Friday, July 29, 2005

It pays not to cave...

...in that is.

We have an Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card, which is the railroad equivalent of those airline mileage credit cards. It was issued by MBNA. A couple months ago we got a notice in the mail indicating that the terms of our account were about to change. It said that if we were late on even a single payment, MBNA would have the right to permanently increase our interest rate without giving notice. This would be in addition to any late fees.

Naturally, I wasn't too keen on this. In fact, I considered it totally unacceptable. Late fees, a single penalty for a single offense, are one thing. Perpetual punishment for a single offense is quite another.

The fine print (it was all very fine print, actually) said we could reject the change, if we did so in writing. However, if we rejected their terms, they would have the right to cancel our account at any time. Not a pleasant prospect, since we're saving up for some free Amtrak trips that we could probably not otherwise afford.

Some people said we should just go along because "all the credit card companies are doing it." Actually, not all are. Neither our Capitol One nor our GM Card (issued by Household Credit) were making such a change. Besides, we refuse to be sheep to corporate wolves. As Dear Abby might say, nobody can take advantage of you without your permission. Without their customers MBNA hasn't a leg to stand on.

So I sent the letter, rejecting their terms. I indicated that while I valued the Amtrak Guest Rewards points, it was not important enough to allow an abuse such as this.

Yesterday I got a response from MBNA apologizing "for any confusion caused by the recent Change in Terms." They added "We honored your request not to change the terms of your account." They then provided, as an apparent goodwill gesture, a 1% rebate on all purchases through August.

Lesson for today: It pays not to be a sheep.