Best Buy's "Same As Cash" Credit Card Conceals Major Hidden Fees

UPDATE: Best Buy EECB Scores A Direct Hit
Reader Jason just finished paying off his 0% Best Buy/HSBC credit card, or so he thought, because this devilish card just sucker-punched him with a load of hidden fees. He did some research and found out he was entered into a program that makes him pay for “debt cancellation,” something Best Buy never discussed with him. He also discovered that there are many other people who feel tricked into joining this strange program. To make matters worse, HSBC, the card issuing bank, is giving Jason the runaround about reversing the fees. Jason’s letter, inside…

I’ve been a reader of the site for a quite a while and have come across an issue I’ve been attempting to resolve completely, with five different levels of call center supervisors without success.

I applied for a Best Buy credit card with the normal 12 months, 0% Interest deal that they offer consumers on large items and purchased an HDTV in December 2005 in San Antonio, TX.

As of yesterday my account is closed and paid off, much longer than I had expected it to be open for, though reviewing the last two months statements I came across monthly miscellaneous charges that I wrote off as being fees associated with deferred interest due to its unspecific, generic Transaction name of “Debt Cancellation-TX”. The “Debt Cancellation” charges varied monthly, but it ranged from $1.96 to to $2.93 to $5.57. Billed monthly, sometimes twice a month.

The name of the service that they signed me up for without my consent I have discovered is “Account Shield” or “Account Secure”. A 100% profit charge that the credit card provider stuffs into their pockets, especially considering they’re signing up their customers for it without approval or notification.

Yesterday on the 20th, I called over 10 toll-free numbers. 1-800’s, 1-888’s. I tried Executive Customer Relations for HSBC (Got their number from Consumerist) but they don’t handle Retail Services accounts. Any outsourced (overseas) CS calls I placed resulted in dead ends. They’d only let me talk to their supervisor whom kept repeating the same scripted response over and over– about how apparently I must have elected to subscribe to the “Account Shield” service as that’s the only way it could’ve been added to my account.

Nevermind the pages and pages of people at this site whom experienced the same thing, signup for this scam of a service without their consent, signature, approval – whatever you’d like to call it.

MSNBC details another person whom has gone through the exact same thing I did. Dead ends, no one would admit that they even had the CAPABILITY to refund the charges.

Finally, I spoke with Yvonne Thomas, Badge Number “Y1T”, at the Wood Dale, IL call center for HSBC. I had spoken with 3 levels of supervisors / escalations (she represented herself as a supervisor) before getting to her. After going through the same process of explaining what happened, how I did not sign up for this, she would not understand where I was coming from, that I had not signed up for this service, it had been added to my account without my consent and as it has a generic name, I wrote it off as a financial charge that was required.

I asked to speak to her manager and she obliged, unfortunately it resulted in only a voicemail being left at “Renee Teresina”’s mailbox. I pleaded my case quickly to make sure the entire message was recorded and hung up. Not two minutes later, Yvonne Thomas called me back and said that her manager was in meetings all day but she agreed to reverse “half” of the fees that they can see a history of. Apparently they only see back one year into my history which means $62.87 in charges. She’d be willing to reverse $32 of that $62. I said that would work for the time being until I could speak with Renee directly and she said she’d go ahead and reverse that portion of the charges.

I called the overseas “Debt Cancellation” department back and somehow they were able to see the entire account history of the Debt Cancellation charges on my account that total $172.37.

To me, $32 being refunded is not enough as this is a service that I didn’t agree to and wasn’t warranted. I’d like to see if my story can be heard and looked into, hopefully getting more if not all of the $172 refunded.

Some quick research uncovered that there are many that feel they have been tricked into this program. The most common scenario is that a Best Buy employee offers you 0% interest on a credit card for 12 or 18 months. The employee tells you to sign here and here, but what you have done is unwittingly signed up for “debt cancellation.” Some customers say they never signed up for such a program and virtually all of them say that they were never told about it by Best Buy. Some employees may have even told customers that this program is required to be approved for 0% interest, but it simply isn’t true. What is debt cancellation? MSNBC says,

What happened to [the victim] is that he was signed up for something called debt cancellation, which is very similar to credit insurance — once commonly offered by credit card issuers. Consumers pay a few dollars a month, based on an outstanding balance of the loan, and if they die or are incapacitated, the loan is forgiven.

But debt cancellation is a relatively new development, slightly different but much preferred by retailers. Debt cancellation doesn’t involve a third-party insurance company, so the retailer and its credit partner keep all the revenue. Also, it’s been deemed a non-insurance product by federal regulators. That’s important, because many state insurance regulators now limit the price of credit insurance, and mandate clear disclosures. Debt cancellation, on the other hand, is hardly regulated at all.

Debt cancellation really insures the store, not the consumer, who is generally dead at the rare times the policy is invoked. The store gets paid, even when the consumer is no longer in a position to care. As with credit insurance, consumers should always decline the product, says consumer advocate Birny Birnbaum, from the Center for Economic Justice.

“This does nothing for consumers,” says Birnbaum, who is the former chief economist of the Texas Department of Insurance. “It’s 99 percent profit for the companies. Just say no, no, no, no.”

This isn’t a case of 1 person not reading the fine print, this is a large group of people with the same complaint about the same card. Even if what Best Buy and HSBC are doing is legal, it certainly isn’t right. Remember, there is usually never such thing as a free loan. If you ever have erroneous or fraudulent fees on your statement make sure to contact your credit card company as soon as possible. Here are some tactics for mind-controlling CSR’s when it’s time to escalate. The EECB can also be an effective tool. Never rely on a commission-earning sales rep. to give you the facts and read what you are signing.

SAME-AS-CASH? READ THE FINE PRINT [Red Tape Chronicles]

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. Pro-Pain says:

    “I’ve been a reader of the site quite a while” I sure in the hell hope this was AFTER 2005 when you decided you shop at Worst Buy enough that getting their own credit card was a wise idea. Best Buy – FAIL. HSBC Bank – MAJOR RIP OFF FAIL. Store branded credit cards – BIG FAIL.

  2. BigElectricCat says:

    If Best Buy wants to insure these outstanding credit balances against the possible deaths of the account holders, then Best Buy needs to go buy its own fuggin’ insurance.

  3. EyeHeartPie says:

    So if some third party did this, you could file a chargeback with your credit card company and it would be taken care of (relatively) painlessly. It sucks when your credit card company is the one sticking you with fraudulent charges. I wonder if you can file a chargeback against your own credit card company?

  4. B says:

    I almost signed up for a Best Buy card once, but upon inspecting the application, I noticed that depending on what my credit score was, I’d either qualify for the 0% rate, or get stuck with a high interest rate and a $75 annual fee. Since the BB employee couldn’t tell me which card I qualified for, I refused to sign.

  5. Necoras says:

    I just paid off my Best Buy account from last year (hooray economic stimulus package!) and went back and looked over all of my recent statements. Thankfully there aren’t any weird charges on there. However, on the side navigation bar there is a “Enroll in Account Shield” link. Also, I vaguely remember turning something like this down last year when I signed up for the card.

  6. Nick1693 says:

    I had the same thing happen to my parents. Then Best Buy sent a check for like half the “Same as cash” crap. They then told us it “was their check” after it cleared.

  7. Boatski says:

    I too fell for this. In November I purchased a HDTV and a PS3. This came up a few times. I called and was lured into keeping it. 2 weeks later I called and had to go through 3 or 4 people just to cancel it. I just purchased a SDHC Camcorder with my BB card and if it is added, I’m hoping I can get all the charges refunded previously.

  8. HOP says:

    i have yet to hear anything good about the best buy…why do people still shop there????i haven’t entered one of their stores in years……

  9. DashTheHand says:

    HSBC is the absolute worst credit card company I have ever dealt with. They are so fragmented into different sections, they make Wells Fargo look consolidated.

    Their online system is a joke and frequently erases or “loses” your scheduled payments. This happened to me for the last time a few months ago, in which I logged on to check to see if a payment had been processed and it was like it never existed. When I called to complain about this, they acted like it was my fault and they swore that I had never logged on to the site.

    Since then I’ve cancelled all HSBC lines of credit and transferred the one vehicle loan balance to someone else.

    AVOID HSBC AT ALL COSTS!

  10. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:

    Why did the OP not question the charges? His excuses are stupid. Look at your bills people. Don’t give away money and then ask, what was THAT for, and THAT, and That?

    Ask before you give money.

  11. Hanke says:

    Why didn’t he read what he signed? Every card I have ever signed up for (a Best Buy Card among them) has TWO places for a signature, and both are clear and in bold type for what you are signing. One box is the cardmeber agreement box, the second box, which has its own border, and has its own bold-type small-print disclaimer, is for the ‘credit insurance’. I’ve ocassionally passed my 90-day window and been hit with interest charges, but never with any undeserved fees.

  12. evslin says:

    @HOP: I bought a video game there yesterday and wasn’t asked to show my receipt on the way out the door… that’s always good I guess? ;)

  13. celestebai says:

    HSBC is horrible. I agree with above comments. Never sign up, and if you have one, pay it off quick. If you can’t pay it off quick, pay it each month early because they have all sorts of rules about the due date that makes the due day not the due date. And their fees/rate hikes are horrible. Even though they were low interest rates, we paid those off first. (And now we don’t use credit and are paying the rest off.)

  14. anarcurt says:

    US Coptroller of the Currency. They regulate these interstate banking issues (like credit cards). I had problems with HSBC. Couldn’t get help from any call center. Filed a report. They sent me a hard copy to sign. 2 days after mailing back the package I get a call from an HSBC ‘supervisor’. All fees refunded. Give it a shot.

  15. Norcross says:

    I’ve got a Best Buy card for a while. At one point I had to purchase a new laptop on the fly (due to a theft). They clearly told me about this ‘debt cancellation’ thing when I signed up, and I declined. Had I have gotten it, anything purchased on the card that was stolen would have been removed from my balance. Yes, it’s pure profit, but would have been nice regardless.

  16. anarcurt says:

    *Comptroller of the Currency

  17. Audiyoda says:

    I worked for BB back in 2001 and 2002 – company wasn’t nearly as bad then. But with the BB card we did everything on paper – the customer filled out everything and we called it in. I left as BB was transitioning over to HSBC – old cards were declining and we had to convert those card holders over to HSBC (cards holders with an existing balance were transfered over automatically).

    After I left I still kept up with some of my former co-workers. I recall one conversation with a former co-worker and he told me they’d moved the BB Credit Card over to a computer application process initiated at the POS terminals. He told me it really unnerved him because he was told point blank to just enter through where the customer could accept/decline various services including Account Shield. By doing this, customers were automatically enrolled without acknowledging the enrollment.

    I don’t know if that policy continues, but I seem to recall I had the conversation back in late 2004 so I would assume the policy was still in effect in 2005.

  18. The Account Shield is an add on that both BB and the bank profit from. It’s an add on that’s supposed to be offered to customers when they sign up for the card.

    Obviously, what happened is that the person who signed them up also activated Account Shield without their consent. Very bad.

    Then – big mistake – the customer didn’t question additional charges called “Debt Cancellation” sine 2005. Almost three years. I know he wasn’t expecting such a charge, but that’s a perfect reason to question it. It’s not a very cryptic name – it’s clearly not interest.

    I don’t blame HSBC for refusing to cancel a fee that had been assessed monthly for two and a half years and the customer had never complained about until now. I’m surprised they agreed to cancel any of it at all.

    Yes he was scammed on the front side, but the guy didn’t cover his rear by checking his statement and following up on the weird charges until years later. Fault here lies primarily on BB/HSBC’s side, but it should serve as a cautionary tale about the benefit of a little diligence on the consumer’s part.

  19. chrisjames says:

    Yeah, I had this on my Best Buy card too. I remember them offering it as a service, not a fee. It was supposed to cover theft and some cases of damage. I think it was extreme cases that hardly ever happen, like if it was dropped and pulverized by store employees on the way out to the car. I also remember declining. It is not concealed either, since my statements all identified it and added it separately to the monthly due. It’s not too big of a deal, since, like anything involving your money, you need to pay close attention to all of your statements and make sure you didn’t get signed up against your knowledge, intentionally or not.

    I would have gotten it removed, but the original purchase was so small and I was already paying 0% interest that I just didn’t care to struggle with it. That was my failure. A worse failure would be not to notice it until I was finishing paying off a large debt.

  20. Devidence says:

    Check your statements immediately on ANY new credit accounts. Sounds like this person did not take any effort in reviewing his account until months later.

  21. darkryd says:

    Do yourself a favor. AVOID Best Buy.

  22. AtwoodBullfinch says:

    I used to work customer service at best buy and I am calling BS on this.

    There is a second signature + check box required for Account shield

    if this guy truly thinks that he was signed up wrongly for the service he
    can demand for a copy of the contract to be sent.

    however more then likely he just signed without reading (as so many people
    do) and there you go.

  23. Sndtrkman says:

    I have the BB CC as well and I noticed this debt cancellation fee every month. Then, I get a letter in the mail stating that they couldn’t find my original paperwork regarding this so they refunded $75 back to my account. I was surprised that they did this considering all of the negativity I’ve heard about them but I am glad that it brought me one tiny step closer to paying this damned thing off.

  24. warf0x0r says:

    The BBY CC app has three places they tell you to sign. Only one of them is for the actual BBY card. The other two are usually an HSBSC card and the credit protection. DO NOT SIGN those even if they tell you to… and they always tell you to.

    Read what you’re signing. The Rep 2 isn’t going to care if you sit there and don’t bother them while reading and then let them know when you’re done.

  25. kallawm says:

    I normally don’t do this… but the OP really needs to look up the usage of the word “whom.” It’s just bugging me.

    Wish I’d read about HSBC on here before I did my balance transfer last month. I’ll have to keep an eye on that.

  26. shockwaver says:

    I worked at Futureshop (which is owned by Best Buy in canada) and we had similar issues of this. We called it FutureGuard though. The store (and the front CSRs) were all tracked on FutureGuard sign-ups, and I’m sure more then once some shady dealings went on, although for the most part the store I worked at was on the up and up. One trick they used was that you could sign up for it, and cancel it before 30 days was up and not pay anything.. so they’d often say that “We’re applying this to your card, read this, and if you don’t like it, call and cancel”.

    On another note, it did cover theft, which was good on laptops. It gets stolen, and you got a check for the original purchase price. Didn’t happen often, but it did happen enough. And the fee was like.. 1% of your balance – oh and it covered you for I think 3 years, even if you paid the amount off fully.

  27. 4ster says:

    Wow. Who knew Buckethead had gotten so sexy.

  28. spoork says:

    I signed up for my BBY card online. No shady rep asking me to sign more than once, no account shield.

    If you don’t read what your signing when you put a Social Security number on it, your loss.

    Caveat Emptor

  29. techstar25 says:

    This underscores the importance of checking CC account statements every month, whether you have a balance or not. If he he been checking it, he would have seen the charge the very first time, and could have called at that time. Most companies won’t have a problem removing $1 or $2, but if you let it get to $100, you just can’t ask for miracles.

  30. wellfleet says:

    If someone signed your name to the BOLD, clearly typed and explained signature line under the Account Shield section of the credit app, you have every reason to be majorly pissed. However, if you signed “where they told you to” without reading what you were signing, ummm, well…
    I don’t mean to be unkind but I would never sign anything I didn’t thoroughly read and understand, especially a piece of paper that has my SSN and identifying info. That’s just a bad idea.
    The Account Shield program costs 90 cents for every $100 of balance every month and for some people, it’s worthwhile.
    I cannot fathom the volume of people who say that they just signed without reading contract terms on service plans, etc. If you have questions, by God ask them before you consent to a credit card.
    And if you saw the fee on your statement month after month and didn’t think, gee, I should call and see what this is about, that’s not being a good consumer. It’s free to cancel anytime.

  31. Raziya says:

    Read what you’re signing!

    Or do yourself a favor and don’t get a store credit card at all.

  32. graphicwave says:

    OH, I’VE BEEN GETTING FUCKED! No lube…no kiss on the cheak. I actually inquired about the “Debt Cancellation TX” fee on my bill, and Best Buy said it covered ME if ANYTHING happened to the TV. If, while passing by, I fart on the TV and it gets knocked over, it’s covered. This is what Best Buy tells me. I will do a little more research and see everything that it does cover (if it covers anything at all), because if it does cover power surges (so they say), it’s worth it to me. I don’t know if it’s $10 a month worth it. Thanks, Consumerist.

  33. sprocket79 says:

    I hate to blame the victim, but he seriously should have read what he was signing! I remember when I applied for my Best Buy card a few years ago, and it had something where you either had to check a box or a line to initial if you wanted the debt cancellation service. I remember seeing it and wondering what the heck it was, so I read the blurb attached to it and it sounded stupid so I consciously made the decision not to get it. I feel bad for the guy, but he should just eat this mistake and cancel the service. Lessons learned.

  34. milk says:

    I bought a washer and dryer on a 0% Best Buy credit card and had to fight with these people to cancel the Debt Cancellation. The high school girl at Best Buy said I had no choice but to get it when I told her I didn’t want it. She told me just to cancel it after I get my card. She made it out to be no big deal, but damn they busted my balls over this.

    One major problem was that the girl spelled my name wrong. How do you misspell something that’s written down? Anyway, no 1-800 CSR would dare change the spelling of my name because they didn’t know if I was telling the truth. I asked them to check my application, and they said they couldn’t. Finally I said, “That’s fine, bill it as is, and I’ll deny the charges because that’s not me.” I think a light bulb came on over their little head because then they were happy to help.

  35. BrockBrockman says:

    I had no problem getting rid of the debt cancellation on my account; and having the prior charge refunded.

    Politeness goes a long way.

  36. gjmann89 says:

    As a Best Buy employee, account shield is beneficial for people who are worried about their job security or other scenarios because we cancel the remaining balance on the card. The OPTIONAL addition to the credit card application is completely optional. If employee’s are unwillingly informing customer’s to sign here than that particular employee should be into question, not Best Buy as a whole.

  37. starrion says:

    I bought an HDTV in 2004 with Circuit City. Took me 45 minutes from the time I talked to the saleman to loading the truck with the new TV. I filled out their app for 16 month 0%, paid the bill every month automatically from checking and paid it off 2 months early.

    Didn’t pay a dime over cost for the TV.

    Best buy wouldn’t talk to me unless I agreed to buy a service plan.

  38. Upsilon says:

    You know, I never noticed how cute a chick in a blank mask could look before…

    ~Y

  39. bbb111 says:

    @EyeHeartPie: “So if some third party did this, you could file a chargeback with your credit card company and it would be taken care of (relatively) painlessly. It sucks when your credit card company is the one sticking you with fraudulent charges. I wonder if you can file a chargeback against your own credit card company?”

    I checked the agreements on a few cards and they all exempted themselves from your ability to chargeback. One card was a bank issued Visa and they exempted themselves for anything purchased from them or any “marketing partner.”

    The only time I get a store credit card is if they give me a big enough discount on the purchase to be worth the hassle of dealing with a new card and the possibility of fighting the nasties they might pull. Sears recently gave me an extra 10% off a washer if I used their card. I got one, paid it off at the store and then canceled the card. I opened the conversation by politely giving them the choice of changing the things I objected to in the terms and conditions or canceling the card – they just canceled it without any attempt to convince me to stay. [I never activated it.]

    The whole thing went pretty well.
    The salesman was very straightforward and didn’t push hard on the extras. One reason is that we treated him very well – we knew what we wanted and had just a few specific questions – when we came back to purchase, we insisted on buying from the person we talked to initially (they are on commission.)
    We picked it up and installed it ourselves, so there were no delivery/installation issues.

    Telephone customer service at Sears is abysmal, but I was dealing with them because of a point of principle, not need – so it wasn’t upsetting to me. [the multi-wrench for installation has the wrong size for the leveling feet and we were missing the instructions.]

    We discovered a bit of advice while researching washers:
    Watch to see if the installer removes the packing bolts while the appliance is on the truck or outside the building. [the packing bolts hold the motor and other moving parts so they don’t move on the suspension during shipping.] They should be removed at the last possible moment [usually just before the appliance is pushed back against the wall]. Tilting and jostling can weaken or damage the suspension or linkages. Many installers remove the packing materials [including the bolts] outside the house.

  40. Anonymous says:

    They are a total rip off, I pay my bill on the first of every month on a 6 mos no payment interest free account and they received it on the 5th not the 4th and they charged me $39.00 Late charge assessment. How is this possible? Even Finance companies and Major Dept Stores have grace periods of more than one day. This is a total rip off and I will never shop their store again. They wont even accept payments in their stores for your accounts. This is ridiculous and gives them the opportunity to rip you off in Late Charge Assessment fees. If the stores would accept payments mine would have been made on the first and not the 5th. This charge is on a little 713.64 account. I predict that Best Buy will be next on the bankrupt roll. Once people figure out that their being scammed they will shop someplace else.

  41. Anonymous says:

    I have also been duped by Best Buy credit card and trying to fight for the late charges and finance charges that they levied on me. What was the outcome of the case above?

  42. Anonymous says:

    I have also been duped by Best Buy credit card and trying to fight for the late charges and finance charges that they levied on me. What was the outcome of the case above?

  43. Anonymous says:

    I have been dealing with the same issue on my husbands card for two years now, causing us to barely make a dent in that card. It gives me hope that you got some results, we can’t even get a person.

    I really appreciate this article and your willingness to spread the word about their horrible service. We have other HSBC cards that opened at the same time and they all pull the same crap so we will never open an HSBC card again.

  44. Anonymous says:

    Actually this isn’t concealed at all. If people would read the fine print (though for the Account Shield service, it isn’t small at all), you wouldn’t have trouble like this. You were not “signed up” for it, you had the pen in your hand and decided to sign exactly where it says “Yes” on the Account Shield. I walked into Best Buy yesterday, grabbed the credit card application and went home. Read it over, and on the front page, Account Shield is listed. There is a signing area for Yes, and No, should you choose it (Yes and No being in relatively large bold letters)

    Just read things over before you sign up for it.