About four years ago I “Discovered” the Discover Gas Card, which loudly proclaims “5% cash back on all gas purchases!” Seemed like a good idea, so I started using it for all my gas purchases. I still shopped around for cheap gas as always, so it did not change my spending habits, but an extra $20 every two months or so, which I applied to the bill, was a useful perk; in the first year I got $100 of free gas.
Discover must have been watching out for people like me, as they changed the rules, limiting the 5% cash back to the first $1200 per year – making the total bonus $60 per year, after which the cashback goes down to 1% – effectively nothing.
I was annoyed, but not enough to walk away. I retaliated in my own small way; each new year I would use the card for gas until this limit had been reached, which happened after five or six months. Then I would quit using the card for the remainder of the year. I did this for a couple of years.
A few months ago I received a note from them informing me that they were moving my payment due date from the 6th of the month to the 29th of the previous month. When I asked them why they did this they gave me several non-answers and left me with the inescapable conclusion that the only real answer was “because we can“.
Again I retaliated in my own small way by paying the bills when they arrived, rather than “playing chicken” with due-dates.
Last month I noticed that the cashback rules had changed yet again. The yearly cashback limit was still $60 (5% of $1200), but now they were limiting it further to 5% of the first $100 per month – $5 per month. Since cashback can only be redeemed in $20 chunks this meant that I only got something back $20 every four months.
My first thought was “You have got to be kidding“. In a day where a single fill-up costs $50 to $150, they were only giving the full bonus on the first tankful!
This brings to mind a Darth Vader Quote in “The Empire Strikes Back: “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further“. I could not have put it better.
Of course Discover’s terms and conditions give them the license to play silly buggers with the terms of the agreement whenever they want to. By the same token I am entitled to walk away and never do business with them again.
I got my last $20 of cashback from them last week, and cancelled the card yesterday.
The moral of the story? Don’t play games with credit cards; it is a game of diminishing returns and quicksand-shifting conditions. With one hand they offer gifts, and with the other they take them away. They are masters of the game – and they hold all the cards, if you pardon the pun.
To close, I quote the WOPR (the supercomputer in the movie “Wargames”).
“Sometimes the only way to win is not to play”