Almost 30 years ago, George Graves signed up for a Mastercard at his local Canadian Tire store. He was also sold insurance on that credit card, designed to help with payments in the event a cardholder loses their job, becomes disabled or gets sick.
“My husband paid for Credit Protector insurance all these years in case something bad should happen,” says his 72-year old wife, Jolante Graves.
“Now it’s happened, and the company doesn’t want to live up to … expectations.”
George Graves, 84, a farrier from Addison, Ont., had a stroke in February that put him in long-term care and quickly led to vascular dementia.
“I thought we’d be OK because of his credit card insurance,” his wife told Go Public.
It’s estimated that millions of Canadians pay for insurance on their credit cards.
But financial experts say the product is pricey, carries numerous conditions to qualify for coverage and often doesn’t pay out. In many cases, the insurance will only cover the minimum monthly payment — not the entire balance.
“Credit card protection is fantastic for the banker, usually horrible for the consumer,” says personal finance expert Kerry Taylor, from Vernon, B.C.
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In the months following her husband’s stroke, Jolante Graves says he became unable to recognize her and couldn’t read or write.
She says employees from Canadian Tire Bank repeatedly phoned her at home, demanding she pay her spouse’s outstanding credit card bill, which was about $17,000. She had not co-signed for the credit card, and had no obligation to pay it off.
“They have been evasive, rude and unkind,” Graves wrote in an email to Go Public. “This is causing me a lot of distress.”
Graves says she told them her husband had dementia, and was unable to file a claim on his own, but because the policy was in her husband’s name, she was told by bank officials that they could only deal with him.
In July, a letter arrived from Canadian Tire Bank, saying her husband’s overdue account was being “escalated to our Credit Recoveries Department,” and demanded immediate payment.
George Graves died four weeks ago.
Canadian Tire settles
Two days after Go Public contacted Canadian Tire Bank, a spokesperson phoned Jolante Graves and apologized for the harassing phone calls.
He also said that although her husband would have to make the insurance claim, he was willing to erase the debt — which had grown to over $18,000 — if she agreed to keep the deal confidential.
She signed a confidentiality agreement, but CBC had already interviewed her.
Canadian Tire turned down a Go Public request for an interview, and instead emailed a statement, saying, “We take any concern raised by our customers seriously and in this particular case, we were able to quickly resolve the matter.”