Have You Ever Had A Financial Freak Out Moment?

Have you ever had a moment where you just flipped out about something money related? That happened to me last week.  The worst part is that my financial freak out ended up being a total false alarm!

Costco Rewards Time Is Almost Near

Around the beginning part of the year, holders of the Costco American Express card receive a paper certificate, on the last page of which contains your certificate for the rewards you’ve earned by making purchases on the card throughout the year.

We use the American Express for a lot, so the 3% rewards on gas is usually a big driver, plus 1% on everyday purchases.  This year, we got a big boost because travel purchases receive 2%, and so we put the entirety of the trip to Disney World on the trip, earning a nice chunk of change.

All told, our reward for the year was over $350!

The Paper Statement Memory

We also have a couple of other cash back reward cards, both through Citi Master Card.  We use these cards as they often have rotating categories of up to 5%.  Both of the cards that my wife and I use had amounts over the $50 threshold for which you can request a redemption.

I decided to submit the claim for the rewards around the same time, so we would have the full amount of all of our rewards available around the same time.

Even though I logged into both of our accounts, my wife still got the e-mail verification about her card, and commented about it.  I told her the plan to get all three rewards piled together, at which point we could decide how to use the funds.

I remembered that a week or two prior, we’d gotten a statement from American Express. Since we do everything electronically, I imprinted a memory that it was probably the statement with the rewards certificate, as that’s the only time they ever send us a paper statement.

I casually mentioned to my wife that she just needed to take the certificate in next time she went to Costco, and get it redeemed for cash, which we could then deposit.

The Worst Two Words I Could Hear

My heart kind of sank when she said “What certificate?”

I mentioned that it was with the statement that we had received a couple of weeks ago.  Still calm, I reminded her that she had even pointed out that we had a statement.  I also pointed out (by this time, my voice probably raising a couple of octaves) that she always takes mail that I need to keep and sticks it in a little organizer that we use.

I went to the organizer and it wasn’t there.  She had no recollection of putting it there.

Financial Freak Out: Not A  Good Five Minutes

After that it was a pretty chaotic few minutes.  I was blaming her for not putting the piece of mail in the right spot where she usually puts all mail.  She claimed that she didn’t remember even seeing the statement.

It wasn’t a very fun conversation (if you could even call it that).

I looked online about what to do if you lose a certificate, and the answer was not good.  I found a few forums that said that they don’t re-issue the certificates if they’re lost.

Basically, you’re S.O.L.

This didn’t help the tone of the conversation.mb-2014-12stressed

Confusion On Multiple Ends

My wife decided to find out for herself if this was correct. By now, we were past the yelling stage and trying to figure out what to do.  I was even debating going out to the recycling bin and seeing if it was in there.  But, she called American Express and asked what would happen if it was lost or we didn’t receive it.

The agent on the end was a bit confused and said that it hadn’t been mailed out yet.  It was scheduled to be mailed out with our February 24th statement.

I got a bit confused.

But at least we calmed down.

Presenting….My Brian Williams Moment

Then, the next day it hit me.  It all came down to the paper statement.  See, I knew we’d received one.   We received a statement because we closed a different card, and apparently they send you a final statement in paper form.

So, I had my Brian Williams moment.   My financial freak out moment.  Luckily for me, my ‘conflation’ didn’t cost me my job or reputation, and it didn’t even cost me any money.

Though I did have to eat a bit of crow as I apologized to my wife…who was right all along!  As they usually are, of course!  A lesson I just need to remember….

🙂

Readers, what financial freak out moments have you had, and have you had one recently where it was all for nothing?

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.

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.