Declined: Credit Card Use Banned at Loyal3

Declined - Credit Card Use Banned at Loyal3 - Credit Cards

Loyal3 will be completely stopping the use of credit cards by the middle of December. Ultimately, I knew it was only a matter of time. Too many people were arbitraging the system and making too much in rewards for it not to happen. Is this where we ask something like, “why can’t we just have nice things?” No, absolutely not the case. While many of those in the dividend growth investing world have not abused the practice, there are those who have utilized credit cards to purchase tens of thousands of dollars of stock or more, than sell it a few weeks later, simply leveraging the strong market into generating thousands of dollars in rewards points.

Why does that matter for a company like Loyal3? It’s fairly simple, transaction costs. When accepting credit cards, companies pay between 2-3% of the transactional value in fees. Needless to say, this can get expensive really quickly. If you have 2,000 people flushing $10,000 over the course of six months, as a company you’re absorbing $400-600,000 in credit card fees. Heck of a lot of operational cost, and that doesn’t even include the regular folks who just like investing with no-fees and utilize cash. Since Loyal3 does not make money off the retail investor, this customer cost, in addition to what they are spending to acquire the customer, is just not worth it. As a start-up trying to build a viable business, this seems like a no-brainer and why I didn’t think the “party” would last forever.

Does this change the Loyal3 offerings from a value proposition? Yes and no. For “investors” who solely were concerned about arbitrating the situation, this is a crushing blow. For the rest of us, likely we should continue to use Loyal3 in the manner it has been provided. A simple, no-cost means of dollar cost averaging into some very wide-moat and viable dividend growth offerings.

The important parts of the notification email received from Loyal3:

…We’ve had an amazing 2014, introducing more IPOs to the general public than ever before – with brands such as Santander Consumer USA, GoPro and Dave & Buster’s. And we’ve added many new stocks, including most recently, Kraft Foods.

Through the success, we’ve also learned a lot about how people use LOYAL3. Credit cards have become a common method for people “gaming” LOYAL3 to gain credit card points and not for the purpose of investing. This increases our costs and subtracts from our mission of making it easy, affordable and fee-free for people to invest in the brands they love.

In order to put an end to the “gaming” of LOYAL3, and to maintain fee-free investing, on Tuesday, 11/18/2014, we will be removing credit and debit cards from the LOYAL3 platform. Automatic Monthly Plans (monthly recurring investments) using credit and debit cards will continue to be active until Thursday, 12/11/2014, to allow time to switch over to ACH (checking account transfers)…

So, while I’m sad to to see it go, again, this doesn’t change my ultimate goal in building a no-cost portfolio. While I will likely won’t have as much incentive to put as many dollars to work going forward, I will not stop investing. My snowball at Loyal3 is growing, and I have no intention of letting it slow down or stop now!

For those who have invested in Loyal3, what are your thoughts? For those who haven’t invested with Loyal3, would you still be interested in investing, even without the rewards angle?

Flickr: Sean MacEntee

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Comments

  1. Man that sucks. It’s always the few that ruin it for the many. I liked using a card to expediate transactions by completed it in 2 rather than 3 days.

    • Even without the few who abused it, the cost would really prohibit their ability to scale. It was a great feature to draw in investors, but ultimately too limiting for the long-term. As you’ve said, the faster transactions absolutely will be missed.

  2. As you said, this was only a matter of time before the elimination of credit card usage was implemented. This isn’t the first time something like this happened. A few years ago the U.S. mint offered free shipping on presidential and Native American $1 coins, sold at face value. Many people simply bought, on their credit cards, thousands of dollars worth of these coins, deposited the money into their bank account, used the deposit to pay their credit card bill and then collected the air miles rewards. Lots of free travel was “purchased” in this way. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that Loyal3 is still fee free which is their biggest selling point. Thanks for sharing this recent update.

    • I remember the US Mint issue as well and remember banks getting frustrated at absorbing all the coins. Cost the government quick a bit of cash as a result of that little experiment. By and large, arbitrage opportunities do not last forever.

      The main selling point of Loyal3 is the free trades, so I’m still happy to be an investor through them. Thank you for your thoughts!

  3. I’m disappointed, but not surprised. Anything that is costing Loyal3 money would detract form their vision of providing commission free investment.

    • Detract, and prohibit as their scale increases. Takes a lot of work to generate the kind of revenue it would have taken to continue allowing credit cards. Given a current investor base, they will lose some folks, but have now gotten their name and presence out there. Personally, I viewed it as a marketing expense to bring folks into the fold and expand their reach.

      Thanks for stopping by FerdiS

  4. Not surprised to hear this at all. I wonder how many people will stop using Loyal3 as a result though.

  5. Rats….Next year I was going to start looking for an alternative to Sharebuilder. I still love Sharebuilder, but the thought of free trades purchased with a credit card sounds insane. Oh well nothing that good lasts forever.

    • Rats indeed! No more juicing my first year yields by +1% per dollar invested! I’m sure quite a few folks will be disappointed and stop investing, but they are still a viable option to dollar cost average at no cost. Hopefully you can find a suitable replacement, and thanks for your comments MDP!

  6. What a joke, accumulating credit card rewards was one of the only incentive to using them

    • I wouldn’t necessarily say a joke, but the marketing ploy has now been removed, that’s for certain. There are other reasons to use Loyal3, for both the no-cost functionality and the ability to access IPOs with the rest of the institutional investors.

  7. Just saw the email and I was bummed. While I wasn’t using Loyal3 for the purpose of scoring reward points/cash back it was a nice bonus. This will most likely lead to me backing down on my purchases through Loyal3 but I do still plan to invest there. It’s still hard to beat a no commission way of dollar cost averaging into positions. Sad to see it go but I’m not surprised at all.

    • Some of my motivation for opening the account absolutely correlated with the ability to juice my returns. I’m happy I was able to invest as much as I was this year as a result. Like yourself I will likely temper volume my investments, but won’t be stopping. The opportunity to dollar cost average into some quality positions at a no-cost still holds a tremendous value to me.

      JC, thanks for your comments and for sharing your future plans.

  8. Ouch! and I just got a 1.5% cashback cc that I was going to use for this. CC use was great. I was using it $50 a week for this. Sad to see this option go.

    • Indeed! Well, I can think of two positives for you. One, you still have 10 days to use the credit card, and two, you now are the proud owner of a 1.5% cash back card, which can pay you for all your spending. Life at a discount one might say.

      Thanks for your comments, and I can understand the frustration.

  9. W2R,

    Can’t say I’m surprised. I’m unlikely to open a Loyal3 account for myself despite investigating it, but I’ll be quick to open a custodian account for my kids if they ever roll those out. Right now there’s no fee free alternative for them.

    For those already on Loyal3, take advantage of the next 10 days and get those cash back or other rewards while you can!

    Best,
    DWC

    • Bingo, stock up on the last ten days of opportunity and remember the good ol’ days! Since I already have an account, and it is turning into its own little monster, I am likely going to continue investing in the account. It is a great case study of what small, consistent amounts of investing can generate in a short period of time.

      Thanks for stopping by, and hopefully you can find a solid custodian option somewhere.

  10. Figures, I just started and was looking forward to supplementing my gains with rewards. In any event, I’ll still continue to use them as a good way to make small investments without having to worry about the fees. Once you have to worry about the fees, it seems like you want to make a larger deposit, which I usually don’t have lying around.

    On a side note, I have to say thanks to you and a whole lot of other blogs that have inspired me to get started.

    • I wouldn’t worry too much about missing out on the rewards. The fact that you’ve started the journey is more important, and it looks like you had a successful first month in October. As you’ve said, the ability to invest a few bucks at a time for no-cost is the largest benefit.

      I am a fan of your plans for income diversification between P2P lending and other equities. Keep up the good work and I’m happy to have helped inspire you to get started. You made my weekend!

  11. I just got the email today myself. I am definitely disappointed in it. I had thought they would leave it alone since they changed it to only allow us to by in (10,25,50) dollar increments with a credit card.

    Oh well. My only problem with using a bank account is that it takes about 5 business days for the transaction to be processed. For a long term investment, this doesn’t matter, but I liked being able to charge it to the card and pay it back on payday. I didn’t care that much about the rewards to be honest.

    I probably won’t put much money into it for the above reason, now if I could direct deposit into the account, then I would probably =)

    Take care!

    • Unfortunately the time was ticking for this feature to be left available. Much too expensive, and ultimately just was available as a means to get folks in the door and opening accounts. I will slow down, but will not stop investing with them. I love the no-cost option, and essentially have the ability to dollar cost average into several strong equities fee-free.

      Odd that a bank account takes 5-days for you. In my experience, it has been just three. Potentially you can just schedule regular transfers into the account to automate the moving of money. Either way, best of luck with your account and future investments!

  12. I just got the email as well. I’ll probably leave what I have w/Loyal3, but not buy much more if at all. I’m still more of an index investor and this was just a small foray into buying 100% stocks for the dividends. I can get index dividend ETFs for free through Fidelity already. maybe I’ll buy more when I’ve got more ‘play’ money.

    • The trading costs are free on those ETFs, but not the management fees! ;)

      I can appreciate you wanting to pull back and just leave what you have in there. My honest opinion would be to invest enough to generate dividends of $25 per quarter or so, as you can then reinvest them without waiting too long before you can put the cash to work.

  13. I cannot believe that Loyal3 even took credit cards to begin with. The transaction fees are incredible, let alone not collecting a trading fee. The traders would have to buy every share at a discount to what they transferred them to each person’s account on average to make a profit or to possibly just break even. Well, good luck with it going forward.

    Keep cranking,

    Robert the DividendDreamer

    • They make their money from their business to business relationships, so monetizing the retail investors has never been the goal. I viewed the credit card expenses primarily as marketing tool to bring new customers onto the platform. Nothing more, nothing less.

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts DD.

  14. This is interesting. This also has never been appealing to me as I consider using credit card cash for investing or trading as a no no at all means. Although I understand the motives of arbitraging, it seemed save in this market, but can you imagine if the market turns around and you get stuck in thousands of dollars in credit card debt and losses in the investing account? Quite a destructive combination. I think Loyal3 should have let those people burn, which one day it would eventually happen. But then they would be blamed for allowing it, so maybe it is good for them in many ways – saving costs and protecting themselves from idiots who would overdo it.

    • Right, I believe you’re assuming that folks using this were all using credit irresponsibly, which for the most part, people weren’t. I know I only invested in as much as would if I paid in cash, just leveraged the additional rewards. For those using credit irresponsibly, that is an entirely different story and a scenario I would never advocate for other folks. I don’t think Loyal3 would ever have a responsibility for those abusing credit, much like a clothing or hardware store wouldn’t. At the end of the day, it becomes a moot point as the credit card purchases disappear.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Martin!

  15. Hi, Writing2Reality.
    Nice job jumping all over this. I saw the email from Loyal3 early this evening and, although I wasn’t using my credit card to make my purchases, I’m sad to see it go. I’ve primarily used Sharebuilder as my investment portal, but am very intrigued by Loyal3 and hope that the site continues to grow its following. I have one security on Loyal3 now (BUD) and am eyeing up a few other securities that I may add into the fold as some point. Thanks for the article.

    Goosemann Jones
    Flight to Dividends Blog

    • I would hope that many investors continue to use the platform. It is a great place to dollar cost average into several dividend growth positions fee-free. Not really an opportunity that can be found many places. Best of luck with your future purchases, and for starting up your blog!

  16. W2R,
    Definitely a no-brainer for the company. We’ve been expecting this for a while now. It was sort of a gimmic to sign people up for sure. Now that they are more legit, this is an easy way to lower costs. For my purposes, this doesn’t change much. I was getting 1.5% back. But frankly having all of those transactions is a lot to track. I’d rather deposit a chunk of cash and draw from that, similar to other brokers. That’ll be easier than a regular drip.
    Oh well. I think its a sign of Loyal3 maturing into a better company that is more sustainable. Perhaps this decision will lead to more companies becoming available?
    -RBD

    • You nailed it. Absolutely a gimmick to get people to sign up for the service. Once the cost became prohibitive, they pulled the plug. Given their low trading costs due to batch trading, they shouldn’t have too much of an issue regulating operating costs, and instead can focus on expanding their business relationships and more traditional customer acquisition.

      And I agree, it will be nice to just purchase $100, $200, or whatever in one go without making so many individual purchases for the same position. All in all, I have no issue with the change and will still be investing.

      Thanks for your thoughts and stopping by RBD!

  17. Can I use Loyal 3 if I am Canadian?

    • Unfortunately I do not believe so. Perhaps down the road they will expand internationally, but at this point that hasn’t happened. At least trades don’t cost $29 like they did when you first started out!

  18. I am really disappointed to see it go. Loyal3 was unique in offering credit card option for stock purchases, and that was the #1 attraction for me. While I also did not think it would last forever, hope springs eternal. I was getting 2.625% cash back too. Bummer. The good news is we still got till Nov 18 to stock up. I just opened my credit card a month ago with 0% APR intro rate, so I’ll be buying like crazy up to my credit limit of $38k, essentially making a full year’s worth of investments over the next 10 days.

    I will continue to use loyal3 though, because of the combination of no fee and dollar cost averaging in several great stocks that do not offer no fee DSPPs. If you are only interested in no fee, Merrill Edge is a better broker for you, giving you 100 free stock trades every month, so long as you maintain an account balance of $100k. Since most investors don’t make nearly 100 trades a month, that is essentially free trade. Also, Merrill does allow DRIP, which loyal3 does not. The only advantage of loyal3 over Merrill right now is dollar cost averaging.

    • Personally, I would not load up like that all at once, but if you are comfortable swinging it, than best of luck to you!

      As you’ve said, the ability to invest without fees for some great stocks is the main selling point. While Merrill Edge offers free trades, as of right now I’m not interested in switching brokers at this time. I tend to evaluate this annually, so that is always subject to change. Thanks for the insight as to the potential rewards for using Merrill. I looked into it and it appears you can get 30 free trades with just a $25,000 balance, so even that might be worth pursuing for those with smaller accounts.

    • Would you be interested in a no-fee alternative to utilize your cash back card without the risk of equity loss? Take a look at Amex Serve.

      • I’m sure plenty of folks who play the miles game would be interested. I haven’t really gotten into that outside of running 100% of my living expense through cash-back cards. Certainly something to investigate. Thanks for the tip!

  19. Thanks for writing up on this. I just got the email and I cant blame the company for doing this. We all expected it at some point. I wish they continued throughout the year. I am going to load up on a few stocks before the 18th.

    • Certainly doesn’t hurt to get one last push of positions in, but I’m not going to overdo it unless I feel I’m investing in a position I would have anyways. Long-term I will continue to invest, but realistically will put less to work through Loyal3 as a result.

      Looking forward to seeing what you load up on!

  20. W2R,

    Good for Loyal3. Maybe it was a marketing gimmick, but if it was then it worked. Either way, it had to end at some time. I can’t see how they could have kept that up indefinitely.

    I’m personally not using Loyal3 for a variety of reasons, as I just don’t think I’d feel real comfortable with six figures of my money stored with a fairly new online-only company. But to each their own. For those using it, like yourself, I hope this move puts the company in an even stronger position! :)

    Best regards.

    • You’re absolutely right, it had to end at some point, marketing gimmick or not. Too costly to keep forever. As for Loyal3’s long-term prospects, who knows what the future holds. I know I will continue building an account, but the bulk of my investing dollars will go in my more traditional accounts at TradeKing.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts DM!

  21. From the comments here I presummed that without the credit card bonus that Loyal3 was a terrible service. However I see that they still offer no commission trades? Unless an investor has another way of getting zero fees then they still have utility.

    Yes you aren’t getting everything you had but this is sounding like a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    • I’m not sure where the rash of negativity comes from, but whenever people no longer receive a benefit in which they feel somewhat entitled to, negativity is often the result. I am still a fan of the service and will continue to invest through them, however I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I would likely not put as much to work as I might have otherwise.

      Thanks for your thoughts and for stopping by!

  22. I was considering to open an account with Loyal3, due to its no fees in buying securities. Now, just wonder, if they will not start imposing some sort of transaction fees.

    I’ve been using sharebuilder account for buying shares for a fixed amount, hence, offering fractional shares for a small fee, which I like as compared to discount brokerages. I was thinking to switch to Loyal3 but now, may have to wait and watch!

    Keep up the good work.

    Best wishes.

    • I’m fairly confident that they will not begin to charge fees, at least in the near future. Again, their revenue source is primarily other businesses through the social stock offerings and IPOs.

      Shareholder is another great option, just depends on how much you have to invest and how frequently you can invest with those dollars. For someone with less than a few hundred to invest per month, the free option would always make more sense, even given limited options. Commissions, even cheap ones, would eat you up otherwise.

      Thank you for your thoughts and stopping by!

  23. I’ll happily keep using Loyal3, I currently have 16 stocks through them, 15 of which i have on a monthly plan.

    Only thing i don’t like about them is no dividend reinvestment (except for Kraft)

    • Glad you are having success Nicholas! I am enjoying investing with them as well and will continue to do so in the future.

      The reinvestment isn’t an issue for me, and I actually prefer for this account to have the flexibility. It would be nice if they would provide the option to do one or the other, or even both.

      Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts!

  24. I appreciate the 100,000 points earned, investment gains and IPO access, but will definitely scale back my use of Loyal3 next month when cards are no longer accepted.

    • I think you feelings are shared by quite a few people. If I’m honest with myself, I will likely invest less through the platform than previously intended. However, given the still fee-free offerings on some quality companies, I will likely continue to invest monthly.

      Appreciate you sharing your thoughts Chris!

  25. I always get upset when people say that all the customers are abusing the system. It is all within the legal rules and it is really not abusing, but talking advantage of the system.
    Also I blame Loyal3 for the Transaction fees occurred. Loyal3 limits the amount you can spend for a single Stock purchase per day to $50. If you want to buy a greater amount you can only use ACH. Therefore, if customers want to invest more they have to complete multiple Transactions hence more Transaction fees incur for Loyal3.
    Finally, I can never understand how businesses don’t think this through when planning to offer Credit Card Stock purchases. The Loyal3 team must have known before that Credit Card Transactions cost money, they also knew that Credit Card companies offer points for using their Credit Cards, so what does Loyal3 expect ? To me it was common sense that people would take advantage of the Opportunity, why not ? I feel the points offset the very unknown Stock price that a trade will be executed for.

    • Bob, thank you for your thoughts. I disagree with your points, and have laid out my responses below:

      1) Customer Acquisition: The credit card offer was clearly a customer acquisition strategy. They new the cost, and likely knew it would be taken advantage of by some users. However, when they said the program was ending as a result of the abuse, it was likely an excuse and simply scapegoated the points chasers. Ultimately, Loyal3 needed a customer base, and to prove they could provide a healthy amount of buyers for the social stock programs and IPO listings. The ability to use credit cards brought a TON of people into the fold.

      2) Credit card transaction fees: The bulk of the fees are interchange fees from the likes of Visa, Mastercard, and so on. These fees do not change based on the individual volume of transactions. By and large, Visa doesn’t care if it is $50 or $500, as their rates are based on a percentage of dollar amount, not quantity of transactions. Your intermediary, or the people who connect Visa to a company, those are the folks who benefit from an increased number of transactions as they tend to charge per transaction, not by dollar amount. These per transaction charges are but a fraction of the actual end expense to a company.

      3) Abuse: Abuse is defined as the misuse of something. By definition, people leveraging a system ONLY for the credit card rewards are misusing the system as it was originally purposed. I don’t blame them, they saw an opportunity and took it. But to suggest it isn’t abuse is incorrect.

      Enjoy your weekend, and I appreciate the chance for discussion.

  26. I have used L3 for the past year with my credit card. Very handy and easy. I will continue with L3 into the future, with or without the use of the credit card. This is a great way to start kids off on the long term investment process and learn about the effects of dividend growth and compounding…something I wish my parents had taught me in my teens. Go L3!

    • Completely agree that the benefits of Loyal3 outweigh some of the cons. The fee-free environment with a very small investment amount is a perfect way to teach kids the compounding power of dividends. A great place to invest for everyone really.

      Thanks for stopping by David!

  27. I don’t expect removing the use of credit cards should really change the inherent value for a long term investor. There are a bunch of other ways to spend and accrue credit card points. L3 delivers on a bunch of other things that are really very valuable. Hopefully it continues to thrive as an investment platform.

    • You’re absolutely correct, Loyal3 does a great job of providing value, even without the credit card rewards. Like yourself, I hope they continue to thrive and can sustain their long-term vision of providing a great investment platform for retail investors.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  28. Does anyone know what payment processor they used when they were accepting credit cards?

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