Saturday, November 27, 2010

Take a Pass on the American Express PASS card

American Express has been heavily promoting its PASS reloadable debit card. It's a card aimed at teenagers. American Express sent me a mailer with what looked at first glance to be an attractive offer. Here's the pitch, sign up for an American Express PASS debit card for your teen, load it with at least $25.00, and when you reload the card, you'll get a free $25.00 credit with their promotion code getpass25. What's the catch? The most obvious one is the $3.95/month fee, but the fee is suspended until October 1, 2011, and you can cancel before the fee kicks in. Another catch is the $1.50 ATM withdrawal fee, but that's livable. The dealbreaker for me involved privacy. In the application,they want your teen's name and date of birth. They also want the teen's cell phone number and the express permission for American Express and its affiliates to send text messages whenever they want. They want the parent's date of birth, social security number and cell phone number.

In other words, this is a card where the company is making a $25.00 bet that you're too busy or stupid to cancel the card before next October. In the meantime they are likely to cost you money with text messages; and who knows to whom they'll sell (or barter) your and your child's personal information. There's no such thing as a free lunch. My family's privacy is worth more than $25.00.

Now for the marginally relevant video of the day. The subject is PASS. The video is This Too Shall Pass by Ok Go. I've always loved Rube Goldberg Machines, and this is the best one I've ever seen.

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