Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Adventures in BBQing...
I have had a Cabela's Visa for 4-5 years now. If you aren't familiar with a Cabela's card, it works just like any other Visa, but as you spend money on it, you accumulate "points" that can be redeemed for in store items. So, being the lover of fishing that I am, I used this credit card for everything for years and years because no matter what I bought, I got free stuff at Cabela's. I thought it was a nice perk and arrangement because I received enough points to get quite a bit of "free" stuff at Cabela's. Also, it had a 9.99% interest rate that wasn't the cheapest in the world, but was consistent and I thought it was fair enough.
I felt pretty good about using it for everything until I looked closely at the statement one month. I carried a balance on it for about 3 months once and during this time, I saw some extra charges. Normally, I paid it off completely every month and I never saw these charges. I did see some hidden charges so I called the card company. I found out that these fees were charged to all "Cabela's Club" members. So, they charge you to get free stuff. You do get free stuff at a faster rate than they charge you, but I didn't like the idea of paying to get free stuff. So, about a year and a half ago, I quit using the card completely because of all of their "extra" charges. I decided to only buy tackle and bait from my local hardware store. He needs the business anyway.
I was going to cancel my account, but found out that I had about $184 work of points on it and I found out that if I cancelled the account, I lost the points. Lame. So, I figured I would wait until I needed something at Cabela's, burn up my points, and then cancel the card.
During this time, I had two unauthorized transactions on my credit card. They were from a travel company that I had dues with, but I had cancelled my account months before. So, I called the travel company that charged me to have them remove the charges, but the contact number I had for them had been disconnected. So, I called Cabela's Visa, told them the situation, and they said they would send out the paperwork to rid my account of these charges. Fine.
I filled out a couple pages of paperwork and sent it back. As far as I knew, the charges were gone from my card. I got my statement the next month and the same amount is charged to me again from the same travel company. Cabela's did mark the other charge from the prior month as "pending." So, I called the contact number for the travel company that was charging me again (it was a different number than the prior month) to try to straighten the mess out, but the new number was also disconnected or not in service. So, I called Cabela's again and basically had to start this whole process over again. When on the phone with Cabela's Visa, I told the nice lady that was helping me to call the contact number for the travel company that was provided on the statement. She said the number answered as disconnected for her too, but she said she would contact her supervisor and try to get a legitimate number for the travel company. I really wasn't satisfied with doing all the paperwork again and I was frustrated that anyone can continue to charge me for things I do not want and had cancelled despite my protest.
I had a different idea. I called back to Cabela's Visa, reported the fraudulent charges, hung up the phone, then called back a few minutes later and reported my card stolen. This way, I thought, the travel company cannot charge me anymore. The nice customer service lady told me she was sorry that my card was missing and she would get me a new card out right away. It only took a couple days for the next round of fraud paperwork to show up in the mail. I filled it out and sent it back to them. Within the next couple days, a new card showed up.
In about a week I got an email from the travel company to inform me that the credit card number they have for me on file is cancelled. They left me a contact number to call, but I didn't bother. I emailed them back, told them about their billing mistake, and I forwarded one of the cancellation confirmation emails they had sent me months prior. Done again, right?
The next month my statement came from Cabela's with about a $40 credit on it. It seems that the travel company instead of just voiding the charges, actually refunded me some money. I called the people at the Cabela's Visa to tell them to cut me a check for the money on my account because I am going to use up my points and cancel. With a little bit of protest, the nice lady on the phone assured me she would take care of it.
A month passed. Then another month passed. Then another. Then another. Each month, I call the Cabela's people and ask them for a check for the credit on my account. Each month they assure me that they will get it right out to me. But, as the time passed, I still didn't get any check. I didn't get anything from them at all except a statement that showed a credit. Finally, months later, I was getting really upset about the money not being sent out to me, so I called and complained again and found out that they would not send the check out to me because I had not activated my new card they had sent me months prior when I reported mine stolen. I explained that I just want to burn up my points and close the account and not have another active card around. I was informed that I need to activate the new card before they will refund me money. Fine.
About a week after activating my "new" card, I got a check in the mail from Cabela's Visa for the amount that I had as a credit. At last. Why did it take so long for somebody to just tell me this information?
Starting in September last year, I noticed my interest rate started to climb. August was still 9.99%, but September was 14.99%. Then, October was 16.99%. Then November was 24.99%. Finally, December was 36.99%. I still had no balance on the account and was still not using it at all. In light of these interest rate hikes, I did a credit report on myself because I was worried something had happened to my credit. My credit rating was still as high as it was before. So, it wasn't my credit driving up my interest rate. It was the new laws passed by our government to "save us" from credit card debt. Thank God I didn't have a big balance. [Whew!]
After the rate hike, I knew I would never use this account again since my other Visa did not go up. My problem was that Cabela's really didn't have anything I want to buy. I had tried to use the points up at Christmas, but I couldn't find anything then. I don't know if I am getting old or I am spoiled, but I really don't need anything. I couldn't find anything there to buy as a gift for somebody else. Also, I was so frustrated with all the hassle in regards to the card and I was still a little miffed about all of the "extra" charges on my account from before, so I wanted to get my points burned up and close the account.
Monday this week, I got a letter in the mail from card services in regards to my Cabela's card account. They have adjusted my interest rate down to a "user-friendly" 28.88% but they have decided that I need an annual fee. Yeah. That will not work for me at all.
So, my daughter and I went to Cabela's tonight. I thought I needed a smoker (I want to learn to make really good ribs) and that I could get one easily for my $184 of points. I was wrong. They had some cheaper smokers there for about $129, but they aren't insulated and didn't have thermometers. Also, they were electric which seems like a just wrong way to smoke meat. If you wanted to get what looked like a nicer smoker, plan on spending between $400-1000. I don't need to make ribs that badly, so I passed. Syd and I decided to buy some wood chips and smoke meat in the grill we already have. We bought a bunch of different wood chips. I bought some cast iron campfire skillets. I bought a tenderizing hammer. I bought some "campfire" oven mitts. I bought a small cast iron tray to put my wood chips in. Syd and I got a lot of stuff.
I didn't have my card along since I shredded it post activation-to-receive-my-check and pre-huge-rate-increase. But, I had bought things on my account at Cabela's before without my card on my person, so I didn't think it would be a problem. I went to checkout and the nice lady there said she couldn't check me out without my card. So, I went to the "Customer Care" desk and the nice lady there gave me a temporary card and number. Then, back to the checkout I was. The nice lady at the checkout rang everything up, took points off my account, bagged my things, and sent me on my way. As I was walking toward the door she stopped me. "Sir!" she said, "Make sure you shred that temporary card number when your new card arrives in the mail."
I didn't even ask why I would be getting a new card because I don't think it really matters anyway. So, I can finally close my account. It only took about 20 minutes of waiting in line, a half of an hour filling out paperwork (twice), about two hours on the phone with the card company customer service, two or three physical plastic credit cards to shred, and about 2 years to accomplish this.
Whew! I am glad I had all of those "free" points.