Advertisements: What You Hear & What You Need to Know

I actually enjoy good ads. Not only do they keep all media outlets in business, they support a ton of local businesses, and can also inform, and be memorable. Who doesn’t enjoy the U.S. Superbowl ads? Even the Canadian ones are well done.

But not all ads are created equal and some of them really need you to think and ask questions before buying. Do you only see the large print and never the ‘up to’? Up to triple the reward points…1% introductory rate? No payment for six months?

The largest credit card marketing is for reward cards because they have an annual fee. When you see any ad with triple reward points, that’s not the time to apply, but to get a magnifying glass and check the fine print first. Your triple rewards will be on one or two categories such as restaurants or drug stores. It’ll likely be for places with the biggest markups where they have the “room” to give you the triple points, or restaurants where you’ll earn maybe an extra 5 or 10 points, because you’re probably going out to dinner two or three times a month, tops. On the rest of your charges, the 90% or more, the points aren’t tripled. Hear me really clearly: Nobody ever became financially successful because of their reward points. People become financially successful paying cash or debit!

One of my favourite shows is the Amazing Race. This year, Scotiabank is the main sponsor with their American Express card and they have two very cute ads in the show. This is not a real charge card that you ought to have (and the only one I use) where you have to pay the balance in full. It’s a regular Amex card that allows you to make minimum payments versus having to pay it off each month.

Scotiabank’s main slogan is that you’re richer than you think. In fact, it’s the opposite: You’re poorer than you think. 50% of us can’t live without one paycheque, 70% can’t write a cheque for a $3,000 emergency, the percentage of seniors taking debt into retirement is exploding, and a CBC report last night showed 48% of us will rely on CPP for our entire retirement income. But remember that the main business of banks is to lend money. That’s how they make a profit. If the slogan were that you’re poorer than you think, you may borrow and spend less and save more. That’s how banks would lose money. However, if you have a ton of borrowed money, you’re richer than you think…for a while…until you have to pay it back from the same income you had BEFORE the line of credit, car loan, or new credit card.

It’s the old saying of buyer beware. Enjoy the ads, get the information, and then start asking yourself the right questions before signing. It’s a jungle out there – be careful.

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