Pros: mid-range APR, no annual fee
Cons: consistently declined
I will be the first to admit I am quite a bit luckier than most my age. While I've lived on my own since I was 17, my parents have always footed the insurance and drug bill for the no less than three zillion problems I've had over the 5 years since moving out.
One wonderful year around 1999, a Discover Card simply showed up in the mail, in my name, at my parents house - an address I'd not had for 3 years at that time. After the initial wonder (what company in their right mind sends actual credit cards to someone without even an initial application in this day and age?) and amazement, I activated the card, to be billed at my parents address.
The reason? So the hassle of taking care of co-pays and expensive drugs could be dealt with quickly and easily, with no transfer of funds needed to my bank account.
The Discover Card had a mid range APR - 12.9%, with a cash advance rate of 18.9%. This card had no annual fee, and, best of all, offered cash back at the end of the year, based on the amount of purchases made.
Unlike most credit card companies, to activate this card, I had to speak to a *gasp* live person. This real, breathing, actual person was polite and prompt with the activation of the card.
Mystery #1 of the world solved - Discover Card is hoarding all of the real people, forcing other companies to overuse obnoxious menus and recorded voices.
Throughout the first year of use, my Discover Card served me quite well.
While the card was still not as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard, the places I needed this card most - CVS and most doctors offices - had their systems set to take the Discover Card.
Each bill from Discover arrived promptly after my billing cycle ended (usually within 5 days) and all payments were handled very fast, usually showing up on their system within 4 days of mailing the payments.
This little handy "Parents Paying CVS" (sorry for the PPC insurance plan bad pun) came to a horrible and jolting halt when attempting to pay for one of my more expensive drugs at CVS.
[insert spooky music o' doom here]
The card, with a good $1500 free, was declined.
[end spooky music o' doom]
The drugs were expensive, but not $1500 worth expensive.
Thinking this was just a glitch in the credit card system, I paid with another credit card and went on my merry way.
A few weeks later, again at CVS. Again, declined.
By this point, I'm more annoyed at CVS than Discover, thinking it was their credit card system not getting through to Discover to validate my card.
Once again, I go on my merry way.
The next time I attempted to use the card, I was not at the CVS That Doesn't Like My Card (tm). I was purchasing some items at a retail store that my mother was unable to find in South Carolina, where she lived. Again, declined.
Each and every time this Discover Card was declined, no reason code was listed, in order to contact the company to find out exactly why the card was declined.
In no case when the card was declined was there any balance on the card, so, as expected, it was no where near the available credit balance.
Finally getting through to Discover Card customer service, I asked why my card had been declined so many times. The customer service rep, unlike the polite one I'd had to activate my card, was somewhat zombified. She "didn't get" my problem several times, and several times told me "uhm, I dunno" when I asked her to look and see exactly what the problem was.
Finally, after a good 15 minutes of frustration, a supervisor came on the line to take over. The response to why my card was decline? The system was down.
I no longer saw my Discover Card as a Good Thing (tm). When the card couldn't even be used when I needed it most, it was useless to have. If the system was truly down these times, or if it was just sending wrong codes to those cards needing validation, Discover Card has a large problem they need to work on.
With the Discover Card growing more useless, I opted to cancel my Discover Card account.
If they couldn't get their system "fixed" in a 3 month period of time, they certainly didn't need my business.