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Monday, August 31st, 2015


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When Will the Olympics Go Platinum?

When Olympic athletes start “going for the platinum” we’ll know the marketers have won.  Because gold is good, but as any credit card holder knows, platinum is better.

Years ago, credit cards used to tout their “gold-card membership.” And who wouldn’t want to be a gold-card member? It was an exclusive club, based on annual fees, income, spending patterns, etc.  Being a gold-card member used to mean something. But then too many people qualified for the gold card, so they came up with a new standard: the platinum member.

Almost overnight platinum became the new gold… or platinum. Now you have a card you can really feel good about. You’ll earn more points, and have more benefits, most of which you don’t even know exist and will likely never use anyway. But at least you’ll go into debt in style. 

Marketing folks love to make something out of nothing. That’s how they justify their jobs (no offense to you marketers, keep up the good work). Everything is “extreme” this or “sport” that. And, as consumers, we eat it up. We don’t just want an espresso; we want a double-shot espresso. Why settle for a value meal, when you could have the “super” value meal?

Right now, a gold medal still means something. But as soon as they add a platinum category—watch out. We’d have more winners, more promotion, and Michael Phelps would have a new world medal record to break.  It’s all about perception.

The moral of the story? Don’t be fooled into thinking that a “higher level” card makes you a better or more important person. Choose a card based on things that actually matter such as low or zero annual fees and lower interest rates. Getting a higher level credit card in order to feel more important just makes you a “super-sized” sucker.

Bill Pratt is a former credit card executive turned student-advocate. He is the author of Extra Credit: The 7 Things Every College Student Needs to Know About Credit Debt & Ca$h. Bill speaks at colleges to educate and entertain students about real-life issues in money, leadership and success. His goal is to help students succeed personally and financially so they can improve the lives of those around them.

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