Banks and why I hate them.

August 26, 2013

This page was inspired by the latest outrage, which goes as follows:

Bank of America and why it sucks

I have a rewards card (Worldpoint Rewards) with Bank of America. You earn a "point" for every dollar you spend. Roughly speaking you may be able to get back a penny for every point (i.e. 100 points converts to a dollar).

However the devil is in the details (and it is more than appropriate to bring the devil in at this stage). Some of the ways that the clever folks at Bank of America try to cheat you out of the reward they promised you go as follows:

Expiration -- This is actually detailed on their website (unlike other aspects of their program). But it is as simple as this: you have a couple of years after you earn points to redeem them, after that you loose them. So, use them or loose them! This plays hand in hand with the following business of:

Quantization -- Redemption is not as simple as getting a dollar per 100 points. There are several ways to get screwed. First let me explain the one that just got me. I had 63,000 points available for redemption. So, you would think I could just go and get a check or a transfer, or a credit for $630, eh? Well, when I try to enter the number of points as 63,000, it tells me I can redeem a maximum of 50,000 at a time. So I do this (big mistake). This gets a $500 credit, but leaves 13,000 points for round 2. Now I find I can only get $80 instead of $130 for those 13,000 points -- screwing me out of $50. (Actually I can only redeem 10,000 points for $80, so they screw me out of $20, and retain $30 to screw me out of later -- just to be entirely accurate about how the system works).

The deal is that there is a redemption table (that is not on the website any place I can find) that goes somewhat like this:

2,500 points - redeems as $12.50 (sacrifice $12.50)
10,000 points - redeems as $80.00 (sacrifice $20.00)
15,000 points - redeems as $120.00 (sacrifice $30.00)
25,000 points - redeems as $250.00 (no sacrifice)
So, what I might have done was to take out my 63,000 points as 30,000 then 33,000 and I would have my $630.00 -- but you have to play this game with essentially undocumented rules. It turns out the above is impossible, you have to redeem at specific levels. The best I could have done would have been $250 plus $350 which would have redeemed 60,000 points and gotten me $600.

However, they are unwilling to reverse the $500 redemption I already claimed (never mind that it was a credit to my account and from my point of view entirely within their system). I called back a third time (maybe it was a fourth?), to see what they might do if I pushed a bit. The first bump got me to their redemption center and the person there got a bit snotty then bumped me to a supervisor, who was at least willing to think, but ultimately they are unwilling to do anything for me. I asked (again) where the redemption schedule could be found online, they gave me wrong information and were ultimately clueless about this (so how am I to know the rules?).

Some links (reviewing the Worldpoint program), one of which calls Worldpoints the worst reward program in 2013 (I guess they haven't tried dealing with Discover).

It is ironic that these reviews are the only places online where I have found their redemption rules even partially documented.

Conclusions The thing to do is to avoid doing business with a company that wants to play games like this to cheat their customers. I plan to dump them for just this reason ASAP, where ASAP is as soon as I get my full $130 out of their rewards system. It took two phone calls to pry the above information out of their phone representatives. When I told the lady during the second call that this is a horrible contrast to the simple and honest terms of my Capitol One Card, she then offered to convert my rewards card to a "better" program with no points expiration and no funky rules about redeeming points. She says that all the points will transfer over, and once they are on my new card I can pull them all out immediately. They call this their "123" card program and clearly it is a reponse by them to outfits like Capitol One. We will see if new fees or other dirty tricks creep in with the new card.

Discover Card - the worst of all !!

I hate these people worst of all. They are outrageous liars. They were one of the first to offer something that misrepresented itself as a rewards program and made an eternal enemy of me because of their deceptive rewards redemption policy. These days there are many far superior rewards programs, and only an idiot would carry a Discover card. Note that they are such bold liars that they use the phrase "cash back" My most recent phone call went somewhat like this:

"I see that I have a cash back reward available, I would like to apply this towards paying the balance on my account." I'm sorry sir, that isn't possible.

"Well then, can you just mail me a check." No, we can't do that either

"What about a transfer to one of my bank accounts." Sorry

"So where the heck is the cash in "cash back", how do you feel working for such a dishonest and deceptive company?"

It turns out they can send me an gift card, but only in increments of $20 (quantization).

Capitol One

I like them a lot (and American Express has a straightforward and honest rewards program). First of all when I opened my account with them and did over $500 of business the first month, I immediately got a $100 bonus reward. And just now when I went to redeem my rewards, I was able to redeem all of it to the last dollar and apply it as a credit towards my next bill (which is as good as any way to get my hands on it). No complaints from me. Simple and honest. But they are a bank, so it would pay to keep an eye on them and watch for unilateral policy changes in the future.

Wells Fargo

All in all I have been pleased and impressed with Wells Fargo. They have branches everywhere (in contrast to the one of a kind credit union I used to belong to), are always polite and friendly when I walk in (in contrast to the Vantage West credit union, where customers are treated like peons and criminals when they walk in). I walk into Wells Fargo and am quickly taken care of by a nice teller, in contrast the the credit union, where I stand in a long line and am instructed to partially disrobe before they will give me the time of day. As a new customer at Wells Fargo, I have the name of an actual banker who is available (and capable) of answering questions and solving problems for me. At Vantage West, where I have banked since before they changed their names the last 2 or 3 times, I am a total nobody and get insulted by their rude receptionist when I walk in.

Vantage West

They suck, see above under Wells Fargo.
Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!

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