HAND IT OVER: Loyalty and rewards cards have a strange way of showing either.
HAND IT OVER: Loyalty and rewards cards have a strange way of showing either. bobmadbob

OPINION: Being loyal not so rewarding

THERE'S nothing better than getting something for nothing. I've scored a few choice items on the kerbside collection days under the cover of darkness (hee hee, it was me that took your rusty milk bar stools), but it's getting harder to find that 'nothing' item without a catch these days.

Loyalty/rewards cards are a great example. The premise sounds good on plastic, but when you really analyse it, there's really not much of either on offer for your retail efforts.

The best ones are those for smaller repetitious food items that you are going to purchase anyway because, as a coffee junkie you can score yourself a free cup at least once a week which is probably no skin of the cafe's cappuccino and you get the double pleasure of enjoying the highlight of your day (sorry, my day) for nix.

But there are some that are just downright insulting like those cards where you spend $100,000 and get a potato slicer for our efforts. Perhaps you'll just be eating potatoes for a while given your spending habits so maybe that device will come in handy after all.

The latest 'rewards' card sounds like a good one, where you earn actual shopping dollars when you buy a specially marked item. Of course those specially marked items are the full glorious price. But when they do eventually go on 'normal' sale you aren't privy to those reward dollars. Make 'cents'? 'Buy now and save later' might be a better slogan.

Problem is with all this loyalty you get inflicted with, the wallet gets fatter and fatter despite the cash/coins section gets thinner and thinner. Half the time you can't locate the right card at that crucial moment because of the plastic brick that is warping your once lovely purse. So you never end up getting that 'free' sandwich.

Eventually, after stacking up a wad of debt by being so loyal to every shop you enter, there's the enticing 'something for nothing' balance transfers that credit card companies try to seduce you with by offering various enticements like '18 months interest free' save $1367.

It's a brilliant ploy because normally people who have got themselves into 'balance transfer mode' are good future candidates for not paying off their monthly balances (hello pot, it's me kettle) so the prospect of some kind of interest bearing relationship usually occurs within the first 14 months of the new relationship that was started with such excitement and promise.

Then there's the sneaky NO ANNUAL FEE*. Yep it's always in capital letters and that asterisk basically means for the first 12 months. Then it's $99 per annum or $150 or even double that last amount for the 'too cool you fool' Platinum level which comes in handy if you want free alterations on your new expensive clothes. That used to be a free service if you purchased from a certain upmarket department store but now it's only if you are an 50 shades of platinum customer willing to pay $300 a year for their credit card.

And if all these charges and examples of purchase trickery aren't enough, I haven't even delved into interest rate territory yet.

Oh boy, that is minefield and space here doesn't allow for dissection of such evil genius in fine print. 'Um, sorry there was 0.01cents remaining on your balance from the previous month so interest on the maximum balance from that period will be carried over next month.' Ah the good ol' days.

Of course some reforms have helped the consumer tackle the big plastic end of town but those 'terms and conditions' otherwise known as legal drivel can go on for volumes and quite frankly I've got to get to the supermarket and spend $250 in the next half an hour so I can get double points.


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