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Credit card There are approximately 1,500,000,000 credit cards in the United States — an average of five cards for every man, woman, and child. I have always thought it would be great to have just one. If I could have just one it would be the American Express platinum card. The fee is quite high but my experience has been that it pays for itself. Disputes all get resolved. They make you satisfied no matter what it takes. A couple of years ago I reserved five rooms at a hotel for some colleagues and I who were planning to attend a convention in Atlanta. A month before the event I cancelled four of the five rooms due to a change of plans. The hotel refused to give credit for the rooms even though I had emails to prove the cancellations. It is a long story but the bottom line is that American Express gave credit for the rooms. That one incident will pay for a couple of years of the annual fee. I have no doubt that any other credit card would have said tough luck. The card also gives free admission to the airline club lounges.
Speaking of other credit cards, it is unfortunately not possible to have just an American Express card. Many small retailers and restaurants will not accept American Express. It is too bad that they often insult the card holder with comments like “we take anything but” the card you presented. I have resigned to the fact that I need to carry two cards. One easy solution is to have a debit card but credit cards offer two advantages. You get free money — float — for 30+ days as long as you pay your balance. Secondly, you get points, miles, or cash rebates. It was my experience that the miles and points are too restrictive to be valuable. I concluded the best deal in the long run is to get the cash rebate which averages out to 1.5% of your purchases. In the summer of 2005 I found the ideal card — an ExxonMobil Mastercard — issued and managed by Citigroup. The ExxonMobil card offered a 1% cash rebate on all purchases and 3% on their gasoline purchases for six months and then 2% (and now 15 cents per gallon). One of the prerequisites in selecting this card was that it work directly with Quicken — which I have been using since 1984 (Quicken 1.0 for DOS). Each time I update Quicken it automatically goes to Citicards (and American Express) and downloads all new transactions.
I have been a loyal user of the ExxonMobil card for almost four years. I pay my balance on time and they are usually helpful in the event of an issue with a merchant — although much more difficult (write us a letter) than American Express (call and get instant temporary credit while the issue is resolved). A few weeks ago I discovered that my Mastercard transactions were not downloading. The error message delivered from Citicards via Quicken was “Your financial institution has rejected your request”. No big deal. I have run into this error before. It will be fine tomorrow I thought. But it wasn’t. It still does not work. Technical support at Citicards said the problem was that they do not yet support Quicken 2009. Quicken 2009 hit the market last summer and that did not seem like the right answer because it had been working. Looking around the support forum at Quicken I discovered that a lot of people were having the same problem. The card holders were very clear in their frustration but Citi was not listening. I sent tech support an email and to my delight they answered it the next day — the email contained 89 words to give me a link to a web page with their answer which only had 63 words. Here is what they said.

We appreciate your inquiry and regret any inconvenience. The ability to download transactions via Quicken previously was a website error that has since been corrected. The ability is no longer available as Exxon Mobil has not authorized Quicken use of the website. At this time no plans for restoration of the service has been identified or released. Thank you for using our website.
In other words the fact that it worked was a bug and the fix is to not allow it to work. I can ignore their “purchase APR equals the Prime Rate plus 14.99% (with a minimum of 21.00% and a maximum 28.99%” because I pay my balance on time, but I can not ignore the fact that Citicards has decided to not allow their gasoline cards to work with Quicken. It really makes you wonder how such a huge organization could be so clueless and send an email that violates common sense. Their own bank and their own credit cards of course do allow Quicken downloads. This huge financial services company has a way of making you feel irrelevant. The only solution is to cancel the card. Now they have 92 million minus one card holders.