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When Prepaid Cards Hold Your Money Hostage

This weekend, since our contract with Verizon expired, we switched our cell phone plan to AT&T (because my husband made me get an iPhone). Also on the plan are two other family members who just wanted simple phones (I swear, that's all I wanted too!). So AT&T added them onto our "family plan" and said those two phones would be about $10 a piece after I mailed in the rebate information. Great. So that means I'll be getting back about $50 or $60 from AT&T, right?

This weekend, since our contract with Verizon expired, we switched our cell phone plan to AT&T (because my husband made me get an iPhone). Also on the plan are two other family members who just wanted simple phones (I swear, that's all I wanted too!). So AT&T added them onto our "family plan" and said those two phones would be about $10 a piece after I mailed in the rebate information. Great. So that means I'll be getting back about $50 or $60 from AT&T, right?Wrong. Apparently, AT&T, I guess in an effort to go paperless, is sending its rebates in the form of preloaded Visa cards. The cards can be used anywhere except at ATMs, according to the AT&T salesman.

OK, while I appreciate AT&T's movement to more "modern" forms of payment, I think there's something inherently cheap and somewhat tacky about sending customers their rebates as prepaid cards. I want my money. I want to be able to spend it where I want, how I want (Yes, I know Visa is accepted pretty much everywhere, but still.). I even (heaven forbid) might actually want to save that money I receive from the rebates.

Now that I think about it, my husband had to switch to AT&T when he started his new job. He mailed in the rebate for his Blackberry and they sent him a prepaid card. We were both a little surprised and annoyed by the form of the payment. He eventually did use the card to buy something. Still, a check would have been nicer.

I don't know. Maybe this is AT&T's way of helping to contribute to the "economic stimulus" package passed by the Bush Administration. After all, those consumers who receive the prepaid cards have no choice but to spend the money. As for me, a prepaid card just doesn't cut. I want a check!

If you were to receive a rebate by prepaid card, how would you feel? Would you rather just get a check? Let us know.

P.S.: I must confess that the iPhone is rather nice.

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