US Airways Partners With Bait And Switch Credit Card Sales Company

Yesterday, I was flying through Phoenix Sky Harbor airport connecting from one flight to another. While sprinting up a concourse, a gentleman waved me over, asking if I’d be interested in enrolling in US Airways Frequent Flyer Rewards program. If I did, they would give me 7500 miles free, I could add the miles from today’s flight, and there was no cost. Plus I got a lovely gift, a small battery powered calculator. Photo enclosed. As I was leaving he put his card and some folded paper in the box.

So tonight, I was unpacking, I got the calculator out of the box, and – surprise – I find out that I’d applied for a Master Card with Barclays Bank. Not just any master card, this one had an APR of either 18.24% or 20.24%. What a deal – about double what any of our cards are right now…


So I decided this is hooey. There was one phone number underlined on the form that was in the box, so I called it. That was the main US Air customer service number. I scanned the form in greater depth, and lo and behold, noticed there was no other phone number provided. But I did learn that showing the agent my drivers license was constituted to be my agreement to the application.

I went to the internet and looked up the US Airlines Dividend Miles Credit Card program through Google. The first number, for applications, confirmed that I had been approved and had a card coming. The representative at that number was unable to do anything (sounded like an offshore service center) but told me to call US Airways customer service number. I went back to Google, and called the Credit Card program member services number. After several minutes of voicemail, I got to a live representative. I explained I had no idea I was applying for a credit card, would have never considered a card with the terms and interest of this card, and wanted to cancel immediately. She was sympathetic, said she hears this “a lot”.

So, I’m leaving this situation feeling pretty peeved. I typically fly United for their frequent flyer program but did enjoy my flight with US Airways yesterday. But with this sort of highly deceptive conduct on their part, I am highly disinclined to give them any further business. As it is, I figured things out, just 24 hours too late. I wonder how many folks wouldn’t figure it out and then end up with a credit card with horrible interest and terms?

- Mike

Whoddathunkit, America’s worst airline, teaming up with super-shady credit card sales company! What a great way to make money and lose customer trust at the same time! Watch out, more and more airlines are partnering with credit card companies. We even recall one story where the stewardesses handed out credit card apps right on the plane. Here’s Mike’s scan of the awesome terms and conditions. Below is the sales rep’s card. — BEN POPKEN
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  1. BillyShears says:

    Call me a skeptic, but credit card forms, great and small, ask for pretty specific information that you simply don’t need for frequent flier programs. How was answering questions like salary and SSN verification not a huge, blinking, JESUS, IS THAT THING ON FIRE?, red flag that you were signing up for something a bit more involved?

  2. ErikinPA says:

    On every flight I have been on in the last year there has been an “attention everyone!” ANNOUNCEMENT which has waken me up, and caused quite a fuss…
    Where the flight attendants do a 10 min sales pitch on applying for a card. Then they proceed down the aisle HARD SELLING people on signing up.

    [overheard]
    Verbatim: “Are you sure? Its free to apply, and you get (some big number) of miles, and they are transferable (lol), and you get a FREE MEAL RIGHT NOW. You really should, its a good deal. Are you sure you don’t want to?”

  3. voltronguy says:

    While I’m sure the terms of the card are in fact crap, I agree that I don’t see how he could have accidentally applied for the card. Also, if he was running through the airport why would he stop at a credit card booth?

  4. Xerloq says:

    @voltronguy: Sweet Name, Voltronguy.

    I agree. I just can’t see someone thinking “Holy Crap! My flight leaves in 10 minutes, but where the heck is that MasterCard booth. I need some 21% APR goodness right about now…” This is shady indeed.

    Mike, it could be worse – the card could spout a fountain of poo if it were a Continental card.

  5. jwarner132 says:

    I was at that airport (PHX) for a couple of hours on May 27th 2007 on a layover flying U.S. Airways. These people had booths all up and down the terminals. It was ridiculous. I got lured over to one of the booths because I wanted the free t-shirt, figuring it wouldn’t hurt to sign up for the frequent-flyer card**. Luckily, the guy working my booth was honest and disclosed that I would be signing up for a credit card at the same time. That’s when I walked away.

    As I was exploring around the airport I saw about five more booths, and the salesmen were pretty agressive. When I landed in Las Vegas I’m pretty sure I remember seeing another booth there too. It’s sad that U.S. Airways has had to resort to deceptively selling credit cards now.


    **: This was my first time flying U.S. Airways, so I didn’t know first-hand how bad it was, but I’ll never do it again (unless the price is ridiculously cheaper than the nearest competitor). On a 6-hr flight, the sandwiches ran out while the stewardesses were still in first class… and I was on the back of the plane.

  6. jwarner132 says:

    @voltronguy:
    @Xerloq:

    I can easily see how he may have accidentally applied for the card. When I went to apply for the frequent-flyer card, the guy said all he needed was my ID. As I went to hand it to him, he casually mentioned I’d be getting a credit card too, so I took my ID back. If he hadn’t been strangely honest with me, I could have fallen for it too.

  7. SOhp101 says:

    First off, do you read anything that you sign?

    If you did, then somewhere on that sheet of paper that you signed should have been a Terms and Conditions box. That easily lets you know that you’re signing up for a credit card.

    Unless I see a complete scan of the brochure or the agreement that Mike signed, I think he’s the one who was careless and didn’t read what he signed.

    Anyway, you can call the phone number, ask for a CSR and say that you do not want the credit line and request a cancellation. Simple as that.

  8. tonkyhonk says:

    What a retard. You have to be dumber than a fence post to not know that when you stop at the *CREDIT CARD BOOTH* at the airport that you will be solicited to apply for a *CREDIT CARD*.

    All of a sudden Consumerist has become Corporatist, showcasing shit-stupid consumers with no clue.

  9. kingoman says:

    Far be it for me to defend the guy, but could you possibly have misunderstood him since you were in a hurry? His card does say “credit card sales consultant” right there. And resuming you gave an SSN (which you wouldn’t get a credit card without), why in the name of all that’s holy would you give your SSN just to sign up for a frequent flyer program!? If it isn’t a credit card or a mortgage, that should set off alarms!

    Of course, he *could* have figured he’d get more applicants if he conveniently left out the part about the credit card. If he did that, then he’s scum. But that doesn’t (necessarily) make USAir a party to it, either. If the CSR said they get that a lot, it would seem they know they have some rogue sales consultants out there, and either can’t or won’t fix it.

    Having said that, I have a Frontier-based credit card that is Barclays (it wasn’t when I got it, but apparently Barclays is taking over many of the airline-based/frequent-flyer cards) and I LOVE it. I get tons of extra miles and I am very loyal to Frontier ever since the last time (of many times) United screwed me over. Frontier has been over backwards to help me every time I’ve ever had a problem.

    I have no idea (nor do I care) what the interest rate is because I pay it off every month. I use it purely as a payment card to get the miles.

    And, Ben, really, what’s wrong with handing out credit card applications on the plane? What do you think that in-flight magazine is, news? It’s 50 pages of advertising!

  10. kingoman says:

    @kingoman: oops, of course I meant *presuming*.

  11. Gizmodo says:

    I have walked by that exact counter at Phx Sky Harbor airport. There is a sign with a picture of a credit card – the US Airways Master Card by Juniper/Barclays. The application requests information solely for a credit card such as salary info and SSN and your signature is after a statement saying you understand the application, are not falsifying information, and agree to apply for the card.

    Not sure how you could have missed any of that?????? BTW, I actually have this credit card – got 25,000 miles for signing up and have racked up enough points for 3-4 tickets now. It’s a World Platinum Mastercard so isn’t too shabby and I could care less about the APR b/c I pay it off in full each month.

  12. t.a.m.s.y. says:

    Regardless of whether or not he wanted the card, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a card with a high APR — as long as you can trust yourself not to use it.

    In most (and possibly all) cases, it will end up boosting your credit score for you to have credit you’re not using. Creditors do like giving credit to people who’ve proven themselves capable of using it responsibly; and if you’re not using this new line of credit, it means you’re using a smaller percentage of the overall credit you’ve been granted. It’s not going to hurt your credit record, and it’s very likely to help it. So who cares? Just enjoy the calculator and forget about it.

  13. tonkyhonk says:

    Another thought… This is where Ben’s hard-on for all things negative about US Airways gets embarrassing. He got suckered by an imbecile’s sob story.

    It makes me wonder how he would react if I submitted a story about how I bought a US Airways ticket and didn’t show up for the flight. He would probably publish it with breathless commentary excoriating US Airways for not having the foresight to land the plane at my house and pick me up.

  14. NZDave says:

    @tonkyhonk:

    “not having the foresight to land the plane at my house and pick me up”

    Don’t airlines do that in the United States? :)

  15. Thrust says:

    Damn you Americans have it easy compared to cannucks when it comes to scams. Don’t give em your SSN, nothing bad happens. Don’t always need our SIN to screw us over up north.

    My gullible roommate was killing time waiting to depart our local airport and was solicited by a card booth offering Airmiles. Signed up for the card, no ID required, only asked the basic questions (Name, address, phone #, Date of Birth).

    Next day I get a phone call at home asking for information needed to switch our phone provider to the scamtards from Primus (Sprint) sponsoring that booth. I tell em to fudge off, and not five minutes later my real phone provider calls me to verify that I’m canceling my service to switch to Primus. I inform my telecom provider that they’re doing this despite being told not to, so our provider gets Primus to F’Off.

    ‘Bout four weeks later we recieve a bill from Primus for a month’s services we never received or agreed to. They tried to get us to settle on paying their admin fees as a cancelation penalty. Never got a cent but those pricks continued to bill us for three months before giving up.

    (Sidenote: after carefully combing the airmiles document there was NOTHING about Primus on it)

  16. levenhopper says:

    Anytime I fly an airline, I sign up for the frequent flyer program…because I’ll probably end up flying them again. And it doesn’t hurt.

    But, I always do it online so it’s completed ASAP.

    And, I’ve never seen a FF application in an airport besides a ticket counter, or gate. NEVER on a booth on a concourse.

  17. visualbowler says:

    airtran does that too i believe, last time I checked. I think all the airlines who need another source of additional income are starting to do it because it is an easy way to get revenue from the credit card companies who are selling the cards.

    although I have to say, I think there is a little untruth to the guys story…

  18. Karl says:

    It’s possible that he was never asked to sign anything or give his SSN. I’m assuming what happened is that they scanned his license (which is mentioned in the terms document they gave him), and gathered most information needed for an application from that. I think some licenses actually have your SSN on the barcode or magstripe, but if not, they have your date of birth, full name, and one of your addresses. That’s enough to narrow an application down to a single person. They can probably search through the credit bureau’s databases with that information, find your SSN and employment info there, and issue you a card. The terms document says that use of the card indicates your acceptance, so that’s probably how they form a contract with you without a signature.

  19. zekedms says:

    Ah, Sky Harbor, Terminal Four. US air has had those guys out for at least two years now, though the numbers have certainly grown. “Hey, get a free t-shirt and some miles! You’re stuck here for two hours anyway” has prettymuch been the pitch.

    I guess a lot of people have signed up, given how much the numbers have grown. There wasn’t a day I went into work without them trying to pick me up for that card, despite being in uniform as they did it. I confess, I looked at the application once, because they only paid me 7.05 an hour and gas was getting expensive(how I miss those prices), but it looked like a pretty big rip.

    I’m glad I left the company before US air totally took over, given how shady everything they do seems to be.

  20. BillyShears says:

    I’m still finding this story a bit hard to swallow. How is anyone offered free miles and free gifts at “no cost” without asking at least ONE question?

    Salesmen desperate enough to set up shop in an airport are a special kind of sleaze, don’t get me wrong; but there’s a certain level of “Buyer Beware” that needs to take place before I can decide how much blame should be placed on any story’s “Goliath.”

  21. Bay State Darren says:

    Was there a stream of shit flowing down the middle of the plane on your flight? No? You got off easy. (I’m sorry, I’m ruined for any future airline horror stories on thisv site.)

  22. Rusted says:

    Pretty standard terms and conditions I see in the mail on credit card offers. American Express has a neat twist. They threaten me that this is the only offer for a gold business card I’ll get this…..this month. I’m really scared, not.

    Story has got to be bogus or someone was beyond stupid.

  23. levenhopper says:

    @BillyShears:
    Offering that, and getting someone to join your FF club?

    The could be hoping that, since he joined their club, maybe he’ll use brand loyalty.

  24. Terek Kincaid says:

    Well, most airline cards have pretty high APRs, but they do provide a great benefit: you get miles when you buy things. If your apartment accepts credit cards, for example (some do, most don’t, I know), then you can get your rent converted to miles every month. Just pay off the card within the grace period and you avoid that nasty APR. You usually get double miles when you buy tickets with that airline, as well. I had a friend whose parents were going to pay cash for a car. Instead, they bought it with a miles card, and got a free ticket out of it. Again, they just paid it off at the end of the month to avoid the nasty interest. If you can trust yourself to pay it off on time, using your miles card when you usually use cash can pay off in the long run. But it takes discipline. Which I don’t have, so I don’t do it :P. But better people than I can take advantage of this.

  25. virgilstar says:

    Hey look on the bright side – you got a “lovely gift, a battery powered calculator”.

    What frickin planet are you on? Do you own a cellphone? I’ve yet to see one that doesn’t have a built-in calculator. Seriously, anyone that would sign ANYTHING in return for a clunky plastic made-in-china POS like that, is a RETARD!

  26. BeastMasterJ says:

    Rather than add any insight to this post, I’d like to point out that I have one of those nifty calculators like the one in the front photo. It has an alarm function that plays a nifty little beepity-beep kind of tune when it goes off.

    Yeah, i got nothing. I just wanted to share.

  27. Slytherin says:

    @BillyShears: I agree with you, Billy. The red flags are the asking of SS# and salary. No frequent flyer program asks for that information.

  28. gondaba says:

    They do this at a local college fairly often — except they’re offering free pizza, and preying on college kids who don’t know any better.

  29. rlee says:

    @NZDave: Unfortunately, Calvin Air is the only one that provides that service. :-,)

  30. Don Roberto says:

    While we’re nitpicking, who goes through several minutes of “voicemail?” It’s not voicemail, it’s IVR. Voicemail is what happens when you don’t pick up the phone.

    And I must concur, If you don’t know you’re applying for a credit card, well, maybe you should work for Incontinental, because you don’t know when you’re bowels are emptying (what?).

  31. Schminteresting says:

    @kingoman:

    And, Ben, really, what’s wrong with handing out credit card applications on the plane? What do you think that in-flight magazine is, news? It’s 50 pages of advertising!

    The handing out of applications on the plane isn’t so much a problem as the flight attendants’ magical transformation into salespeople, going up and down the aisles hard-selling the card. I don’t mind them peddling the headphones for the in-flight film, but that’s where it should stop.

  32. chazz says:

    I have one of those calculators and they are cool. You press a button and it unfolds itself. Way better than a T shirt.

  33. shiwsup says:

    In general, if someone offers you free miles, a free gift, a back rub, whatever… stop and think for a second:

    Why is this is worth it to them?

    In this case, would US Airways ever want me to start racking up frequent flier miles that badly without some catch? Giving me gifts simply to join a frequent flier program? No.

  34. sarkathstic says:

    I have a Midwest Express Platinum card from Juniper (which is now Barclay’s) and it came with the outrageous 18% interest rate, but I only had that for a month. I called the bank and told them I loved the program and wanted to earn miles but my bank offered me a card with an 8% rate (not the truth, but they don’t know that!) and could they please do anything better for me?

    I now have a 10.24% rate on my card – not great, but I try not to carry a balance anyway. It’s shady that they roped you in, but try calling to get it dropped.

  35. Nytmare says:

    @virgilstar: Uh yeah, when a real person calls a corporate promo a “lovely gift”, he is being sarcastic, because those are obviously words that only marketing weasels use.

  36. BeastMasterJ says:

    @chazz says:”I have one of those calculators and they are cool. You press a button and it unfolds itself. Way better than a T shirt.”

    Yeah! It’s like one of the Transformer’s mentally challenged little brother! instead of turning into a racecar or a semi truck, it becomes a Calculator/Clock!

  37. reznicek111 says:

    I think it’s another case of “don’t sign any contracts put in front of you while you’re otherwise preoccupied.”

    One’s sense of better judgment can get inhibited while you’re, say, busy running to your gate to catch a flight … or pumping gas. Sleazy salesfolk will take advantage of the fact your attention is partly directed elsewhere and you don’t have time to read the fine print.

  38. sugarpox says:

    People need to learn to read before they sign. I used to work for MBNA at baseball and football games. You’d be surprised at the amount of people who willingly provide all of their information only to ask after they sign their name, “What am I signing up for?” It’s common sense, people!

  39. highness says:

    Well I figured I am all that names you guys are calling Mike…
    But the point here is TRUST, is the approach these people use to get some f#%*ing comission for each moron like you call us to sign up.
    Is the intentions what counts when you are a victim… or not… or a potential victim as any of you could be.
    And by the way, how the hell could you know what data is required for a Frequent Flyer Program when you’ve never been a member of one?
    And for the Grand Finale, hiding the Terms and Conditions in the shitty gift say it all. So, for all those who likes to make fun of victims, Can I say… are you the same than these people? Are you trustee enough? You definetly are one of those people that don’t think at all before open your mouth making yourself so transparent to others that can see who you really are.

  40. highness says:

    @tonkyhonk: The freaking booth was “US Airways Frequent flyers Rewards” Nothing else, just that.

  41. highness says:

    @SOhp101: The application did not show any kind of remark of a credit card, no term and conditions were shown and you probably have the same reading problem because the final paper and the card was hidden into the gift box.

  42. croeso says:

    I was through the US Airways hub in Charlotte on Wednesday and was really aggressively hassled by a woman at a booth also labeled “US Airways Frequent Flier Rewards”. I have to fly for work so much that I’m always looking for ways to avoid flying in my free time, so I let her know I wasn’t interested. Sounds like the same scam.

  43. Anonymous says:

    i fly USAir almost every month, both long and short distance, i have st behind the Credit Card sales folks, and if anyone does not understand they are getting a CC in exchange for the cheap ‘gift’ you are not likely not smart enough to tie your own shoes. every one has to gice up their Dric Lic, and some info not asked in order to get FFMiles (SSN etc…). next, if you don’t want to pay 18% interest, return the card, don’t use it, or PAY IT OFF. the benifits are good on the cards, the one i carry gives cheap companion tix, pass to the club, and miles that count toward status on the airline once 25k of charges flow thru the card in a year.

    look at things you sign – and grow up

  44. Anonymous says:

    My husband and I can confirm that Mike’s story is absolutely true!! The same exact thing happened to us at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport in January of this year. They signed us EACH up for a credit card, and the first we knew about it was when we returned home from our month long vacation to find 2 new credit card bills in the mail that had been held in our absence. We had both heard everything that the guy said, and neither of us had any idea we were signing up for a credit card! Don’t be so quick to criticize Mike (or me either!). All the name calling and rude comments are way out of line. Some of your comments are truly far more stupid than us falling for the scam. The booth was obviously not identified as a ‘credit card booth’. We did not MISUNDERSTAND anything – they never mentioned anything about a credit card, and they guy that talked with us clearly set out to mislead us. Think how many people keep and use the credit card, whether they knowingly signed up for it or not. The guy did not give a “sob story”. He appeared to be a PR person for the airline. Trust me, it could happen to you too (except Mike was kind enough to warn you so that hopefully it won’t!). What I don’t understand is how these people are allowed into the secured areas of the airport! I also don’t understand why so many of you are so angry that you felt a need to take it out on Mike! Don’t bother to call me names – I won’t be checking back!

  45. bobdude121 says:

    I had the same airport experience with US Airways (Barclays Bank) Mastercard offer. I was going thru a divorce and refi of the home I wanted to keep at the time. I told the agent, no thanks, I can’t have any credit inquiries at this time as I was trying to refi a mortgage. He responded “Don’t worry about that. You won’t even have to give me your Social Security # since you are concerned about that.” Much to my disbelief, he assured me there would be credit check and that it would impossible anyways without my SS#. I figure I have nothing to lose, so what the heck, I’ll try and see. Weeks later I got the card in the mail and was denied a refi being 4 points short on my FICO due to the inquiry on my credit report using a SS# I NEVER provided. NOW THAT’S PRETTY SHADY!

    Here’s more. As I challenged them to show me evidence I provided my SS#, they sent me an electronic printout that showed all my personal info (that I never gave), such as my dog’s name listed as “Mother’s Maiden Name”. I only use my pet’s name sometimes for online security questions on other personal accounts I have with other companies not affiliated with Barclays or US Airways. They have never provided evidence that I provided my SS# and yet they deny obtaining it from any other source but from me.