Sunday, August 27, 2006

Why I Hate the Republic of the Banana: or the Most Boring Come-back Blog of All Time

I love the idea of having a Banana Republic card, but the reality is oh so inconvenient. I have been a loyal customer since it's days of safari hats and jeeps crashing through contrived display windows, but having grown up with the yuppie clothier I feel that their approach to in-store credit is severely underdeveloped.

I opened an account last year because I started a new job as an executive where the expectation was perpetual business attire. Where else to build a work wardrobe but the Banana? I wasn't even seduced by the additional 10% by opening an account, it was the free alterations and reward points system (any in-store account that does not offer money or gift cards back for frequent shopping is not even worth considering) that attracted my patronage.

However, to my incredulity and dismay, you cannot pay your account at the store. You cannot even pay your bill over the phone without a $10 service charge. You can only pay your bill with a check (or is it spelled cheque...who knows...who uses those anymore?) or online.

Well, their website has been down for ages and I get a bill for my fabulous sapphire-cut "diamond" ring which only cost me $37 and the bill reads $69. So I call customer service and reach "Jerry" in India and ask him to remove my late-fee as a one-time courtesy. (Did you know you could do that folks? It's true, if you are a responsible credit user and you incur a late fee most companies will waive that late fee at least once if you call and just ask them to.) Jerry complied, but I am still left with waiting for the web-site construction to wrap up. I searched around for some paper money devices on which you can write in your desired amount, but to no avail.

I hate you Banana Republic.

Cards that are worth having:

Costco's American Express (1% cash back, 2% on travel and 3% on meals)
Macy's in-store card and visa (use your macy's visa anywhere and receive 1-3% back in store gift cards plus free alterations and gift wrap services depending on your spending per year...i love it)
Southwest visa (Todd and I got free tickets to go everywhere we needed to go for about two years...we even earned enough for a buddy pass one year)

Not that I endorse credit. We use credit when it is to our definite advantage. We bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner through our credit card perks. But we rarely have a balance. That'll kill you. Be wise people.

Oh, yeah, one other bit of unsolicited advice...if you happen to decide to open a credit line at a department store or with a 0% interest card, you need to know that you shouldn't open an account to get the extra 15% off and then expect to close it right away. If you close a new credit line within 6 months, it actually counts against your credit rating; it can take as many as 30 points off your score. Wait before you close an account. On the flip side, if you have a department store line of credit (one or two not ten), and you pay on time or use it and don't carry a balance your credit report looks good. Just be smart.