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Financial liberation for the young and the old

The battle among credit card operators is getting heated.

Not only have true financial products like the usual credit, debit and ATM cards joined the fray, many other plastics from non-financial origins like mass transportation, shopping, gas or coffee chains have advertised themselves as such. Even bonus points from loyalty cards are now a currency.

But can these cards represent who you really are?

Perhaps. At least they show enough of the personalities and status of their holders.

Because the country has almost 15 million cardholders, to customise their approach to each customer, card operators begin by classifying them. Putting customers in age groups is one of the simplest ways to categorise them, vertically.

And don't overlook the underaged. Some possess higher purchasing power on their plastic than adults with decent jobs … because the card is not their own.

Although it seems like overindulgence, many parents teach their kids financial discipline by giving them credit cards.

For those too young even to get a supplementary card from their parents, a debit card is a perfect means to control expenses and much safer, especially for overseas students.

Once they land a salaried job, they can always apply for a card of their own, not only for more spending power, but also to enjoy benefits from providers who cater to their diverse lifestyles.

The different designs, card features and customised benefits are tools used by card operators to engage more intimately with their customers. They also represent another type of classification, albeit horizontally.

Card operators will try to throw great deals and shopping benefits at you, just to see how you respond. Once you start reacting to their promotions, more tailor-made deals will pour your way as they can now interpret your style from your transactions.

The interest charges and fees from every purchase are the card operators' main revenue. Your spending pattern allows them to competitively customise flashy benefits to attract higher purchases, and that's why their goal is to maintain your loyalty.

Some card operators are so committed to specific areas that you think of them instantly when you spend on that particular segment - travel and entertainment, for example.

Other providers, on the other hand, aim to be "Jacks of all trades" as they claim they can personalise products and services to cater to your every whim - fine dining, exotic trips, health check-ups, beauty make-overs, or automobile services, you name it.

Even retirees are now being courted. Many are stable financially but have very few expenses - the only question is how to get them a card when they have no fixed income.

The debit card strategy in reverse is the answer.

Looking after your elders is an admirable act, especially in Thai culture. Giving them financial freedom through a controllable medium like a credit card is probably the simplest way of showing your gratitude, hence different card products for seniors from many issuers.

With such a variety of services, there's a special card for everyone. Just remember that you can take advantage of these fresh offers as long as you spend responsibly.

Janejit Ladpli is vice president of Travel and Leisure Marketing at Krungthai Card (KTC).


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