Checks Enclosed With More Bills Ahead
You can't miss the message on the envelope from Chase. There it is in bold black letters: "Check Enclosed." Maybe it's my long lost rebate check!
Nope. It's a promotion. I should have known--especially since I got two such offers in the same day. If I cashed the first check, I would automatically be enrolled in Chase's Fraud Detector, which would alert me to any suspicious activity on my account. I'd also get a special "fraud advisor" if I'm an identity-theft victim and could be reimbursed up to $25,000 for expenses incurred to correct my credit record. Of course, that all comes with a fee: $7.99 a month.
The second check, if cashed, would enroll me in Chase's Payment Protector--a kind of insurance to protect your account and credit rating in times of financial stress, such as losing a job or becoming disabled. The cost: 89 cents for every $100 you have on balance on each monthly statement. That works out to $8.90 a month for a balance of $1,000. This debt-protection plan has become a big moneymaker for credit-card issuers, even though consumer advocates and some state regulators say the product offers little protection at a high cost.
Many consumer advocates raise similar concerns about fraud detection plans as well. So, as attractive as those $20 checks may be, make sure you read the fine print--and think carefully before you sign.
March 3, 2006; 7:10 AM ET
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