October 2008
« Sep   Nov »



New Neteller debit card more expensive, less safe

Neteller launched its new prepaid MasterCard product "Net+" today.

At least, I think that’s what it is.  This part of their blurb isn’t exactly clear:

So it’s a prepaid card that you don’t have to pre-load.  That would be free money then?

I think the idea is that it actually takes money straight out of your Neteller account – an idea that I’m far from keen on, given that this type of payment card has absolutely no consumer protection whatsoever.  I really wouldn’t want my entire balance to be in play on those terms.

A real bank would call this a debit card; they’d also let you dispute unauthorised transactions and your balance would be protected if the institution went busto. (Compare Net+ terms 2.5 and 4.13).

However most of what I’ve read so far is so badly written and confusing I really couldn’t say with any confidence exactly what is going on.

This is definitely the replacement for the old Altair card though, which is being phased out.  That one lasted just over a year.

In theory it’s is a good move, because if Neteller are dealing with both the e-wallet and the payment card, you only have to deal with one make-believe bank instead of two when you want to spend your money.

I’ve used my Altair card take some actual US dollars out of my Neteller US dollar account, from an ATM in America.  This is just about the only way to do such a radical thing.

Neteller will keep your balance in dollars, but you can’t take your dollars out without switching currencies, allowing them to use the exchange rate of their choice to cut you a cheque in pounds.

If you take a bank wire, the amount is converted from dollars to euros first at god-knows-what rate.  Then, unless you have a bank account in euros, it’ll be converted again by your bank when it lands at god-knows-what rate, plus god-knows-what additional charges.

The last time I tried to withdraw to my US Dollar bank account, I ended up losing $112 on a $3000 cashout.  I got that back eventually after complaining a few times, but they told me not to expect the same treatment again and that I would have to live with the unnecessary double currency conversion.

To make things even better, the charges for not being able to withdraw your own money the way you want also went up earlier this year.  It’s now $10 for either a bank wire in the wrong currency, or a cheque in the wrong currency.  Both used to be just $1.

Of course, now that Neteller operate their own payment card, the fees on that have gone up too.  Altair charged $4 for an ATM withdrawal; the Net+ charge is $6.

The thing that really takes the piss though is the new $3 "dormant account" charge, applied monthly if you don’t use the card.  If it’s like I suspect, you can’t just run your prepaid card into the ground and throw it away – this fee will come straight out of your Neteller account every month unless you cancel the card.  Which costs $20.

Anyway, I sort of saw this coming because at the end of September my old card expired and I asked Altair for a replacement.  No can do, they said:

I am sorry, but at this time we will not re-issue you a new Altair Card.  Our joint card programme with NETELLER has ended, and they have a new card offering for you.

The word "not" was indeed underlined as well as in bold type for emphasis.  But you know I’ve never noticed before that NETELLER is indeed officially written in all-caps.  That’s not for emphasis, it’s just their name.  The same thing goes NEOVIA, the awkward and instantly forgettable new name for their company, apparently.

Whatever.  They barely deserve one capital leter, never mind all of those.

I feared what money I had left on the card, all $33 of it, would be dead.  I snoozed, I lost.  However, despite their corporate bitterness Altair still offered:

If you would like a refund, we can send out a cheque to you, or if you would like your funds credited back into your NETELLER account please contact the NETELLER Card services team.

This I did.  Can you guess what Neteller said?

Unfortunately you will need to contact Altair for your funds thank you we do apologize for the inconvenience.

I asked a second time for good measure.

The funds is with Altair so it cannot transfer back to NETELLER we do apologize for the inconvenience thank you.

A real bank would be able to do something as complex as transferring money from one account to another.  How naive of me to forget who I was dealing with.

I got my cheque in the end – in pounds of course.  This shows just how impressive a financial instituion Altair was, to complement Neteller’s aspirations of greatness.  Hand-written cheque, number 23.