Credit card upgrades may be costlier than you think

January 13, 2011 7:39:52 PM PST
Getting an upgrade is usually considered a good thing. But as one Bay Area woman found out, that's not always the case when it comes to credit cards.

The upgrade was for a reward credit card. She called to activate the card and that's when she figured out it wasn't her kind of upgrade.

Liz Isaacs of San Francisco has been a Chase credit cardholder for years. She liked getting United miles as a reward. Now she is none too happy with Chase.

"I don't know if they were trying to trick me, but I do think that they were certainly hoping that I wouldn't notice," she said.

A recent deal she wound up with gives her more miles and increased benefits.

"I was thinking to myself, 'Oh great, I have been upgraded.' And then I said, 'Well, is there a cost to the upgrade?' And she's like, 'Oh yes, it's $95."

Isaacs says the customer service representative told her she had to opt out if she wanted to keep the old card and that she had received a notice to that effect. She says that's probably true, but she didn't take notice.

7 On Your Side contacted Chase and were told, "In September 2010, a notice was sent to select customers that explained their account would be upgraded automatically from the United Mileage Plus Signature rewards program to the United Mileage Plus Select rewards program effective November 2010."

If the customer wanted to keep their old card they had to request it. If not, the upgrade, minus the fee increase, would go into effect.

In their statement Chase said, "The annual fee increase would not take place until the following year's anniversary. At least 45 days before the increased fee is billed, another notification will be sent with the option to reject the new fee amount and return to the customer's United Mileage Plus Signature card without penalties."

Several chances to opt out of the upgrade, but still the consumer has to take action.

So is the new card even worth having? It depends on your spending habits.

"It actually can be a very good deal if you are someone who is either determined to fly United and buy United tickets, or if you spend a lot of money on the card," explained Joe Ridout of Consumer Action.

It is hard to keep up with all the paperwork we are sent these days, but this underlines why it is so important to read all your e-mail and snail mail, especially from financial service providers.