A few months ago I noted on Twitter that Discover had "forgiven" an extremely small balance outstanding at the end of my billing cycle. Several people pointed me to a FatWallet Forum thread on the subject, but like many FatWallet threads, it's a bit sprawling and confusing unless you're willing to dig into it.
I recently ran another accidental experiment on the subject. Many credit card companies will close accounts that don't show any activity over a certain period, usually 6 or 12 months. In order to keep my accounts active (at least until I close them to avoid their annual fees), I went through and charged a $0.50 Amazon gift card to all these cards:
- Citi Dividend Platinum Select MasterCard
- Citi AAdvantage World MasterCard
- Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa
- Bank of America BankAmericard Cash Rewards Visa
- Barclaycard US Airways MasterCard
Chase and Barclaycard both forgave my $0.50 balances, while Citi and Bank of America posted the $0.50 charges to my statements.
Meanwhile my Discover it card statement coincidentally (I forgot the Diet Coke I threw in with my "gas station" purchases) closed with another, slightly larger balance of $1.89, which was also forgiven.
This is pretty much the definition of an unscalable deal. After all, there are only 12 statements per year, and the maximum you can "earn" is less than $2 per statement, per card.
On the other hand, the money does seem to be free, and everyone can use $5 in Amazon gift cards per month, so if you have some unused Chase, Barclaycard, or Discover cards lying around it might still be worth considering (see the FatWallet Forum thread for datapoints on other card issuers).
I'm more interested in the fact that our financial system is packed full of these holes, which make sense individually (since it would be more expensive to keep track of small balances and process Automated Clearing House payments against them) but which, taken together, are big enough to drive a (small-ish) truck through.
In any case, I'm curious what my readers think: are $0.99 Amazon gift cards in your future?