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Deployed? Make sure businesses treat you right

Feb. 21, 2007 - 10:52AM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 21, 2007 - 10:52AM  |  

Listen up. Conducting personal business when you're deployed to Iraq can be a challenge.

But how companies deal with APO and FPO mailing addresses is an issue that comes up often. Some companies refuse to ship to APO or FPO addresses or charge far more than the usual shipping rate, even though they are U.S. postal addresses.

A former soldier who works for a contractor in Iraq ran into a different problem when he tried to apply for a U.S. Bank credit card. He was trying to apply through the U.S. Bank Web site for a retail card, an REI Visa credit card. Those who use the credit card typically receive a 10 percent rebate on qualified REI purchases and a 1 percent rebate on other purchases, according to the U.S. Bank Web site. You must also be an REI member, which requires a one-time $15 payment http://www.rei.com">online.

But the contract worker, who asked to remain anonymous, was told he could not apply. "We do require that you use a United States address," a customer service representative told him in an e-mail. "If you wish, you can apply over the phone through our enrollment center. However, they are also going to require a United States address when applying over the phone."

In an e-mail response to questions, the former soldier wrote that "it is really frustrating for military folks who have to deal with businesses who do not support them."

He noted the trouble troops have getting items shipped to their APO addresses. "And it makes absolutely no sense to me why someone serving their country overseas would be denied the opportunity to simply apply for a credit card."

Information was not available at press time from U.S. Bank about why it would not accept the APO address, but a spokeswoman said the company has determined that it will allow the former soldier to apply for the credit card.

The contract worker confirmed that he has received a response from U.S. Bank that it will accept applications over the telephone from people using APO addresses.

Those with APO or FPO addresses can apply for the Military Star card, said Judd Anstey, spokesman for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which operates the credit card program. The Military Star credit card can be used in all military exchanges — AAFES, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

Have you had difficulty using your APO address while trying to conduct business from overseas? Tell us about it by e-mail at sgtshopper@militarytimes.com">sgtshopper@militarytimes.com.

Troublesome grocery rebates

The REI card is just one example of the many credit card rebates available.

Some credit cards offer rebates specifically for groceries. If your card offers a 5 percent rebate on groceries and you spend $300 in a month, that's a $15 rebate. Not bad.

A question has come up about why, in some cases, groceries bought at the commissary do not qualify for the credit card grocery rebate. The Defense Commissary Agency has received some requests from customers to help them clear it up, spokesman Kevin Robinson said. The most requests come from customers with Citibank cards; second is American Express, he said. But DeCA estimates it has received fewer than 20 requests for assistance in the past year.

DeCA is classified as a grocery chain, Robinson said. The accepted merchant code for that category is 5411, which is sent to each card issuer when a transaction is processed, he said.

When a customer lets DeCA know he is not getting the rebate, the agency tries to help by contacting the card issuer or providing the customer with information so he can resolve the problem with his card issuer.

"We cannot argue what benefits the card holder is entitled to, only that DeCA-operated commissaries are classified as a grocery supermarket chain," Robinson said.

These two credit card issues illustrate a point: When you are dissatisfied with a company's policy, or you do not think you are getting the benefits you're entitled to, let the company know about it. It pays.

Got that? You're good to go.

Questions? Comments? Contact staff writer kjowers@militarytimes.com?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Karen Jowers at sgtshopper@militarytimes.com.

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