The Checkout

Mailbag: No More Credit Card Checks; Tops in Bank Fees

Between accosting shoppers on Friday, zipping up and down I-95 to see family and eating gut-busting quantities of food, I found some time to catch up on some reader queries.

I'm thinking holiday shopping is on everyone's mind, not to mention the specter of January's credit card bill, because most of the questions I've received lately revolve around spending money.

Our first question takes us to a big box many of us will probably find ourselves in sometime during the next few weeks: Best Buy.

During a recent trip, reader Harris Kern noticed the cashier didn't ask to see his driver's license even though all of his credit cards say on the back "Check ID." So we asked Best Buy spokeswoman Susan Busch to explain what gives. Here's her answer:

"As you know, signatures can be easily copied and false identification can be created. That's why we have decided to use a technology incorporated by the credit card issuers as the means of combating credit card fraud in our stores. Today, credit cards contain a 'CID' code, a security feature for credit-card transactions that gives protection against credit-card fraud. The CID should not be confused with the standard credit-card number appearing in embossed digits. It is a 3 or 4 digit number that is transmitted to the credit-card company during the electronic authorization process and validated by the issuing bank.

Due to the added security that CID offers, stores are no longer required to verify the customer's signature on the back of the card. Best Buy, along with other large retailers, is choosing to use this technology as its primary means of combating credit-card fraud. We believe that in the long-run, more customers will be protected by the new security features incorporated into credit cards today than by signature checks."

My only problem with this response is that I always figured a photo ID check was about more than a signature comparison, that it was a way to see if the face of the person standing in front of you matched that of the photo ID and, in turn, the name on the credit card.

It's interesting Best Buy thinks this hi-tech mechanism makes up for that.

Marilyn Runner wrote in after reading the average bounced-check fee had hit $27.40, a record high, according to the fall checking study by bankrate.com.

Runner thinks she can top $27.40. First Merchants Bank, which is located in the Midwest, charges $31 for an overdraft. The bank takes its cut before they pay any debits on an account.

"Our personal bank accounts are the bank's unregulated source of income for their profit," she writes, followed by the logical question, "What is your suggestion for recourse?"

Well, for starters, COMPLAIN. One complaint will not likely change the system, but adding your voice to a growing wave of consumer sentiment has a better chance of making something happen.

Banks are supervised by different federal and state agencies. To start, check in with the Federal Reserve.

Because the bank in question is in Indiana, the Fed also suggests consumers complain to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Indiana state banking authorities.

Reader Jeff says his MBNA Quantum credit card just doesn't have the same perks ever since Bank of America took over MBNA. He wants to know, among other things, are there any cards out there that don't assess fees to foreign purchases and ATM cash advances, aside from the 1 percent currency conversion charge by MC/VISA International?

I'm no credit card guru, so my suggestion to Jeff is to try some Web sites such as cardratings.com and cardweb.com.

There also have been a number of stories about foreign purchase and currency conversion fees that might be helpful.

Keep those questions coming to thecheckout@washpost.com.

By Annys Shin |  November 27, 2006; 9:15 AM ET Consumer News
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Comments

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To answer Marilyn Runner's question: Don't overdraft your account. You'll never have to pay the $31 fee.

To Jeff: I'm in the same boat. Bank of America is so annoying I've just stopped using the card entirely (that may or may not be an option, although if you have the quantum you probably have very little trouble getting another card). As for international purchases: The Capital One No Hassle card has no international transaction fees. It's not something they advertise heavily, but you can ask their associates about it, and they will confirm this at least as of a month ago.

Posted by: Jon | November 27, 2006 9:48 AM

The USAA bank standard credit card also is fee-free for international purposes. though some USAA services are available only to the military, banking services are available to the public.

Posted by: Reader | November 27, 2006 9:59 AM

Rather than add all of these police state identification tactics, how about people just use a little common sense when it comes to using credit cards? Why has this country forsaken common sense?

Posted by: cathie | November 27, 2006 10:01 AM

Capital One does not charge foreign transaction fees, and in fact eats the 1% fee that MasterCard or Visa charge. They are the only credit card issuer we know of that does this.

Justin McHenry
Research Director
IndexCreditCards.com
http://www.IndexCreditCards.com

Posted by: Justin McHenry | November 27, 2006 10:07 AM

Runner thinks she can top $27.40. First Merchants Bank, which is located in the Midwest, charges $31 for an overdraft. The bank takes its cut before they pay any debits on an account.

"Our personal bank accounts are the bank's unregulated source of income for their profit," she writes, followed by the logical question, "What is your suggestion for recourse?"


Don't bounce checks in the first place! This is a head slapper. I can see if you are very young and this is your first time controlling money, but once you are a few years out of high school you shouldn't be bouncing checks! It is criminal! Of course, if you know that you a little iffy with all of that record keeping, maybe you should get overdraft protection!

Posted by: oh lord | November 27, 2006 10:46 AM

On bank fees. In addition to not writing checks when you don't have the money to cover them, you could also switch to credit unions. Their penalty fees will be much lower, and often your credit union will offer training and advice on money management.

Posted by: larry | November 27, 2006 10:57 AM

Think outside the box before you go saying "don't bounce checks." Did it ever occur that sometimes things bounce due to billing errors caused by Cable and Phone companies? I've been billed a couple thousand before for no reason, recieved a weak apology from the company, and had my account credited- but nothing could be done for the overdraft charges when they sucked money from my account causing countless other bills to bounce too. Accidents happen, and big companies are impossible to deal with and get problems sorted out in customer service- as we have discussed to no end in other postings.

Anyway, back on topic about Credit Card checks. What good does the number on the back of the credit card do anyone? Yeah, there's a security code...but duh, it's ON THE CARD! So the way of verifying that it is your card is to check the number on the back of the card? That's about as stupid as the old TRUE stories about the cashier saying they would not accept your card without a signature, so you signed it in front of them and that was good enough to charge whatever to it! Really reassuring there huh? Either way it's false security. I do not see what is so hard about just asking for an ID to at least compare names or photos. It's a very small extra step, and makes it a little more difficult for someone to use your card if it is lost or stolen.

Posted by: Chris | November 27, 2006 11:33 AM

The point of this conversation is not to determine whether it is a good idea to overdraft your account, but whether the high fees associated with an overdraft are fair.

I recently attempted to use Bank of America's online billpay to pay a large bill. I wanted to pay the bill using my joint checking account but realized too late that the system only allows you to pay from your personal account. Although I had more than enough to cover the bill in my joint account, I did not have enough in my personal account. Rather than charge me the standard overdraft fee, BofA did an automatic "overdraft protection" (which I did not authorize). This involved charging the amount of the overdraft to my BofA credit card, along with a $40 finance charge, and an additional hundred dollars to replace funds in my checking account.

I was angry about the finance charge, but paid off the amount charged to my credit card in its entirety immediately, since I figured that the overdraft was my fault. Later, a fee for $1.78 appeared on my online credit card statement. I sent an email to BofA asking them to remove or explain the fee, but received no response. I later discovered that BofA was charging me a daily interest fee on the amount they had charged my card to pay for the overdraft, even though I paid the amount immediately, and all of this happened in the middle of the month, so there was no revolving balance.

Again, I paid off the fee. Two weeks later, I opened my online statement to find that my credit card balance was NEGATIVE 1.78. I investigated and found that 1.78 had been transferred from my checking account to my credit card without my permission. Apparently, in response to my inquiry about the original fee, BofA decided to set up an automatic transfer from my checking to my credit to pay the minimum payment without telling me. Since I had already paid the amount owed on the card, I ended up with a negative balance.

This time, I was fed up. I called BofA and asked them to mail me a check for $1.78. Then I asked them to cancel the credit card. THEN, I pretty much ran to the nearest credit union and opened an account. I plan to close the rest of my BofA accounts later this week.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 27, 2006 11:39 AM

I think that using the CID code to allow one computer to talk with another computer just to say "yep, that card is valid" is an awful judgment call. So the card is valid? Of course it's valid if it hasn't been reported as stolen, but does that mean the person using it is authorized? So Joe Schmoe has my card, picked up off the street an hour earlier (I dropped it?), and decides to buy Christmas gifts from Best Buy with it. Best Buy scans the card, all looks to be in order, and Mr. Schmoe goes home with a new PS3. Had Best Buy required the clerk to check the signature panel (which says ID ONLY next to my signature, a CLEAR indicator that I and ONLY I am allowed to be using that card), Mr. Schmoe would have been asked to provide a picture ID, which would them prove his name and my name were not the same, resulting in a declined transaction. At the very least, it would result in Mr. Schmoe becoming uncomfortable or agitated, another tip off to the clerk that something isn't right, potentially saving me from the unauthorized use proof merry-go-round ride from my bank.

If banks started charging merchants for the losses resulting from misused cards instead of absorbing the losses themselves, you can bet that Best Buy would be checking IDs in a heartbeat and requiring written or phoned in proof that someone other than the cardholder was allowed to use the card.

I WANT MY ID CHECKED, BEST BUY! THAT'S WHY I WRITE "SEE ID" ON THE BACK!

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | November 27, 2006 11:59 AM

OK, 2 things here - what is the big deal on how merchants verify whether a card is valid or not? The consumer *doesn't* get hit with anything, the bank and/or merchant eat any losses. And BTW, this is a good reason to have copies of all your credit cards (with the phone numbers to call if they get ripped off) stashed away somewhere.

As for the overdraft protection - I've never seen so many whiney people complain about an OPTIONAL fee. If you don't like it, don't be an idiot and bounce a check, and/or change banks to one where the idiot fee is less. There's like a million banks out there.

Posted by: JD | November 27, 2006 12:26 PM

"Marilyn Runner wrote in after reading the average bounced-check fee had hit $27.40, a record high, according to the fall checking study by bankrate.com. Runner thinks she can top $27.40. First Merchants Bank, which is located in the Midwest, charges $31 for an overdraft."

By DEFINITION there are overdraft fees higher than the average -- unless they are all exactly the same.

Posted by: Gretchen | November 27, 2006 12:57 PM

If your bank is hosing you on fees, join a credit union! I haven't paid a bank fee of any kind in twenty years. In this day and age EVERYBODY is eligible for credit union membership somewhere.

Posted by: jonesie | November 27, 2006 1:09 PM

The really insane part of my e-mail which was left out of the original posting was that the clerk asked to see the card after I scanned it, looked at the card, saw the "check ID" in the signature box and then handed it back and completed the transaction without another word but "Thank you".

Posted by: Harris Kern | November 27, 2006 1:36 PM

How smug of Jon to say "just don't overdraw your account." Obviously Jon has a trust fund or other source of income. Have you ever lived paycheck to paycheck, Jon? Apparently not. It can be sooo easy to overdraw a checking account inadvertently, with no intent to "play the float", which is darn near impossible now due to the ability of payees to ACH checks.

Posted by: livingchecktocheck | November 27, 2006 1:48 PM

I don't know who you talked to at Best Buy but I will tell you without any doubt that they had no idea what they were talking about. Not only is the three digit number NOT a substitute for a signature, a merchant is not, by Visa regulations, permitted to accept a card that is not signed.

I'm not telling you that most merchants follow the regulations to the letter. In fact, I'd rather have a "See ID" card than almost any other, but the fact remains that an unsigned card is NOT VALID and the merchant should (but seldom will) refuse the card.

There is a document on Visa's web site called Rules for Visa Merchants - Card Acceptance and Chargeback
Management Guidelines -- you can download it here for verification:
http://usa.visa.com/download/business/accepting_visa/ops_risk_management/rules_for_visa_merchants.pdf

Here's what it says about unsigned cards:

-QUOTE-
Unsigned Cards
While checking card security features, you should also make sure that the card is signed. An unsigned card is considered invalid and should not be accepted. If a customer gives you an unsigned card, the following steps must be taken:
• Check the cardholder's ID. Ask the cardholder for some form of official government identification, such as a driver's license or passport. Where permissible by law, the ID serial number and expiration date should be written on the sales receipt before you complete the transaction.
• Ask the customer to sign the card. The card should be signed within your full view, and the signature checked against the customer's signature on the ID. A refusal to sign means the card is still invalid and cannot be accepted. Ask the customer for another signed Visa card.
• Compare the signature on the card to the signature on the ID.
If the cardholder refuses to sign the card, and you accept it, you may end up with financial liability for the transaction should the cardholder later dispute the charge.

"See ID"
Some customers write "See ID" or "Ask for ID" in the signature panel, thinking that this is a deterrent against fraud or forgery; that is, if their signature is not on the card, a fraudster will not be able to forge it. In reality, criminals don't take the time to practice signatures: they use cards as quickly as possible after a theft and prior to the accounts being blocked. They are actually counting on you not to look at the back of the card and compare signatures--they may even have access to counterfeit identification with a signature in their own handwriting. "See ID" or "Ask for ID" is not a valid substitute for a signature. The customer must sign the card in your presence, as stated above.

Requesting Cardholder ID
When should you ask a cardholder for an official government ID? Although Visa rules do not preclude merchants from asking for cardholder ID, merchants cannot make an ID a condition of acceptance. Therefore, merchants cannot refuse to complete a purchase transaction because a cardholder refuses to provide ID. Visa believes merchants should not ask for ID as part of their regular card acceptance procedures. Laws in several states also make it illegal fo merchants to write a cardholder's personal information, such as an address or phone number, on a sales receipt.

-END QUOTE-

It sounds to me like the Best Buy person pulled something out of thin air.

Tom Mahoney, Director
Merchant911.org

Posted by: Tom Mahoney | November 27, 2006 1:51 PM

Hey, "oh lord",
You're another smug SOB. You can't get overdraft protection for a checking account unless you have sterling credit. It is nothing more than an unsecured line of credit. Until a person establishes a credit history, which leaves out most of those "a few years out of high school" no bank I know of will give you overdraft protection.

Posted by: poorboy | November 27, 2006 1:55 PM

Hey livingchecktocheck, you didn't call me out, but I'm going to respond anyway.

If you find yourself living on the razor's edge of overdrawing your account, maybe you should adjust your lifestyle. Yes, cancel cable, your cell phone, quit smoking or drinking, dont eat out EVER, etc. And don't start whining and complaining that woe is you, everyone else has trust funds and you're the poor starving artist or whatever. Your life is what it is, accept it and deal.

If you can't keep good enough records to keep your checking account in the black, then you are way too immature to have a checking account. Go move back home with Mommy and Daddy, and let them worry about your bills.

If you find yourself needing to 'defecit spend' once in awhile to get by, then figure out another way, perhaps a credit card, personal loan from a relative, whatever; not overdrawing your checking acct WHICH IS ILLEGAL!

Good Lord. How far we've fallen as a society that we even need to debate this.

Posted by: JD | November 27, 2006 1:55 PM

And as for credit card security with those signatures....

As an experiment, I've recently started signing my 'signature' on those electronic Credit card accepters at Target, not as my actual sig, but just a paw print. (Think of Blues Clues). Yes, I just draw that on the screen in the sig block.

And I've never been questioned once, it's always electronically accepted, the clerk has never said squat.

The signature is worthless.

Posted by: JD | November 27, 2006 1:58 PM

I thought that the code was only to help assure that the credit card was read electronically or that the card was available when the code was keyed in. This may prevent someone from picking up a receipt with the full credit card number on it and trying to use the number, e.g., for an online purchase. But of course it does not assure that the person making the purchase is authorized to use the account.

I think that those who write "see ID" are trying to assure that only the authorized purchaser is using the card. However, most credit cards and their agreements specifically state that the card is "not valid until signed." And if you write "see ID," what's preventing a thief from printing an ID in your name? Then the thief's ID and signatures will match - all because your actual signature is not on the card. If you still want the clerk to ask for ID, by all means write "see ID," but I suggest that you also sign the card.

I know it may make us feel better if someone looks at the signature on the back of the card. But I hope that none of us is relying on that to protect the accounts.

The good news is that many credit cards, e.g., Discover, have software that detects unusual account activity. I know that I've been called by Discover when my purchases have triggered a review.

And most credit card account activity can be viewed online. I no longer have to wait for a once-a-month statement. I can check whenever it's convenient for me.

I think that they're probably right when they tell us that the best security is multi-layered. Any one of these things will not, on its own, protect our accounts. But when they're all put together, they can help reduce the risk to something we can accept without becoming obsessive about it.

Posted by: Paul | November 27, 2006 2:01 PM

JD: The consumer does get hit with up to $50 liability in the event of unauthorized use. That may be chump change to some, but to others it can mean no groceries for a few days. So it is a big deal. Banks lend these cards out like so much candy and then do diddly squat to protect the consumers who use their products. Identities are stolen, fraud committed, and consumers are left to clean up the mess with the industry not so much as lifting a finger to help clean up what their products, and the ease and facelessness of electronic commerce and payment methods, have created.

I've been lucky never to have been a victim, but I sure do sympathize with people who have become one. It's like you can do everything right, and still become a victim through no fault of your own, and you're left out in the cold by the banking industry, which is bursting at the seams with profits. Grr...

Thus, a simple, cheap, and efficient standard practice of stopping fraud at the checkout, by verifying names and photos on credit and debit cards, could do so much to stop the fleecing of the middle and lower classes.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | November 27, 2006 2:13 PM

I've been asked for ID two or three times in my entire life and I use my check card countless times per week. 99 point 9 percent of the time, the person handling the transaction assumes that I'm authorized to use the card. Doesn't matter if I use a standard credit card either, same thing.

Posted by: Glen | November 27, 2006 2:16 PM

Oh, and while I have ID ONLY on the back on my cards, they are also signed. But the ID ONLY is in BOLD BLACK PRINT, such that you can't miss it if you look. I have had this cause clerks to take a second glance at my card, and then ask for my ID, which I hand over with a smile. But while my transaction is authorized, the clerk's concern starts and stops with me as a reaction to those words on the back of the card. This is what I wish would change.

Citibank offers a photo ID credit card. For those who wish to have the best of both worlds, this might be a good option to check into.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | November 27, 2006 2:19 PM

A reasonable point, CyanS. I know the law *allows* (important point here) up to the $50 limit, but in practice, every credit card I've ever been offered or accepted always had the 'real world' limit at zero. The legal limit is the result of the Federal Truth in Lending Act (details here: http://www.federalreserve.gov/Pubs/shop/#liability )

The 100% fraud guarantees seem prevalent these days

http://www.find-cards-now.com/types/mastercard_credit_card

I suspect the $50 limit cards are limited to grade C credit types, collateralized cards, etc.

Posted by: JD | November 27, 2006 2:21 PM

JD, I think I speak for many when I say that your smug, "know it all" attitude is a sure sign of your immaturity, regardless of you chronological age.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 27, 2006 2:23 PM

Reality Check - clerks don't 'see' what is on the back of a credit card. They may, sometimes, turn the card over and 'look' at the back but they don't 'see' the signature. I doubt they are holding the credit card next to the electronic or physical and taking time to compare the two. And when they happen to ask for ID, they often look at the picture to see if it matches the person in front of the counter but they are not looking at the tiny name on the ID and comparing again to the card.

I know this because I often shop for my mother. Her card is signed and says 'See ID'. Occasionally I'm asked for ID. I just show my ID with my picture and very different first and last name. No one has ever questioned me.

The best way to keep yourself safe is not to write 'See ID' on your card or sign your card, it's to make sure you know where you keep your stuff. No clerk is going to look out for you; you need to look out for yourself.

Side Notes - Photocopying Cards or atleast keeping decent record of the information on the back is a good idea. You can't call to report a stolen card if you can't turn the card over to look at the phone number.

And a paw print for a signature on the electronic pads is just funny. I used to put smiley faces. I just don't feel comfortable signing my name on a pad that could be capturing my signature. My brother uses a number sequence that is unique to the store, date, time, and total of purchase as his electronic signature. It's harder for someone to forge his code system.

Posted by: Duke | November 27, 2006 2:25 PM

I love when anonymous posters insult the poster and ignore the (valid, IMHO) argument.

So, Mr/Miss whoever, your argument for why someone should be able to do something illegal (by overdrawing their account) and not be hit by the slap-on-the-wrist of 30 bucks, is?....

......

If it's due to some firm recklessly draining your account, maybe a company where you have electronic billpay set up monthly, then you have a cause of action against them, they are liable for all damages (yes, you have to make the effort to go to small claims court, not calling their customer service line as Chris evidently did)

Posted by: JD | November 27, 2006 2:46 PM

Overdrafts, for the most part are customer errors, and they slap you with high fee to reminded you not to do it again. If you don't maintain the minimum balance in your account and don't manage your money correctly you are going to have overdrafts. Cumsumes should have to pay for neglegence the same way companies have to pay for it. Manage your money better.

Posted by: Mike C | November 27, 2006 2:54 PM

I'd like to clarify my position, as it seems to have caused a little bit of controversy.

I have tremendous sympathy for anyone who has bounced a check because some knucklehead company took more money out of an account than was authorized. If I had my way, they would be required to repay it plus a $200 penalty (or whatever) for the inconvenience. Because right now the consumer bears all of the costs of the error, which seems unfair on a number of levels. The companies need to have the proper incentives to be careful. So I'm definitely on the same page as Chris.

That was not exactly what I had in mind when I wrote that response, however. The funny thing is, however, when you write a check that bounces, your doing almost the same thing to someone else. You've promised to deposit money into the account and, because of your mistake, they don't have it. So take the five seconds it takes to balance your checkbook. It's addition and subtraction. It requires a 99 cent pen. Or if you want to get fancy, there is lots of computer software that can help you with it, some of it free (gnucash).

I have to go now--I have to go back to managing my trust fund now.

Posted by: Jon | November 27, 2006 3:13 PM

I thought that part of the point of credit cards is that they don't require id. If everything else I had was stolen it would be nice to still be able to use my CC. People who want that kind of thing should get the photo credit cards. People who persist in writing see ID should always already have their ID out to show cashiers. Most of the time unless the card is declined or flagged by VISA they'll just ring the sale through. That said when i did work as a cashier people were mostly annoyed when I did ask for ID when their cards were unsigned - or sometimes not even their own (my wife's card!). Also there are lots of other times when people never see the signature and card at the same time - think about how most restaurants return your bill and card to you at the same time.

Also I hate place that require ID for allcredit card purchases. Is there somewhere we could report them to VISA since that's not how it's supposed to work?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 27, 2006 3:34 PM

Sorry, gnucash was a stupid suggestion, I noticed it's not available for Windows. There are a couple of others though, a google search can find them pretty quickly.

Posted by: Jon | November 27, 2006 3:53 PM

Posted by: Anonymous | November 27, 2006 3:54 PM

I thought this was supposed to be a pro-consumer blog!

Rising overdraft fees at banks are only the tip of the iceburg and a symptom of a bigger problem. Simplistic reactions (don't overdraw your account) only ignore the real issue of the many ways banks take advantage of the consumer to increase their profit margins and suggest that banks should be able to continue these practices.

Perhaps there is a pro-business blog for those that think that voicing consumer concerns is whiney?

On the other topic, I write "see ID" on all of my credit cards. Why is it that the Post Office refuses to accept these cards - they will only accept signed cards, no matter how many forms of ID you have!

Posted by: SMCP | November 27, 2006 4:01 PM

Writing a "bad" check is not automatically "illegal", i.e. a crime. The law is more forgiving than some of the posters today. You are given a certain amount of time (10 days in MD) to cover the check before a warrant can be sought by the payee. Lighten up, folks.

Posted by: legal eagle | November 27, 2006 4:14 PM

JD, in case you had not noticed, ALL posts on these chats are anonymous, except for the few foolish people who post their full names. I hope "JD" indicates your initials and not the fact that you hold a JD degree. It's flamers like you who give the legal profession a bad name.

Posted by: the phantom | November 27, 2006 4:27 PM

Ah phantom, where to start?

#1 it is my initials
#2 I'm not an attorney, I'm an exec at a services company
#3 Not sure how I was flaming anyone - if you'll do me the courtesy, go back and re-read what I said. I made all points on the arguments and NEVER got personal. (except when the guy told me to F myself...I admit I got a little emotional, but still kept it humorous I thought).

And #4....if you think that little old me is what is giving lawyers a bad name, well....

If someone wants to argue that it's not reasonable to expect a penalty (and we're only talking $30 here, folks...) when you write a check for more money than you have, so you're basically defrauding someone (intentionally or not), then I'm waiting to hear their arguments. I haven't heard any, only personal attacks. Par for the course on a blog I guess.

And again, it's an OPTIONAL FEE. Say that again to yourself, 10 times if need be. If you don't want to pay it, then don't bounce a check. If you don't want to be at risk, then go join a credit union who doesn't charge the overdraft fee. Otherwise, QUIT WHINING about bank profits, etc.!!!!!!! People are so spoiled these days, they can't even take 5 minutes to balance a checkbook, or get their computer to do it.

And yes, if some company takes out more than they were supposed to, then sue the bastards, or explain to me why you wouldn't.

Posted by: JD | November 27, 2006 4:38 PM

- On the other topic, I write "see ID" on all of my credit cards. Why is it that the Post Office refuses to accept these cards - they will only accept signed cards, no matter how many forms of ID you have!

it's because of their agreement with the credit card company. Unsigned cards are invalid. Read the cardholder agreement. In theory they might end up liable for something if the card charge is denied and don't want to risk it.

Why not try to get the card companies to come up with something for people who want to have to use id with their cards?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 27, 2006 7:02 PM

IN THE LAST CENTURY, ON ANOTHER CONTINENT, I HAD THE EXPERIENCE OF LIVING IN A COUNTRY WHICH REQUIRES ALL RESIDENTS OVER THE AGE OF 12 TO CARRY A NATIONAL I.D. AT ALL TIMES. ANYWHERE YOU PRODUCED A CREDIT CARD, YOU ALSO PRODUCED YOUR NATIONAL I.D. (OR PASSPORT IF YOU WERE A TOURIST). THEY DID CHECK I.D. AGAINST CREDIT CARD AND AGAINST YOUR FACE EVERY SINGLE TIME. IF YOU PAID BY CHECK, THEY CHECKED YOUR I.D. AGAINST THE NAME, ADDRESS, SIGNATURE, ETC. ON THE CHECK, AND THEN PHONED THE BANK TO HOLD THE FUNDS BEFORE HANDING YOUR I.D. BACK TO YOU.

Posted by: cotopaxi | November 28, 2006 10:11 AM

Jon, thanks. I'm amazed that nobody else took my angle. The whole stupid company overcharging me has happened to me more times than I can count because it happens every time I get a new cable, telephone, internet, etc account- which has been fairly often because I was in the Air Force until recently and now work as a contractor. Believe me, there's nothing worse than having to spend what little precious free time I have than trying- and failing more often than not- to get some big company or beurocratic nightmare to fix their mistake. It ALWAYS winds up costing me, but certainly not the big corrupt/ mismanaged company.
For example- Just yesterday evening I got a big tax bill for the house I sold in August- the due date is the 30th. The mortgage covered taxes, which were all paid. The new owners should be the ones getting the bill, but for some reason it of course came to me and now I have to be the one to sort it out or I will suffer more. It's all just about enough to make a person want to go live in the woods.

Posted by: Chris | November 28, 2006 10:55 AM

JD:

It's obvious you're not hurting for money.

"Only $30" .... or about 3/4 of a workday (after tax) for somebody making minimum wage. And given what lawyers charge, it's ridiculous to sue. Sure, you could pursue it by yourself in small claims -- but that would mean taking time off from work and most workers at minimum-wage (or slightly above) don't get paid leave.

Now where did I leave my horsewhip ...?

Posted by: Tom Watson Lives! | November 28, 2006 11:06 AM

The "don't bounce a check" line misses the point.

The question is not whether bouncing checks is a good thing - I think we can all agree it is not.

The question is whether the punishment is proportionate to the crime. Some justice systems cut off shoplifters' hands. You don't have to endorse shoplifting to agree that that's a little draconian.

Similarly with the bounced check fees. Sure, bouncing a $10 check causes SOME cost and inconvenience to the bank - maybe a few cents' worth of interest in the week or so before the funds make it into the account, as they do in the vast majority of cases - but it sure as heck isn't $28 worth!

But take heart, folks - luckily, the self-righteous judgments of people like Jon don't have any bearing on what the banking regulations are. Pressure on our elected representatives does...

Posted by: Erica | November 28, 2006 12:05 PM

$31 is nothing. TCF Bank in Minneapolis was charging $39 when I closed my account there -- overdraft fees make up something like three-quarters of their profits. It's disgusting.

Posted by: Pontifex | November 28, 2006 6:11 PM

When it comes to checking ID for credit cards - what about those "self-checkout" registers at grocery stores and places like Costco, BJs, and Home Depot? There were 4 transactions on my credit card, in increasing amounts, and all within 5 minutes at the same Giant grocery store. When I contested the charges, I found out that they were all at Self-Checkouts and the signatures were illegible. I was stuck for the amount (and told I would have to pursue it privately) since I couldn't prove that I hadn't authorized someone to use the card. Since the total amount of the transactions was under $50, it wasn't worth it to pursue it. By that time, Giant no longer had the security tapes for that date, etc.

Posted by: laura | November 29, 2006 10:58 AM

Laura, are you kidding me? Great, now there are no safeguards for us at the unattended self checkouts either? No benefit of the doubt from the bank? This is just more incentive for those of us who are law abiding to join the ranks of the criminal, since why bother being law abiding? No one believes you anyways and you are the one who has to do the clean up, not the criminal...hmmm? Cash only is starting to look mighty good!

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | November 29, 2006 11:44 AM

BBandT charges $34.00 for an Over Draft.

Posted by: David | November 29, 2006 6:49 PM

My thoughts have been this:

Credit cards - Make them like my VISA debit card: My picture is on the front. No worries about signature. Within reason of not gaining or loosing so much weight I don't resemble myself, you know that I am the authorized user.

As far as worries about online transactions - I wish all CC companies would allow you to create another pin with as many characters as you want. If you steal my card, and then want to go to Bestbuy.com, you would have to put in that pin number (that only you know), NOT the security code(if the idiot stole my card, he HAS the security code) that way you know it is me making the transaction.

Posted by: caroline | December 1, 2006 11:12 AM

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