What should come in the mail today but a notice that, o lucky me, I soon will be receiving a shiny new gold-plated MasterCard to replace my ancient Sears credit card, which I thought I’d canceled years ago.
Huh. “Your new card gives you MORE!”
“Earn Rewards Points!…
…with FREE membership in Sears Choice Rewards when you call 1-800-669-8488 and enroll by 10/31/09″
“Plus Earn Up To 1,500 Bonus Points!!!!!”
Be still, my heart. I can hardly contain my excitement.
At first I thought this thing is a straight-out replacement for the Sears card, which materialized some time back when I bought some appliances on one of those 12-month no-interest deals. If you have the cash to pay upfront, these offers can be played to your benefit: you just set the money aside a high-interest online bank account or into your credit union’s highest-paying account or 9-month CD. Then in the 11th month, you pay off the debt in full. Allows you to earn a few dollars on the float. Makes you feel smug.
However, a study of the fine print reveals that you don’t lose your regular Sears charge account unless you call an 800 number and have the MasterCard activated. If you do nothing, well then…nothing happens. The Sears card does not go away, and the MasterCard does not function. But if you don’t want them to send you an unsolicited credit card, the better to expose you to identity theft, then you have to waste some time navigating their punch-a-button maze to call and tell them to knock it off.
Well, I thought I’d closed that Sears account. Dug up the old, dusty file folder and found…nay. The last time they sent me a shiny new blue Sears charge card, I just dropped it in the folder and forgot it. The sticker with the phone number to activate it is still stuck to the front of the card.
I carry two cards in my wallet because some establishments refuse to pay American Express’s exorbitant merchant’s fees. That notwithstanding, I use AMEX because a) Costco won’t take any other card at its gas pumps and b) it gives me a $250 to $500 kickback once a year. Since I don’t carry cash, I need a back-up card if I’m to do business with retailers and service providers who won’t accept AMEX. That feels like one card too many for me: given my choice, I’d use only one card. So I absolutely positively do not need a MasterCard with a Sears logo on it.
This fine offer came in a first-class envelope labeled “credit-card replacement information—open immediately.” What it really is is issuance of an unsolicited credit card. I did not ask for this card, whose interest rate can go as high as 29.99%, and I don’t want it. Nor do I appreciate having to waste my time in their punch-a-button maze to get rid of the thing.
Didn’t they make that illegal?
If you’re a Sears customer, watch for this coming your way. And if you already have a perfectly fine general-purpose credit card, ask yourself why you need another one. If the answer is “I don’t,” note that you have to call them to “opt out” of this unsolicited gift.