Thursday, January 17, 2008

Debit Card Duplicity

Think you're applying for a credit card? Think again.

When Ken Lauderman saw that $159.95 had been deducted from his bank account, he was confused. He hadn't made any big purchases. In fact, he was a bit short on funds, which is why he had recently applied online for the credit card that EDebitPay offered.

"The advertisement said they would provide you this Visa card with a high credit limit, and there was no charge or anything like that," says Lauderman, 42, an Army veteran from Coal Township, Pa. "It basically stated that everybody gets approved, no matter what."

To Lauderman, who wanted to rebuild his credit, the deal seemed too good to be true—and it was. For one thing, the card wasn't a credit card. It was a debit card, of the type you can get from your own bank, he says. Except this one came with an application and processing fee of $159.95, a fee he was unaware of.

Lauderman is one of hundreds of people whose bank accounts were debited by EDebitPay, a Southern California company also known as EDP Technologies Corp. and EDP Reporting. Since 2002 the company has marketed online at least 22 different cards (under names such as Acclaim Visa, Sterling Visa, Elite Plus MasterCard and Secure Deposit MasterCard) and other financial services. Applicants are instructed to provide their names, addresses—and bank account numbers.

Lauderman says the company "made it sound like it was part of the application process, to verify that you had a checking account."

According to a Federal Trade Commission complaint against EDP, once EDP had a customer's account number, it debited the $159.95. Customers who called EDP to complain often couldn't get through or were put on hold. Or they were told that by applying they had consented to the fee and were obligated to pay. Lauderman was also hit with bank fees because he had insufficient funds to cover EDP's debit. The Better Business Bureau helped him get his money back.

Over the last three years, the BBB has received more than 760 complaints nationwide against EDebitPay, says Gary Almond, vice president of operations for the BBB's Southern California branch.

In July a federal judge halted EDP operations after the FTC filed a complaint. The company was allowed to resume operations in August, under court order to refrain from misrepresenting its products and services and from debiting consumers' bank accounts without express consent.

EDP attorney Michael Mallow says the company is working with the FTC to resolve the case. He insists EDebitPay didn't intend to scam anyone: In fact, when EDebitPay lowered the fee from $159.95 to $49.95, "application rates doubled," he says. "The only way you could explain [the increase] is that people must have seen the price." He says EDebitPay has made the fee more visible.

Even if EDebitPay has made changes, the BBB's Almond says, many other companies promote prepaid debit cards online—some legitimate, some not—so it's important not to reveal personal information to unfamiliar companies.

If a card issuer does deduct fees from your account without your consent, here's what to do:

  • As soon as you discover an unapproved withdrawal, inform your bank. Ask for a federal Regulation E form and say you wish to file a dispute. Ed Magedson, founder of, advises on the site to emphasize that you never authorized a debit and to "be persistent."
  • Contact your state attorney general's office. Be prepared to report the website where you applied for the card, how you heard about the company, when and how much money was debited from your account and what resolution you are seeking.
  • Contact the BBB in the state where the issuer is located.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Credit Card Search by Bank...

JP Morgan Chase Bank Credit Cards
JP Morgan Chase
JP Morgan Chase provides many great offers: Platinum, Cash Plus Rewards, Flexible Rewards Card, Value Miles Platinum, Disney, Subaru, Toys "R" Us, Universal Entertainment Card, Gas Rebate Card, Continental Airlines and more.
Capital One
Capital One
Capital One offers credit cards for frequent flyers and shoppers who want to redeem rewards for travel, merchandise or cash back. Capital One also features platinum Visa and MasterCard credit cards with competitive rates designed for all types of credit.
Citibank offers a great choice of cards with rewards, 0% APR for up to 12 months, low ongoing APR, no annual fee and instant online decision. Citi Platinum, Dividend, Diamond, Drivers, Upromise, and AT&T Universal Cards. Also see Citibusiness and student credit cards.
Bank of America Credit Card
Bank of America
Bank of America has many great credit card offers like Platinum Plus VISA Card, Worldpoints Platinum Plus VISA Card, Cash Rewards Platinum Plus MasterCard, World Mastercard with Worldpoints and many more.
American Express
American Express
American Express credit cards can earn up to 5% cash back with Blue CashSM. American Express cards offer free rewards program and great rates. Cards include Blue, Gold and Green Reward cards, Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Platinum, Starwood Preferred and Business Credit Cards.
Discover® Card
Discover Bank Introduces the Discover® More Card with Cashback Bonus® Program - Earn 5% Cashback on gas purchases, and 0% Intro APR. Choose from various More card designs including Clear, Flag, Wildlife, Sealife Collection and more. Also available: Miles Card, Open Road Card, Business Cards, and Student Cards.
First Premier Bank Credit Card
First Premier Bank
First PREMIER Bank offers secured and unsecured credit cards. Get your Credit back on track!
Advanta Credit Card
Advanta Business credit cards offer 0% Intro and as low as 7.99% APR. Choose Between the Platinum Business Card, Advanta Life-of-Balance Platinum and the Advanta Platinum with Rewards.
HSBC Bank offers credit cards that include 5% Earnings and 0% Intro GM Card, the Orchard Bank MasterCard and the HSBC Platinum MasterCard.
First National Bank of Omaha
First National Bank Credit Cards
First National Bank of Omaha offers Visa credit cards for consumers with good credit seeking low interest rates, extended introductory APR periods, rewards and gasoline rebates.
MasterCard Credit Cards
The MasterCard, along with the Visa Card, are the most widely accepted credit cards in the world. MasterCard is owned by over 20,000 member organizations. They serve customers in over 210 countries, and process over 15 million transactions a day in over 180 currencies.
Visa Credit Cards
Visa credit cards are the number one credit card used by people around the world, Visa cards offer exceptional convenience and reliability. Visa has unsurpassed acceptance in more than 150 countries, as well as at Internet merchants. And with a Visa credit card, you can get cash at more than 840,000 ATMs in the Visa Global ATM Network. It's a secure, reliable way to pay for anything you need, anywhere in the world.

Sponsored Link: Credit Card Application

Scam Alert: Reality Check

Vito Fossella knew the $2,985 check he received from the $250,000 "Super Seven Contest" in May was too good to be true.

As a street-smart New Yorker, the U.S. representative for Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn understands that a sure way to be scammed is to believe you've won a prize even if, like him, you never entered the contest.

The congressman knows that checks for "winning" sweepstakes and lotteries—as well as those in "deposed foreign royalty" schemes (such as the infamous Nigerian e-mail scams), work-at-home ploys and other ruses—share a common thread: The victim is instructed to deposit the check in his or her bank account and then wire-transfer the funds.

One of Fossella's constituents did just that, after receiving a check to "help pay the taxes" on a prize she'd "won" in the same Super Seven contest. Police say she lost $9,200.

"It's easy to see why so many people fall for these fake-check scams. The check looks very legitimate and authentic," Fossella says, and the contest representatives have "all the right answers." He says that one of his staffers thought he'd uncovered a telltale sign of a scam on Fossella's check because the word "void" appeared on a photocopy but not on the original. He was wrong: Fossella says that the contest rep reached by phone knew, correctly, that "it was a security precaution to prevent fraud."

Fraud experts say a scam is in the making anytime you receive an unsolicited check or an "overpayment" from an online auction sale or a new business venture, with instructions to forward money. The deposited check may be credited to your account right away, allowing you to wire the requested money. But it could take your bank up to two weeks to authenticate the deposited check. If the check turns out to be counterfeit, you'll be held liable for the wired funds and could face criminal fraud and counterfeiting charges.

Here's what else you should know:

  • Don't be fooled by a check's appearance. "Anyone can buy check paper [with watermarks and other security features] off the shelf that spells 'void' on photocopies but not on the original," says Kim Bruce of the U.S. Secret Service. It's likely to be bogus if you don't see the word "void" on a photocopy.
  • Do a Web search on the check issuer. Fossella's check appeared to have been issued by the Berkley Insurance Co. in Greenwich, Conn., but a phony company, with a phone number in Canada, had mailed the Super Seven award notification letter and the check. Berkley spokesman Ira Lederman says the check likely was created from a legitimate Berkley check mailed in the last year but stolen from the post office in Canada. (Note: Participating in foreign lotteries and contests violates U.S. law.)
  • Examine the check for inaccuracies such as an incorrect Zip Code or a misspelled street name in the address of the issuer.
  • Look for a nine-digit bank routing number and an account number in the lower left corner of the check; Fossella's check had neither. "If the routing number is missing, or has more or fewer than nine digits, it's no doubt a fake," says Charles Bruce, executive director of the National Check Fraud Center ( in Charleston, S.C. Still, scammers often make up routing and account numbers to fool their victims.

If you receive a suspicious check, contact the U.S. Secret Service at Report checks received by mail to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455, toll-free.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of AARP/Sterling's Scam-Proof Your Life.

Scam Alert... Stealing Home

By Sid Kirchheimer

In 2002, when Catherine Meads was facing foreclosure on her home in Washington, help came knocking. . . literally. A man appeared unannounced at her front door with a packet of information. "It said, 'Money to lend' and 'Save your house,' " says Meads, 65, who had been unable to work and pay her mortgage after breaking both arms in an accident and caring for two dying siblings.

Meads said the man, an agent for a businessman named Vincent Abell, told her he could help her with a loan to stop foreclosure. But after quickly signing the papers the day of her foreclosure, Meads discovered that she had signed away her home and that the $9,203 loan to "reinstate her mortgage" was in fact a payment from Abell to buy her house.

"They gave me no chance to read anything, and they didn't discuss the terms. They just had me sign," Meads says. She now rents her home from Modern Management Corp., a company Abell controls. Abell and company officials deny any wrongdoing.

About the same time, in Hastings, Minn., Kevin Brown, 46, was facing foreclosure on the home he had built himself on his family's farm. A divorce had left him $6,000 in debt, so he turned to Home Funding Corp. to refinance his mortgage. Instead, the company got the house. "It turns out they had forged documents," he says. "They even had my 'signature' on a document that took possession of everything inside the house, including my children's piggy banks."

Brown got his house back only after the state attorney general documented scores of similar schemes by Home Funding. The lawyer for James Hoffman, who runs the company, declined to comment.

One in 25 U.S. homeowners faces foreclosure each year. Tens of thousands are duped by predatory "rescue" lenders who promise 11th-hour help but instead trick their way into taking ownership of the properties.

Older people are often targeted because they tend to have high home equity but heavy debt from medical bills, says Steve Tripoli of the nonprofit National Consumer Law Center in Boston and co-author of a recent report, "Dreams Foreclosed."

So-called rescuers learn of impending foreclosures from newspapers and specialty publications. Scammers get the properties by falsifying papers or tricking harried homeowners into unknowingly signing sale documents.

"If you're facing foreclosure, contact a lawyer immediately," says AARP attorney Jean Constantine-Davis, who represents Meads and others suing Modern Management. (If legal action has not yet begun on your foreclosure, call AARP Foundation Litigation at (202) 434-2121 for information.) Try to arrange a flexible mortgage payment schedule. If a loan becomes necessary, contact your state attorney general to find credible lenders.

Scam Alert: Rebate Runaround

Don’t get snagged on money-back offers.

Last August, Sharon Dirlam of Santa Barbara, Calif., finally received her promised $300 rebate for buying a new computer.

"All it took was 29 e-mails, three phone calls, several letters and five months of my time," Dirlam says. "I had to resend everything two, three times, and still I didn't get all the money. It's clear to me they wanted me to quit, but getting my rebate became a personal quest—one of the most exhausting experiences of my life."

Retired bank employee Larry Vansickel of Altoona, Pa., is just as tired—but not as lucky—from trying to claim a $100 rebate for a swimming pool cleaner purchased in July 2005.

He had to send the store receipt, original UPC bar code, personal information and copies of his driver's license and electric bills—all by registered mail that cost him $8, Vansickel, 62, says. After that, he says, he fulfilled a requirement to resubmit everything one year from the purchase date. A few months later his rebate request was rejected. The reason: "I missed the deadline on that second submission by 10 days," he says.

Sound familiar? Rebate gripes have soared nearly 400 percent since 2002, says Steve Cox of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Rebate fulfillment companies—businesses hired by manufacturers or retailers to handle such promotions—now rank 35th among 3,900 industries and services in the generation of complaints.

Rebates are offered to boost product sales, with an estimated $6 billion distributed to Americans each year. Still, most rebates go unclaimed. One reason: Rules are so complicated or vague that customers don't even bother, says Matthew Gold, an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission.

The biggest complaints of customers who do bother are for "late delivery, unclear terms or just not receiving the rebate when the buyer meets the requirements," Gold says. "The problem is huge."

How can you avoid hassles and get the rebate you expect?

  • Know the terms before you buy. Inspect the terms on the rebate form or store receipt—or grill the retailer about them. Current law places no limit on the hoops you must jump through to get a rebate, but those hoops, Gold says, must be disclosed.
  • Make copies of everything. This includes store receipts, bar codes, forms, product containers and serial numbers. For the clearest copies of bar codes, take digital photos of them and print the photos from a computer. (One reason rebate issuers require original bar codes is to protect against customers who send multiple rebate requests for one offer.)
  • Answer every question. Any excuse to deny your claim may be used against you. If asked for your fax number, for example, write "I don't have one" rather than leave the field blank.
  • Act quickly. Consumers used to have 60 to 90 days to submit a claim for rebates, says Timothy Silk, assistant professor of marketing at the University of British Columbia. Now the average is 15 to 30 days.
  • Use certified mail and ask for a receipt. Forms should also be handwritten; if typed, they raise suspicions of mass-mailing rebate fraud.
  • Shop where rebates are easy. Stores like Staples, Cingular and Costco let customers complete rebate forms at checkout or online.
  • Complain. Gold suggests writing directly to the CEO of the product's manufacturer and retailer instead of the rebate fulfillment house. Or, if you feel terms weren't fully disclosed or your rebate doesn't arrive, contact the FTC at 1-877-382-4357 toll-free or, your local BBB, or your state attorney general's office.

Door-to-Door Deception

Unwitting magazine subscribers may be buying trouble

"Heather" came knocking on a noble mission: "She said she was a soccer player at Iowa State University and her team was collecting money to buy books for children in need," recalls Harriett Summa.

The young woman who appeared at her door in May was well dressed, articulate and helpful. She asked if she could do any chores for Summa, and then changed a light bulb in the garage. Summa, 86, who lives near Des Moines, immediately got her checkbook.

Then Heather got pushy. "I first offered $20, but she said, 'Couldn't you make it $40? I have a quota I need to make,' " Summa says. "I figured I could afford it, so I wrote the check for $40."

Two nights later, the local TV news reported on a rash of door-to-door scams across central Iowa, all by a young woman falsely claiming she was an ISU soccer player seeking charitable donations—and duping dozens of people out of $5 to $120 a visit.

"I was furious," Summa says. She got even angrier when she realized that Heather had given her a "donation receipt"—backdated to 2005—from Quality Subscriptions Inc., of Buford, Ga. Her donation was in fact for magazines she'd never ordered—and Heather had never even mentioned magazines. Quality Subscriptions is part of United Family Circulation, which has drawn more than 80 complaints nationwide to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for falsely selling magazines door to door.

With a backdated receipt, Summa had no way to get a refund because federal law allows only three days to cancel a purchase from a door-to-door solicitor. (By law a salesperson must inform you of your right to cancel.) But Summa was able to freeze her $40 check and change her bank accounts to avoid identity theft.

Complaints about United Family and its subsidiaries say their pitchmen misrepresent themselves as neighbors or students raising money for charities or scholarships. The company says it doesn't condone or teach this approach in its training.

Consumer advocates say the salespeople are typically teens and young adults who themselves are sometimes victims of unscrupulous companies that lure them with false promises of money and travel but pay them little.

Magazines are often marked up 300 percent, and "the odds are you'll never get them, especially if you pay in cash," says Phil Ellenbecker, an electrical engineer in Wisconsin who tracks door-to-door crimes on his website,

Besides scamming people, Ellenbecker says, crews pushing magazines and other products have committed at least 280 felonies in recent years. Older people are most vulnerable. They invite salespeople in, he says, and when "the resident's in the kitchen getting them a glass of water, the solicitor is stealing their medication, checkbooks and wallets."

After a magazine salesman killed a 77-year-old New Jersey woman in 2004, her town adopted a law requiring criminal background checks for door-to-door solicitors. Such laws are being considered elsewhere, including Wisconsin. "Very little protection is afforded to individuals," says state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D. "My advice: Just say no from inside your locked door."

Scam Alert: When Trouble Calls

Don’t get hung up by telemarketers.

In June Rosemary McDougall got an unsolicited phone call at dinnertime from a telemarketer selling automotive warranties.

"I find it more than coincidental," says her son, Graham, "that she had taken her car to the dealer for repairs the day before. But they deny providing her car or contact information to the caller."

The phone solicitor had specific details about her 2002 Dodge Durango—no longer under factory warranty but driven only 21,000 miles—and persuaded her to buy a "protection" policy for $295.

"It sounded like a good deal," says the 82-year-old widow, a cancer survivor who lives in Metairie, La. She gave her credit card number to the salesman—but immediately regretted it.

The next day, McDougall, a retired IRS auditor, called Colby Evans, the salesman from Automotive Warranty Solutions. The Florida-based company has generated numerous complaints, often for telemarketing to people who, like McDougall, are enrolled in the National Do Not Call Registry.

"I left several messages, but he never returned them," Rosemary McDougall says. Her son, a gerontologist at the University of Texas School of Nursing, Austin, intervened and eventually reached Evans. "He told me, 'Your mother bought it, and we're not going to cancel.' Then he hung up on me."

Two weeks later a bill arrived in the mail from Automotive Warranty Solutions. "It was for $2,700, the 'balance due' on that $295 policy, which already had been charged on my mother's credit card," says Graham McDougall Jr. "I have no doubt they were trying to scam her. She was vulnerable and exhausted from her chemotherapy."

Only after Graham complained to the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission and AARP did his mother get her $295 refunded and the policy canceled. Automotive Warranty Solutions CEO Ralph Mancuso also wrote a letter of apology to McDougall, but he declined to comment to Scam Alert.

Since taking effect in 2003, the Do Not Call Registry has significantly curtailed the number of unwanted phone sales calls. Still, the FTC, which manages the list, gets 3 million complaints a year from registrants. Here's how to prevent unwanted sales calls—and protect yourself if you make a telemarketing purchase you later regret:

  • Re-register. Those enrolled in the Do Not Call Registry must re-register after five years. To verify when you need to re-register—or sign up for the first time—visit or call 1-888-382-1222 toll-free.
  • Act locally. Some states operate their own do-not-call registries. Go to for a list of state programs.
  • Check caller ID. Telemarketers are required to display their phone numbers and, if available, the name of the company selling the products. Be wary of ID numbers marked "private" or "unknown"—and never buy from a caller who won't give a callback number.
  • Sleep on it. No matter how enticing the offer, don't buy during the sales call. Don't reveal your credit card number without getting a written contract with all the terms, and don't trust anyone who asks for a fee upfront.
  • Know the rules. Some states allow up to three days to cancel a purchase from a telemarketer; in others the sale isn't final until you receive written confirmation from the seller—and there may be a brief grace period after that.
  • Complain. You can file a complaint about unsolicited calls with your state consumer office or with the FTC (go to and click on "File a Complaint") if you've been on its registry for at least 31 days.

To learn more, go to the National Fraud Information Center at and click on "Telemarketing Fraud."

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of AARP/Sterling's Scam-Proof Your Life.

Scam Alert:

..I was a cellphone hostage.

As a consumer, you might expect that when a new $100 product stops working days after it's removed from the box,

you'd get a refund or quick exchange—and an apology.

What I got instead were charges for shipping, because the company doesn't allow in-store exchanges, and empty promises that customer care would return my calls. I also was given a choice: either pay more for what I already purchased or take my business elsewhere, which would cost me $800, the penalty for canceling my service contract.

Yes, I was a cellphone hostage.

Soon after I renewed a one-year family calling plan with T-Mobile in July, one of my four new phones stopped working. After two months, I finally got a replacement for a total of $184. It took 12 calls to T-Mobile Customer Care plus unanswered letters, unreturned calls to top executives and a salesman's threat to evict me from the T-Mobile store where I returned the defective Razr V3 phone.

My experience, says Brian Brueckman, vice president for T-Mobile Customer Care, is "the rare exception."

Yet in the past three years, consumers filed more complaints about wireless providers than about any other industry, according to the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Blame it on the early termination fee (ETF). That's the $150 to $200 per-line penalty for canceling a service contract before its expiration date. "Because of the ETF, cellphone companies can do what they want," says consumer watchdog Ed Mierzwinski of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in Washington. "They provide terrible service and say, 'If you want to walk, then pay us $200 and you can walk.' "

A 2005 PIRG survey of 1,000 households found that nearly half of cellphone users said they would switch carriers if they didn't have to pay the fee.

The Federal Communications Commission oversees the wireless industry and takes consumer complaints (1-888-225-5322 toll-free or at but has not initiated enforcement actions. The agency has thwarted efforts by states to enact laws to curb abusive practices by wireless carriers, says AARP attorney Stacy Canan.

FCC spokeswoman Rosemary Kimball didn't respond to queries about consumer protection or disclose how many complaints the FCC has investigated, citing confidentiality.

Here are ways to handle service problems:

  • Complain. "If you fight with a cell company, recognize that you're David versus Goliath," says Mierzwinski. He advises informing your state attorney general, utilities commission and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates.

  • Write your elected officials. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., have introduced a bill that would require wireless companies to prorate penalty fees and allow customers to make changes in their calling plans without extending their contracts. AT&T and Verizon have already amended their policies.

  • Ask questions. Don't sign a contract without knowing the company's policy for handling unforeseen problems. Customers must have at least 14 days to cancel a contract—without penalties.

Articles By:

Monday, January 14, 2008

From Baby to Social Security Boomer


Alyne Ellis of AARP's Prime Time Focus talks with Kathleen Casey-Kirschling about what it's like being the first baby boomer and a spokesperson for a generation.

In February, Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, the nation's very first baby boomer, will become the first in her generation to get Social Security.

The retired teacher, born just after midnight on Jan. 1, 1946, has applied online for early benefits at 62, using a website ( created in 2000 partly to handle the coming influx of 78 million boomers.

Her early retirement foreshadows the strain that fellow boomers will place on Social Security—as well as Medicare. By 2030, there will be 84 million people on Social Security, compared with 50 million now, and 79 million on Medicare, versus 44 million today.

Casey-Kirschling anticipates many others like her will apply for Social Security early. "It's a topic of conversation with baby boomers now," she says.

About half of retirees do take it early, with slightly more women than men making that choice. The consistent pattern defies predictions that more people will work longer.

"You read a lot about people choosing to work and delay retirement, but that hasn't really shown up yet," says Mark Lassiter, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration. Still, Andrew Eschtruth of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College foresees "a gradual recognition of the need to work longer."

As currently structured, Social Security faces a financial shortfall around 2042. But Paul Hodge, director of Harvard University's Generations Policy Project, predicts another, less-noted concern: The declining value of the dollar will create a problem for Social Security by effectively reducing benefits. "Down the road, you're going to have a huge groundswell for a major increase in benefits," he says.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Helpful Terms on Credit Card

Annual Fee: Various card issuers charge an annual fee, which can help offset costs that issuers incur in maintaining accounts.

Automated Teller Machine (ATM): Lets you perform banking transactions anywhere and at anytime. By using a debit or ATM card at an ATM, you can withdraw cash from checking or savings accounts, make a deposit or transfer money from one account to another or perform other functions. You can also get cash advances using a credit card at an ATM. You should also be aware that many banks charge transaction fees - for using another bank's ATM.

Cash Advance: You can obtain cash on the spot by using your card at a bank or an ATM. The amount of the cash advance is deducted from your available credit line or funds on deposits. A fee is often charged when obtaining cash advances. In addition, the interest rate is usually higher than on purchases and there is typically no grace period. (A cash advance is different from a withdrawal you make with your ATM card.)

Credit Line/ Line of Credit: Also referred to as your credit limit. This is the maximum amount you can borrow using your card.

Grace Period: The time - usually 20-25 days - when you're not charged interest for purchases you've made. For example, if the billing date on your credit card bill is May 1 and you have paid your prior balance in full, you may have until May 20 to pay your new balance in full. If you do, you will not be charged interest. If your payment arrives after May 20 - or if you don't pay the entire balance - you may be charged interest from the date of purchase as posted. Some accounts have no grace period, which means interest is charged on purchases from the date they are posted.

Merchant: Location or store where purchases are made.

Online Banking: Online systems enable you to plug into a host of banking services from a personal computer by connecting with the bank's computers over the Internet.

PIN: Personal Identification Number: Secret code you choose for your card that enables you to access your money or perform banking transactions through the ATM as well as make purchases without signing a sales receipt at merchants that have PIN pads. Don't share your PIN with anyone.

Travel Assistance Services: Access helpful information on travel requirements including documentation (visas, passports), immunizations or currency exchange rates. Enrollment is automatic for eligible cardholders and the assistance service is free to cardholders.

Worldwide Acceptance: With more than 22 million acceptance locations, no payment card is more widely accepted globally than MasterCard.

Fraud Protection

How to use your card safely and securely.

To help prevent fraudulent use of your card, here are steps you should take.

  • Sign new cards as soon as you receive them.
  • Keep your card account numbers and personal identification number (PIN#) in a confidential place.
  • Check your cards periodically to make sure none are missing.
  • Destroy and dispose of copies of receipts, airline tickets, travel itineraries, anything that displays your card numbers.
  • Memorize your PIN.
  • Check out unfamiliar companies by calling your local consumer protection agency.
  • Don't provide information that you're uncomfortable giving.
  • NEVER give anyone the password that you use to log on to your online account or Internet Service Provider.
  • Don't provide financial account information unless you are paying for a purchase using that account.

What to do if you suspect fraud

Call the bank or financial institution that issued your card immediately. Your issuer may want to cancel your current card and issue you a new one. Check with your issuer to verify that your mailing address has not been changed.

If you still have your card but fraudulent purchases have been made, call your issuer to report the fraud and request a new card.

Also, contact the credit bureaus to let them know that fraud has occurred. A "Fraud Alert" message will be placed on your file. You should also request a copy of your credit report and review it carefully.

Using your Card

The advantages of worldwide access, convenience and security.

Where you can use it

MasterCard can be used in many stores, restaurants, hotels, airlines, car rental agencies, petrol stations, and other locations worldwide. In fact, MasterCard is accepted at millions of locations around the globe.

How to know if an establishment accepts MasterCard

Check for the MasterCard® logo, which is usually displayed prominently. If you do not see the MasterCard logo, ask if the card is accepted.

Shopping safely online with MasterCard

MasterCard continues to implement and enforce strict security features for online shopping. In addition, here are steps you can take.

  • Check the seller's reputation.
  • Learn as much as you can about companies or individuals before you do business with them.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau and consumer agencies to find out about complaints.
  • See if the seller's Web site has a feedback forum where other people who have done business with the seller can put information about their experience with that seller.
  • Ask your friends about their favorite online merchants.
  • Stay vigilant. Just because a seller has no complaints or a good reputation doesn't guarantee that things will go smoothly for you.

To learn more about an organization:
  • Check their Web site for a feedback page where customers can offer complaints or praise.
  • Ask others about online merchants and other organizations that they've dealt with.

Handling merchant problems

In some circumstances, you have the right to withhold payment for unsatisfactory merchandise or services. Contact your card issuer to discuss the issue and determine the proper action.

Choosing a Card

How to find the card that's right for you.

There are several factors to consider, such as card features, worldwide acceptance, annual fees and more.

Interest rates

These charges will determine the costs you pay on your card over time. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the yearly interest rate or percentage rate that you pay on an outstanding balance in the form of interest. Finance charges are what you pay for the use of borrowed money. Interest is charged as a percentage of your outstanding balance (purchases and charges reduced by payments or credits posted).


Rewards programs can enhance the value of credit and debit cards. A rewards program is typically based on accumulating points based on the purchases or transactions you make on your card. These points can be redeemed for incentives, including various products and services, airline travel, vacations and more.

Annual fees

Various card issuers charge an annual fee, which can help offset costs that issuers incur in maintaining accounts.

Worldwide acceptance

An important aspect of a card is its level acceptance. With more than 22 million acceptance locations, no card is accepted in more places and by more merchants than MasterCard.

How to apply for a card

MasterCard International does not issue cards directly. Instead, cards are issued through our member institutions.

Understanding Credit

What is credit?

Credit is an agreement between a lending organization (such as a bank, store or credit card company) and you, the borrower. That agreement puts money in your hand, in your bank, or on a credit card, for your use. The terms of repayment, including interest charges, are usually set up front and are governed by an agreement between you and your issung bank.

Differences between Credit and Debit cards

Credit Card
You can make purchases up to your credit limit. When the bill comes, you must pay at least the minimum balance. Banks charge interest on unpaid balances. Generally, if you pay the entire bill at the end of the month, you will not have to pay interest charges. If you maintain an outstanding balance, you will be charged interest at a predetermined annual percentage rate (APR), which differs from issuer to issuer.

Debit Card
Funds are automatically taken from your account to cover charges. You can spend the total amount that is in your account.

Establishing credit

First, apply for a credit card that meets your needs and spending habits. See Find a Card. As you pay off your purchases in a timely manner, you'll build a good credit history.

Maintaining good credit

The most important thing to do is pay your credit card bill regularly. Pay the entire bill, or as much as you can afford (at least the minimum payment), each month.

If your bill is delivered late or if you won't be able to pay it on time, contact your card issuing company to make payment arrangements.

If you know you'll be carrying a balance each month, consider a credit card with a low interest rate. And be sure to learn the impact of compounding interest - the amount you're charged in interest on top of purchase and interest charges unpaid in previous months.