Business Freedom and Privacy Investing Life Skills

Why Visa Points and Visa Dollars are Worthless

I just wanted to write a quick post about my experience with my Coast Capital Savings Visa Desjardins and the ‘visa bonus dollars’ program they have.

First, as an FYI, if you do not pay $30/year annual fee you get .05% of purchases converted into bonus dollars instead of the whopping 1%…  For the longest time we couldn’t figure out why my card always got more points than my wife and finally one year we figured out they snuck in an annual fee.  Of course, I’m sure it was legal and something I agreed to in haste at some point when I started the bad deal but the actual annual fee was really hard to see for me on the physical statement.

So, I cancelled that right away after discovering it and now I’m back to an even more useless visa dollar program.  But that’s fine.  Because the whole concept of ‘points’ on a visa card is useless on many fronts.

In short, the customer pays for their points out of their pocket and here is why:

  • Visa charges the business (aka the ‘merchant’) that takes the card merchant fees.
  • Visa gives the incentive to the customer, so the customer starts using their card more and more
  • The more points the customer redeems, the more it costs Visa, and because Visa would never actually give anything for free because they are in the business of sucking your will to live, they simply raise the fees the merchant has to pay.
  • The merchant says ‘oh crap. I’m losing money on this visa scam.  I better raise my prices’  And so they do. and who pays for those service/product price increases?
  • The customer pays for the service/product price increases. Yes, the very same customer who just got their shiny, new, overpriced toaster for ‘free’.

So it’s not free.

But it’s even better because I was doing some further thinking.  In the case of my Visa Desjardins card, I got a little catalogue sent to me once per year showing me all the shiny new things I could get for free if I just bought more and used my visa more and made my life more trackable and less private and more susceptible to fraud and theft.

While I was flipping through the pages I finally found one thing I actually needed (kind of) – a bluetooth mini speaker that we could use as a flexible sound system.  Cool device.  Just before buying it I did a quick search online to find that on most websites it was selling at $199 but in this catalogue it was $225.  So, I grab my calculator to figure it out since I suck at math and figure out that’s 12.5% more than any regular listed retail price from anywhere…  what a great deal so far!

So I ‘buy’ it because what else would I do with these dollars? I can’t take them and buy a meal for my family after all….

Amazing service. That little gaffer showed up at my door about 5 seconds after I clicked submit. Slight exaggeration but it was fast.

Then I started thinking about how there must be this little ‘store’ sitting somewhere that fires out the orders and that’s when I started thinking about how they probably buy 10,000 of each product and get pricing SUPER low.

This is a full-blown racket.

And then, to finalize this bad deal, I was looking at my statement today and there was a transaction for $1.00 from something called ‘Rideau Inc’ in Montreal.  Because it was only $1.00 I, like most people, considered strongly not even calling to figure out what the heck this transaction was for.  I put on some tunes and got on hold for 25 minutes to find out that that $1.00 fee was actually a charge for buying something with my ‘bonus dollars’.  Some company out of Montreal takes a shiny looney every time some fool redeems his worthless hello kitty dollars.

So I cancelled the deal and decided I’m going to make a concerted effort to use my visa even less in 2015.

And invest the $30 into an RESP or TFSA for my kids….


Business Technology

Telus: You Call That Tech Support?

I just had to share my horrific Telus internet tech support story.  It was so frustrating that it is interesting.  Because they have said they will be giving me a couple of months free internet, I’m not going to include a few other stories that surrounded this one, but it’s wrong for me not to share at least this one.  It must be exposed to spare others from pain.

I just moved to North Delta and decided to use Telus just because they seemed to have less presence than what seemed to be a near-monopoly of the over-priced Delta Cable.  My philosophy behind the decision was that if there wasn’t some reasonable competition in the market the monopolist would win removing all options and lower pricing from me.

The installation was fine (in fact great) and the service speed was good enough for my needs.   However, as the excited amateur radio (ham radio) operator that I am, I needed to open a few ports in my modem-router to make Qtel work.  I needed to simply open a few ports that seemed to be blocked by the router.

Since I know that tech support is always busy with people who don’t even know that they have ports, I decided to fix it on my own.  I did the usual steps: found my modem-router admin password and IP address, logged in, went into the port-forwarding section.  I typed in 5200 and tried to save my changes.  The router sent back a message “Wait a second while your settings are being saved. You will come back to this page again (something like that).  When I came back to the page, *no changes were saved*.  Thankfully, I kind of somewhat know a little bit about how computers work.  I envisioned that these changes were not being written to the router’s internal memory/hard drive.  I don’t know how a router works, per se, but it must have it’s own light weight operating system built in and memory to save changes to so that it can perform the jobs it needs to.

My settings are not being saved, therefore I reasoned there must be a problem with either the permissions of my user name or the router itself.

So, I called Telus tech support to let them know and get the permissions fixed assuming all they had to do was remotely log into the router and boost up my permission power.  And here is a rough summary of the dialogue with my buddy Telus and I (W):


W: Hello.  There is either a permission problem with my router admin user, or there is a problem with my router.

TELUS: Oh, explain

W: (explains)

TELUS: Oh, did you say ‘ports’?  We are not trained at this level of tech support to deal with port setting changes.  In order to deal with that, you will need to move to our premium tech support division.  If you go there and the problem turns out not to be the router problem, then it will cost you $40 [I can’t remember the number, exactly but it was nasty].  If the problem is our router, like you say, there will be no charge.

W: Hold on.  Stop for a second.  Did you just say that opening  a port is ‘advanced’ for your first level tech support?
TELUS: Yes.  We are not trained to do this.

W: Tell me you are joking.  Tell me this is a bad joke.  Tell me I will wake up and you will say ‘Ha, ha, gotcha’  – because my 75 year old mother knows how to open a port in her router…

TELUS: I’m sorry, sir, but to deal with ports you need to go to our paid tech support.

W: Ok, send me through [Note: I was deeply stressed about this because I’m coming through serious financial hardship so the decision was not as easy as it might have been for someone else]

TELUS: Hello, my name is ___.  What can I do for you.

W: There is a problem with (explained again)

TELUS: Ok, try this.  Now try that.  Ok, now try this.

W: Dude. No offence but this is not rocket science and I’ve done all these steps already and I’ve now wasted nearly 45 minutes on hold and qualifying to speak to you…

TELUS: Yes, sir.  Sorry about that.  Now try this, and this, and this.

W: There. See? I’ve done all this stuff.  Exactly what you told me to do already.  Are we done? What’s your solution?
TELUS: You need a new router.  You’re right.  There is a problem with the router.

W: *laughs psychotically*


So, if you are deciding to move to Telus, or start with Telus, you had better be freakin’ amazing at router stuff and networking or you are going to be funding their new revenue stream in a big way. I had used Shaw for years and ACN for a few years and never had I experienced such a blatant display of cash-grabbing from a cornered customer as that experience.

If they didn’t quickly give me two months free like they did, I would have also blogged my experience that I had one of their corporate stores when I picked up the router!