$7500 for an Abba CD: Bank reward schemes take a while to pay off

By Abby Gillies

Credit card holders must spend up to $15,000 to reap a $100 reward through loyalty schemes at New Zealand banks.

Most high street banks give customers points or reward dollars for every dollar they spend, which can be redeemed through partner stores and businesses.

But a consumer expert is warning "consumer beware" when it comes to joining such schemes.

An informal survey by APNZ revealed most banks' schemes had changed little in recent years, with standard card holders having to spend between $50 and $150 to earn a single reward point or dollar.

Standard Kiwibank credit card holders earned one Air New Zealand airpoints dollar for every $150 spent. Platinum card holders had to spend $90.

A flight from Auckland to Queenstown was available today for 99 airpoints dollars, meaning a standard card holder would need to spend $14,850 to pay for the trip. A $79 flight from Christchurch to Nelson would require a spend of $11,850.

ASB customers earn one True Reward dollar each time they spend $100 to $150, depending on their card.

A platinum card customer would need to spend $10,000 to receive $100 in True Rewards points. A gold card holder would need to spend $13,000 and a classic card holder $15,000.

The dollars can be spent at partner retailers including House of Travel, Farmers and Noel Leeming, or gifted to charity.

A $55 toaster would require a credit card spent of $5500-$8250 and a $599 LCD television, $59,900-$89,850.

An ANZ National spokesman said their loyalty scheme changed in November 2010, with the "earn rate" for standard card holders improving from one airpoint dollar for every $150 spent to one for every $145 spent.

Platinum card holders had to spend $80 instead of $90.

The bank also offered schemes to earn goods or cash back with the National Bank Thoroughbred card. Users earn 1 per cent cashback subject to a minimum spend amount.

BNZ classic Visa or MasterCard customers earn one Fly Buys point for every $50 they spend. Gold American Express card holders get one for every $20 they spend.

Fly Buys members currently need 150 points to get Abba's greatest hits CD - a credit card spend of $7500 for classic card holders.

A report released in Australia this week said credit card holders at the country's big four banks had to spend more than $18,000 to earn a $100 shopping voucher.

The Reserve Bank of Australia quarterly bulletin said that was equal to a 0.54 per cent benefit to the customer as a proportion of spending.

Auckland University consumer expert David Shief said customers should "look before they leap" when considering joining a loyalty scheme.

"Companies have tried all sorts of schemes to reward customers - it's very common across industries.

"I've no doubt that rebates for loyalty schemes alter their perception of value. Is there a trick in it?," he said.

Rewards offered as incidental benefits from respected organisations could generally be trusted, but consumers also needed to decide if what they were getting was value for money, said Mr Shief.

- APNZ

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