There are intrepid folk like RIT and TA flaying fees on their investment products. Quite rightly so. Anything to do with storing and processing your money should cost as little as possible, subject to delivering a satisfactory service. After all, your money is embodied life-force. You exchanged hours of your life for it, and you want the leak in the tank to be as low as possible.
Oddly enough, when it comes down to credit cards, this seems to escape people totally. I can live with over 20% APR on my credit cards because I don’t pay it. I pay them off or I use promotional deals. If you carry debt on a credit card at 20% off, that’s like every store you buy things from using that card having a big notice – Anti-Sale – pay 20% more for everything. However, clever marketing folks being what they are, there are even more methods to separate credit card users from their money – even if they don’t pay interest! Step forward modern fintech fast-movers. Y’know, the guys that don’t come with lots of legacy Big Iron in their IT systems, who can most fast and break things, and
rip you off on the Q.T. , make you feel special about the colour or materials your credit card is made of. The thing replaced by that whizzy fintech app is on your phone so you don’t need to use?
The Ermine failed to understand why some of da yoof chooses to spaff £72 p.a. for a Hot Coral Monzo card. It’s not a one off. I sparked up You and Yours on the wireless1. The programme was mainly about Greta Thunberg, but there was a segment about money saving.
Apparently as well as rushing some punters for a brightly coloured card, Monzo is ripping off their even vainer customers charging a premium for a Metal card, as are Revolut. I was tickled to hear Alexander, a fresh-faced and insecure twenty-something digital media wallah opine that a metal card is also more environmentally friendly, well, no use of plastic, innit? Dude, if you are in the presence of a fire, piss on the nearest bit first. That’s your food packaging and Amazon Prime packaging, not a 5×9cm piece of plastic you replace every three years…
In the You and Yours piece the target customer base for metal cards tends to be young men, according the some fintech consultancy. Life as a young man is troublesome, particularly in a society with no rites of passage you can afford2. In years past you were incarcerated in long barrows while the adults of the tribe whirled bullroarers through the night, later on boys became men by chasing down wild hogs. Now they pay over the odds for a metal credit card to prove their status as a Real Man.
You gotta love capitalism. In its endlessly adaptable attempt to squeeze money out of consumers, it wraps itself around their insecurities like a boa-constrictor, applying the squeeze. If only every Metal card came with a free copy of Erich Fromm’s To Have or To Be…
That’s the fellas dispatched, but the distaff side seems to have its own foibles. There was one young woman on the end of the program that couldn’t understand why ASOS canned her account because she ordered something, wore it on an evening and returned it the next day for a refund. Endless wardrobe of new and exciting stuff. I don’t know much about fashion, but I can see why a business would give that sort of customer the bum’s rush. But I do have to tip a had to the savvy shopper while it lasted. Sort of like Klarna, but with less danger to the customer’s wallet.
Somewhere off the you & Yours site I was introduced me to the concept of the Bullet Journal, which is an instagram sort of thing. Writing down your spend is hardly new in the world of personal finance, although the choices of a Money Diary as a weapon seems to have a female bias. Obviously it’s totally pedestrian to use a spreadsheet or, in my case, a fifteen-year old copy of Quicken to do that. Like many analogue technologies, a bullet journal has soul in a way a digital thing like a spreadsheet doesn’t. Just as well, because the reason we moved away from analogue paper versions of this was because reconciling your ledgers was an absolute bear of a job. It’s bastard enough even with computers to tally your receipts with the bank statements if you do it at the end of the week/month. Sad MBA wannabees have been here before with GTD, which also had a massive paraphernalia of courses, essential stationery, gizmos and wotsits.
However, I suspect that the way these things really work is by getting you to get all your coloured pens out and decorate the pages of your bullet journal in lavish detail, which takes up loads of your time. That gets you off your phone buying consumer shit that you don’t need to impress people you don’t know and all that pack drill. Never fear, though. You can use all the money you saved with your bullet journal to buy into the book and the system and if you get really good at it you can get on instagram and start selling your drawings, presumably to make bullet journals for people who have Ermine-level talents for drawing.
It’s the silly season
Yeah. It’s the silly season, Leonard Cohen’s on the radio as far as Brexit is concerned, let’s have a little bit of fun, eh? This Forbes brand-consultancy puff-piece/paean to the virtues of the metal card to separate people with too much money from some of it needs fisking.
Metal signifies luxury and “the experience of actually holding one in your hand is pretty cool. The cool touch and weight of the card itself actually makes the card feel quite substantial and throwing one down at dinner produces an audible sound that industry insiders call the ‘clank effect.’” Blander explains.
Ah, the *ank effect. Doesn’t everyone pay with their mobile phones these days3, so you’ll stick out as a right clanker with your ‘pretty cool’ method of payment. You know what? If metal signifies luxury then pay for your meal with….coins? Or gold sovereigns, then you can look an absolute arse as you pull out your phone to get the current spot price of the yellow metal. The laugh’s on you if they only give you the legal tender rate.
In this digital world, people are less likely to pull out their cards to make a payment. Blander points out that a change in material “allows us to explore additional sensorial cues like touch and sound that consumers experience as brand rituals. From a design perspective leveraging new form factors and materials makes it possible to create simpler, more refined beautiful designs. Making the product feel more coveted and personalized just for them.”
Funny critters, people, eh? Here is a gizmo that you are increasingly unlikely to use. FFS, do these card issuers have no imagination? Rather than make your metal card out of aluminium, make the buggers out of gold, charged at 200% bullion value. In a really crafty twist, get your attorneys to write in the hundred and eleven pages of small print that the physical card belongs to the issuer and is returnable on demand.
Haase expands on this point that metal cards may be an easy way for brands to provide something different, something cool. “Many financial institutions are looking for a market differentiator in the card space. With the rise of mobile payments, a cards form factor has become more important – almost like a piece of jewelry or a status symbol.”
The Ermine has attempted to parse this message for content, and failed to discover any, other than the violation of English grammar in the missing apostrophe. A status symbol has to be capable of being flaunted by it’s gauche and worthless owner, not merely pictured in his mind’s eye as he waves his iPhone in some London bar for the five jeroboams of champage he and his acolytes quaffed.
As fewer cards are needed, move to digital wallets, it is entirely possible the unique form factors will become more prevalent and appealing to consumers.
WTAF? When we made our carriages horseless, we didn’t gild the horses. We shot them and turned them into glue and cat’s meat.
Enough with this madness. It’s a credit card, FFS. Soon to become purely a cryptographically authorised exchange between your phone and the merchant terminal.
- Mine doesn’t actually have vacuum tubes in it. I haven’t bought a radio for decades – I seem to inherit people’s DAB cast offs. I am in a strong signal area and while telescoping aerials do snap off easily, replacements are to be had on Ebay. ↩
- passing their driving test and later on getting a job that paid enough to buy a house were some of the ways a young chap could prove his worth in the transition from adolescence to adulthood in years gone by. These are now barred to many. ↩
- Not round here they don’t. I’ve seen it in pubs, an people buying Lottery tickets, but nowhere else. I presume that in hip places like London people pay with their phones. ↩