Consumers have been slow to cut up their credit cards and turn on their mobile wallets. But this week, Google Wallet announced a string of features that – to make the proposition more enticing – let mobile wallets do things plastic credit cards don’t.
Google Wallet product managers say they will provide I.D. verification so people can check in for a flight, download virtual boarding passes, and even keep their driver’s license on their mobile phone. (Google declined to say when these features would become available or how many people have downloaded the app thus far.) Through its location-based GPS technology, it already sends shoppers coupons and real-time offers from nearby stores. Experts say these features should finally drive demand for the app. “It offers compelling convenience for consumers and retailers,” says Ben Woolsey, spokesman for credit-card comparison site CreditCards.com.
Debit rewards have been disappearing, but analysts say a new card could trigger a comeback.
Earlier this week, Chase introduced the Disney Visa debit card, which offers cardholders deals including 10% off at select Disney resort restaurants and a $50 onboard credit for Disney Cruise Line vacations. Many perks are identical to those on the two Chase-branded Disney credit cards, except for the rewards: credit customers earn at least 1% back to redeem toward future Disney purchases, while debit customers earn nothing.
Nearly 95% of WSJ.com readers say they would not make purchases with a credit card if they had to pay a surcharge, according to a recent online poll. But many of them already do — at the gas pump.
Merchants are pushing for the right to charge extra for credit-card sales to cover the 2% swipe fee issuers charge for every purchase, the Journal reported Monday. Although retailers are prohibited from implementing surcharges under a settlement agreement with Visa and MasterCard, they are allowed to offer a discount for cash purchases — a distinction many experts say is mostly semantics. “One man’s cash discount is another man’s credit-card surcharge,” says consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky.
Consumers in the market for a new bank account have gotten used to three-figure bonuses. Now, one bank is dangling a $60,000 car — if you have a spare $1 million to stash away.
A new offer from C1 Bank, a Florida community bank with assets of $827 million, promises new customers their choice of one of four new Mercedes in exchange for depositing $1 million in a five-year certificate of deposit. “We’ve had lots of questions about it,” says chief executive Trevor Burgess. “Nobody has taken us up on it yet, but we’re only on day two.”
Remember the craze of temporary credit card numbers? The service, which lets customers create virtual, one-time-use numbers to avoid having their real number stolen while shopping online, made waves a few years back when e-commerce more closely resembled the Wild West than a mall. But they waned in popularity to the point where Discover nixed its program in mid-2011.
Now, MasterCard is bringing back virtual numbers and a linked app for peace of mind on mobile transactions. The globalVCard consumer offering, which will be out this spring, is a “sexier sister” to the brand’s business-focused offering of the same name, says a spokeswoman. The company also plans to launch a mobile payment option at that time.
It’s difficult to choose the top/worst scandals of 2011 for consumers. There were corporate data breaches, wireless customers left incommunicado, and ill-fated new fees such as Bank of America’s $5 debit card charge.
SmartMoney.com asked a range of experts for the five biggest/worst snafus of 2011, the affects of which will still be felt by consumers in 2012. In no particular order, here they are:
Bank of America’s $5 Debit Card Fee
Bank of America announced in September that it would plan to charge a $5 monthly fee for use of its debit cards. Customers revolted. Over 40,000 people joined credit unions as part of a protest that began on Facebook, according to the Credit Union National Association, bringing around $80 million with them. BofA killed the $5 fee in November, saying it had listened to its customers. “The bank was betting that the other mega-banks would follow, making debit cards a thing of the past,” says Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO and co-founder of CardHub.com. “That did not happen.” However, it’s not over yet. Experts warn the banks will search for other ways to make up the 50% reduction in interchange fees merchants pay when purchases are made with debit cards.
When the transaction fees for debit card purchases were slashed Oct. 1., few thought merchants would pass the savings on to consumers. But according to a new study, many retailers actually raised prices.
Banks and retailers fought tooth and nail over debit card transaction fees and, as Pay Dirt previously reported, retailers won. The fees stores pay banks for debit card purchases were halved under the Durbin amendment. The ruling was regarded as a boon for bigger retailers and – in theory at least – for shoppers who preferred debit over credit. The ruling was regarded as a boon for bigger retailers and – in theory at least – for shoppers who preferred debit over credit.
However, smaller retailers say the 21-cent cap on transactions (plus 0.05% of the transaction) hurts them and many upped their prices. The Electronic Payments Coalition, an advocacy group that represents banks and credit unions, says 76% of retailers either raised prices or kept them the same since the lower fees were introduced. Previously, retailers were forced to pay 1%-2% of the transaction – or 44 cents on most small debit card purchases.
Don’t blame the parents. Instead, blame Uncle Sam.
As shoppers and retailers get ready for Black Friday, a new book says Americans could learn a lesson from more prudent first-world countries like Germany. In “Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves,” Sheldon Garon, a professor of history at Princeton University, says Americans are actively encouraged to spend.
Americans live large – literally. Garon says that the average size of the American house has risen from 980 square feet in 1950 to around 2,500 square feet today. “There’s only so much stuff you can put in a small house,” he says. Larger homes mean higher heating bills, more cars, fuel and renovation costs. Pay Dirt spoke to Garon about America’s need to shop.
Pay Dirt: Do Americans spend more than rest of the world?
Bank of America and others abandoned debit card fees, but the proposed charges continue to rankle customers, according to a new survey. Nearly one-in-three adults say they would leave their bank if it introduced similar fees or any other overnight charges, according to a survey by market research consulting firm The Research Intelligence Group or TRiG. (The American Bankers Association and BofA declined to comment on the report.)
Roughly three quarters of those polled believe banks abandoned the debit card fee because they feared a backlash by consumers and, most specifically, a fear of customers leaving their bank (55%), the survey says.
And the flap over fees isn’t going away, as evidenced by the lawsuit the National Retail Federation and other trade groups filed Tuesday against the Federal Reserve arguing that the government agency went too easy on banks when it set limits on the debit-card fees banks charge retailers. The American Bankers Association has repeatedly said that they are losing vast amounts of money because of that deal, which halved the transaction fees collected on every purchase.
Credit unions nationwide got a big boost from Bank Transfer Day on Saturday, capping off an already strong month.
According to the Credit Union National Association, more than 40,000 people joined credit unions as part of the grassroots protest begun on Facebook, bringing with them about $80 million. Organizers encouraged people to switch banks in protest of new fees, such as Bank of America’s since-rescinded $5 debit-card charge. The effort then gained support from the Occupy Wall Street movement and received national attention. More than 60% of credit unions who added new members also made new loans, according to the national organization’s survey of local credit unions.
Many of the Bank Transfer Day movement’s supporters made the switch prior to Saturday. More than 650,000 people have joined credit unions in the past month, and credit unions have added about $4.5 billion in new savings accounts — double the typical monthly account growth — according to the Credit Union National Association. “I’ve been working for credit union trade associations for 23 years, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” says Dave Adams, the CEO of the Michigan Credit Union League.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @SMPayDirt.