Tuesday, January 05, 2010

When Free isn't Free.

The Land of the Free. That's right, USA.

Well, I find a lot of things misleading in the USA, tons of "Free" things, but are they free?

Free Checking Accounts:

Banks are reaping huge profits from their low-balance account holders. Thus the “Free Checking” accounts banks advertise are not really free. Most customers use their checking accounts to make purchases with their debit card and to withdraw money at an ATM. Simple financial transactions such as writing a check, withdrawing money at the ATM or purchasing something with a debit card come with complicated and often unexplained policies and fees. Banks’ free checking accounts create confusion for their customers. Banks will regularly cover overdrafts for the majority of their customers, turning ATM and debit cards into expensive shortterm loans. Banks rely on low-balance account holders to overdraw their accounts and pay costly overdraft fees on a regular basis.

“I have been charged around $1,000 in late fees and over draft charges. They are misleading to the customer about their free checking account. They never provide them with facts that free checking, isn’t free as they say.”

-Erica of Tujanga, California

Free Cell Phones:

Often, when you go to a cell phone store, they have cell phones which are labeled as "Free". Even when you re-contract your phones, those "Free" cell phones are not free.

There is actually a "Connection fee" for the phone, to get the phone on the network. (But when you just buy an unlocked phone, and put in a sim card, it still works, even though there is no "Connection" made) I find this practice very misleading, and simply wrong as they should just subsidize the phone and have no "connection" fee but the phone companies such as T-mobile, AT&T and Verizon all practice it. What's worse is the bill comes up to 2 months later, and for those who do direct debit and do not look at the bills, they are simply charged without them knowing.

I just re-contracted my family line with 4 phones, and all the "free" new phones cost me $70+ Tax and other miscellaneous fees. What's worse is there is often an "upgrade" during the signing of new contract, and they give you some free services for 3 months, and once the 3 months is over, you get charged for the services.

Free Coupons

Have you received those "Free xxxx" Promotions in the mail? Well, I recently bought some blank DVDs for "Free" but you have to pay up front and get the cash rebate. It has been 3 months since, and still no cash rebate checks in the mail.

Free Magazines

Free magazine subscription, just give them your credit card number? Hell no! I received Forbes free for 3 months, and it took me another 6 months to cancel before they stop sending, and they charged me for the subscription.

If you are a sucker for free stuff, you better check to see if it is a scam or if it is really "free" as the fine prints may mean you are selling your soul away.

--Iron Bowl

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