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Fine print, Rewards

Must-have hold ’em/blackjack game so worth all those reward points

I have 18,675 World Points on my TexasExes Bank of America rewards card, which I got for being a TexasEx via a telemarketer to alumni.

The card had a low interest rate at first, but it’s popped into the stratosphere. (Don’t ask.) I really want to get rid of that interest rate, and will be calling Money Management International soon for help in getting it slashed. That will mean closing the account, so I might as well redeem the points first.

The oversized heavyweight postcards from WorldPoints highlight ever-so-tempting things I can get with my points, but nowhere does the brochure say exactly how to redeem them. The brochure also doesn’t show how many points I have.

I’m sure the points are listed on my statement, but I don’t have it with me, so I called  the 24/7 toll-free customer service line listed on the back of the card, which directed me to cash in my points by going to “Double-uDouble-uDouble-u dot BankofAmerica dot com,” enunciated and spelled at the speed of dying roaches, as if the ozone hole had sucked out everyone who knows how to spell the same three letters in a row.

I’m going to follow the “yellow brick road” at the card Web site, and hope to get a heart, brain or courage. Or, as these rewards-for-merchandise things tend to go, a plastic silvertone radio/flashlight combo, which will pick up one fuzzy station, and after one day the antenna will snap off and the back of the battery hatch will disappear. This to-die-for device will use a chunk of my points, I’m sure, so I’ll check into getting cash back or airline miles before I decide how to use these sure-to-be-worth-a-ton points.

On the Bank of America Web site, where I’d been sent by the 800 number listed on the back of the card, I had to type in my account number about 6 or 12  times, only to be directed toward “online bill pay” or to instant applications for other B of A cards.

After I at last devised a valid passcode and was recognized as a genuine card holder, I was cut off. My request “could not be processed at this time,” but I could call a different toll-free number.

I reached “Michael,” who said in a vaguely robotic tone, “So I hear you’re having problems on our site?”

“Well, I had no problems until I got a message saying I would have to call this other 800 number,” I said, and he laughed metallically. He was getting the same “can’t be processed at this time” message when he looked at my account.  “And I can’t very well call myself!” he snorted.

Michael, no longer machine-like, offered to a) connect with someone else;  b) give me someone else’s number or c) both, so with c), I reached “Michelle” in customer service.

She asked in a somewhat edgy tone why I was having trouble with the Web site. “I’m not sure I’m having trouble using the site,” I told her, “but it was having trouble accessing my account.”

Oh, she said, sounding slightly less vexed.

Abruptly, Michelle said she could not answer any questions about my rewards points unless I just wanted cash, but I could use only 15,000 points of my 18,675 to get $120, and would have to leave the other 3, 675 points unused at this time. She could connect me to someone in the rewards department who’d be happy to help, though, if I preferred to redeem the points for merchandise.

Michelle gave me a second phone number, where I could not reach a human. “Please wait. Please wait. Please wait,” an electronic voice repeated for what seemed like 10 minutes. Then a click. “We’re sorry. Your call was unable to be completed. Please hang up and dial the toll-free number again.”

I seem to remember going through this rigmarole when I last tried to redeem my points, which could account for the old user name with 2004 at the end, which I found when I finally found a way to the correct website. The URL actually was on the back of the card, but I had thought it would be faster to call the 800 number, which sent me to the B of A site.

Bygones. I was at nirvana, www.mbnaworldpoints.com, so perused the cash, travel and merchandise options.

I decided against travel rewards. The only plane ticket I ever seem to buy is for the “nerd bird” from Austin  to San Jose on American Airlines’ to visit my sister, her husband and my three nieces in Palo Alto, which costs about $220 on a bargain day.

My points would cover up to $120 of that ticket, and the rewards FAQ page invites me to charge the rest to my B of A card and earn more reward points! How many, it doesn’t say, but since my higher-than-$1,000 balance coughed up 18,675 points (and who knows how much I actually charged to get the points) I figure that charging $100 would result in about 37 points, worth incalculably fewer than zero dollars.

I nearly settled on a Johnson Country Mile Spincast Rod and Reel combo fishing pole (4600 points), a Eureka! Sandstone sleeping bag (4800 points), a Wenzel Timber Creek Tent with room for four (6800 points) and a Nike swoosh bill cap (2500 points) for a total of 18,700 points.  (Rats. With just 25 more points, I could afford the bill cap!) for my as-yet unscheduled camping trip to Big Bend National Park. I’ve never been there, because it’s not on the way to anything, and I got rid of my sleeping bag and backpack after not using them since the Paleolithic era. I’ve never had my own tent, fishing pole or Nike swoosh bill cap, and life’s too short to live another day without them, I’m sure.

I also felt a magnetic force drawing me to order the absolute must-have “Hold’Em/Blackjack game set” with its 300 casino poker chips, 4-deck card shoe, 3 chip trays, 2 decks of cards, big blind button, little blind button, dealer button, rule book, layout felt playing surface and  storage bag for 6,800 points. I’d use it all the time, being the high-stakes poker player and blackjack whiz that I am. Not.

For another 4,800 points, I could have ordered the Solar/Dynamo flashlight/radio combo, “perfect for your home, office, car, boat, or R.V. and always ready to use without worrying about batteries. Crank style heavy-duty power generator and solar panel for constant daylight charging of Ni-Cad rechargeable battery. Features ultrabright LED flashlight/lantern, blink switch, siren, AM/FM radio, telescopic antenna, and earphone jack.”

Even better, I would still have been able to afford the “Who Killed the Electric Car” (2,900 points) and the “An Inconvenient Truth” (3.900 points) DVDs. With this poker/blackjack kit, extremely durable solar flashlight/radio and two “green” DVDs, I would only waste 875 points, which I probably charged about $325 to earn. (I’m figuring that 875 x .37 = $325. I came up with .37 per point by dividing $7,000 by 18,675 points.)

In the end, I ordered a $100 Borders gift card (12,000 points) and a $50 Amazon gift card (6,000 points), so if I ever receive them in the mail, I’ll get $30 more than the $120 in cash, and I wasted only 675 points. You can only redeem points starting at 2,500, so I would have to charge maybe $700 more to get them, and could then redeem them for a small tin box of 2.6 ounce scented round soaps. I could also just buy soaps like that at TJ Maxx for $5. You math whizzes can feel free to question my equations of 2,500 minus 675 = 1825, and 1825 x .37 = $675.

In any case, it’ll be “auf wiedersehn” to that card and all the others as soon as Money Management International can slice and dice my accounts. I guess it’ll be cash or check for that Nike swoosh bill cap and Big Bend camping equipment shopping extravaganza.

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