Reading Fine Print – A new credit card

So, my kids wanted to buy me a large teddy bear for my birthday.  There so happened to be one at the local Safeway, but it was $75.  The last time we bought a giant stuffed thing, it was a giant dog from Costco.  I don’t remember the price, but I thought, Costco, it’s got to be cheaper…

We went down to Costco, but I we haven’t had a membership there for years.  Time to renew.  One thing led to another, and rather than the simple run of the mill membership, I allowed myself to be talked into the “Executive” membership, which ‘gives’ you a credit card, and a $60 cash back card (offsetting the extra expense of the super membership).  Well, how bad could it be.  I went from having really no credit cards last year, to having 4 of them today.  That must be good for credit worthiness right?  At any rate, I finally got the card, and thought, hay, I might as well read all the fine print.

The first thing that came in the mail was the “Account approval notice”.  This one is interesting because it’s basically just the “congratulations, you’re approved for a card, it will be coming in the mail shortly”.  It does list the credit limit, the outrageous interest rates, and down at the bottom, below the fold, “Personalize your PIN”.  Aha!  This normally discarded little piece of paper is the one that has the credit card PIN, which most people don’t know.  For an ATM card, you always know the PIN because without it, you basically can’t use it.  But, your credit card PIN?  I don’t usually know that, and why?  Because I’m not looking for it, and I usually throw away this intro piece of paper.  Well, now I know, and I’ll try to keep track of this radom 4 digits.

Next up, the giant new card package.  This is the set of papers which include the terms and conditions in minute detail.  This shows the 29% rate you’ll be charged whenever you do anything wrong (like not pay your bill on time), as well as the ‘arbitration’ clause, which ensures you never sue them whenever they do something wrong.  One small piece of paper in this set says “FACTS” at the top of it.

The FACTS sheet.  This piece of paper tells me about the many ways in which they’re going to use the information they gather on me to market to me.  Not only the company itself, but their affiliates, and even non-affiliates (basically anyone who wants the data).  This is normally a throw away piece as well, but this time I decided to read the fine print.  What I found was one section titled “To limit our sharing”.  Well, that sounds good.  Call a phone number, go through some live menu choices, and there you have it, you’ve limited the usage of this data.  All you can do is limit the affiliate usage of your data, but it’s something.  I even chose the option to have them send me a piece of paper indicating the choices that I made.

I feel really proud of myself.  I normally ignore most of the stuff that comes from credit card companies, as most of it is marketing trying to sign me up for more credit cards, or point systems, or whatever.  This time, I really dug in, and caught some interesting details.  I’m curious to see how the “don’t market to me” thing works out.  Of course, once you click off that checkbox, they probably simply sell your info off to someone else to harvest.  I feel like that’s what happens when you unsubscribe from an email list as well, but I can’t prove it.

At any rate, I learned something new today.  Read some of the fine print, try out a little something you haven’t in the past, and go on an adventure!