A common phone call that new credit cardholders get from their bank is an offer for credit card add-on products, such as protection against fraud and identity theft. Payment protection is another service offered regularly, providing a monthly payment to the cardholder’s account if they lose their job or are sick in the hospital.
Credit monitoring and debt-cancellation products are optional and are paid for through a monthly or annual fee.
Before signing up for these products, consumers should know some facts about them, such as that they’re not required to activate a new credit card. There are also some questions to ask the salesperson to make sure they’re only getting the add-on products they want. Here are some things to consider:
Buying them is optional: Not only are such products not required to be purchased before a credit card is activated, but some salespeople imply that they’re free. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that one bank didn’t ask consumers if they wanted the product, but confirmed enrollment by asking for their city of birth.
The bank also made it seem like consumers were receiving a benefit or simply updating their account, or that they were agreeing to receive more information about the product.
Services paid for not always provided: The CFPB has also found that some cardholders didn’t receive the credit monitoring services they paid for because the bank didn’t properly process their authorization or match the cardholder’s information to their files.
Hard to cancel: Debt cancellation products can be marketed as easy to cancel, but that’s not always the case.
The CFPB found that a bank had a sales incentive plan that paid customer service representatives for a “save” when they kept a customer enrolled after attempting to cancel. Consumers were often unable to cancel unless they were willing to demand cancellation multiple times in succession.
Get it in writing: Before buying any credit card add-on products, review the terms, costs and benefits in writing. When asking for written information, make it clear that you don’t want to enroll in anything until you have the written information and decide you want the product.
Also avoid “trial periods” until you read the terms of the trial period in writing. Some trial periods allow the company to begin automatically charging you for the product at the end of the trial period, unless you call or write the company.
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