Platinum upgrade but still feel blue | Courier Mail

Platinum upgrade but still feel blue | Courier Mail


MY bank sent me a letter last week, one of those chatty, heartwarming missives that thanks you for being a valued customer and insinuates that its executives would sell their first-born rather than cause you fiscal discomfort.

The good news from the Bank of Queensland was that I had been invited to "upgrade to the prestigious BOQ Platinum Visa card''.

I was on the point of ripping the cork out of a bottle of 1990 Cristal Brut and toasting my good fortune when a small voice whispered from the innermost recess of my consciousness that it was not like a bank to do anyone any favours.

Returning the Cristal to the ice bucket, I read the rest of the letter from the BOQ's head of products.

There had been, he said, some important changes made to my credit card account. (Had they lowered the interest rate in recognition of my unswerving loyalty to their brand? Joy of joys!)

Nor was the BOQ taking all the credit for whatever bonus awaited me. "These changes have been made by Citigroup, the credit provider and issuer of BOQ credit cards in consultation with us,'' the letter said.

I read on, hands trembling in anticipation to discover that effective from May 1:

1. The annual fee on my account will increase from $55 to $60.

2. The maximum number of interest-free days on my account will be reduced from 55 to 44.

3. An additional card fee of $15 a year will be charged for each additional cardholder.

4. From July 1, the rewards points earned will reduce from 1.5 points to one point per dollar spent.
The payoff, then, for being a valued customer was having the annual fee on my card increased by almost 10 per cent or three times the rate of inflation, the interest-free days reduced by almost 10 per cent, and the rewards points earning potential cut by a whopping 33 per cent.

"But I'm a valued customer!'' I cried, staring at the letter. Indeed I was and because I was such a wonderful person the BOQ, delving deeply into its treasure chest, then revealed that it was offering me the opportunity to earn two rewards points for every dollar spent.

But wait, there was more. I could also get 55 interest-free days on purchases and get up to four additional cards gratis, as well as platinum personalised rewards, complimentary concierge service and international travel insurance, a block of flats in Tasmania and a free set of steak knives.

There was, it may not surprise you to hear, only one teensy, weensy condition I had to ditch my faithful blue credit card and sign up for the platinum version.

If I did this, then all of these riches would be mine and I'd only be charged the new, higher $60 annual fee and not the usual $199 platinum fee.

The bottom line was that on the face of it, I'd have to be crazy not to sign up for the platinum card for if I stuck with the blue card, I'd be severely penalised. But why?

There was a catch. There had to be. A quick internet search revealed that Citigroup's finances were in the toilet so why was it apparently doing M. O'Connor a favour?

I rang the number provided in the letter and spoke to a nice woman with a heavy American accent whom I presume was in a call centre in Massachusetts or Maine.

She couldn't explain why anyone would opt to hold on to their blue card. We did, at least, have something approximating a conversation, meaning that I understood one word in five of what she was saying while she struggled gallantly with my Queensland accent.

(This was an improvement on the experience I'd had with the call centre for my mobile phone earlier in the day in which I understood one word in 10 of what the woman speaking the heavy, Indian-accented English was saying. She in turn had understood one word in 20 of what I was saying and so in the end I thanked her and hung up. I still can't get emails on the phone but dread calling back and enduring another exchange punctuated by "Pardon?'', "What did you say?'',
"Could you repeat that'' and finally "I've got absolutely no idea what you're talking about.'')

Anyway, the American woman asked me if she could call me by my first name and for a moment I thought she was going to invite me to meet her in Massachusetts for dinner and a drink, which I could pay for with my new platinum card.

She asked me if she could sign me up on the spot for the platinum card. I quickly re-read the letter and couldn't think why I shouldn't.

I wanted to say: "You can't fool me with the old upgrade-to-platinum rort. I'm hanging on to my blue card.'' I was missing something, I knew, but I had no idea what it was.

"And I don't get charged the $199 platinum fee next year?'' I asked. "No Michael,'' she assured me in her meet-me-in-Massachusetts voice.

Is the whole exercise a feint designed to distract me from the realisation that my annual card fee is about to rise from $55 to $60? And what is a complimentary concierge? Will he iron my shirt and can he cook?

The BOQ has won, this time at least. I know that in some subtle way I've been shafted, but how?