Diners Club USA Going Extinct?

original Diners Club cardWhen Frank McNamara created a small card program for use at 14 restaurants in NYC, it marked the birth of Diners Club… the world’s first credit card.

That was 1950 and around 200 cards were issued. Today – over 60 years later – the number of cards in circulation feels to be about the same, right?

While Diners Club is still semi-popular in some markets (i.e. Latin America), the Diners Club US division has been on a downward spiral for decades.

The thing no one wants…

For starters, let’s talk about how this company operates…

  • It operates as a franchise – each geographic market is independently owned.
  • In 1981 Citi scooped up some of the largest franchises (incl. North America, Germany, and Switzerland) as well as Diners Club International, which is the actual owner of the name.
  • In 2008, Discover paid $165M to buy Diners Club International from Citi. They did this because they wanted the international payment network, not because they gave a crap about issuing those cards (which is why they didn’t buy Diners Club USA from Citi, the division that issues cards in the United States).
  • In 2009, Citi sold off Diners Club US/Canada to Bank of Montreal (BMO).
  • From November 2011 and beyond, all Diners Club cards in the USA are being issued and managed by BMO.

With the transition to BMO come some drawbacks, including…

  • American Airlines dropped from the rewards program for US cardholders.
  • Diners Club used to have no pre-set limits (like American Express charge cards) but now, they have a definitive and exact spending limit like most credit cards.
  • A reported $35 annual charge for secondary cards (though I have not personally confirmed this myself).
  • Because of the previous affiliation with Citibank, some Citigold customers got their Diners Club fee-free. Now it sounds as if they will have to pay the annual fee like everyone else.

Equally disappointing is something that is NOT changing, at least not yet…

  • There’s still a foreign transaction fee. Being that it’s a card that’s primarily tailored to travelers, it’s surprising they’re still getting away with this (when there are many other cards with similar fees nowadays, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, that charge 0% foreign transaction fees).

Will cardholders stick around or not?

Forums are buzzing about long time cardholders who have cancelled their card due to one or more of the changes. That being said, the US Diners Club charge card still offers some compelling reasons to keep it, considering the somewhat reasonable $95 annual fee:

  1. Club Rewards to Airline Miles
    Even though AAdvantage is axed, there are still a number of 1:1 conversion opportunities which give AmEx and their Membership Rewards a run for their money:
    Diners Club airlines
  2. Primary Rental Coverage
    One of the biggest complaints I hear about the premium AmEx charge cards is that they only offer secondary coverage on rentals. The Diners Club card will continue to include primary coverage (which some have cited as the only reason they still keep the card).
  3. Chip and PIN
    US cardholders will finally get the chip and PIN, a much needed feature for credit card usage abroad. That being said, other banks are beginning to roll this out on some of their cards too, so the cachet of a chip card will be short-lived.
  4. Roadside Assistance
    You already get this on the Gold American Express. Now you will have it on Diners Club charge card, too.

Ultimately, whether Diners Club sticks around or goes the way of the dinosaurs I think will depend on whether or not BMO puts some marketing muscle behind them. Because truth be told, D.C. is not as much of a joke as you may think – being that they operate on the MasterCard network in the US, it means they actually have good acceptance.

Last by not least… BMO if you read this, it would be nice to see Diners Club actually have something to do with dining! As it stands today, that’s not the case. Perhaps a 5% discount program at partner restaurants, or at the very least, give 2x points for dining purchases like other travel cards do.

My recommendation for 2016?

It’s time to ditch Diners. A good replacement I highly recommend is the Sapphire Preferred:

 
Comments
The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

I had this card for about 10 years through the 1990s and into the 2000s. I dumped it when Citi Bank said, “Guess what? Your Diner’s Club card is getting even better! I’ll now be a MasterCard!”

To me that was a dumb as making an American Express Card better by co-branding it with Visa.

I used to use Diners for travel, dining, car rentals, etc. One of the most annoying things was how many places didn’t take it. At the time Amex had similar issues but not as bad. You just know going into a business that it’s just about guaranteed that they’ll take Visa and MasterCard. Some business don’t take Amex because of their fees.. Even fewer take Diners. It was a bit annoying.

If you look on their site it doesn’t even appear that you can apply for a Diners Club card, at least online. Their site was always lacking but it doesn’t look to have been updated since I first started using it 15-20 years ago (whenever it first appeared) – well, except for removing the online application. I’m pretty sure I remember that being there at one time.

It’s kind of sad as it was a strong brand that they just let wilt on the vine. I bet if you were to ask the average 30yo what a Diners Club Card was that they wouldn’t know unless their parents had one.

Will BMO ever start taking applications again for a DC or CB personal card? It is now August 2014 and they still are not taking new apps!!

Does anybody have any idea on this? LMK.

Thanks,

RR

douglas morihara

Diners Club card is my number #1 card. Chip plus pin feature alone makes this card worthwhile, not to mention MasterCard acceptance.

I went to set up online access for my aging mother and was shocked that the site only works with Internet Explorer. She has a Mac, I have a Mac, so basically it is not feasible to keep this ridiculous card. If you can’t set up a site to work with common browsers (like every other financial site I have ever accessed) you are a pathetic excuse for a company.

This card isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

Try to work with credit executives at Harris in Chicago is worse than natural child birth.
They couldn’t give a care

Take it away

This card isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

Try to work with credit executives at Harris in Chicago is worse than natural child birth.
They couldn’t give a care

Howard rothbein

I was never treated so badly by a credit card company until BMO took over Diners from Citi.
Their service was terrible.In spite of the fact that I never missed a payment by a day ,and my company
did six figures with them monthly they did everything to get rid of us.

I really wonder what they are trying to do.It seems as if they just want to alienate all their customers

Diners Club is expensive and highly over-rated. It is not widely accepted in Europe and therefore useless. I have cancelled my card and would choose anything else than Diners Club. Customer service is rude and unhelpful.

Allen Christian

I recently found my paper Diners Club issued in 1955. Is it worth anything or is
it still usable ? Also is it a collectable that someone might buy ? I have the material that came with it. Thanks for any information on this.
Sincerely,
Allen Christian

The foreign exchange fees are foolish in today’s market. Whatever value the card had is now far overshadowed by the silly fees. I’ve been a card holder since 1987 and if Chris Begy has a plan other than a slow suicide for the card it’d be nice to
know. I’m chucking the card as soon as I convert my points to something else.

I found this as I was spending a minute trying to figure out what BMO’s strategy is for US/Canada DC (this just after I closed my account of 15 years). Clearly the card isn’t competitive when the annual fee. I have kept the card for nostalgia as much as anything as this was my longest held card. Each year for many years I had requested a waiver of the annual fee, which was always granted. This year not so — the customer service rep said they were no longer waiving the fee. Account closed. For BMO, last gasps of a cash cow / harvest strategy I guess.

I have this card since 2012, acceptance is even less than Amex, but no problem when using it at all petrol station, supermarket, and some high end retail shop and restaurant. I used it to purchase my first Rolex watch. I think I will keep it forever because of it’s rarity, so far I didn’t see anyone using this card . I am live in Malaysia.

I have had a Diners Club card for years. I even remember when it allowed an extra billing cycles before you had to pay for charges. What has totally turned me off is their Rewards program. After earning over 250,000 points, I redeemed some of them for three items. This was on January 7th. The deducted my points, but haven’t shipped anything as yet. When I call them, I just get the run-around. These folks have absolutely no concept of customer loyalty. I fear that DC is about to fold and none of my Reward points will ever be honored.

Been thinking about dropping this card, which I’ve had since the mid-90’s. I’ve called customer service and haven’t had the waits or issues others have cited. However, even the primary insurance coverage isn’t enough of a draw to pay $95 a year. What put me over the edge is when I redeemed points for an electronic device recently. I’ve received no confirmation online or via email; no information about when it might be shipped – nothing. Who does that? I’ve called to cancel the redemption if I can and will turn all my points into ecoupons at Amazon and close out the card.

Remorse filled DC Carte Blanche holder

What a tragic demise for the once great addition to any non US travel. I honestly thought that BMO would truly be able to handle non USD purchases and grapple with life outside the USA. They are a tremendous Canadian institution. In effect I migth as well have a card from Smallville Bank in Anywhere USA. They might actually understand customer loyalty and get a grip. Their points system is sub par at best, and frankly all the reasons why I kept the card and used it globally have evaporated. they charge a 3% fee on top of everything else. I urge senior mngt to review this, otherwise, they will loose and loose big.

I carried the Diners for 18 years and used it for all my purchases. BMO has run this once outstanding card into the ground. Two months ago I transferred my miles out and closed the account. There is no hope for this card because BMO does not understand what Diners is all about. Why pay $35 for a secondary card when every other “miles” card provides one for free? Why pay up to 3% foreign transaction fees when there a several similar cards on the market that do not charge? And finally, why deal with the horrendous customer service BMO provides if you should have the misfortune to call the toll free number?

I have a U.S. Diners Club Carte Blanche card now from Bank of Montreal. While I have noticed when I login online there are frequently comments that there were errors with statements mailed. Fortunately, there have been no errors on my statements. When I received my BMO issued card. I was disappointed at the look of the card. This may be petty, but when their premium card looks almost cheap, it is not received as well. Especially the back of the card is plain unfancy white. The front is a little better, but if you look at the dinersclub.com website, it shows the new designs and I would have preferred several of the other styles better. Especially when I hold my old card DC card issued by Citibank, they looked so much better.

Also, my chip was not working and I requested a replacement card. I was offered a new card be sent, however, until it arrived I coould no longer use my prior card. At leaset I was advised of this in advance. This is an inconvenience I thought wasn’t ideal.

Seems that the transition to BMO has worked its way out and now things are smoother. Pretty bumpy road for awhile DC was once the best most service oriented card I had – always got great phone assistance from a USA rep. I have used its rewrds to get some nice things. If nothing else it has sentimental value to me and I hope it will survive and improve back to its once “stellar” performance. (any body remember Carte Blanche (oltimers)-
JIM Elliott
P.S. Don’t care for getting two bills as the old Card Member “Plus” is aid down.

Ever since BMO took this over it has been the worst experience I have had with a card ever. 15 years with this card, and they first sent bills to an address that I haven’t been in for 5 years (not sure how that happened), then stopped adding in points to the program due to a technical issue (has not been resolved for 8 weeks and counting), then fraudulent purchases occurred which I have a stack of paperwork 2 inch thick to resolve. This card/BMO is awful. As soon as I can redeem all my points, I’m out. Anyone considering this card or bank should stay away. Bad service, bad programs, bad deal

Since the sale to BMO the card has become well below average in terms of service. The customer service representatives are poorly trained and hard to reach. Worse still, the website is horrendous. It has been optimized for IE, and does not work at all on Chrome or Safari. An email complaint to customer service was at least honest on one question: \”we have no plans to support the Apple platform at this time.\” The preference for IE is really peculiar – this is not 1998. Once I figure out how to redeem my rewards points (I guess by logging on at a friend\’s house), this twenty-year customer is gone. To all lucky enough not to have this card: STAY AWAY!

same story… my web access blew up when a new card was issued due to a fraud on my account. And, back when they called regarding the fraud, the number was “Private Name / Private Number” which I think is in violation of FTC phone laws. I have a ton of points I need to redeem – if they think thay can simply take points away, I’ll be the first to initiate a class action against BMO.

They did not wait for the transition in November to start charging Citigold customers the annual fee. They started to charge whenever the annual fee was due without providing any notice. If you pay by check their mailing address to pay bills has changed three times this year. Customer service was basically poorly trained people who did not know the answers to most questions including the bill paying address. The website has been lagging the bill payment address changes and I have had to tell them to update it. If a problem needs to be resolved prepare for long wait times by their supervisers.

I’ve had a US Diners Club Card since 1993 and plan on not renewing next time. My reasons:

1) Long waits on the phone (close to 1 hr compared to a few rings before)
2) Website down when my payment was due
3) Rewards changes – a) card renewal each year was for a discounted point amount before – this is no longer the case – it changed without notice. b) my airlines for point to miles – American & United are no longer in the program, c) there is only 1 gas card option left for rewards – before there were 3
4) registered complaints fall on deaf ears without follow-up
5) foreign exchange fess as you mention are too high for premium card.

A card that was once one of the best in the inustry – best service, good features and very professional courteous staff is going to hell in a handbasket. So sad. BDO, I have been a Diners Clum Member since 1986, please get your act together! (Be nice to have a web – page again and perhaps get a phone call through!

I suggest that everyone with problems, which seem to be accross the board, file complaints with the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

http://www.consumerfinance.gov/

the new BMO Diners club is a bull in a china shop. They do not answer the phone. The people are arrogant and I suggest you read the fine print …they will take away all of your points accrued if they have to send you a third statement. just spoke to a customer service agent who advised that working fir the co is a nightmare…the systems are always down, they are understaffed and “its hard to come to work”

Same experience(s) as everyone else. I have called three times within the past week and have been on hold for 30-45 minutes every time. I have been trying to find out what I owe for my minimum payment and based upon who I speak to, it has been a different dollar amount every time. I also asked to speak to a Supervisor and was put on hold again for an additional 15 minutes. When I spoke to the Supervisor, he gave me a totally different dollar amount than the previous reps. Totally frustrating…

I too am becoming very frustrated with the new company. I have called twice in the past few days, takes over 20 minutes for them to answer. My online activity shows that the minimum due is more than the prior month’s total balance. Apparently the minimum due is including charges made this month, which is nuts. The agent last time told me to ignore the online statement, that it is incorrect, should be fixed shortly. That was a week ago. Overall, this is looking like a disaster.

Ouch, I have been on the phone for almost an hour waiting to get to customer service to get a new pin to pay my bill. They did not let anyone know that they were dropping the pay by phone service. I waited 54 min.

Do you think Diners Club will start accepting personal applications or do you think it will only target corporate accounts? I would really love to have a DC card, especially a Carte Blanche. I already have the Platinum American Express but I want a Carte Blanche because of its rarity. I have never seen one in my whole life.

What is going on with the BMO transition?
I mailed in my check over 3 weeks ago and they still have not cashed my check!

I am sorry to say but I harbor little hope that DC will survive under BMO.

Several moths ago I was told to call back regarding new membership (Carte Blanche–don’t ask why)on Nov 7th., when BMO becomes the new owner of DC.
With phone lines dead and site under construction between Nov 3-6, I tried to log on Nov 7th. The site is basically a static page with the new owners logo, but no active links. As of now the phone line is not working at all or just keep you on hold for over an hour ( automated voice estimated a wait time of 20 minutes), twice yesterday, and once today. When called Harris Bank, or BMO directly they had no information nor knowledge of anything about DC.

I would add to creditcardguru’s comment that it looks that DC not only caters to emerging markets but, but also mimic their customer relations services.

I have experienced the same problems, having tried for the past 6 weeks to get information from Citi Bank for a number or contact at BMO. Please share any information that you may have or a way to contact BMO.
Thanks, M. Mannix