Travelers Advantage: There oughta be a law

travelersadvantagelogoIf you just got a little $5 check from Plow & Hearth, or maybe some other retailer you’ve shopped with, don’t cash it. Read this first:

In today’s mail I received what appears to be a check from Plow & Hearth, a company from which I have occasionally ordered things. At any rate, it was their logo on the outside. Tear off stub on each end, unfold … a check for $5. Nice! Probably only valid toward my next Plow & Hearth purchase, I thought. Still, a nice little promotion. Then I started reading the fine print. By cashing or depositing the check, it seems, I’m purchasing a membership in Travelers Advantage. That’s in 6-point type though. Not exactly a red-letter warning. Okay, admittedly, if I flip the whole thing over, the details are there. 2% cash back on credit card purchases! Everyday savings! Travel discounts! All that good stuff you get as a Travelers Advantage member. Eventually you get to this:

When you cash or deposit the attached check, we will automatically charge the $12.99 monthly fee to your card on file with Plow & Hearth for a membership in Travelers Advantage, unless you call 1-866-614-1614 to cancel during the thirty-day period and owe nothing. … Travelers Advantage is not affiliated with Plow & Hearth. … We will not have to ask for your account number or further consent in order to charge you.

Call me old fashioned, but I think this is a sneaky, despicable way to do business. Despite the Plow & Hearth logo on the front — by far the largest type on the entire mailer — this is not a mailing from them. And the way the mailer folds, the P&H logo is not actually on the check; it’s on the back of the disclosure. Took me a while to notice that. Had the logo not been on the front, along with “Check Enclosed,” the thing would never have been opened in the first place. So it’s all a trick to get me to cash the “check from Plow & Hearth” and thereby authorize Travelers Advantage to charge $12.99 to my credit card every month without their ever asking me for my credit card information (and thereby warning me that I’m about to get charged for something). Not to mention I never travel, so would never receive any benefit whatsoever from that monthly fee. They say in their disclosure that they are not affiliated with Plow & Hearth. But clearly they’ve gotten my name, address, and credit card information from P&H. This goes way beyond the common practice of one company selling its mailing list to another. Shame on both companies for participating in this very deceptive marketing. I’ll never knowingly do business with either of them again.


I fired off an email to Plow & Hearth customer service after writing this post. Just on the off chance that someone there might actually care. This was the reply:

Thank you for contacting us. Please about this issue pleases address this email to the Travelers Advantage customer service, unfortunately we do not carry about that card. If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at the address listed below. Sincerely, ———  Martinez Sales and Service Specialist

That’s “Customer Service” in the 21st Century.


Don’t cash that check! It’s a scam”   Hmm. Everything old is new again.

Travelers Advantage is one of many “services” marketed by Trilegiant Corporation. Trilegiant has been sued many times for scams like this. Often named with them in complaints is Chase Bank, now JPMorgan Chase. That’s the bank on the “check” I received.

Update, June 16, 2012: I just came across a series of comments on Amazon (regarding a seller other than Amazon itself) that seem related to the above. Same methodology, Trilegiant mentioned, and something called Buyers Advantage.

See also: A rare victory for the little guys

17 thoughts on “Travelers Advantage: There oughta be a law

  1. I also had a similar experience with T.A. I didn’t sign up for it, yet they had debited my account for almost a year before I noticed & questioned the $12.99 charge. After numerous calls, the guy said they had taken out the payment (again) that day & they cannot refund my money, although I requested the service be terminated. The last time, a month ago, he promised to send me a prepaid gas card for my trouble. Today, I received a paper to fill out saying if I returned it along with a gas receipt dated for this month, I’d receive the gas refund. In order to do so, I have to be an active member, so they had “conveniently” debited my account for me. I AM MAD! They did not terminate the service & have taken this money from my account for almost a year–undetected. I am calling AGAIN today & somebody had best get this stopped. I’m ready to take it to court, if needed.
    Have you tried calling your credit card company and telling them not to accept any charges from TA? At the very least I think you can get it tied up as a “disputed charge” that can’t actually be debited from your account. These guys are slime, and I’m convinced they make all their money just from these sneaky monthly charges to thousands of people, without providing any product or service at all. Good luck to you!

    1. Unfortunately in situations like this, I suggest you place your debit card in the shredder and call the bank and ask for another card, (asking for another number also) the different number will still match up to your account however the previous number will no longer work…

      This is the quickest way to get someone to stop charging you, the only inconvenience will be waiting until your replacement card arrive.

    2. I just discovered i’ve been paying for 10 years and never knew it. They’ve been taking $12 month from my account!! I finally caught on and called them; they said I signed on thru AOL. They will be sending me my “proof of initial membership” but not for 4-8 weeks (hoping I will forget about the whole thing I’m sure) I’ve put out $1400 and gotten nothing back for all these years!!

      1. Make sure they don’t charge you again next month. And if they do, I’d take Anonymous’s advice and get a new credit card number. I had to do that for another reason and it took about a week for the new card to come.

  2. Pleases lawyer carry lawsuit for action class. Charges sneaky and Plower responsible for not responsibility when logo. Third base.
    ROFL! Wow, have you considered working in Customer Service? You’re a natural!

  3. These credit card companies need to be taught a lesson. This is the reason why I don’t use credit cards anymore and will not even bother to open any mail from credit card companies.
    I don’t like the credit card companies either, but this is a different issue. Trilegiant is the scammer that needs to be stopped — although there seem to be a lot of “enabler” banks and retailers involved.

  4. Just call up your credit card company and say you lost your card and they will cancel your card # and rreissue a new one with a new # that TA will not be able to get
    Right you are. So simple.

  5. anybody know if beacon federal credit union is affiliated with these scumbags.
    I’ve no clue, Mike. Never heard of Beacon FCU. Maybe someone else will know.

  6. This is more than aggressive marketing. They gave my discover card number to Complete Home, a company that sends those checks in the mail, even though we never signed and returned one. It is plan, simple, criminal fraud and needs to be prosecuted. I’m exploring options with our states attorney general.
    If you can’t do anything as an individual, look around for class action suits you could join. WLI*ReservationRewards recently lost a big one for similar marketing practices.

  7. I placed a cancellation notice last year, but my checking acct. have been debited still ! What else can I do to get this stopped ? I have contacted them again on 2/14/2011 for cancellation

    1. Contact your bank and explain your situation. Let them know that all charges from Traveler’s Advantage are unauthorized. They should be able to help you.

  8. Shoppers Advantage is another one to watch out for. I was offered $15 off a purchase from ticketmaster if I signed up for a 30day trial from Great Fun(not good, but not as bad as Shoppers Advantage in my dealings) for $1. I can call and cancel, no problem. So I said ok. Then they said for $1 more you also get $20 in gas rebates to be used at any gas station. I thought it was worth it. It wasn’t. I did call and cancel Great Fun without to much trouble. However, the other $1 was signing me up for Shoppers Advantage which I didn’t know until I had more charges from them on my credit card. The gas rebate was a joke too. You have to send in receipts dated between Jan-Mar, Apr-Jun, Jul-Sept, Oct-Dec. I didn’t receive these vouchers until June. I just happened to find an old four month old gas receipt. But then to cancel and get those charges removed from Shoppers Advantage was a nightmare! Basically, I had to call repeatedly, to no avail, they said they would cancel but they didn’t and I kept getting charged repeatedly. I had to eventually dispute it and the bank took care of it. It wasn’t worth the $15 off.

    1. If the fine print for Shoppers Advantage makes any mention of Trilegiant Corporation, then it is definitely related and definitely bad news. It’s sad our laws allow any company to operate this way.

... and that's my two cents