New Zealand just got its first all-metal payment card.
But it’s not for everyone to enjoy the heavy feel of the refreshed American Express platinum card, or the satisfying clunk it makes when it’s tapped against the payment terminal.
The card is only for people with a minimum personal income of $100,000, and it comes with an annual card fee of $1250.
“It’s heavy. It makes a clunk on the terminal when you pay for things,” says American Express country manager Robert Bourne. “It’s a unique point of difference.”
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Bourne denies the metal cards are showy, however.
“The old worlds of that ostentatious showing of wealth is not what we see to day,” he said.
Often people wealthy enough to carry its platinum cards were discrete, despite their penchant for fine dining and travel, Bourne said.
The cards were not made of platinum, however, and they were not credit cards, he said.
They were charge cards, which have to pe paid off in full at the end of each month.
These were not cards for people who incur debt to spend, he said.
The cards were the most exclusive in New Zealand, and the metal makeover was designed to underline that.
There were other platinum cards on the market, but they were nearly 10 times cheaper, and far less exclusive, Bourne said.
Westpac and ANZ have platinum cards with fees of just $150 a year. ASB’s costs just $80 a year.
A platinum card discounting war about 2015 resulted in a tarnishing of the precious cards.
Exactly how exclusive American Express platinum cards are isa trade secret.
Bourne would not say how many people carried them, but he said about 700,000 people in New Zealand carry a “premium” card, which meant a gold or platinum credit card, or charge card.
Premium cards were invented by American Express in 1966, when it launched the world’s first gold credit card. The business came to New Zealand in the 1970s.
The metal charge card was aimed at high-end spenders, especially those who dined out, and travelled a lot.
Its rewards scheme was designed to reward them for their lifestyle, with free upgrades at some hotels, dining credits, and the ability to use rewards points at multiple airlines.
There is no early check-outs required at hotels that partner with American Express, which guarantee a lie-in and a late checkout.
At a spend of $5000 a month, a cardholder would earn yearly rewards worth $900, Bourne said.
The cards come with travel and smartphone insurance.
Platinum cards’ rewards schemes are funded by higher payment fees at shops, hotels and restaurants.
There’s no extra surcharge for using them, however, says Bourne.
Retailers who accept American Express spread the cost of accepting card payments across their whole customer base through their prices.
That infuriates some merchants.
Greg Harford, chief executive of retail industry lobby group Retail NZ, said: “The cost of rewards programmes is paid by the merchant, and that ultimately gets paid by all customers.”
“The rewards programmes drive loyalty to the banks, or to American Express, and because most merchants don’t surcharge, the costs get wrapped up into the prices of goods and services.
“That means ordinary New Zealanders end up paying more to fund the rewards schemes for better off New Zealanders.”
While shoppers sometimes see “No Amex” labels taped onto payment terminals in small shops, Bourne says the company has worked hard to increase the number of places that accept its cards.
But the platinum cards was accepted at all the places that their wealthy bearers would expect to be able to use them, he said.
“Our coverage is definitely improving significantly,” Borune says.
The company had pushed hard to get wider acceptance at small businesses, and had launched a “shop small” campaign.