netSpend: The Story of the Visa Debit Card We Did Not Apply For
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This week my husband received an unsolicited Visa debit card from a firm called netSpend. It was certainly an odd experience to receive a card that looked official instead of a pre-approved application packet. This is my story of shock, anger, and finally disgust at the practices of this financial firm. (See also: Credit Cards vs. Debit Cards: A Comprehensive Comparison)
At first, I was confused as to why my husband would open an Visa debit account without telling me. So I asked him if he applied for this card. He was bewildered and said, "No! Did my identity get stolen?" I was equally confused because the card has to have money loaded onto it to be worth anything so it would be worth nothing to identity thieves unless they managed to steal the card after we load money. Additionally, this card came to our address, and it does not make sense that an identity thief would send what they want to steal to us.
So I read the enclosed letter, and it says that some partners of netSpend recommended my husband for the Visa debit card service. The problem is that my husband did not apply for this card, so it does not make sense that a new card is now here waiting for his activation. Even if other financial firms sold his name and address to partners the most they should do would be to send a fake credit card along with an application. So I researched this company a little bit online and it seems that it has sent out cards to other people who did not apply for the card. There is also a slew of other complaints against this company regarding how it handles customers' money.
The next day I promptly called netSpend and asked them to close down this account. According to the representative, someone at netSpend thought that our household needed a Visa debit card, so they sent us one. As long as we do not activate it the account does not exist in their system. Basically, the representative was admitting that we did not apply for the card. By shoving an unwanted card onto us, netSpend pretty much lost any chance of having us a customer in the future.
In conclusion, this is probably the most distasteful customer acquisition tactic I have ever seen because it really made us feel a bit violated. Credit and debit cards are not supposed to be given out like candy and I hope netSpend realizes that. It seems that netSpend's business is basically to get people to deposit money onto its cards and then slowly wittle away peoples' money with fees. When I called their toll-free number it says that it costs 50 cents just to check your balance! So it does make sense that they want as many people to deposit cash onto their pieces of plastic as possible. However, telling people to activate cards they did not apply for is definitely not the way to go.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any bank, card issuer, airline or hotel chain.