Fri, Jan 13, 2006 - Page 10 News List

`Card goddess' has account canceled

BANKERS Chinatrust has halted the account of a savvy customer who took advantage of offers to make some money, much to the ire of the Consumer's Foundation

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

While many of the nation's over 400,000 credit and cash cardholders remain dogged by escalating loans, a 27-year-old woman has made profits of more than NT$1 million (US$31,300) over the past three months using just her credit card.

However, this has raised the ire of her card issuer, Chinatrust Commercial Bank (中國信託), which decided to halt her card on Wednesday.

"If consumers refuse to follow the regulations [stipulated in contracts] when using our products, we're sorry but we have to invalidate their cards as we don't want to see them bearing high risks and distorting the nature of financial tools," said Michael Chang (張智銓), director of the bank's credit card division, during a phone interview yesterday evening.

"As of now, we haven't yet received any response from her. Nor has she contacted us for further negotiations," he added.

Chang refused to disclose the contents of a certified letter that the bank has sent to the woman, citing the Law for the Protection of Computer-managed Personal Information (電腦處理個人資料保護法).

Dubbed the "goddess of cards" by the local Chinese-language media, Yang Hui-ju (楊蕙如), a citizen of Taitung City and a MBA degree holder from the University of Queensland, Australia, stumbled upon the money-making scheme accidentally while surfing the Internet at home.

According to Yang, Eastern Home Shopping Network (東森得易購), the nation's largest television shopping service provider, allowed their members to purchase vouchers worth NT$20,000 (US$627.35) by paying only NT$19,000 when using a credit card.

What caught her eye was that, if the vouchers are not used after one year, Eastern Home Shopping will redeem them by presenting each customer with a check worth NT$20,000, a move that guarantees customers a five-percent return ratio, higher than the interest rate offered on deposits.

She then discovered a preferential bonus-point program provided by Chinatrust Commercial Bank, the nation's biggest credit-card issuer.

By paying a monthly membership fee of NT$800 to the bank, cardholders can earn eight times the amount of bonus points from purchases made using the card.

Having discovered the incentives, she raised capital of NT$6 million from her relatives and put it into her Chinatrust account in order to earn a higher credit line in October last year.

After spending all the money to buy Eastern Home Shopping vouchers using her credit card, she earned 1.6 million bonus points.

She then sold the vouchers on auction Web sites, some of them being bought back by her relatives, who then did the same for her. By doing so several times, her bonus points quickly snowballed to over 8 million points.

The points allowed her to obtain 20 free first-class airline tickets to the US, exchanging 320,000 points for each ticket, which she then sold on the Internet to rake in NT$900,000.

As Chinatrust also allows cardholders to transfer their bonus points, she sold her remaining points via the Internet by selling 1,000 points at NT$300.

This way, Yang said she has amassed more than NT$1 million in profit.

Chinatrust reportedly accused Yang of deception by colluding with her friends and relatives. But the non-profit Consumers' Foundation (消基會) said the bank should apologize to Yang and has no right to invalidate her credit cards.

The bank still profits from Yang's purchases by way of handling fees and if it finds her behavior improper, the bank should instead adjust the promotions, rather than accusing its consumers, said Terry Huang (黃怡騰), the foundation's secretary general.

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