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Is Cards Cash right for you?

The St. Louis Cardinals have announced a new program to add money to tickets for spending at the ballpark. Like anything, there are benefits and risks.

    This past week, the St. Louis Cardinals announced a new program for 2010 called Cards Cash. It is essentially stored money loaded into the barcode of your game ticket which can be used at any Busch Stadium register, including concession stands, kiosks and the Team Store.

    The Cardinals have begun selling tickets with Cards Cash in the first three configurations that follow with the fourth coming in a couple of weeks:

    Holliday Pack –7 games and $7 per ticket in complimentary Cards Cash for each of the specified games ($49 total value Cards Cash added per pack)

    Outfield Loge Box Season Tickets – Full Season, Half-Season, and 27-game plans, with $5 per ticket in complimentary Cards Cash for each game ($405 total value Cards Cash added per seat for full season plan)

    Group Tickets – groups of 25 or more may choose to add Cards Cash to their tickets and receive $12 Cards Cash value for only $10, or $6 value for only $5.

    Single game individual tickets – when they go on sale in early March, a single-game Cards Cash feature will be offered in which fans can add Cards Cash and receive $12 value for only $10.

    The first two Cards Cash configurations offer a good deal – if you were planning to purchase these plans, that is. In that case, you have found money, so to speak. If you want to use the stored value, great, but if you don’t, you still receive the value from the tickets you bought. (Update: As always, be sure to compare per-game ticket prices across packages.)

    That is not so for the tickets that most people will buy, however – single game tickets and to a lesser extent, Group Tickets. In those cases, any money added to your ticket is nothing more than a loan to the Cardinals, which you can collect with interest – if and only if you follow all the rules.

    Otherwise, you are sunk.

    Don’t get me wrong. I like the concept and the use of new technology. It works well as a perk with the ticket packages. But until they work out the limitations in future seasons, the average fan has to be very careful when adding stored money to his or her single game ticket.

    If you know you are going to the game and plan to spend more than $10 on goodies, go for it. Just understand there is no turning back.

    As a public service, here are six questions and answers that illustrate the risk. (In case you can’t tell, I wrote these, not the Cardinals, but I do believe the answers are accurate.)

    Q: If I added Cards Cash to a single game ticket, but find out later that I can’t attend the game, can I get my money back?

    A: Sorry, no refunds on tickets or Cards Cash.

    Q: Well, can I move my stored money to a ticket for another game, then?

    A: No. If you don’t use the Cards Cash on the day of the original ticket, it is gone.

    Q: If I don’t spend the total stored value on my ticket the day I am at the game, can I keep my ticket and use my Cards Cash later in the season?

    A: No. See above. As an aside, you probably didn’t buy much at the game, as it doesn’t take much effort to make $10-$12 disappear pretty quickly.

    Q: What if I lose my stored value ticket or it is damaged once I am in the ballpark?

    A: It’s gone. It would be no different than if you lost a ten-dollar bill. (I hope you remember where you were sitting!)

    Q: What if I can’t attend the game for which I bought a ticket with Cards Cash and give the ticket to a friend (because I would never deal with scalpers)? Where does my stored value go?

    A: It stays with the ticket. You had better get your friend to pay you an extra $10 to cover your sunk cost and don’t forget to tell him he has a bonus.

    Q: If I don’t spend the total stored value on my ticket the day I am at the game, where does my money go?

    A: The Cardinals keep it.

    It would seem that an interpretation was made that Cards Cash does not fall under the Federal Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, shortened to “Credit CARD Act of 2009”. Enacted by Congress and signed by President Obama last May, among the many provisions of the Act is protection for consumers who purchase certain types of gift and stored value cards through the establishment of a five-year mandatory expiration date.

    Some states have enacted even stricter Gift Card Consumer Protection Laws, according to the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, Missouri is apparently not among these states.

    The Credit CARD Act of 2009 specifically covers “general-use prepaid cards”, “gift certificates”, and “store gift cards”, but excludes “several other common types of prepaid cards, such as reloadable cards that are not marketed as gift cards, telephone cards, cards not marketed to the general public, and loyalty, award, or promotional cards,” according to the US Federal Reserve.

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    Brian Walton

    Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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