You might say, “leave me alone, it’s not even Halloween yet,” but one big credit card company is already gearing up to be your holiday shopping method of choice.
Citibank (C) has rolled out a version of its Price Rewind program with expanded benefits for shoppers who use its bank-issued Visa (V) or MasterCard (MA). It’s basically a price-matching program with a few twists and extras. Card holders will get a refund if a lower price is found within 60 days of your purchase, and Citi will do the searching for you. “We’re saving you time and money,” said Emily Collins, Citi’s director of public affairs. “We’re the only ones who search for you. With other programs you have to dig for yourself.”
Citi says its algorithm searches hundreds of online retailers, but it would not specify which ones, noting only that it includes large chains and some specialty stores. It offers a refund if there’s a price drop of any amount, up to $ 300 per item and up to $ 1,200 per year. Citi will issue card users a check or a statement credit.
Exceptions? Fine Print?
Citi says there are some exclusions, such as antiques and travel, with Collins adding that there is no fine print that makes refunds hard to collect. I was skeptical, so I checked with an independent source: Odysseas Papadimetriou, chief executive at CardHub.com and WalletHub.com (and a fellow DailyFinance contributor). “it’s definitely a legitimate program,” he said. “The key word is going to be hustle on the part of the buyer.” You need to enter info into Citi’s system for each purchase: where you bought the item, when and how much you paid. Papadimetriou said that since we don’t know which retailers Citi is tracking, you’ll still need to do some legwork yourself. “I would still not feel that it’s OK to go buy something and then feel they’re going to take care of me.”
If you do find a lower price on your own for the exact item you bought, Citi says you can email or fax the online or print advertisement for a refund. Citi says its price guarantee programs are especially popular for purchases of electronics, toys and clothes. It says the average refund to card members is about $ 85.
What’s in this for Citi? Obviously, it wants to win a greater share of the holiday business from rival card issuers. Papadimetriou says that while this deal and many others are legitimate, consumers must be careful that they don’t let holiday offers entice them into buying more than they can afford. His advice: “Stay on budget and don’t go into debt on shopping. Your friends and family will understand.”
Don’t Get Caught by These Offers
He also warns that consumers should stay away from deferred interest rate card offers, mostly from retailers promoting their store cards. He says that if you have any balance left on that card at the end of the grace period, even $ 1, they’ll go back and charge you interest on the full purchase price retroactively. CardHub says that if you buy an $ 800 laptop using a traditional credit card that offers 0 percent for six months and charges a 20 percent regular interest rate and you miss your payoff goal by one month (paying off your total balance in seven months instead of six), you’ll pay $ 2 in interest. However, if you choose a card that offers deferred interest, you’ll pay 27.5 times more interest ($ 55 in this example), easily wiping out the savings from any Black Friday deal you might have scored.
Papadimetriou also says consumers should be cautious about signing up for extended product warranties. Consumers spend more than $ 1.5 billion a year on these warranties each year, and in many cases, you might be paying for something that you already have. All four major credit card companies — Visa, MasterCard, American Express (AXP) and Discover (DFS) — provide extended warranties of up to one year on many items. Check with your card company for details.