The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

25 March 2004

Debit, schmebit

Lileks goes to Sam's Club:

The clerk explained the difference between the $35 membership and the Platinum Advantage Total $100 membership; the latter apparently gets you dental coverage, free prescription drugs, photo processing that makes everyone in the pictures look younger and thinner, colorectal exams with lubricants only Trumps can usually afford — PLUS the ghost of Sam Walton himself makes an annual appearance to tell your kids a bedtime story. I went for the $35 subscription and put out my Wells Fargo / Visa check card.

"We don't take Visa," said the clerk.

"But it's everywhere I want to be. And I want to be here."

"We don't take Visa, MasterCard or American Express, just Discover, Cash, or check."

Discover? DISCOVER? The Gummo Marx of charge cards? I figured out the deal right away: they want you to get the Sam's Club card, which I'm sure has an interest rate that would make Ayn Rand scream for a usury law, and they make their money off the interest, not the store. The entire Sam's Club concept exists to support their in-house charge card.

I mention this because (1) it's Lileks, after all and (2) the State of Oklahoma has been emotionally wedded to this card: if you renew your auto registration by mail, you must send a check or money order, or charge to Discover.

Curiously, the state will accept Visa and MasterCard — American Express, even — in payment of income tax.

And the rates for the Wal-Mart/Sam's card are here.

Posted at 7:30 AM to Dyssynergy

And people wonder why I have this unreasonable loathing of banks and their ilk. I always thought that sort of sharking was illegal. I guess they feel that having bad credit FOREVER because you missed some 25 dollar minimum payment somewhere along the line is somehow *better* than having your kneecaps smacked with a baseball bat. At least if you're kneecapped, you'll get a nifty Rascal, and can get to the front of the lines at WalMart faster, and you sure won't miss that payment again real quick. Maybe I'm missing the whole point of life and credit, but that's the way I like it. Real Life sucks, my own little world is better.

Terkish Payne, maybe I mistrust banks because I like my butthole the same size it is now, thank you very much.

Posted by: Terkish Payne at 7:58 AM on 25 March 2004

WHAT where you doing paying for a Sam's membership? You HAVE a business membership thru Delphi! Did you manage to lost that memory?
BTW, your Christmas gift is STILL here.

Posted by: wamprat at 10:18 AM on 25 March 2004

Very first line:
Lileks goes to Sam's Club

Much as I would like to be confused with Lileks, there's no reason for it.

Posted by: CGHill at 10:41 AM on 25 March 2004

Funny . . they take my VISA debit card every time. I always thought it was odd that they took Discover only too. That was the first one I got rid of when doing my debt reduction!

Posted by: ms7168 at 11:24 AM on 25 March 2004

I've always had decent luck with Discover. The only bank that I openly despise is CITI. They're the MF's who send out your bill with one week to get it back to them. Not cool... I no longer do business with them.

I don't shop at Sam's Club either. I avoid all Wal-Mart stores. I figured that if I didn't want the world to look like Wal-Mart I should stop shopping there. Why feed the beast that wants to eat you I say.

Posted by: bruce at 12:39 PM on 25 March 2004

Who gives a goodly goddamn what the interest rate is? Pay it off every month and you don't pay ANY interest.

Posted by: Ralph Gizzip at 7:47 PM on 25 March 2004

True. But how do you propose living above your means unless you carry some balances? :(
Even though credit cards are the costliest way to borrow money.

Posted by: ms7168 at 6:35 AM on 26 March 2004

The idea is not to live above your means, but to live above the means of the Jones family next door. :)

Personally, I'm following the Bush program: cut my deficit in half over the next five years.

Posted by: CGHill at 8:34 AM on 26 March 2004

Sam's has been taking debit cards for a few years now. The whole reason they don't take Visa/Mastercard is the transaction fee. Debit cards work differently.

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, the margin on merchandise in the club model is between 9-11%, not much by most retail standards. Their hope is to pay all of the overhead out of that margin so that all of the membership income is profit. CC transaction fees would obviously eat into that. Costco doesn't take Visa either, but they do take Amex.

(Yes, I am a former Sam's Club corporate slave. Now I actually make enough to buy some of the stuff there.)

Posted by: Matt at 10:19 AM on 26 March 2004

I'll stick to Target. I don't like tripping over all the trash and merchandise piled up in Wal-Mart and Sam's stores.

Posted by: Ravenwood at 4:57 PM on 26 March 2004