Reader broncobiker sent us the photo at left, wondering whether check acceptance policies might be getting a little out of hand. But checks have so much potential for fraud, and so few shoppers use them, that many merchants have just stopped accepting them entirely.
Wachovia has a new financial product called Way2Save that automatically moves $1 from your checking account into a high interest personal savings account every time you make an electronic bill payment. Susan tried to maximize her contributions by making a lot of little bill payments, but Wachovia cut off access to her funds without notice and triggered an avalanche of penalty fees. Now she owes over $5,000 to her credit card companies, far more than she would likely have ever earned through Wachovia’s complicated savings program, and of course Wachovia is denying any responsibility.
One of the weirder strategies by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) recently has been to claim that every time a ringtone played, a royalty should be paid. ASCAP sued AT&T earlier this year over the claim, but a federal judge has ruled that your phone ringing does not constitute a public performance.
The Federal Reserve has released data on consumer debt for August, and for the 11th month in a row we’ve paid down credit card debt and increased savings. Take that, rate-hiking credit card companies!
If you dislike handing your credit or debit card over to restaurant employees and letting them wander off with it for a while, you’re not alone, and that’s why some restaurants are experimenting with mobile pay-at-the-table technology.
Bank of America messed up Andy’s credit score by failing to send him credit card statements or giving him online access to an old account he only recently started using again. They also refused to work with him over the phone, telling him each time he called that they had no record of his previous conversations with customer service and therefore no reason to believe him.
If you’ve fallen into a debt pit and can’t make your credit card payments, and now you’re watching them steadily mount with penalties, fees, and steep interest rates, consider negotiating a lower payment. The New York Times reports that while most card companies won’t admit it officially, they know when they’ve got a customer who can’t pay, and they’re much more willing to settle for a lower amount than they were a year ago.
Why does HSBC charge $15 to make a payment over the phone? Other, often smaller, companies charge $3 or less, as MG notes in his email below. In this case, since the alternative is so unwelcome—a possible late payment, and a corresponding hit on MG’s credit score—it seems pretty outrageous to hold him hostage to a $15 fee.
Jason writes, “My wife just sent me an email saying that she paid ‘too early’ (before the new statement was generated) and got charged a ‘Late Fee’ of $29!” He says she called Capital One and got the fee waived, but it’s a good reminder that if you make a payment before the new statement period begins, your card provider will likely apply the payment to the previous statement period, and will still expect a fresh payment from you by the new due date. Just make sure your payments aren’t scheduled so early that they’re applied to the past and you’ll be fine.
Disneyland mistakenly extended a special annual pass program to ineligible customers last December, but only realized it recently. At the time of the sale, residents of certain Southern California zip codes could buy an annual ticket on a 12-month installment plan, free from any interest rates or other fees. When they discovered that some customers weren’t in valid zip codes, they ended the payment agreement with them—but they’re letting them keep the annual passes.
The Washington Post has just published a story accusing executives at Chrysler Financial of turning down a $750 million government loan because they “didn’t want to abide by new federal limits on pay,” and instead opted for more expensive private sector financing, “adding to the burdens of the already fragile automaker and its financing company.” Chrysler Financial denies the charge.
Starting tomorrow, Virgin Mobile will offer all customers who sign up for $30 or more post-paid plans coverage under their free Pink Slip program, which means if you get laid off and can provide proof, they’ll pay your cellphone bill for three months, and you won’t have to put a Skype number on your resume.
Although it has yet to pass into law, the Tennessee Senate Commerce Committee has approved a bill that requires creditors to count the postmark date of a payment as the payment date, not the day they say they receive it.
Fewer than half of loan modifications made at the end of last year actually reduced borrowers’ payments by more than 10 percent… [while] nearly one in four loan modifications in the fourth quarter actually resulted in increased monthly payments.
Web brokers Google and PayPal don’t believe in human-to-human communication, and one place where you really need that is when you’re troubleshooting financial transactions. An interface designer/developer who used Google Checkout to sell an ebook has just been given a huge serving of suck by the “don’t be evil” company—they closed her account on her without warning and refuse to tell her why the closed it. The $200 in earnings that hadn’t been paid out yet are unretrievable, and she can’t open a new one.
We’ve seen how available balances can disappear when lenders cut credit card limits, but SmartMoney points out that lenders can cut your limit below your current balance, causing all sorts of problems. They’ll send you a notice, of course, but you may not receive it for several weeks. Your best bet is to set up your own alert system. A web-based financial service (like Mint) will send you an email or SMS alert if your available balance drops below a specified threshold.