The “World of Warcraft” Visa Card—REVISITED.

Back on March 29 of last year I wrote an entry about an article by Phillip Torrone of MAKE: Blog that discussed the possibility of seeing credit cards in the very near future that would give you virtual rewards in your favorite online game. One possibility mentioned was a World of Warcraft Visa card that would give you 1% cash back in the form of gold in WoW and might also allow you to put an image of your favorite WoW character on the card. I included a mock up of what such a card might look like created by the MAKE: Blog folks as well.

Then I get an email out of the blue on March 16 of this year from a Sandy Lee Belshe who’s signature identified her as working for Visa U.S.A. Inc. Brand Management. The email itself was short and to the point:

Hey Les,

I need to you to remove that Visa card image that you posted on your blog.  Can you please do this and let me know when it’s done?  Here’s the link.


Sandy Lee Belshe

I sent back a reply asking why and if there were any modifications I could make that would make it OK to keep the image and the fact that many, many other blogs outside of mine were still displaying the image in question and it wasn’t long before I got the following back:

Hey Les,  Thanks for your quick response.

In short, it’s a trademark issue.  You don’t have permission to use our mark and a card that doesn’t exist shouldn’t be shown graphically in a way that implies it does.  Not to mention there are a number of elements on the card that are incorrect.  I’m not sure that Blizzard would be happy with this card graphic either.

I wish we could say that with a few adjustments that you can keep this card art up, but unfortunately, it’s not possible.  As you said, the entry is a year old so I’m sure hardly anyone would miss it if it was removed.

I’ll follow up with the folks who manage the link you forwarded below as well.


Sandy Lee Belshe

Now I’m no lawyer, but it seemed to me that if I removed the Visa logo from the card it should be OK as the only other images on it were a screenshot from World of Warcraft, which I know for a fact Blizzard doesn’t have a problem with people using, and the Blizzard logo which could also be easily removed if necessary. Not being a lawyer, however, and not wishing to have SEB get hit with a DMCA take down notice or something equally stupid over an entry I wrote over a year ago, I went ahead and removed the image from the entry. Looking back at the MAKE: Blog article today I notice that they also heard from Sandy as while the image is still there the Visa logo has been changed to a fictional ASIV logo which pretty much confirms my thoughts about the issue. I didn’t bother to mention all this silliness at the time it happened, but it did leave me wondering if this was preparation for something about to occur as I couldn’t see any reason why Visa would suddenly be worried about a mock up of a WoW Visa card after it’d been all over the net for about a year.

And it turns out my hunch was right as Blizzard has just announced today a World of Warcraft Visa Card. Which looks like the image you see over on the right. Seeing as this is a real card and I’m writing about it I think I’m in the clear for using that image this time around.

Alas this card doesn’t come with the option of earning you in-game gold as a reward for your purchases but rather it earns you game time at the rate of 1% of every dollar in qualifying purchases. It also doesn’t allow you to put an image of your own character on it, but there are 13 different images to choose from for your card. You also get a free month of WoW after your first purchase on the card, an introductory 0% APR for the first 12 “billing cycles”, and there’s no annual fee.

That sounds cool and all, but it occurs to me that at 1% of every dollar spent with the standard monthly fee being $14.99 that means you’d have to spend $1,499.00 to earn a free month of WoW. And that’s only on qualifying purchases, whatever the hell that means, so there could be things you’d buy that wouldn’t count towards free game time. I suppose if you’re the sort that uses a credit card almost all the time and manage to keep it paid off every month then it might be worth it to you, but I think I’ll pass on it myself.

9 thoughts on “The “World of Warcraft” Visa Card—REVISITED.

  1. Hmm… doesn’t seem worth getting a new card, though I have been looking for ways to out myself as a nerd with every general goods purchase.

  2. The “You’d have to buy $1500/month in stuff to cover the cost” argument is a legitimate question.

    The issue has a flipside.

    I put everything on to my credit card, so my bill is usually significantly higher than $1500/month. As such, with this card, I’d have my monthly fee paid for, and then what do I do with the leftover credit?

    I’ll stick to getting my 1% return on a card that gives me gasoline, gift certificates for stores I regularly use, or better yet—cash. Anything which doesn’t have an effective monthly cap.

  3. I need to you to remove that [trademark] card image that you posted on your blog.


    I am getting sick fucking tired of whiney companies throwing their weight around every time someone mentions their product.  WHICH BIT OF FREE ADVERTISING DO WE NEED TO POUND INTO YOUR POINTY LITTLE HEADS.

    If anything your mock up raised brand awareness of [trademark] (I’m assuming there was nothing derogatory in the mock up).  All this has done is make me angry at the company involved.

    (sorry for the effing, I’m just sooooooooooooo angry)

  4. I’ve recently been trying to move to using a CC for all of my major monthly expenses, but not to get WoW credit.  Instead, we’re using a uPromise card that rewards with money toward my daughter’s education.  We get 1% back on all purchases and up to 10% back on uPromise purchases.  By making my utility, mortgage and car payments on the CC rather than by check (and then immediately sending a check for the balance to the CC) I’ve been able to rack up a decent sun in just 6 months.  It is pretty scary to see those CC statements every month though…

  5. I have vented my spleen further at My barracks. Perhaps you can change the logo like they did at MAKE:  My suggestion is the (fictional) company of WeAreABunchOfMoneyGrabbingBastardsWhoChargeSmall RetailersFarMoreThanTheBigOnesThusTiltingThePlaying FieldFurtherIntoTheHandsOfBigBusiness

  6. This sort of baseless legal harrassment is really beginning to be a pain in the ass for bloggers and other low resource internet content producers. I’m pretty sure that they would’ve lost this case in court, as this isn’t a copyright infringement and trademark laws concern making money with someone elses trademarks, something which Les clearly wasn’t doing.

    Maybe bloggers should organize a union and use the union fees as an insurance to cover costs of litigations and take these assholes to court and put an end to this bullying!

  7. J1, I think you’d just accumulate free months rather than have a cap on it, though I’ve not looked at the terms for the card.

    As far as being harassed by Visa, really, it wasn’t that big a deal.

  8. “Qualifying Purchases” usually means don’t go buying Burger King, Taco Bell and edible panties at Felicities House of Marital Aids and expect to get the WoW credits. smile

  9. Just wanted to shed some light on the legal angle of why Sandy and her corporate taskmasters are so persnickety about who uses the VISA trademark.

    The trademark email Sandy sent (as directed by her general counsel no doubt) is one required by law. It sounds stupid, but the law puts the onus on companies to defend their trademark if the trademark is to remain valid. If a company permitted any entity other than the itself (the company which uses the trademark in business) outside of certain protected uses (parody, etc.) then it leaves itself vulnerable to legal battles which can end up making the trademark lose its protection under the law. So you can kind of see why VISA was antsy.

    Trademarks are very vulnerable that way. Trademarks are meant to be source identifiers, which means they identify the provider of a good or service. This serves the important goal of making sure an Apple iPod is really and truly a quality product made by Apple and not some knock-off piece of garbage made in China. So consumer protection from confusion is part of it.

    In this case, bloggers aren’t making a penny off the commentary here, so a case could be made to allow the use of VISA’s trademark. However, don’t expect companies to quit being zealous and exclusive over who gets to swing their trademark around…

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