My annual renewal of my AAA
membership is up. This year, the card is automatically an [American
Express Prepaid Debit Card](http://www.americanexpress.com/aaasne). At
first, I thought it could be useful and a way to keep emergency cash
hanging around. I started to read through of the included text extolling
the virtues and fabulous deals available to me if I'd only activate the
card. In my mind, a prepaid card avoids credit checks, credit history
sharing, and well, it should just work like cash; just electronically.
However, I'm odd. I start to read through the [Terms of
Service](http://www.americanexpress.com/tos) and the [Privacy
I get to far into those documents, I skimmed the
The first thing that caught my eye,
> What security features are in place to ensure my information is safe
> since my AAA Membership Card is now tied to financial information?
> The American Express for AAA Prepaid Card is managed through a secure
> web portal. Upon activating your Prepaid Card you will be asked to
> create a User ID and Password to securely manage your Prepaid Card
> account. For your security, this User ID and Password is separate from
> your AAA membership login details.
> Once you set up online access to your Prepaid Card, you can sign up for
> E-mail or Text alerts to notify you about important activity on your
> Prepaid Card. If your Card is lost or stolen, American Express will not
> hold you liable for unrecognized or fraudulent transactions and will
> transfer the remaining balance to your replacement Card.
Let's parse that answer. The question asked is about the concern
that your AAA information and financial usage of the card are tied
together. The answer refers to you, the cardholder, as to the website for
What doesn't it address? It doesn't talk about any sort of firewall
or sharing agreement between AAA and American Express. It doesn't talk
about what data is shared, how that data is secured, and who has access
to the data beyond the two companies.
Reason #1 not the renew my membership has been found. However, moving on.
> Who can activate the Prepaid Card functionality on AAA Membership Cards?
> You must be 18 years of age or older and have a valid Social Security
> Number to use the American Express for AAA Prepaid Card.
Uhh, what? It's a prepaid card funded with a verified bank account, but you
need my Social Security Number? Why?
I called American Express to ask. The answer is basically "the PATRIOT
Act requires us to do this to avoid financing terrorists." I'm pretty
sure terrorists are financing themselves just fine, even with the PATRIOT
Act. The next excuse was drug wars. I'm pretty sure drug dealers are
doing fine as well.
Reason #2 not to renew my membership has been found.
For some masochistic reason, I read the [Cardmember
In summary, Amex can share my information with anyone they deem worthy,
at any time, for any reason. Even if I 'opt-out', my info is still shared
with Amex affiliates at their discretion.
Reason #3 not to renew my membership.
And for the last reason not to renew, I read the entire [Privacy
It basically says interaction the cardmember has with Amex is recorded,
saved, and used for whatever reason Amex deems necessary. This includes
your voice, your IP address, your Operating System, the phone number
you called from, your credit history, your purchases, and so on. They
also share all of this information with their Affiliates. Ugh. I
understand Amex needs to do fraud detection, but I don't see why they
need to share my information with everyone on the planet. I don't
understand why I cannot opt-out of anything that isn't directly related
to using the card. I don't understand why I am forced to 'opt-in' by
default. I should be 'opt-out' by default.
In conclusion, this change is enough to remind me to change auto
clubs. Thanks AAA, you've motivated me to sign up with [Better World
originally published at wiki.lewman.is