Credit card add-on products used to be sold as a valuable way for customers to protect themselves from criminals and unexpected mishaps. Now, they're just "products you don't need."
That's according to an email to Barclaycard customers from Amer Sajed, the chief executive of Barclays' U.S. card unit. The bank recently jettisoned its payment protection and identity theft protection products, following in the footsteps of companies like Capital One (COF), Bank of America (BAC), and Discover (DFS).
Card add-on products have taken some sizable hits over the last couple of years, but banks that have dropped them so far have generally refrained from disparaging them. Capital One and Discover, hit by fines and enforcement actions by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, blamed their troubles on vendors instead of on the products themselves. And when Bank of America junked its payment protection program last year, it announced that it was doing so as "an independent business decision" that was part of a "larger strategy to streamline our business."
Barclaycard was a little less subtle. "When you call to activate your card, we won't try to sell you products you don't need," Sajed wrote in an email to credit card customers sent earlier this week. "Over the past year, feedback from customers like you pinpointed several areas where we needed to improve in order to meet your expectations. Frankly, you were right."
Representatives for the bank did not respond to requests for comment.
Not everyone in the industry is on the same page. Wells Fargo (WFC), for example, still offers a "credit defense service" and "enhanced identity theft protection" for a fee. And the American Bankers Association still endorses identity theft protection products from Affinion, one of the largest add-on product vendors.
In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo said that it provides credit card add-on products to customers "to help them succeed financially." Last year it altered its payment protection product offerings, she said, "to make it more affordable and make it easier for customers to access their benefits."
Barclays, which won Forrester Research's Voice of the Customer Award last year, has made other changes in addition to dropping card add-ons. Among them is an end to "confusing" residual finance charges, which is interest that accrues in between when borrowers receive their monthly balance and when they pay it.
"Now when you only have purchases on your account, and pay your purchase balance in full – that's it. Your next statement won't have any residual finance charges," Sajed wrote in the email.