Fine print, Living with credit

Obama’s credit card spurned by NYC eatery

Jay MacDonald

OK, show of hands: How many of you would have the crust to reject a credit card presented for payment, in person, by a fella named Barack Obama?

It happened recently to the President of the United States of America. While in New York City Sept. 24 to address assembled world leaders, the most powerful man in the world had his credit card spurned at a New York City eatery.

President Obama recounts how his credit card was turned down

President Obama recounted the moment Friday in a humorous aside to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray during a press conference in Washington while signing an executive order to help protect consumers from financial fraud and identity theft.

“Rich, I should mention, by the way, I went to a restaurant up in New York when I was there for the UN General Assembly and my credit card was rejected,” he told Cordray. “It turns out I guess I don’t use it enough, so they thought there was some fraud going on. Fortunately, Michelle had hers. I was trying to explain to the waitress ‘No, I really think I’ve been paying my bills.’ So, even I’m affected by this.”

The president is not alone. A poll published in June found that having legitimate transactions blocked is part of the shopping landscape today, with 4 in 10 frequent users of credit cards reporting they’d had purchases blocked or flagged as fraudulent, usually wrongly. (See “Poll: As fraud rises, so do false alarms.”)

So which fine dining establishment earned the coveted Duh Award by questioning President Obama’s Citi card? That would be Estela, where the president and Mrs. Obama dined Sept. 24, according to the Associated Press. Apparently Estela even posted the first couple’s order on its Instagram page: two endive salads, burrata with salsa verde, tomatoes and salt cod croquettes.” The post has since been deleted. The restaurant refused comment on the matter.

While the order he signed Friday won’t directly address false fraud alerts, the executive initiative, called “Buy Secure,” will attempt to make the use of cards safer. It requires that credit cards and credit card readers issued by the federal government contain two new layers of protection: a microchip embedded in the card to fight cloning and a PIN number to enter into the readers. He noted that when Great Britain switched to a chip-and-PIN system, it cut fraud in retail stores by 70 percent.

Home Depot, Target, Walgreens, Wal-Mart and other major retailers have pledged to adopt chip-and-PIN technology by the beginning of next year at 15,000 outlets nationwide, he added.

“Buy Secure” also aims to increase the consumer’s access to their credit score, making it easier to spot problems and correct errors on your credit report.

No word yet on whether POTUS has checked his lately.

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