Monday, December 05, 2005

A Consumer Complaint

After nearly a year, I think I am within my rights to DISrecommend the HRC credit card. I signed up for the HRC Platinum VISA with the promise of no interest on transferred balances and the assurance that a portion of my purchases would go to the Human Rights Campaign.

I filled out the form and mailed it in. I was soon sent a notice that Providian was providing this donation opportunity. I looked them up and learned that they had recently begun offering themselves as a source of revenue for worthy causes. Shortly thereafter, I received a snazzy credit card with the HRC logo (to show my pride, natch), plus a notification that the balance from my CitiCard had been transferred without trouble.

Oh, wait. I had to pay $75 for a transfer fee. For transferring the balance, of course, that was somewhere in the small print. Let me clarify further: in the small print of the booklet Providian sent with the card. Not on the HRC application form itself, where I had been told to just give them the information on any balances I wanted moved. Okay, it was less than 1%. I paid the fee and decided it was a minor 'gotcha' that came along with the 0% rate for the first year.

The following month, I opened my bill and looked it over. They charged me interest for the fee! I emailed my objection and snail mailed a complaint form to them. It turns out that the $75 fee is defined as a purchase as far as Providian is concerned. Grumble, grumble, grumble. Hey, it's only interest on 75 bucks, right?

Skip ahead a few months. My cousin is getting married in Charleston, and I need to rent a car a little younger than the 1992 Corolla I inherited from my grandmother. I put it on the card, then paid it online when I got home (i.e. after my paycheck went through). I paid back the amount charged to my card within five business days. This was well within the 20 - 30 day grace period most credit cards give customers before they charge interest.

Notice that I said most credit cards. Providian was not one of these. They began charging me interest immediately. When I complained (again), they informed me that existing balances had to be paid before newer debits were touched. But, not to worry, I was getting my points.

Points? Yes, I have points through their system. Not enough to get any benefits, of course, since I had been thoughtlessly frugal with my purchases. After studying both my bill and the 'servicing' site, I also see no indication that Cent One had gone to the Human Rights Campaign, which ostensibly was the reason the card was a desirable one in the first place. I notice that the HRC no longer advertises the credit card on their site or in their emails to me. I think I know why.

I offer this conclusion: if you want to support the HRC, I'd suggest a direct donation or volunteering your personal time. I also offer this warning: Washington Mutual has just bought Providian, and Providian will be taking care of WaMu's credit card customers. I suggest you pay up and bail now.

Feeling surly,

Sarah G


At 7:35 AM, Blogger Frank Glenn said...

I suggest (gasp) Capitalone. I've had their MC since they were (gasp) Bank of Virginia in the '80's (19 not 18 smartypants). I pay within 30 days (which may not be an option for you right now), get great service, use their purchase checks for covering my Wachovia checks paid to the cretins who don't take credit cards (local tax collector, city services, etc.) to get miles, etc.

Of course, read the fine print and do your "alms" on your own time or by direct donation as the "feel good" comeons of "green credit cards", "Third World coffee producers", etc., are largely a bait-and-switch operation.


At 12:20 AM, Anonymous shannon said...

Sara G...

check out Suze Orman... this is not a providian and wamu thing... or HRC thing... sure, it stinks HRC is associated with such drama... but all credit cards would do those samer things. Suze ORman says, watch out for the fees you wind up paying for balance transfers... $75 minimum... and then if you make a balance transfer, DO NOT use this card b/c YES, they charge interest immediately!

thanks Suze!

At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this helpful information and feedback on the card. I have been debating between getting the HRC card and the Rainbow card and this pretty much sealed the deal. Thank you for taking the time to post your experience to help others.


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