Bad Business: Compromising Credit Card Safety? No, Thanks!
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was on a test drive of satellite radio. That trial subscription ends later this month, and I’ve received two letters and now two telephone calls urging me to renew.
I understand that they want me to pay for their service. I understand they want me to not lose their signal.
But they don’t seem to understand that I’m not willing to compromise my credit card safety for that to happen.
I tossed the two letters the company sent me because the rate they wanted — $14.99 plus nearly four dollars in taxes and fees — was far too steep a price for me. While it’s nice to have the extra channels that have no commercials and much larger playlists, it isn’t that nice.
Before I opened the letter, in fact, I thought to myself that I might be willing to pay about $5 a month for it, but not much more than that.
Then I received the phone call.
Suddenly, because they really wanted me to not lose their service, they were willing to make me an incredible deal: for just $30, they’d give me six months of service. I asked about fees and they said that would amount to a total of about $6, which would put the service at roughly $6 per month.
That sounded like a pretty good option after all. The catch, as I’m sure you could guess, was that at the end of the six months, the subscription would then renew at the old monthly rate of the $18, which means I’d have to remember to cancel the subscription before that fee kicked in, which is always a pain in the rear end.
Then the other shoe dropped.
Any company that requires me to compromise my credit card safety to get a deal won’t get my business.
To get the deal, all I had to do was authorize the great rate by giving the caller my credit card number.
It’s credit card safety common sense: ask any bank, ask any credit card company, and they’ll all say the same thing: Never give your credit card information to someone who calls you. Ask for a number, or, better yet, look up a business’s number yourself and call them: that way you know you’re getting the actual company rather than taking the word of someone who may sound official, but may not be.
Even Caller ID isn’t trustworthy, because people can program Caller ID to either not display a business’s name or display a false number. (Some business called my mom the other day and they’d arranged Caller ID to display her number instead of theirs. If that’s not illegal, it should be.)
I was about 75% sure that this call was legit. But a lot of damage can be done in that remaining 25%.
I asked the caller to send me an email with the details — so I had something in writing — and asked if I could call the company’s main customer service number to arrange the details.
No, he said, I couldn’t get the deal if I called them.
I asked the caller to bill me for the low rate and I’d send a payment that way.
No, he said, I couldn’t get the deal if they billed me unless I was willing to pay a $2 administrative fee.
An administrative fee?
Let me get this straight: if you call me and expect me to hand out my credit card number, hoping you’re who you say you are when I have no way to be sure, there’s no fee, but if I go to your website, you’re going to charge me extra? For the same credit card info?
Credit card companies charge businesses for the convenience paying by plastic affords the business’s customers. The fee is generally 3-4%. But the company pays that transaction fee whether I give my credit card number over the phone or on the website.
With that little fee, the company sealed its fate with me. I’m not willing to pay extra to protect my credit card number. If they can’t understand that and sympathize, they won’t have me as a customer.
Maybe you think I’m being overly paranoid. But just last month, I received a call about one of my credit cards that someone had apparently tried to use to buy a $2,300 plane ticket to Egypt. Credit card companies say it’s a full time job tracking down potential credit card fraud these days.
The callers may have been legit. But I’d hate to find out after the fact that they weren’t.
Come October 20, I’ll survive quite well without satellite radio.