Thursday, May 3, 2007

Rebate Credit Cards: The Latest Borderline Phone Company Scam

Back in January, I upped and left my old cell-phone carrier Sprint to join my fiance on her plan with Cingular/ATT. While I had no real qualms with Sprint, Cingular presented a better all around deal for us, and thus far I have been mostly happy with them, which is pretty much on par with cell phone companies in general... complete satisfaction with a cell phone company is not humanly possible, as you will see in my mini-rant...

So as part of my switching to Cingular and locking in on a 2-year contract, I was given a $100 rebate credit card after purchasing my phone. For starters, rebates are perhaps the most agonizing way to save money on a product purchase. Instead of getting 100 bucks back at the register right then and there, you have to cut out the UPC code on the box, mail it in, wait a few weeks, and now, deal with another credit card in your wallet. It's no longer a check that the company sends that you can drop in the bank or turn into cold hard cash. I could at least tolerate that scenario.

The credit card, I think, is a borderline scam. My $100 card, after several retail purchases, has dwindled down to about $6 remaining on the balance. But it's not like I can pay for a $40 item, use this rebate card and max it out, then pay the remaining $34 or so with cash or another credit card tocomplete the transaction. Nope-- the rebate card gets denied and I have to pay in full some other way. So essentially if I want to use the complete $100 that was given to me, I have to make a purchase that costs exactly $6.24 (or whatever the exact amount is), or else I forfeit that money after a year from activating it.

So is this hassle the end of the world for me? Of course not. But it's just another little dig at the consumer, as far as I'm concerned. Cingular will probably end up saving a few cents or a few bucks on my rebate card because I most likely won't be able to max out the card to the exact penny. Figure in the thousands of other folks out there in the same situation, and Cingular just pocketed themselves thousands of dollars that should otherwise NOT BE THEIR MONEY!!! To me, that's rather scammish. Just give us lowly consumers the cold hard cash and let us live our lives (or better yet, ditch the rebate and make us happy with a discount right at the register--- the old fashioned way). Instead, unless I'm totally missing an alternative option of maximizing my rebate amount, I have to precisely plan my purchases in advance in order to get 100% of my rebate. Plus the fact that they're probably tracking my purchases and will be marketing to me according to my patterns.

Just what I want... more offers to buy stuff and get a rebate card in return.

All in all, not a great way to introduce yourself to a new customer, huh?

(Thanks to this blog for the image!)

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