Broken: Debit Card Rebates


Last week I got a rebate from ATT for a recent purchase of a cell phone. On one hand debit cards are convenient, but a check is better:

  • They're more fungible. I can't use a check to pay off another card or part of my rent, for example.
  • The money ends up in your account immediately rather than sitting in ATT's account.
  • I can cash the check and wait to use the funds until later. The debit cards expire in 60-90 days.

I tweeted some of this and got a few good responses, but the one I enjoyed most was from @tinjaw. He pointed me to this talk by Seth Godin on the Seven Kinds of Broken. He mentions debit card rebates right at the start as a bad marketing move. In essence, the company wants to trick you into thinking you're getting a break without actually giving you one. They're designing a system that breaks on purpose to take advantage of their customers.