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Free Knicks Tickets, for a Spare $100K

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Chase is offering NYC customers free court-side Knicks tickets in exchange for a $100,000 deposit.

Last weekend, I walked into a nearby Chase branch in search of a higher interest rate on my savings account. No luck there, I was told. Rates were dismally low, but a customer service representative told me the bank had a new promotion: Did I have $100,000 to deposit into a savings account? If so, Chase will give me two free front-row tickets to attend a New York City-based sports match, musical or concert.

It’s official: the era of freebies in exchange for opening up a bank account is over. Before the recession, banks gave iPods, toasters as well as cash to new customers – and that was in addition to interest rates of 4% or higher. In exchange, consumers had to deposit just a few hundred dollars into their account. Now, banks are looking for customers flush with cash and offering an incentive so small one wonders who would be attracted to it.

But apparently some consumers are enticed, the Chase rep told me. She suggested comparing the interest rate banks offer to stash that amount of cash in an account compared to what the return is with these tickets. On average, the two free tickets – available for shows at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall or the Beacon Theatre — had a value of around $400, which essentially translates into a 0.40% return. So, I dug around a bit, and found that yes, that’s how much two front-row tickets for the Cirque du Soleil show at the Garden, for example, cost. Or for a higher return on their money, the bank will give customers four front-row tickets to family shows, including the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which cost a total of $1,000 – essentially a 1% return.

But do consumers need six digits in savings to earn interest nowadays? No, they don’t. Top yielding savings accounts still offer at least 1%, says Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com. And they require much less in cash: anywhere from as little as $0 to as much as $500 to open the account. Consumers can still find that rate on money market or savings accounts at Sallie Mae (1.10%), First Trade Union Bank (1.05%), and 1% at American Express and Discover banks.

Of course, the new promotion is a sign of the times: For deep-pocketed consumers who are tired of moving their cash from one low rate account to another, the opportunity to get free tickets to an expensive event might be worth it, says McBride. The promotion also suggests that banks no longer need to lure in customers at any cost. Bank deposits are already at a historic record high of $9.8 trillion, according to the latest data from Market Rates Insight. So, there’s little reason to roll out the red carpet unless the bank stands to make more in return.

A Chase spokesman says the bank “recently began a broad relationship with Madison Square Garden, which allows us to offer customers access to very attractive events.”

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    • Take one family stggurling to pay their $2000 rent and another family who is under water and has stopped paying their $2000 mortgage payment. Both families are renting and both have no equity; one family is renting from a bank, the other from a landlord. You could make a case that the family with the mortgage is in a much better position, they can stop paying their rent and live rent-free for two years before having to relocate, the family without the mortgage can last 6 months at best before being evicted. This is just an attempt to hand the banks a big fat straw sunk into the 401k savings milkshake of the uneducated, with the government getting a nice tip (vig) in the form of income tax payments pulled forward. This will also pull forward some huge amount of social unrest, perhaps followed by some kind of smell, perhaps even a stench.

    • Our story parallels what I have been nridaeg in this blog of people dealing with Chase. After confirmation one day that appropriate docs have been received, the next day, I get a totally different paradigm new hoops to jump through. This has happened EVERY time I have called and that is VERY frequently. These new hoops involve considerable additional time and expense that I can hardly afford as I need to keep making Profit and Loss statements for which I need professional help to prepare.Here’s an example, on Tuesday I was told to get P & Ls for Oct and Nov separately. On Thursday, I was told, no get P & Ls Jan to Dec 2010. By the way, if you get this request, you must sign and date each page of your own P & L. That’s another little glitch they have inaugurated just FYI. Then, I was told, we sent you a letter requesting such and such docs and you have exceeded the 30 days to comply, so you are out of modification status. It really doesn’t matter that I sent all that documentation then? Oh no, we don’t have it. Oh really, well my cover letters and docs from the branch confirm that it was all sent. Hmmm, we didn’t get page 4 of the RMA or whatever other glib remark they can come up with which, by the way, is untrue.Another helpful tip fax them through your local branch of Chase. They give you a copy of the verification. You might wonder, if you fax directly through Chase to Chase, how could they not receive the docs? I do too, but at least I have their own verification, right?!! Another perk is that the staff at the branch wonders about why you are submitting hundreds of pages at a time and they are generally pleasant as opposed to the non-competents on the phones.I was actually told that I had to stop making payments in order to get any loan modification. Then I was told I had to make up all the payments I couldn’t make in the first place. We are in real estate and have seen our income drop 80%. We have tried to work with Chase for nearly 3 years now. We have made loan modification trial payments for 14 months now and are always encouraged to keep making them. I have evidence that the payments are applied to the loan. However, yesterday I was told the payments aren’t actually going towards our loan payment since they are less than the actual payment, but are held in suspension. What the hell is that? Am I working toward loan modification or not? The telephone contact for that day couldn’t explain.I am desperately seeking a venue to join with others in filing a class action suit. I don’t know where to begin. Does anyone have information that would help us? We live in WA state. Diane

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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