I have a corporate ATM card for my corporate checking and savings accounts at Wells Fargo. It's a VISA branded debit card, which is rather interesting because of some history.
Back in 1969, seeing how successful the roughly ten-year old Diners' Club card had been for professionals, someone at Bank of America got the idea of creating a credit card. Diners Club was - and still is - a charge card, like American Express Gold, you get the bill at the end of the month and you are required to pay it off in full. With a credit card, you can carry the balance over from month to month, and of course, pay interest at rates that would make a loan shark blush for being too greedy.
So Bank of America creates the Bank Americard, and does so by sending out thousands of unsolicited cards out to prospective customers, a large number of whom use the card, run up large bills and never pay. But enough did that the experiment was successful, and eventually Bank of America would spin off its credit card to a new organization called Visa International, and the card would be renamed Visa. (Bank of America still brands their Visa cards as Bank Americard.)
Well, after seeing how successful Bank of America was with their credit card, United California Bank (which was not chartered in California, my understanding is that it was chartered in Panama) decided to create their own competing card, which they could also make money by licensing to other banks, which Bank of America would later do, which is why London's Barclays bank issued a Bank Americard in the blue, white and gold color scheme, under the name Barclay Card. The card that United California Bank created was called Master Charge (with the nickname "The Interbank Card").
United California Bank (UCB as they were called on their buildings) also spun off Master Charge into a separate organization, which like Visa International is owned by the banks (and other organizations) that are licensed to issue its cards. The organization is MasterCard International, and - like Bank Americard - the card's brand was changed to Master Card.
UCB would later rebrand itself as First Interstate Bank. Later, First Interstate - except for a small part which is still operating in the Pacific Northwest and some western states - would be sold to Wells Fargo, which renamed it, (as it did when it ate Wachovia Bank), to Wells Fargo.
So Wells Fargo, while it is the successor to the company that invented what became Master Card, does not issue ATM cards with the Master Card logo, it issues the usual VISA branded ATM cards. Citibank, on the other hand, which is now the owner of the Diners Club charge card, does issue its ATM cards under the Master Card logo. I believe you can ask for a VISA branded one; I didn't, because I wanted to differentiate between my cards, and besides that, it gives me a card with the Master Card logo on it, which (in the form of a credit card) I do not currently have.
Barclay's Bank Delaware has started running web ads for their Visa Black card. ("Visa Black" is a product offered by Visa International, it's not exclusive to Barclay's the way Bank Americard is exclusive to the bank that started what became Visa back in 1969, Bank of America.) It's supposed to be equivalent to American Express' Platinum, in that the annual fee is a whopping $495 a year. I mean, I have an American Express Gold Card which, the first year is free and after that it's $125, and at that I think it's a bit overpriced. (What's interesting is American Express remembered when I had one for six months back in 1994 and on my card it says "Member since 1994.") Now, I suspect that Visa Black is a credit card rather than a charge card, meaning you can pay over time. (With AMEX's Gold Card you have to pay the bill in full at the end of the billing month.)
This credit card offer still seems ridiculous to have a card that the annual fee is more than some people have in credit, but in some cases it can be useful. For example, if I do keep this card after the first year, for the $125 fee, if I needed the feature, it allows up to 50 additional cards to be issued at no additional charge, so for a company that has people who are authorized to be issued a company charge card it is a good financial tool, since each user is issued a different card number and on the monthly report it itemizes each user's purchases by card number. (And different cards tied to the master account can have different spending limits).
When I was staying over at my sister's place and managing her affairs back in 2006, she had a Chase Ink Visa credit card with a 5-figure limit, which I had them issue myself and my brother Bill specific cards (with lower limits), so that when she wanted something at the store, instead of him using his own card and I have to pay him in cash, he would simply pay for it with his card issued through her account. Same thing when I ordered stuff on line for her, I'd use the card in my name that was charged to her account, then at the end of the billing month all three cards were shown on the bill as to specific purchases made for each card. Now, I'm not stupid; I got the Chase Ink card for my sister because it has no annual fee.
Obviously this sort of card like Barclay's Visa Black and American Express Platinum are for the very high spending customer, probably people running 6 figure bills a year or high 5 figures every month. Now, part of the $495 fee includes "handholding" in which you get concierge service and -possibly special access to certain features, for example, there are a number of events around the country (like concerts) where only American Express cardholders can buy advance tickets. But this isn't just for AMEX Platinum Members, even if you have one of American Express' prepaid cards you can buy tickets at these events.
This is, of course, no where near as ridiculous as American Express' Centurion card, for which the application fee is $2,500 and the annual fee is an additional 5 grand. (Also, you can't "apply" for a Centurian card, AMEX has to invite you to do so.) This is the sort of card a multimillionaire carries, because I'm sure if you're paying that kind of green just for a credit/charge card, you're a spoiled brat who expects lots of handholding and asskissing (Consider Richard Gere's character in Pretty Woman, or some real-life publicly known spoiled brats like Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber.) And, for that kind of money, I'm sure, American Express is very willing to pucker up when requested.
But going back to Visa Black, Barclays' is adding a new twist. The card isn't made out of plastic with a mag stripe. It's made of stainless steel with a carbon insert on the back so the mag stripe stays in place. So, I guess since most people have to dump their wallet into the x-ray machine, it won't really set off the metal detectors because you won't be carrying it when walking through, but I still think the idea of a card that is made of steel seems kind of silly. Of course, I think a credit card with a $495 annual fee is even sillier, but that's my opinion.
And I'm sticking to it.
Last night, I rolled my wheelchair on the computer table and I think I broke it because it is damaged and won't hold up much, so I need to replace the table. So, Earlier today I went to the Family Dollar store on Rhode Island Avenue in Washington, D.C. because I had bought a computer table from them. But they don't sell them any more, so I went down to the Home Depot at the shopping center adjacent to the Rhode Island Metrorail station.
They don't have them either, so I'll have to go on-line and buy a replacement desk.
Well, anyway, I decided that for some reason I wanted a pastrami on rye. So I'd go over to the Giant Food on the other side of the shopping center across from Home Depot. So I go over to the deli section and discover they have pastrami, but it's $13.00 a pound. That's a little too expensive, so I ask where they have package meats, and they have 7 ounce packages for about $3.25 or so, which is about $7.50 a pound. Which is a bit more reasonable.
So anyway I went to the register with two of these packages of pastrami and a loaf of rye bread, about $8.50, so I decide to use one of the self-service registers. The first four registers are self-service. I'm at register 3, and I ring up the items, but, in Washington, DC, the store is required to charge for bags, so I need to find the selection for the 5c for the plastic bag. (I wasn't planning to pick up anything at the grocery when I left or I'd have brought a bag with me.)
So with help from a clerk I find it, then I ring up everything, and I decide to use my food stamp card since I haven't used it in a while; as a disabled man I get a whopping $15 a month (it used to be $16 but the extra federal contribution was cut). Since I haven't used it in a while I have about $45 in my account. So the whole thing gets covered, except for the 5c bag fee.
So I check my pouch and I have a lot of change, I find a nickel and insert it in the coin slot, but it rolls back out. I try again, and it fails again. The clerk informs me that register 3 doesn't accept nickels. Dimes and quarters are okay, but not nickels. So I put a quarter in, that finishes it and the register returns 20c in change.
I guess register 3 doesn't like the taste of nickels, so it won't eat them.
A TV show had a segment about a veterinarian who has a pet pig, who has a birth defect. Its rear legs are fused so it can't stand up, it more-or-less waddles where it goes. Its original owner wanted to have it euthanized, but the vet, touched by the pig, said if the customer would surrender the pig to him, he'd see to it the pig had a good home. So he did, and the veterinarian took the pig home with him.
This segment followed one about a dog that had been fitted for an artificial leg. Now, some people might say that it's kind of ridiculous to spend the money on a prosthetic for a dog, but it's interesting to note that work on prosthetics for animals has often transferred into developments in human prosthetics. But, some people say that it's silly because a dog can get by on three legs. Which is true, I used to know a guy named Gary whose family owned a dog with three legs. The dog's name was "Tripod." I kid you not.
But when a dog has all 4 legs, it can do so much more with kids and the family, including actually run instead of hobbling that some people will have it done.
But what touched me the most - and why I decided to write about it - was the name of the pig I mentioned earlier in this note, which I thought was really cute.
The pig's name was "Chris P. Bacon."
Say that out loud some time.
After issuing me a terminal, accepting transactions to the tune of about $1500.00 in charges, requesting a fax and additional information from Wells Fargo to confirm my company has a bank account there, plus charging me a little over $30 in fees, the underwriting department at Commerce Payment Systems informs me that they can't accept my merchant account. They had me on 100% reserve so they still have the money charged to the credit cards.
So I say, fine, just backout all the transactions and I'll rebill all the cards through a different method. (Paypal, probably). Well, I'm told I can do that, using the return function on the swipe terminal. Well, when I tried that last night - after I called to check and was told this was set up ok - I'm informed by the machine that it's an invalid terminal; so I call in to the customer service number and the person on the phone informs me nobody is there in tech support, call back after 9 this morning.
So I call them up and a tech support person emails me a CSV of the redacted credit card numbers and redacted expiration dates, and I track down all of them except two, one I ran a bunch of test transactions in the 3 or 4c range just to make sure the system worked; I'll forget those. I also can't track down one for just under $6, I'll eat that if they can't credit it.
So as soon as they backout all the transactions and refund the fees charged to my corporate checking account I'll return their terminal to them. If they had a problem they should not have issued me a terminal until they were ready and able to process transactions.
Paypal may be twice as expensive at 3.5% and 30c as opposed to 1.4% + 10c and a $4.95 monthly fee, but I never had this kind of crap to deal with when I used them.
So I'm telling people to avoid Commerce Payment Systems as an acquirer for merchant credit card services. Avoid them like the plague they are.
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This is where I make comments on any subject I find of interest. My political comments are in the Politics section, and technical items are in the Computers section. Note, if you want to make a comment, e-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am sorry that I had to disable comments, but after I had deleted the 300th worthless piece of spam comment on this blog and receiving exactly zero valid comments, I decided to stop allowing spammers to excrement all over me and my blog. If you have *anything* at all to say, send it to me in e-mail; if it is even the slightest bit relevant - even if I don't agree with it, I will post it. (As soon as I find a way to stop spammers from posting junk I'll allow direct comments.) Note that if you are a visitor and post a comment, it defaults to "draft" meaning I have to approve it before it is visible, so if you're posting spam, don't bother, nobody will see it.