Last week had plot twists in the payments and commerce ecosystem.
We found out Google was hitting reset on its mobile payments ambitions. We learned, care of an indictment out of Robert Mueller’s investigation, the Russians aren’t coming — so much as they are already here and are committing a laundry list of financial frauds. And we learned Bank of America is perhaps a little bit concerned about the competitive risk bitcoin presents.
And that was just the above-the-fold twists that captured the majority of the attention.
The hits just kept on coming down the page — some good, some bad and some pretty ugly.
On the good side of that, Discover added some bells and whistles to its checking account business. On the bad side, JPMorgan Chase grappled with a rare security error and accidental consumer account data exposure. And on the ugly side — well, it looks like Toys R Us’ turnaround effort is morphing into a death spiral.
So, where to dive in…
Discover Competes for Deposits with Cashback on Checking
Discover, wanting to sweeten the deal on checking for consumers, has expanded the rewards program on its Cashback Checking account. The program already offered customers no monthly fees, no ATM fees and no minimum balance requirement checking account. According to last week’s announcement, Discover will now also offer consumers 1 percent cash back on up to $3,000 in qualifying debit card purchases each month.
“We know customers are looking for something truly different, which is why we created a checking account that not only rewards customers with cash back when they use their own money, but also helps them save by not charging any fees,” said Arijit Roy, vice president of Deposits at Discover.
Discover said customers can get their cash back bonuses transferred to a Discover credit card Cashback Bonus account.
The new enhancement to their checking account program is one of a series of upgrades in recent weeks. Discover also recently announced that as of April 2018, customers will no longer be required to provide a payment signature when they make retail purchases with their credit card or debit card at the point of sale (POS) when it’s on the Discover Global Network in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Discover noted the company has already embraced several other digital authentication technologies — such as tokenization, multi-factor authentication and biometrics — which means the signature is redundant, not terribly useful and thus an unnecessary waste of a customer’s time.
JPMorgan Chase’s Security Slip-Up
Even big players have glitches, and this week the biggest of the big banking players glitched hard enough that it accidently managed to expose the personal information of an unknown number of clients.
According to reports, the problem has been since corrected — and, according to the bank, the issue affected only a “very low number” of accounts.
Still, as a result of the glitch, accounts were left exposed to non-authorized users for a few hours in the middle of the week during the evening on Wednesday, Feb. 21.
While the bank was not able to say whether any erroneous transfers occurred from the account, spokeswoman Patricia Wexler said the bank would work with customers were an issue to surface. She also reiterated to CNBC that the situation was a glitch and not a hack. And, as a result of the glitch, many customers took to Twitter and Reddit to complain.
The news comes about a month after the bank faced a backlash from customers after its website and mobile app went down. According to news from American Banker, JPMorgan only reported the outage and didn’t offer a reason behind the glitch.
JPMorgan Chase is not the only bank of late to have glitch issues.
“On January 17, an internal processing error caused temporary double posting of some items, impacting some customers. The issue was corrected overnight, and customers should now see their correct balances,” Wells Fargo said in an emailed statement, according to Reuters.
While Wells Fargo did not reveal how many customers were affected, several of those customers blasted the bank in interviews.
But not quite ugly either. No, that honor this week goes to…
Toys R Us Faces Another Wave of Closures
When Toys R Us declared bankruptcy last fall, it was clear the holiday shopping season in 2017 was going to be a do or die situation for the toy retailer.
Unfortunately, it looks like — by the sales numbers — they didn’t “do.” And while they aren’t quite ready to die just yet, the chain is certainly getting smaller.
That news was pushed by a 15 percent year-over-year decline in holiday season sales between 2016 and 2017. The newest round of closures will roughly halve the number of Toys R Us locations nationwide when compared against the number of stores it was operating prior to its bankruptcy declaration.
“As we have shared publicly, our focus is on the reinvention of our business and emergence from chapter 11,” spokeswoman Amy von Walter told the WSJ. “Decisions about our future store footprint and organizational structure will be based on needs of the new business model, and so it would be premature for me to comment on that.”
Since the filing, the company has been on a campaign to revitalize sales and bring more consumers back into its stores. The retailer has announced it would level up its eCommerce efforts “to better reflect its brand, promote the hottest toys and provide improved delivery capabilities so Toys R Us can effectively compete in the online shopping space.”
But it’s going to have to stay alive long enough to get competitive — and as of right now, its ability to do so remains far from a forgone conclusion.
So, what did we learn this week?
The plot can always thicken — and probably will.
Sometimes that spells good news for consumers — like when they get cashback checking. Sometimes it’s bad news — like data glitches accidently giving the world a free preview of their personal information.
And sometimes the news barely hits consumers at all but is, nonetheless, pretty ugly, like a retailer circling the drain.