Brim Financial: Red Flags Abound After Failure To Launch

Brim Financial promised Canadians a credit card revolution filled with unparalleled rewards, 0% instalment payment plans, 0% foreign transaction fees, and free global wi-fi. Instead, customers have been left waiting and wondering if the revolution will ever arrive.

Brim offered three flavours of the Brim Financial MasterCard, which it tabbed as Canada’s first and only non-banked credit card:

  • Brim Basic – No annual fee, no frills, 1 point for every dollar spent
  • Brim World – $99 annual fee, better insurance coverage, airport lounge access, 1.5 points for every dollar spent
  • Brim World Elite – $199 annual fee, World Elite insurance coverage, airport lounge access, 2 points for every dollar spent

The company started accepting applications in February, 2018 with a plan to launch in March, 2018. A slick website showed the potential for customers to earn big rewards, including 5x points on travel and ‘surge multipliers’ at participating retailers. Thousands of Canadians signed up and waited …. and waited.

Brim Financial Rewards

Coming Soon?

Meanwhile, as applicants waited for launch, several other red flags started to pop-up. One user claims he received a call from Brim asking for three pieces of identification to be sent via email for verification. Others were asked to have a signing agent such as a lawyer or doctor issue a note verifying their identity. Strange, indeed, but perhaps a sign that Brim had finally started to process these applications.

Then some of the original claims inside Brim’s terms and conditions started to change or become more clear. The Brim World Elite MasterCard, once advertised with a $129 annual fee, suddenly increased its fee to $199/year.

A member of the Red Flag Deals forum, which has a massive thread on Brim Financial, noticed an update to its foreign currency conversion:

“For foreign currency transactions, the rate will be the exchange rate posted by Brim on its Website on each business day and applied at the time of the posting of the Transaction.”

What that means is, unlike other banks and credit card issuers, Brim will not use MasterCard’s spot-rate on foreign currency but instead use its own exchange rate. It’s fair to ask whether Brim’s 0% foreign transaction fee is just a marketing ploy if its exchange rate ends up being higher than MasterCard’s spot-rate?

In another thread, this time on Reddit Personal Finance Canada, a user pointed out Brim’s 0% on instalment plans actually included some pretty hefty financing charges. Personal finance blogger Michael James does the math and estimates the ‘fees’ on these 12-24 month instalment loans can be as high as 19.4% – 26.9%!

Brim Financial installment plans

Brim Financial: Failure to Launch

As of today (July 3rd, 2018) not one user has received a card. The phrase “coming soon” is scrawled all over Brim’s website. Brim Travel – coming soon. Brim on the go (mobile app) – coming soon.

Meanwhile, the company has unveiled a smattering of partnerships where users can earn extra points at Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, and Uber Eats. It’s enough to keep customers intrigued and eagerly waiting to see an actual product rather than a bunch of marketing and hype.

As Barry Choi writes, what the F is going on with Brim Financial?

Applicants have a right to be concerned about their privacy and what exactly Brim is doing with their applications after all these months. Hopefully there is a good ending to this story and Brim finally puts out a product that lives up to the hype.

Until that day, I say avoid Brim Financial. I’d like to see a proven track record before I hand over my personal information to this fledgling start-up. Too many red flags for my liking.

In the meantime, check out these three (legit) credit cards that do not charge foreign currency conversion fees.

American Express Announces Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card Refresh

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express has long held cult-like status among frequent travellers who find tremendous value in the SPG hospitality loyalty program. Starpoints collectors have been anxiously awaiting what’s in store for their beloved program ever since Marriott International acquired Starwood Hotels to become the world’s largest hotel chain in 2016.

In April 2018, members were given a taste of what’s to come when Marriott announced it will introduce one set of unified benefits across Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) for its members later this summer. At that time, members will be able to combine their separate Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and SPG accounts into a single account spanning the entire loyalty portfolio. The combined loyalty programs will also get a new name in 2019.

American Express Canada announced changes to its Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card, both of which relaunched publicly in August 2018.

Debuting alongside Marriott International’s newly unified loyalty programs, the cards offer business and leisure travellers updated benefits and ways to earn points across 6,500 properties in 127 countries and territories, across 29 brands.

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

The new look Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express will be refreshed and benefits will include:

  • An updated earn rate. Cardmembers will earn 5 points for every dollar spent at SPG and Marriott Rewards properties, and 2 points for every dollar spent everywhere else.
  • An Annual Free Night Award. This no longer includes a spend requirement and will now be redeemable any night of the week at SPG and Marriott Rewards properties with a room rate of up to 35,000 points. This means you can redeem at over 5,000 hotel properties. It will be awarded automatically after a Cardmember’s anniversary date.
  • Automatic complimentary upgrade to Silver Elite Status. This entitles Cardmembers to priority late checkout where available, exclusive member rates, and more. In addition, Cardmembers will be eligible for complimentary Gold Elite Status after spending $30,000 each year.
  • Free supplementary Card. Cardmembers will no longer incur an annual fee on supplementary cards.

Get a 50,000 point welcome bonus when you spend $3,000 in the first three months (sign up here)

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

The refreshed benefits for the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express include:

  • An updated earn rate. Cardmembers will earn 5 points for every dollar spent at SPG and Marriott Rewards properties, 3 points for every dollar spent on eligible gas, dining and travel, and 2 points for every dollar spent everywhere else.
  • An Annual Free Night Award. This no longer includes a spend requirement and will now be redeemable any night of the week at SPG and Marriott Rewards properties with a room rate of up to 35,000 points. This means you can redeem at over 5,000 hotel properties. It will be awarded automatically after a Cardmember’s anniversary date.
  • Automatic complimentary upgrades to Silver Elite Status. This entitles Cardmembers to priority late checkout where available, exclusive member rates, and more. In addition, Cardmembers will be eligible for complimentary Gold Elite Status after spending $30,000 each year.

Get a 50,000 point welcome bonus when you spend $3,000 in the first three months (sign up here)

Existing Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Cardmembers and consumers who apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest consumer and business credit cards will automatically receive the refreshed benefits that launched in August 2018.

For SPG fans it’s a slight downgrade in value from the previous program but as far as hotel rewards go it’s still far and away the best loyalty program in the country.

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