Sunday, October 9, 2022

Do You Believe This Nonsense?

No, restaurants are not "saving tables" for special people with special credit cards!

I wrote recently about Ambetter Peachtree and how they have this points system you can use to get cash or buy small appliances or even dine out.  Take the cash.

Credit cards make the same pitch - you get "rewards" points and you can take them as cash or use them for other things, such as this spiel:
Delicious memories ahead!

Book hard-to-get restaurant reservations, set aside exclusively for cardholders.
Do you really believe this nonsense?  That restaurants "set aside" tables for some schmuck like you or me because we had a credit card?  It's not the first time I've seen this, of course.  Another credit card promises you special experiences and back-stage passes to concerts - just you and the ten million other people who have the vaunted Citibank Zinc Card.

Maybe an Amex Black Card, but even then, I doubt it.  You see, the backstage pass is going to go to the famous person who happens to have that card, not because they have that card.

But it is an interesting gambit - exclusivity.  It is a form of status-seeking, of course.  Why be one of the unwashed plebes in the orchestra section when you can be a toff in your own private box seat?

Just out of curiosity, I clicked on the link to get a list of the "award-winning restaurants."   Frankly, I am not interested in going to some hoity-toity restaurant simply because in most cases, I can eat better at home for less.  In Eureka Springs, Arkansas, they have a restaurant that fries steaks on some sort of hot stone slab or something - $58 apiece!   Now, I am sure it is a good cut of meat and cooked properly, but $58 for just an entree is out of my league.  It is like those expense-account steakhouses that sell side orders of Baked Potatoes for $25.  You don't want to ask how much the steaks are.

I just don't eat that much red meat anymore - not because of some politcal stance or veganism, but because as you get older, your body just can't deal with it.  So if you are in your 20's, enjoy those juicy steaks while you can - there will come a time when your body says, "no thanks!"

Getting back to the restaurants, I clicked on the link and got this message, along with an hourglass:
You’re moments away from booking your exclusive Capital One Dining reservation.

Loading award-winning restaurants...
Well, that was 20 minutes ago, and it seems to be caught in a perpetual loop. It goes to this "onboarding" page and presents this message, and then loops back to the Capital One home page and then loops back out to the "onboarding" page.  Eventually it logs itself out. 

This does not bode well.  I've been down this road before, trying to exchange "points" for a hotel stay or something and finding out they have no record of my reservation.  They offered, of course, to book me a room at the full rack rate - how convenient for them, and I earn more "points!"

Imagine booking a trip using these points - as they encourage you to do.  "Hey Clem, we got another one of these 'points' people here, claiming they have a reservation on this flight!  Can you believe that?"  Yea, I am going to trust my whole vacation to a credit card company points reward system.

Just take the cash - it spends nicely.

Not only that, do you know how many decades it would take for you to accumulate enough "rewards points" to score a free airplane ride?  If you travel for business, use those frequent flyer miles for an upgrade.  But credit card points?  It would take forever to accumulate enough to buy an upgrade, much less a trip.  And it's not like an airplane trip is a treat - it is something most normal people approach with the enthusiasm they normally have for root canal.

But again, for 70% of the people in the USA who have credit card debt, the best solution is a low-rate card, so they can realistically pay off the balance over time.  Folks get suckered into these "rewards" cards and the 22% to 27% interest rates and never dig themselves out of the hole.  It is modern-day loan sharking, and it destroys marriages and ruins lives.   People get divorced mostly over money problems, and "points cards" are one way to have money problems.

Those old-school mobsters and loan sharks should have used "rewards points" - they would still be in business today!  For every kneecap busted, you get 10,000 frequent flyer miles.  People would have signed up.

I have this rewards card today and pay off the balance daily.  It is a loaded handgun, waiting to go off.  And it is baited with these "rewards" which pay you back a trivial amount of money (1.5% to 4%) in exchange for you engaging in very risky financial behavior.  They entice you in with these promises of trivial riches, hoping you fall down and "roll over" the balance again and again, until you are broke. 

They throw pennies at us, hoping we spend dollars.

It is the oldest game in the book!