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  Barclays Bank, Huh?

Who are they kidding?




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August 2009

Just this week the mail brought us a rare ad for a new credit card. Used to happen all the time; now it happens less. I'm sure some marketeer was thinking we'd be buzzed with the offer of a "BLACK CARD". Wow. All black. Looks very smart, kind of like a credit card wearing a tuxedo.

I wondered what we'd get for having a BLACK CARD. My Schwab Visa pays me 2% cash back, and no extra fee for international charges. Just from the look, I'm sure the BLACK CARD must offer more. Maybe interest free charges for two months?

We went right to the fine print, but didn't see anything very worthwhile. It mentioned a gift program (I've found those to be much worse than just getting cash back) and a Concierge Service (which other cards offer and I have never, ever used). Then it hit us, right there on the main page.

The big selling point, the one the marketing team chose to put first, the thing they are selling: "Limited Membership". The fact that I'll be one of only a few. Well, "only 1% of U.S. residents", so it will be just me and a select 3,000,000 of my friends. They even flog that the card is "made with carbon." Wow, just like the grass outside my house and the charcoal stuck to the side of my gas grill. And like that burnt chicken we ate last week (sorry honey!).

The main feature from my point of view is the annual fee. All this "special stuff" would cost me only $495 a year.

Who are they planning to get with this sales pitch? They must think someone with good credit will pay them for a credit card? Maybe someone really rich who throws away their money? Really rich people don't spend money foolishly - they will never go for this one.

It think the real appeal is to someone who doesn't have a lot of money, but who thinks carrying a BLACK CARD will make a random 23 year old clerk at a day spa or a golf course think the card holder is someone "special." Oh, I think they're "special" too.


Jim Schrempp is a sometimes freelance writer (only Vanity Press will publish his work) living in Saratoga, California. His writings have appeared on numerous pages on his own web site. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of anyone else (although Jim wishes more people shared his opinions)