Three Things I Didn’t Know

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer has their own MasterCard. That’s something probably everybody knows as we keep getting pitched at the cash register. But I didn’t know that it is handled by Wal-Mart Canada Bank. Yes, Wal-Mart is a bank, something they got approval for in 2010. As of now, it isn’t a deposit taking institution but I wonder if they’re still working on that.

Virgin Money is Sir Richard Branson’s bank. Branson is best known for Virgin Air, Virgin phone, etc. He isn’t in Canada, but keeps talking about it, mostly because our pathetically small number of banks that automatically mean zero competition and huge fees and interest charges. I would love to have him come to Canada.

The one thing you know about Bronson is that he enters industries and everyone gets very nervous. Because Bronson is a huge believer in customer service and always approaches businesses from a totally different business model perspective. One of the features of Virgin Money is that it has facilities to quarterback family and friends’ loans. If you’re making a loan to a family member or someone you know, Virgin Money will do all the set up, paperwork, contracts, filing, signing and collections. I am absolutely dead set against family loans, but anyone who ignores me would have a great formalized way of doing it.

With new credit card legislation a couple of years ago, card issuers can’t increase your credit limit without your consent. Remember that their main goal is to have you owing the most amount of money and making the smallest payments. THAT is how they maximize their interest income.

These days, you’ll get a notice on your statement that you qualify for a limit increase – you just need to call. Or they’ll send you a separate mailer, and may even phone you from their call centre. Don’t do it – unless your limit is really low, it generally becomes more temptation.

What I didn’t know is that the trend of getting you out of the bank and to the ATM machines is changing. Think about it: They can’t solicit or sell you if they can’t see you!

When I was at one of the big no-service banks last week, I overheard the teller next to me tell people: My screen just showed that you qualify for a limit increase on your card. Want me to go ahead and put that through? Is that clever or what? And in the few minutes I was there, this teller was three for three. She converted all three people she asked to a higher limit. Great for the bank…often not so great for the person thinking they’re being flattered.

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