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Roadfly Magazine
Issue Seven
Table of Contents

Past Issues Index
Roadfly Magazine
G. Gordon Liddy
Issue Seven
May 27, 2003
G. Gordon Liddy
Credit Card Rewards Programs
Frozen Rotors
Bentley Continental GT
Porter Cable Buffer
Coming Next Issue
Jay Leno
Hot Rod Tour
Paint Film
Porter Cable Rotary

Plastic Promises: What you need to know about credit card rewards programs
By Steve Litscher

(Tuesday, May 27, 2003 4:45 PM EST)
You all know the drill - your mailbox is full of "pre-approved, no interest" credit card offers, your phone is smoking from all of the telemarketers who are eagerly telling you about their latest and greatest credit card offer, and the inbox to your e-mail program has more spam than the Hudson River has toxic waste.

More often than not, the claims are so ridiculous that you don't even bother reading them, but every once in a while, you'll get an offer for a credit card that actually sounds promising. Perhaps it's a clever rewards program, or an enticing interest rate - but be forewarned, most of these special offers come with consequences.

"Read the fine print," is often the popular tag line to most credit card ads, offers and commercials. But, there's often so much to that fine print that consumers become confused, frustrated and eventually, complacent with the credit card company's terms and conditions. And so begins the delicate dance that we often refer to as, "the charge card cha-cha".

What Do Microsoft, Visa, MasterCard & Wal-Mart Have In Common?

Don't think the credit card industry is crooked? Think they're honestly interested in your well-being? Were you aware of the antitrust suit that exists against VISA and MasterCard, as brought on by the Department of Justice?

The DOJ introduced a case against credit card powerhouses VISA and MasterCard just a few years ago. The DOJ contends that VISA and MasterCard have knowingly and willingly created and maintained a "duopoly", doing their best to prevent competition amongst themselves. In addition, the DOJ contends that the two have prevented thousands of banks and retailers from accepting the cards of competitors like American Express and Discover.

The DOJ further claims that efforts by Visa and MasterCard have caused the USA to fall more than 10 years behind Europe in the use of "smart cards". Smart cards are computer chip enabled cards that store data, allowing users to make purchases and securely manage personal data in a variety of ways - all from a single card.

Attorneys from the DOJ allege that Visa and MasterCard had determined the smart cards would be too expensive to develop, and worked to stifle their development in the US market. Visa and MasterCard claim that no one in the US is interested in smart cards.

In addition to the antitrust suit that's still pending against Visa and MasterCard, there is a second lawsuit pending from retail giant, Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart (and 18 other major retailers) claim Visa and MasterCard force them to accept debit cards. The debit cards often carry higher fees associated with processing the cards, and the retailers don't like having to pay the higher fees. These costs, are in turn, passed on to consumers, which is why another lawsuit is in the works - this time from three individual New York residents who are claiming that it's unfair to pass those costs on to consumers.

If it's not yet obvious why we call all of this credit card nonsense "the charge card cha-cha," you might want to go re-read the past few paragraphs again.

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