date of the agreement moves close, so I’m confident that the same or a better offer will appear.

I assume that the new Costco Visa card would offer an increased bonus on restaurant and travel purchases.  With this,we will have all categories that we do today.  Plus, we’ll have extra rewards for  grocery stores and department store purchases.

That’s not a bad combo!

Readers, have you started looking at your replacement alternatives for the Costco American Express card?  What have you found?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Hopefully There Is Coal For The Person That Stole My Credit Card Info

Talk about funny timing.  On Monday night, I was talking to my dad and he was telling me about someone he knew that had their credit card info taken, and how it had happened multiple times. He wondered how credit card fraud had happened to them.

I Forgot To Knock On Wood

Wednesday morning, not more than 36 hours later, I am going through my emails when I spotted one from Citi that instantly got my attention as the subject line was “Fraud Alert – Suspicious Activity Detected”

Yikes.  Let’s say that I skipped right over to that one.

I’ve had a couple of instances where I got an e-mail or a call about activity, but never was there a problem and I was able to confirm the transactions.

As soon as I opened the e-mail and looked at the lists, I could tell that these were definitely not charges I made.

The first thing I did was log into my account to make sure that this was real, and wasn’t a phishing attempt of some sort, but it turns out these were right.

I saw five transactions that had gone through on Tuesday, all for very small amounts, between $8 – $20, and all appeared to be at gas stations.  The charges were made locally, within about 25 miles from my house.

mb-201402creditcard400I checked to make sure that the card was in my wallet.  It was.  So someone had obtained my info another way (and for readers who might remember a recent post, I did have a card that I lost and was sent back to me, but this was not tied to that at all, as that was a completely different card).  I instantly called Citi and let them know that their alert system worked.  They closed that card and started the process to move everything to a new card, which I’ll receive in a few days.

I checked all of our other credit and banking accounts and there were no other problems.

How Did Credit Card Fraud Happen To Me?

Now I’m just trying to figure out how they got the information.  I can only think of a couple of ways:

  1. A skimming device – Maybe I was the victim of a skimming device placed on a credit card reader.  I am pretty sure that a good portion of these types of things usually happen at either gas stations or ATMs,.  While I don’t use this for those purposes, it could have been somewhere else.
  2. A dishonest employee – Could an employee of a store somehow taken card information?  It’s possible.
  3. A former breach – There have been reports of breaches at various retail locations.  It’s quite possible that at one point I used the card somewhere and the info was taken but never used until now.  The fact that the fraudulent transactions happened locally, though, makes me think this was something on a smaller scale.

The bottom line is that I’ll probably never really know.

It’s interesting that the transactions were all so small.  As I said, there were five transactions altogether, and I don’t think it totaled more than $30.  I’m wondering if they were using these to test the card.  They could run a few small transactions to see if it was noticed.  If it wasn’t then I expect they’d move to something much bigger.

Pretty scary stuff.

In either case, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out on all of our cards.  I will be monitoring our credit info to make sure nothing looks out of the ordinary.  You never know.

It could have been a lot worse, but it’s still pretty scary stuff when it all comes down to it!

Readers, have you been a victim of identify theft or fraud?  How were you able to handle it?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Why I Didn’t Report My Lost Credit Card

Have you ever had a lost credit card?  What about if it wasn’t lost but more so just misplaced?  What do you do?

Our Night Out

Several weeks ago, we went to the last of our country concerts for the year, as we went to see Luke Bryan in downtown Detroit.  It was a great show and we had a great time.  After we were done, we went to a couple of nearby bars to finish off the celebration.  We capped things off with an Uber ride home.

All in all, it was a great night, and I thought that was the end of it.

But, it wasn’t.

The next day, we were running some errands and the first stop we had to make was to get gas.

We use our Costco American Express card to get gas, as it provides 3% cash back.

I went to get it out of my wallet, and realized that it wasn’t there.

Yikes.

I immediately thought back to the previous night and had an idea of what had happened.

See, we also use the card at restaurants because it offers 2% cash back for dining purchases.  Knowing that we’d gone out the previous night, I know I had likely used it then.

Since my wife was there, I grabbed her card to complete the gas purchase, and while the gas was pumping, I logged into my American Express account to take a look at all my activity.  It was pretty cool to see that the gas purchase was already noted as in progress.  But, it also showed that the last time I’d used my card was the previous night at one of the bars.

Tracking Down The Lost Credit Card

mb-2015-02-oopsThinking about the way it all went down, I remember buying a round of drinks at the bar, and carrying it back to our table.  There were four of us, so I had to make two trips.  I specifically remembered having to grab the receipt and the card from the bartender, and carry it along with the first two drinks, then rush back to grab the other two.

Thinking back, I was sure that I’d set the card down on the table along with the receipt.  That means I’d likely left it there.

I decided not to call American Express right away, since no activity had gone on the card.  I did keep checking every so often and no activity was showing up.

Later, after we got home, I called down to the bar.  The first call did not go through to anybody, even though I was pretty sure they were open.  I left a message and never got a call back.

I called back a little while later and got a hold of someone that offered to check, but didn’t really instill the level of confidence that I was looking for.  So, when he told me that he couldn’t find it, I accepted it but wasn’t really all that sure that I was ready to end the fight.

Another Unrelated Reason We Held Off

Now, I could have easily called American Express and reported the card as missing, and gotten a new card issued with a new number, but I chose to wait it out, and it had to do with a reason that I’m pretty sure most of you wouldn’t guess.

It was because of our planned trip to Disney World.

The American Express card had been used to pay for just about every aspect of our trip.  It was also linked to our Magic Bands, which we already had in our possession.  Those are little bands that you were that have a chip that basically gets you everything that you need from accessing the park to your hotel to including your payment.

We also had booked everything except our flight with the card.

In short, we wanted to avoid the hassle of things having to be all changed around.

So, I continued to check my account information, and decided to call back the next day.  This time, I spoke to the manager, and she went to look for it and reported that…they had found the card!

They offered to send it to me, and within a couple days, I had the card back in my possession.

No Harm Done

Was it risky?  Sure.  Would I have taken the risk had I not had an inkling of where the card was as soon as I found it wasn’t in my wallet, or had I not had access to check the card activity at a moment’s notice?  No way.  Would I have just taken the simple method and gotten a replacement card had we not had the Disney association?  I probably would have.

In the end, it was a little extra stress and it all worked out.  I know I got lucky in that someone found the card and did the right thing.  It could have gone a lot of other different ways, but I’m glad it didn’t.

Readers, what do you think of the risk that I took?  Should I have cancelled the card the moment I realized it was missing or was my hunch and the availability of technology a proper mitigation in the short term?  What would you have done?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Budgetary Demands Should Conquer Other Considerations

Everyone enjoys spending money. Unfortunately not many are particularly good at following a budget to keep their finances in good order. The level of credit card debt in the USA suggests that there are plenty of people spending on a regular basis without actually paying off the bill in full. Once a balance is established it incurs a high level of interest. Interest is added at the end of each month so something that might be a bargain purchase bought on credit might ultimately end up being very costly indeed.

The recession resulted in an increase in consumer debt. The wise have paid off their debts as a matter of priority. Now it’s your turn. If you write down your regular income and expenditure it will put your financial position down in front of you.  Your credit card debt and any debt on store cards will be costing you a significant amount of interest each month.

Credit Card Discipline

Before anything else you should make a decision to stop using your credit card; you are obviously living beyond your means. If at a later date when you have reduced the balance to zero you should only use your card again for convenience and if you can pay the full bill when requested. In an absolute emergency you can use the card but you must understand the consequences of doing that.  Don’t even carry it with you perhaps?

The figures in front of you tell your story. The expensive debt should be cleared as a priority. There are online lenders who will look sympathetically at applicants who can prove they have a regular income and can afford the instalment payments each month until the borrowings are paid off completely. Certainly the interest applied to such realistic loans is at a much lower rate than that used by credit card companies.

The Cost of Debt

You need to understand your debt and what it is costing you. Some people psychologically address the smaller amounts first; instead of 6 creditors they are happy to reduce it to 5 and 4, in other words numerically rather than by interest rate. There is some validity in that approach if it increases satisfaction but also determination. If the consolidation loan described above can clear all debts other than mortgage which is in an altogether different category then all well and good.

There are occasions when you can negotiate rates. If a creditors feels you are liable to default he or she make accept some form of negotiation. If that is a means of reducing your core debt then that is certainly worth the approach.

Sacrifice

You may be thinking this has all the signs of major sacrifice. No one is claiming that there is np pain in clearing your debts but you must ask yourself a question. If you are earning a regular monthly income why is it that you are facing mb-2015-03-checkbookfinancial stress every day? The answer may be a combination of things ranging from misfortune to complacency and simple extravagance, living beyond your means. The reality is that unless you address the problem things will only get worse. Debt simply does not vanish and the day will come when you will be completely out of your depth with little or no escape route.

You show investigate whether you can spend less by getting more competitive insurance quotes and utility providers. It is easy just to continue with existing contracts but often there are cheaper options available. It seems a fairly common practice to produce special offers to attract new business without offering those deals to existing clients. If you are financial trouble you should not dismiss trying to get yourself better deals. The only cost is your time.

Perhaps you will need to make some economies in your day to day life; reducing your social budget may be a necessity? If your debts are growing there will be little choice. The days when you might recall how you enjoyed spending money can recede very quickly when the reality of your finances hit home. Discipline must replace any form of complacency. If you have a regular job, you can repair your financial situation but the longer you leave it the more difficult it will be.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.