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Stress Reliever

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Bank of America is promoting its ‘VERSATEL/VISA Check Card’ as a stress reliever. BofA says consumers sweat with stress when writing checks especially if they have poor penmanship. The bank said yesterday that bad handwriting costs Americans an estimated $200 million annually because of bookkeeping errors, misfiled information, illegible doctor’s prescriptions, and personal checks that can’t be deciphered. BofA is in the midst of a major summer promotion for its debit card. BofA is running a ‘Triple Win Sweepstakes’ this summer in which three new VW Beetles will be given away to customers whose names are picked in the sweepstakes drawing. In addition to these grand prizes, the bank is awarding triple the amount of purchases made by customers whose names are selected during weekly sweepstakes events.

FULL STORY:
Woody Allen, playing the bumbling criminal, Virgil Starkwell, in “Take the Money and Run” thrusts a note at a bank teller. The teller says: “I can’t read this, what does this say?” “It says I’m pointing a gun at you,” replies Virgil. “That looks like gub,” says the teller. As they quibble over penmanship, cops arrive and arrest Virgil.

If your handwriting is worse than Virgil’s — or is even worse than a doctor’s prescription — bank debit cards may be the best remedy for stress triggered by poor penmanship. By using the increasingly popular debit card, bad handwriters can stop worrying about their illegibly written checks.

Oakland psychologist Dr. Janet Hurwich believes that fast-paced, stressful living can cause bad penmanship, and that stress is further compounded when people worry that important information they write will be totally illegible.

Meticulously writing a check at a supermarket checkout stand while shoppers are fidgeting behind you can be very stressful. Your muscles tense up. You begin to perspire. You may experience a rapid heart beat, according to Dr. Hurwich. These are the most common signs of stress, along with sleep disturbance.

“You may feel stress even before you start writing a check, if you’re fumbling through a handbag or coat pockets trying to find your checkbook,” she said. “Then you find it, but your favorite pen is missing. In our stressful society, any steps we can take to ease anxiety are extremely beneficial.”

“We had no idea our debit card would serve this purpose when we introduced it as a substitute for checks,” said Kathy Yee, product manager for BofA’s debit card, which is marketed under the bank’s VERSATEL Check Card brand name. “But I have a colleague who stresses over writing checks and even signing his name on memos.”

If Bank of America’s experience is an indicator, the debit card is catching on big time with customers, regardless whether their handwriting resembles chicken scratches or is Palmer perfect. Bank customers are using VERSATEL Check Card more than 30 million times each month, according to Yee. The more customers use the card, the greater their chance to win prizes in the bank’s Triple Win Sweepstakes this summer. BofA is giving away three new VW Beetles to customers whose names are picked in the sweepstakes drawing. In addition to these grand prizes, the bank is awarding triple the amount of purchases made by customers whose names are selected during weekly sweepstakes events.

How bad is bad handwriting? In addition to causing stress, it costs Americans an estimated $200 million annually because of bookkeeping errors, misfiled information, illegible doctor’s prescriptions, and all those personal checks that can’t be deciphered. Badly written checks require special handling by banks when Bs look more like Ds or Ls, or when decimal points are mistaken for zeros.

Seventy-six percent of pharmacists surveyed in a recent poll complained that illegible prescriptions cause substantial losses, and the U.S. Postal Service pays the overhead for more than 100 million illegibly addressed letters that wind up in dead letter files each year.

Bank of America’s VERSATEL Check Card is its ATM card that doubles as a debit card. It can be used to pay for purchases at supermarkets, restaurants, retail stores and other merchants that accept Visa or ATM cards.

Last year, Bank of America became the first U.S. issuer of debit cards to eliminate customer liability for fraud losses — a move that quickly became a standard in the industry.

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