Opt Out Of USAA's Arbitration Clause

USAA dropped a goose-egg in my mailbox today, a letter informing that there’s a new arbitration agreement being added to my AMEX contract. Lovely, I just love being stripped of my rights to a trial with due process.

I’m disappointed that USAA, which is otherwise renown for their customer service and concern for their customer’s well-being, would resort to this chicanery. Maybe AMEX is making them do it, I dunno. (update: A reader with a USAA Mastercard writes that he received an arbitration notice as well).

In any event, the notice also says that I have until October 15, 2007, to opt out of the arbitration agreement without penalty simply by signing and mailing in a form, an option I will most certainly be exercising.


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  1. stubblyhead says:

    i’ll have to check my mail when I get home, then. I don’t have an AMEX through them (didn’t know they offered one, honestly), but I do have a mastercard that I use occasionally. Any idea if this is across the board or only on amex?

  2. llcooljabe says:

    Maybe it’s my cynicism, but I would register that letter with notice of return, so that they can’t say they didn’t get it. but that’s just me.

  3. thepounder says:

    I don’t have a credit card with them either, but it makes me wonder if it’s USAA pushing this or AMEX.

    If it’s AMEX, that wouldn’t surprise me much… but USAA…?

  4. AT203 says:

    Read the amendment carefully. Perhaps call customer support. Although it is at your discretion to accept the change, sometimes it is mandatory that you do so if you would like to continue business with that entity. You “opt-out” and they cancel their relationship with you.

    This is especially problemsome with USAA, because they have linked accounts. E.g. you may have your insurance through them. Although, I am not saying that if you drop your credit card, they are going to drop your insurance.

  5. elforesto says:

    I too have a USAA Mastercard and have seen nothing like this. I’d have to agree that draconian clauses like this seem out-of-character for such a great company.

  6. Ben Popken says:

    @AT203: Good point, I’m having trouble with my scanner, otherwise I would upload the notice, but the notice has specific language saying that it would not close your account or affect any of your other accounts, which is what I was getting at by saying there was no penalty.

  7. azntg says:

    Yeah, take the paper, envelope and a stamp and mail it in. I doubt any of us here will actually ever have to go to court and fight disputes through litigations, but none of us should be forced to relinquish our rights, especially if time and time again, the credit card companies have a clear preference for picking “fair and balanced” arbitors that’ll do nothing except bend over backwards and then some for the card issuer.

  8. ry81984 says:

    Congress needs to step up and make this practice illegal. You should never be force or allowed to sign away your constitutional rights. I just cannot see how those arbitration agreements are legal.

  9. Quaoar says:

    Umm… I do not believe that the Constitution of the United States says one word about CIVIL contracts, except those affecting involuntary servitude. So, that’s out.

    I don’t have an AMEX account, but if I did, I would look into the contractual agreement that I signed when intitating the account. Does that original agreement that AMEX customers signed have any wording about changes of contractual obligations on notice by AMEX?

    It probably does, negating the hue and cry about big corporate financial rapists extorting the hard earned cash of the proletariat.

    Simple: find another card, but this time read all of that extremely fine print that takes three pages of extremely fine print to explain what you are to be obligated when you sign the application form.

    Do not read it after signing the application form, because you will have suicidal buyer’s remorse. Just play dumb and complain to a blog like consumerist that fails to fact check.

  10. enm4r says:

    @elforesto: Same. USAA Mastercard, and I’ve never seen anything of the sort. I was thinking of getting the AMEX, but I couldn’t ever justify another card. I guess now is more reason I should put the idea on permanent hold.

  11. Marce says:

    I hope you’re treating it like a rebate, with delivery confirmation and photos and such.

  12. geeniusatwrok says:

    I have a new-ish USAA Amex (never used) and got the arb opt-out today too. I also have a Mastercard with them but only got the one notice referencing the Amex.

    given that I’ve been with USAA for… oh, decades, I guess, for a reason, that being excellent service, I can’t imagine them pulling this kind of crap for any reason other than Amex is making them do it. so I’m sending it in tomorrow.

    I have two Amex cards form Amex and never got anything like this before. not sure if I’ve inadvertantly agreed to arb on those or not, but there’s no balance on them either so WTF.

  13. cabito says:

    You’re lucky – every arb opt-out I’ve seen requires you to close your account.

  14. stubblyhead says:

    @enm4r: Your thinking about getting their AMEX raises a question. Does this opt-out opportunity only apply to existing cardholders, or would the same opportunity be extended to people opening a new AMEX account?

  15. AnneCA says:

    Interesting — I have a USAA Mastercard, and also have not received anything. I went to look on their website, and the page where you apply for a new Total Rewards Mastercard says “The Credit Card Agreement has an arbitration clause that may limit your rights, including your right to go to court, to have a jury trial or to participate in class actions.” I have reviewed all of the docs I have from them (because I save account docs) and there is no arbitration clause, so maybe that’s a new thing?

    And, Quaoar — actually, the Constitution does say that you are entitled to a jury trial for civil disputes over more than $20. By agreeing to arbitration, you are effectively waiving your Constitutional right to a jury trial.

  16. centraal says:

    Here’s an interesting story about USAA’s customer service for any servicemember unlucky enough to be stationed in South Korea:

  17. mattatwork says:

    @GEENIUSATWROK – I also have both a USAA Mastercard and a USAA AmEx, but only got the notice for the AmEx.

  18. tvh2k says:

    Thanks for the heads up — i’ll keep an eye out for it.

  19. rmz says:

    Thanks, Ben, I’ll check my mailbox tonight.

  20. lowlight69 says:

    i have not received anything from USAA like this. i have a Visa card with them, (along with other accounts)

    oddly enough, i cancelled my regular AMEX a few months ago, tired of paying $50/year for a card that i had not used in almost a decade. Then started getting USAA AMEX letters, asking us to open up a new account.

  21. rewinditback says:

    i have a usaa mastercard and have not received said notice… will update you if i do.

  22. JackDawsen says:

    As I can’t get my mail very often, I’ve called USAA to see if I can do this over the phone. I’m still talking with them as a first-line and now second-level customer service person can’t help me – they both have no idea what I’m talking about. I hope someone can put a copy of this online as I have an AMEX card and might not be able to get to the notice in time to opt-out unless they send me one to a different address. This is really weird for a company with which I haven’t had a single bad experience in seven years.

  23. RETCPT says:

    Heads UP!…21 year member of USAA, have numerous products with them. Good credit, never late, make plenty, but dont pay off your credit card if you expect to use it. They are whacking everyone’s credit limit to pennies right now. Decision from the top? USAA, used to be special, however they are becoming knuckleheads and mediocre like every other bank. What a shame. Insurance, financial products, car loans and banking. I’m outta there.

  24. justme87 says:

    If I remember correctly that form was mailed to people who had bad account history,as in late, overlimit, etc…

    So maybe the lesson here is pay your bills otherwise quit the complaining.

    USAA I’m sure isn’t out to harm or cause problems they rock..so yea