June 25 2008 by Ellen Roseman
There’s lots of this upgrading going on. Last Saturday, I wrote about Visa cardholders being upgraded to Infinite Visa and Amex Gold cardholders being upgraded to Platinum.
After the column was published, I also heard from Sears cardholders who were getting letters about being upgraded to a Sears MasterCard.
Upgrading is good, I guess, if you get more benefits for the same annual fee. But why can’t the card issuers let you keep the same number as before?
It takes time and effort to change all the pre-authorized payments you may have linked to your credit card. Credit card companies are offering to do these transfers for you and giving you bonus points for the inconvenience. But that requires monitoring, as some cardholders found when their bonus points did not arrive as promised.
Another issue is the use of negative option marketing. The companies send you a letter describing the change. If you don’t want the upgraded card, you have to call and opt out. If you do nothing, you get a new card in the mail — whether you want it or not.
This can be a breeding ground for identity thieves, a forensic accountant told me. What if a fraudster sends out such letters and asks you to call a special number to opt out? There you are, giving out confidential information on the phone, without realizing you’re talking to the wrong people.
His tip: Always call the number on the back of your credit card, not the one that you’re given in a letter or email.