Cross-Selling: Think Before Buying "Extras" Offered with Loans and Credit Cards
You're standing at the cash register ready to make a purchase and the sales person asks if you want to buy an extended warranty. Or, you're about to place an online order and the Web site informs you that "other customers who bought this item also bought this." It's known as "cross-selling," which means trying to make two sales instead of one by marketing "add-ons" that could complement or protect the original purchase.
"Cross-selling is everywhere, from retailers to restaurants to banks," said Alice Beshara, Chief of the FDIC's section that monitors banks for compliance with consumer regulations.
She added, "Don't be afraid to just say no if you're contacted to purchase a product you do not want, and be careful how you ask for additional information so the salesperson cannot construe your request as a 'yes.'"
Because these additional products and services may be beneficial to certain consumers, how can you tell if that second offer from your bank may be right for you? Here are two products that are commonly cross-sold, plus information to keep in mind.
"Payment protection," also known as credit protection, is designed to pay, suspend or cancel a consumer's outstanding debt on an account in the event of a specific hardship, such as unemployment, disability, hospitalization or death. These products may provide security and peace of mind, but understand the costs (which could be hundreds of dollars each year) and the limitations. You should also consider other alternatives, such as traditional life or disability insurance.
"Identity theft protection' will monitor your credit reports for signs that a crook may be attempting to use your name to commit fraud. This service generally costs about $15 a month, but there are cost-effective ways to monitor your credit yourself.
Remember that you are entitled to one free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus. By spreading out your requests throughout the year — such as by ordering one credit report in the first few months of the year and another report from a different credit bureau a few months later — you can actively monitor your credit report for warning signs of identity theft, such as loan requests or new accounts you didn't initiate. At a minimum, however, you should order a report once a year.
"If you're already a victim of identity theft, definitely place a fraud alert in your file at all three credit bureaus," Beshara added. Doing so warns lenders to be careful before approving a new loan or credit card in your name.