"Ultimate Rewards" by Chase = Insulting Rewards (marketing)

business and consumers, business cheers and jeers

I’ve had Chase credit cards for probably over a decade.  One of them was just converted to an “Ultimate Rewards” card and today a huge glossy brochure arrived in my mailbox.

23 pages, bucketloads (technical term) of words, and one ridiculously obscured very-plain fact:  This card offers 1% cash back.

Now mind you, that’s nothing to sneeze at… the 1% cash back part, I mean.  I currently have (and mostly love) my Schwab no-annual-fee 2% cash back card, but Schwab has ceased offering it to new customers and who knows how much longer the rest of us saps will be grandfathered in.  Discover Card offers a higher percentage cash back, but only once you’ve spent $x per year with $x being a very large number.  And how many places around the world — especially outside the U.S. — take the Discover card, anyway?

No, 1% cash back on a no-annual fee card isn’t awful.  You know what’s bad, though?  Insulting your customer’s intelligence.  Let me explain.  Here are some of the zillions of offers breathlessly touted within the brochure:

  • 2,000 points = $20 check
  • 2,000 points = $20 statement credit
  • 5,000 points = $50 gift card (lots of variety, but, yep, same ratio)
  • 10,000 points + $191 = $291 airfare ($100 + $191 = $291, get it?  And whoa, “fly without restrictions”! Amazing!)
  • 10,000 points = $100 Hyatt Check Certificate
Noticing a trend?  In fact, in every single listing I checked in this big conglomeration of dead trees, I see — wait for it — the equivalent of 1% cash back.
So yeah, maybe I’m being overly cranky about this, maybe this is just fancy marketing, but to me it says, “Hi consumer!  We know you’re a moron that would be unimpressed or even confused by ‘1% cash back’ so we’re going to dress this up… page after page after page after page of oh-so-pretty-stock-photography-like photos.”
I’d rather Chase, oh, I don’t know, cut out the lame marketing… stop filling our landfills with stupidly wasteful mailings… and from this, perhaps, save enough money to offer its customers 1.x or even 2% cash back on every purchase.
5 comments… add one
  • ThatAdamGuy Jun 25, 2010

    In the interest of fairness, I do have to admit that this card has some other benefits.
    – You get extra cash back for purchases from the Chase online mall.
    – You get 2% cash back on airfare purchases.
    – The card looks pretty.

    Still, it ain’t coming close to beating my Schwab card, which has never obnoxiously-marketed me, and which offers zero foreign-purchase transaction fees (I believe Chase charges 2%).

  • Ameliadrilon Jun 26, 2010

    a higher percentage cash back, but only once you’ve spent. Cut out the lame marketing, saved a bunch of money on postage and stopped filling our landfills with stupidly wasteful mailings

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  • Alessandro Machi Jun 28, 2010

    Chase Bank forced a million of their best paying customers to pay off their low interest rate credit card offers faster than their higher interest rate cards, jacking the monthly minimum payment from 2% of what was owed to 5%.

    We’ll never know how many people they hurt by changing terms after the fact, and not allowing their customers to opt out.

  • Laurie Mclachlan Jun 30, 2010

    My name is Laurie McLachlan and I work for PerkStreet Financial. I manage marketing here so I especially enjoyed reading your post.

    I wanted to let you know that last week we introduced a debit card that gives you 2% cash back on all non-PIN purchases you make on days where your balance is $5,000 or more. We also pay up to 5% cash back bonuses on certain categories (for example, through the end of July customers can get 5% cash back on gas and at home improvement stores).

    Looking at Bankrate today, their highest advertised interest rate on an internet bank checking account is 1.1%. If you spend more than $240 a month then you’d be better off at PerkStreet. Realizing that you use credit cards and may not use debit much, I’m curious to hear what you think about what we offer.

    Laurie McLachlan
    http://www.perkstreet.com
    laurie@perkstreet.com

  • Sinus Sep 6, 2010

    Looking at Bankrate today, their highest advertised interest rate on an internet bank checking account is 1.1%
    great post

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