Citing complaints from customers, the company’s First Bankcard division will no longer issue NRA-branded Visa credit cards touted by the gun-rights group as a special benefit of membership after the current contract between the two parties expires.
“Customer feedback has caused us to review our relationship with the NRA. As a result, First National Bank of Omaha will not renew its contract with the National Rifle Association to issue the NRA Visa Card,” a First National Bank spokesman told HuffPost by email Thursday.
The spokesman did not immediately respond to a follow-up question on when the contract will expire.
Members of the group are still able to purchase NRA-branded prepaid Visa debit cards because those are made available through a separate entity, NetSpend, which is currently “reviewing the relationship” it has with the NRA.
On Wednesday, a Visa spokeswoman stressed that the company strives to make its payment services available to everyone.
“Visa has no contractual or financial relationship with the NRA,” the spokeswoman said. “Visa co-branded cards do not represent an endorsement by Visa of that cause or organization. We strive to make our payment services available to all people in all places, for uses consistent with local, national and international laws.”
The Visa card was part of a number of benefits offered to NRA members, including FedEx shipping discounts and savings on rental cars from Hertz, Avis, Enterprise and other major providers. By partnering with third parties, the NRA is also able to offer discounts on hotels and airfare, prescription drugs, insurance and other products and services. According to an NRA blog post, the credit card offered 5 percent back on gas and purchases made at sporting goods stores.
An NRA webpage that detailed the benefits of the card was pulled midday on Wednesday, leaving an error page in its wake. The NRA did not respond to HuffPost’s multiple requests for comment.
The gun-rights group, which operates a powerful lobbying arm, has been a particular target of outrage by many young activists after last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, left 17 dead.
“Russia dumped 84% of its American debt,” blared a July CNN headline. Russian central-bank head Elvira Nabiullina said the sales were just part of “diversifying the entire structure of currencies.” But with the U.S. dollar accounting for two-thirds of global foreign-exchange reserves and most (non-intra-eurozone) international trade, dumping this much dollar debt goes well beyond prudent diversification.
Many commentators have therefore speculated that the government was actually protecting itself against future U.S. economic attacks. “It looks like Russia was worried about sanctions and their ability to trade Treasuries,” said one head bond trader, “so they sold.”
Still, the Russian central bank needs dollars, which it has always held mainly in the form highly liquid interest-bearing U.S. Treasuries, to stabilize the ruble through market intervention and to help its banks manage liquidity. Furthermore, Russian president Vladimir Putin has stated that “Russia is not rejecting the dollar” and is “not planning any sudden moves.” This doesn’t jibe with the media headlines.
We therefore decided to explore another possibility: that the headlines are just plain wrong, and that Russia has not sold anywhere near that many Treasuries.
Let us start with U.S. Treasury Department data on holdings of Treasury securities. These do indeed show an $81 billion (84 percent) plunge in Russian-held Treasury debt—from $96 billion in March to $15 billion in May. Other figures, however, suggest that Russia’s actual selloff was much smaller than this.
One indicator is Treasury Department data that track sales, between U.S. and foreign entities, of long-term Treasuries—the sole component of Russia’s Treasury holdings that has dropped since March. From March to May, these data show just $35 billion of Russian sales, as the middle bar in the left-hand box above indicates.
This figure, however, likely underestimates Russia’s sales somewhat. Russia may have sold some Treasuries to non-U.S. parties, or executed some sales through foreign financial intermediaries, that the data do not capture. Still, by this measure, roughly $46 billion in Treasuries remain unaccounted for.
Russian data show a similar amount missing. Russia’s central bank reports that, between March and May, its total stock of foreign debt fell by $50 billion. Since March, however, dollar appreciation has lowered the dollar value of Russia’s non-dollar debt assets. We estimate that this explains about $7 billion of the decline, implying $43 billion in actual Treasury sales—as the rightmost bar above shows. This is $8 billion more than the U.S. data indicate, which likely reflects about $8 billion in Russian sales to non-U.S. entities, or sales made through foreign intermediaries.
This leaves $38 billion in “missing” Treasuries. Where could they have gone? The most logical explanation is that Russia moved these assets outside of the United States to protect against U.S. seizure.
The two most likely destinations would be Belgium, home to custodian bank Euroclear, and the Cayman Islands. So we looked at data from both.
Sure enough, during April and May, as shown in the right-hand figures, Belgian holdings of Treasuries rose $25 billion, while Cayman Islands holdings rose $20 billion. That sum, $45 billion, is more than enough to account for the missing $38 billion.
In short, Russia appears to have sold only about 45 percent of its Treasury holdings—substantial, but far less than the 84 percent the media is reporting. Sixteen percent remain registered as Russian holdings in the United States, and the remaining 39 percent, we believe, are being hidden in Belgium and the Cayman Islands. With U.S.-Russia tensions increasing, we would not be surprised by further such “offshoring” of Russian Treasuries in the coming months.
4 MINUTE READ
Hopefully you’ve already done this, but just in case, we’ll tell you again. Pay off that card balance!
We know that sometimes people have to cut up the credit card before the balance is paid, especially if they’ve finally realized what their spouse has been trying to tell them all along—that they might have a bit of a spending problem.
Regardless of why or when you cut up your card, we’re proud of you! Just remember, before you can cancel your credit card account, you’ve got to get that balance to zero.
Closing your credit card can either be a breeze or it can be a bit tricky. Either way, it’s worth your time and effort to close down the account.
More than 5 million have beaten debt this way. You can too!
So get out that smartphone and call your card’s customer service. You’ll want to tell them that you and your credit card account are breaking up. (You don’t have to use those exact words, but feel free to get creative.)
Here’s a word of warning, though: The customer service rep likely won’t let you off the hook easily. They’ve been trained for this very moment—to keep you on the line so they can change your mind.
If that’s the case, just stay calm and repeat, “I’m calling to close my account.” And that’s all you have to say! Not even another word. Listen, they’re going to say whatever they can think of to keep you from closing your account. But don’t fall for these gimmicks:
Once they realize you’re not picking up what they’re putting down, they’ll probably try to win you over with some freebies like:
Whatever you do, don’t fall for it. They’re not trying to shower you with gifts. They’re trying to keep the thousands of dollars in revenue you represent, because when they see you, they see dollar signs. So be prepared. You might have to fight (kindly, of course) to cancel your credit card account.
If you don’t seem to be getting through to the person on the other end, don’t be afraid to ask for their manager. Keep letting them know you want to close your account. Hopefully, someone will catch on to the fact that you’re not to be bribed and will finally close your account.
Here’s the most important part: Get it in writing! No matter what you do, you want written confirmation that you closed your account. Be as detailed as possible. Write down who you spoke with and when the conversations took place.
When in doubt, remember what your English teacher said: Who, what, when, where and why. The answers to these questions will come in handy if the credit card company gives you any trouble down the road.
And now that you have it in writing, you’ll want to send the credit card company a certified letter with the details of your conversation, including date, time, names and any confirmation numbers you received. Make sure to request a written statement that shows your balance is all clear and your account is completely closed.
Congratulations! We’re patting you on the back right now. While others are keeping old accounts open to “save” their almighty credit score, you’ve taken a huge step on the path toward debt freedom.
So, what now? (We’re so glad you asked.) If you have more credit cards, it’s time to scroll back up and repeat the process. Call your friends and family and lead the way in showing them how to close their credit card accounts too. And last but not least, finish strong. Attack all your debt (using the debt snowball) until it’s completely GONE.
Want to learn more about how to dump debt for good? Sign up for this (free) three-day email series. It will show you how to eliminate your debt using the debt snowball method, the fastest way to pay off debt, so you can take control of your money—once and for all!