What is the matter with this credit card?

I have a credit card that’s issued by MBNA through the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). When I first came to this country, I kept getting turned down for supposedly “pre-approved” credit cards because none of them would check my Canadian credit card records and would say “no credit record”. AOPA/MBNA were the first to issue me a US dollar credit card, and at first it had a hideously low credit limit ($300), which meant I’d almost have to use it as a pre-paid card when I wanted to make a major purchase – preloading a large credit balance before hand.

But after I got other cards with more reasonable limits, the low credit limit on this card was useful to me. I started using it for on-line purchases, on the theory that if somebody stole my card they wouldn’t be able to ring up too many purchases before limiting it out, and I wouldn’t be out too much money while I fought with the credit card company to get the charges reversed.

I was a little paranoid about that, because back in Canada I once got charged for two dinners at the same restaurant on the same night, and when I disputed the charge they sent me a photocopy of the credit card slip that had been signed with a completely different name. Obviously a case of a waiter swiping the same card for two different bills. But the credit card company gave me a huge hassle about getting the second charge reversed, and while they removed the charge and the interest, they didn’t remove a $25 “late payment” fee that they tacked on one month when the only balance I had was that unpaid charge and its interest so I didn’t pay the bill. So obviously I expected that in the case of disputed charges, I’d have to pay the charge first, and dispute it and get the money back later.

But of course, being a credit card that was paid in full regularly, MBNA kept creeping the credit limit up, so that theory about limiting the damage has gone out the window. But it’s still convenient for me to have a card that I use only for on-line purchases and aviation related purchases.

What isn’t convenient about it is that I’ve just got notified that for the second time in less than a year, unauthorized charges have stated appearing on it. The first time, MBNA noticed it before me, because the thief had put in a series of gradually increasing charges to a group of related porn web sites all on the same day. No doubt the thief was affiliated to the porn company, and was just testing the card to see how much he could get away with putting on the card.

Anyway, that time they noticed it before me, and called me up to say that they were sending me a new card with a new number and not to worry the charges will be reversed and not to pay them. Very nice, but a bit of a pain because one of the things I use that card for is for subscriptions to aeronautical charts and my Tivo subscription. So I had to call up those people and change my credit card number, and inevitably I missed one or two things that I didn’t notice until “hey, I haven’t see a Pilot Getaways magazine for months and months”. But eventually I got everything sorted out.

Soon after I got the replacement card, I got a phone call from MBNA again. They’d noticed two purchases at the same on-line computer store (frozencpu.com) on a Friday and on the following Monday, and wanted to confirm that this was for real. Fortunately it was for real – the store is in Fairport, a suburb of Rochester, and I’d visited them on Friday to buy some cables and cooling fans, and discovered over the weekend that I didn’t have the right stuff so I went back on Monday. Good to know they were on heightened alert on my card.

Today I got another call. This time the thief tried to use my card to buy something worth $795 from the US Sailing Association, but put in the wrong expiration date. MBNA called me again to tell me, and to ask about a purchase I’d made that same day (I’d registered the Palm Pilot game Toucan Tango at astraware.com). And so the dance begins again – another new card number to memorize, a bunch of people to call.

I’ve got a Citi credit card in my wallet right now that I don’t use for anything. I think I’m going to try an experiment and use one card for subscriptions and one for on-line, and see which one it is that keeps getting stolen. I only see a few problems with that:

  • The MBNA card gets me a discount on aviation purchases, so I probably want to use that one for my chart subscriptions. But….
  • MBNA has been so good at spotting trouble before I do that I’m reluctant to start using the Citi card in a situation where it might get hijacked in case they aren’t as good at detecting fraud. But…
  • Until I do this experiment, I don’t know if it’s on-line purchases or chart subscriptions that are getting my card stolen.

3 thoughts on “What is the matter with this credit card?”

  1. I’d go with the online purchases, just on general principles. So use the Citi for charts, and the MBNA for online stuff. Just a suggestion, mind.

  2. I used to do that until my first credit card didn’t get renewed in time and they cancelled all my online christmas shopping one year. Then I discovered Citicard have virtual account numbers when I phoned them up to get a ‘second card for online purchases only’. VANs are useful you can generate one-time numbers (or multiple-time with one merchant) numbers from their website (with individual credit limits too!). Very cool and makes stealing any credit card number I enter into a website useless for any other vendor, or for more than I want.

  3. MBNA is a huge credit-card clearinghouse – they’re the ones behind most of those customized “affiliate” cards everyone offers (university credit cards, political organization credit cards, etc. – they’re all really MBNA cards with someone else’s logo on them).

    Can you just get two or three MBNA cards from different sources? Then you could use one as your “aviation only” card, another as your “subscriptions card,” another as your “online porn card,” etc. You’d get MBNA protection on all of them, but could keep the accounts separate and instantly spot when anything fishy showed up.

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