Last month Jetstar rather unexpectedly unveiled its new line of credit card, the Jetstar Mastercard. We’ve seen this before when Virgin – amid a blitz of fanfare and publicity – launched their card back in 2003. Jetstar, as we all know, run their airline on the low-cost carrier model and as such, they’ve decided to try to extend this image of affordability and price-competitiveness to their credit cards. An interest rate of 10.99% on purchases certainly does that, placing it solidly among similar cards, while the offer of 0% on balance transfers for 6 months is an attractive option for those looking to switch over — the bonus being that it reverts back to the low purchase rate rather than the significantly higher 19.99% cash advance rate of most other credit cards. The annual fee of $49 is at the lower-end too.
But here’s the thing: as far as placing itself in the ‘low rate credit card’ market goes, this card really is nothing spectacular in terms of pricing. There are cards out there with better combinations of rates and fees, such as the BankWest Lite Mastercard or even the NAB Low Rate Visa. The only real point of difference, and what we assume Jetstar is hoping will sell this product, is the ‘Jetstar Dollars’ rewards program. The addition of this program makes the Jetstar card the lowest rate credit card that offers rewards.
It makes a snappy little media soundbite, but are these rewards any good? Well, here’s how it works. You accrue ‘Jetstar dollars’ at a rate of 1 cent for every real dollar spent. As soon as you accrue $100 dollars they automatically send you a travel voucher to be used on any Jetstar flight (or if you prefer, you can request it early in increments of $25). From here on in, unlike any other flight rewards program, Jetstar really do put a gun to your head. You have to book using that voucher within 3 months, and travel within 6. You can’t accrue enough dollars to buy a flight to Hawaii or Bangkok or any other exotic destination; you’re effectively limited to $100 off your trip — or a summer holiday in Adelaide. Just what you always wanted.
They go on to boast in their press release that you can save up to $500 dollars annually on Jetstar fights. But for this to happen, you have to spend $50,000 on your card (anything over this doesn’t earn Jetstar dollars), in which case you’ll get 5 separate vouchers to be used up within those narrow timeframes. Perhaps when Qantas points become an option (mooted for mid-2010 release), we’ll take a bit more interest.
So all up, look, maybe we’re being a bit harsh on the Jetstar card. As a package it’s relatively competitive. However, when you’re making the leap from airline to credit card, they should’ve taken a leaf out of the Virgin book. When Virgin launched their credit card, it was revolutionary for the time – no annual fee, instant rewards, a very low rate and small things like colour choices and real people on the phone. Sorry to clip your wings Jetstar, but your card is nothing special.
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