An open letter to BNZ Credit Cards

To/BNZ Credit Cards
Wellington,
New Zealand

CC/ a few other folks.

Dear BNZ Credit  Cards;

I am very upset.

The other day I opened this message in my BNZ internet banking inbox (good to see the newer website by the way):

In this letter (which I assume you have also sent to my address, which I have not been present at for some time) you state that you are removing the ability for me to convert BNZ reward points into Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars.

This makes me angry as the only reason I selected, and have stayed with, your range of cards is this very ability. Over the last few years I have found real value in the ability to convert reward points into something of genuine measurable and realizable value. It is a wonderful system.

You state in your letter that I will still be able to convert my Rewards Points into FlyBys. I am not, and nor will ever be, a member of FlyBys. It’s not that I don’t think they are an impressive bunch, it’s just that I don’t want to share my transaction data, and nor do I want the economic deadweight loss associated with applying points to a program where the potential purchases are selected for you. In simple terms the value of my airpoint dollars is known – it is $1 for each $1 reward – while the value of a FlyBys point is a function of my perceived value of the goods on offer – goods that I probably would not purchase with my own money.

As I mentioned – this made me quite annoyed. So I searched on my BNZ internet banking site for the terms and conditions of my credit card. I thought that clicking on the Credit Card and Personal Loans section would be the right thing to do – and so that’s what I did.

I expected (I’m kidding really – it was a forlorn hope) to see a range of options under that heading.

For starters one or two credit card offers that you had selected for me based on my transaction records. I’d simply click the find out more button for the one I liked, follow through a page or three of features, benefits and costs and then click the “accept” button to get my credit card in the mail.

The “need a loan?” section would be aimed at helping me into that new Mercedes or buy the house down the road. Or maybe a Hyundai Getz and a room in Taihape – but you get the idea. Once again it would be a simple process. I’d type in the make, model and VIN number for the car, select the dealer from a list and you would come back with an offer. I’d examine the T’s and C’s and then click accept – and the loan docs would go off to the dealer, and the dealer would drive the car to my place.

Similarly for the house – for that you just need the address, and you’ll calculate the valuation, offer me two to three loan options based on my transaction history, let me accept an offer and then offer to take care of the conveyancing for a flat fee. Then you’d liaise directly with the lawyers, the agents and counterparty to make it all happen. After all you are the ones making all the money out of this deal.

I’d also see, of course, the terms and conditions for all of the loan products that I currently have.

But, and you know this I am sure, all I saw was this:

I can add a cardholder (though that has an * attached to it) but I cannot see anything related to what products I currently have. You’ve also lost an incredible opportunity to offer me tailored products – so my cash and ability to borrow sits idle still.

So I logged out before you dumped me out and went off to your main website. I found the Terms and Conditions fairly easily to your credit, but they were of course all for new card applications. I assumed that they were the same as my existing card, but was a bit perturbed to find that I wasn’t quite as special as I thought I was:

It seems that there is a Limited Edition Platinum Visa Card as well as a BNZ Platinum Visa Card. I guess that I am normal not limited, but because I didn’t know I read them both.

They were identical – as far as I can see. I really did look, but they each referred to the both cards. There was one difference – a smaller font and no page breaks for the regular Platinum card – it felt a bit cheaper frankly.

Regardless, I scanned through the boilerplate to get to the salient facts. First you assert that you can change these terms and conditions at whim – with just two weeks notice. I guess your email was just that.

Next I noted that I can indeed change my reward points into BNZ AirPoints Dollars. That’s good. I’ve never seen an offer for a physical item by the way – but then I throw away almost all my mail, and only open what is left every two or three months.

But wait – further on you assert your right to withdraw from the conversion to Airpoints Dollars at any time:

Any time! That means you could do it now. or tomorrow. Or on the 9th of November, 2009.

So it seems you have yourself covered legally. And it seems I signed a contract that gives you the right to withdraw all of your benefits by merely giving me a notice.

But I’m not writing to you with a legal problem. I’m writing to you because I am struggling to use words and phrases that are acceptable in public. You see I am angry. (I think I said that already).

Fool on me it seems – I did read the contract but given that you could change anything anyway I trusted you to do the right thing in the future. But it seems that you did not.

Meanwhile it seems that your lawyers and accountants have not talked to your marketers. Go check out http://www.bnzplatinum.co.nz/. I’ll wait.

Actually I can’t wait – so let me run you through what I saw when I went there just now. It’s the marketing site for the Platinum card. See the text in bold?

That bold text highlights what you see as the principal benefit of the card – the Platinum Rewards. So let’s click on the Rewards tab and head to the BNZ Platinum Rewards page.

That’s kinda small – so let me zoom in on the bit I’d like you to read.

That’s right – not only are you are pushing the rewards points as the main feature of the card, but you also place the ability to convert your reward points to Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars at the top of the list in the rewards page. Clearly it is the major benefit of the card, and sure enough, it is the only reason I got this card. I wonder how many others were in the same boat? 90% 95%??

There are other benefits – but they are amusingly bad. It’s probably better for all of us that I don’t raise them.

We are talking about fairness here, and we in New Zealand are famously intolerant of anything that isn’t Fair. So can I ask you to answer these questions for me?

  1. You are marketing a product for which you are canceling the principle benefit.  Why?
    Now I will give you credit for fixing the error on the page you get after clicking apply now (you really should fix that ugliness). But who is going to read all that text to figure out that you no longer offer Air New Zealand redemption? Where is, for example, the warning in red that states this is no longer an option?
  2. You have taken away the major (99% for this customer) benefit away from an expensive product. Seriously – it is expensive. By how much will you be reducing the annual fees?
  3. You imply that Air New Zealand has changed the game. Does this mean that AirNZ put the prices up for Air Points Dollars? Weren’t they always, well, $1 each? What actually changed? (I know this is really three questions, but bear with me)
  4. What other credit cards that you market have had the same removal of benefits?
  5. Are you aware that Platinum cards are the vanilla card of choice in the USA and that people in New Zealand that think Platinum has some kid of prestige are sorely mistaken?  (I know I know – just look at the state of their economy)
  6. Why did you change the design of the previous card – it was almost 10% white, and beautifully discreet. The new one has bubbles

OK – so those last two question not really that important – but I thought I’d take the chance while you were reading this and answering the other ones. You are reading this aren’t you? I hope so. I’d love to hear your replies as well.

I did like this product of yours, and I would be more than happy for you to ignore those questions above (except maybe number 6 :) and simply answer in the affirmative to this question:

Will you please retain the ability for Platinum (and goodness knows who else) cardholders to transfer Platinum Rewards Points to Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars?

many thanks, and I look forward to your response

Lance Wiggs

P.S. Great job by the North end branch on opening my business banking account in about 12 minutes with a minimum of fuss.

P.P.S. I’d love to hear your side of this too Air New Zealand

About Lance Wiggs

@lancewiggs
This entry was posted in NZ Business and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to An open letter to BNZ Credit Cards

  1. CJ says:

    It is no consolation I know but I am pretty sure ASB dropped AirNZ from their true reward program as well. I think this applies to all cards, not just their platinum.

    My Guess is AirNZ changed the rules as they were sick so many different agencies requesting small dollar amounts to be added to the air dollars.

  2. Carl Smith says:

    The main reason I went with BNZ is the air points, this is a huge incentive, I wonder who did the market research that lead to this decision?
    Oh well another arrogant boost the profits company, that has little concern for its shareholders, namely customers.
    We have a fly buys card, can we migrate the former air points to fly buys, then change them back into airpoints? what a pain in the butt!

  3. Ian Howarth says:

    To be fair to BNZ, this was an Air New Zealand call that probably took BNZ as much by surprise as it’s taken you. As I understand it, Air NZ has stopped Airpoints conversion from all credit card reward programmes – so BNZ isn’t really the bad guy here. Neither is Westpac, ASB, Amex or any of the others who are now telling their customers the same news.

  4. thewalker says:

    I am terrificly eager to see the reply you will hopefully receive from BNZ.

  5. Pingback: An open letter to Air New Zealand « Lance Wiggs

  6. Adam J says:

    Lance, why not change to the GlobalPlus Platinum card? This way you are earning A$ directly

    • Lance Wiggs says:

      Sure – but then what guarantee do I have that those Airpoints won’t disappear as well?

      • Adam J says:

        None I guess. But being that Airpoints Dollars is the only rewards offered with GlobalPlus, I’m sure BNZ will fight to keep them here – being that it’s pretty much the main selling point of GlobalPlus over their other cards.

        Also, with Global Plus Platinum, you can get up to a $200 Airpoints advance which is cool.

        • Adam J says:

          If they do disappear tho I will be cancelling my GlobalPlus Gold Card. It’s the only BNZ product I use, and I only have it because of the Airpoints Dollars.

  7. Jimmy M says:

    I understand that BNZ may have had the rug pulled out from under them. However, I’m disappointed with BNZ on a couple of fronts:

    1) I only stumbled upon this a couple of weeks back when – by coincidence – I rang to check on their redemption T&Cs (paraphrased response – ‘this has been on the cards for a while and this Air Points redemption has closed for all but Platinum members’). If you knew, why not tell me as soon as possible.

    2) If you’ve known for some time, it’s quite likely you knew when I applied less than three months ago. BNZ are (or should be) aware this is the primary awards program benefit, so should advise if it’s in jeorpardy.

    Anyway I like BNZ (especially the staff at the Queenstown branch), so have transfered to their Global Plus card. Transferring all my direct debits again has been bloody painful though.

  8. John A says:

    To be honest dude, you seem to have waaaaaaay too much free time.
    Just from reading this blog post and the others you’ve written.

    In responce to your question on you blog re: Open Letter to Air NZ “That’s a different spin from BNZ’s reason for changing – “Air NZ had made some changes in the way Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars can be earned through credit cards”. Can anyone explain that?”….short answer is that Air NZ changed the T&C’s with BNZ and other banks when it came to how airpoints were earnt.
    Obviously it seems the contracts between AirNZ and the banks came up for renewal, and AirNZ decided to change some things.

    So it is very unfair to be blaiming BNZ for something that is quite frankly out of their hands. They do have the Globalplus card which still gets airpoints, so quit your moaning, shutup and switch over!!

  9. get a life says:

    haha what a loser

  10. Pingback: Bargain Betty » Blog Archive » Rewards points – contact sport

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