POLi, Air New Zealand, and Credit Card Surcharges

Air New Zealand plane on tarmac
Air New Zealand. Crazy about rugby… and surcharging customers

Air New Zealand is a quality brand. I like their in-flight snacks, don’t mind paying slightly more for their reputation of reliability compared to their domestic route competitor JetStar, and I appreciate their creative safety videos and the fact they are slightly more interesting to watch multiple times.

Then there is POLi. POLi sounds friendly.

If you can use POLi, it saves you from Air New Zealand’s excessive credit card surcharge fees by letting you use a bank transfer to pay for flights. You can’t use it if you’re in New Zealand and have a Mac. This rules me out. Apparently the Australian POLi now works with Macs fine.

ASB and BNZ </3 POLi

Last year banks started warning against using POLi because how it operates to verify you are actually paying Air New Zealand and friends is a bit suspicious.

Interestingly, Air New Zealand isn’t even listed in that Stuff article, even though they’re likely the biggest company using POLi in New Zealand, and are featured on POLi’s website.

Providing your log in details to a third party will be in violation of the internet banking terms and conditions you’ve agreed to, and potentially opens you up to being liable for losses.

There is the possibility of an additional motive going on here: banks sell credit and debit cards, and those cards make them money. POLi is quite an attractive alternative because it saves you something like $8 on a return domestic flight.

Air New Zealand’s Surcharging

This surcharging is extortive, misleading, and unlike airplanes that come on time, Peter Jackson spoofs, and free-but-not-really-free cookies, doesn’t endear Air New Zealand to me. Especially on domestic flights.

It’s presented as a transaction charge to recover costs (“Air New Zealand needs to recover this cost”), but it gets charged multiple times in the same card transaction. When I pointed this out to Air New Zealand they ignored me.

Air New Zealand pay something to accept credit cards, but that is not $4 per person flying, per direction they are flying. Instead of passing on the percentage they are actually charged, which Bernard Hickey’s industry experts say would be less than 1%, they charge a fixed fee multiple times in the same card transaction.

A group booking shows how ridiculous this gets. I once flew with a dozen or so people, and each person was charged $4 there, and $4 back, even though the flights were booked over just two transactions. To their credit Air New Zealand refunded close to $100 of fees after I called them.

Air New Zealand even issued a press release in 2008 chastising Pacific Blue for, among other things, their $4 per sector card surcharge because Pacific Blue offered no alternative payment. Kind of like what Air New Zealand does to Mac users. Or what they do to anyone following the advice of banks. (I’m ignoring Airpoints and Travelcard as payment methods because they aren’t accessible forms of payment for a lot of people.)

The ComCom have “investigated” the matter, concluding that the “card payment fee is used to recover all of the direct and indirect costs associated with credit cards payments.” The key word here being indirect, I think.

To be fair to Air New Zealand, JetStar charges $5 per flight for card transactions, but let’s be honest, JetStar are a hot mess, and Australian, and you shouldn’t be booking with them anyway.

Either way, it’s interesting to see these surcharges creep up over time, for cost recovery purposes, I’m sure. Are the airlines poor negotiators when it comes to their merchant agreements? I wouldn’t think so.

To quote ex-Air New Zealand Chief Operating Officer Andrew Miller: “research feedback shows customers are keen for… one easy to understand price with no added levies to the fare”.

Tomorrow: Ticketek, Ticketmaster and their fees (including the emailing-you-a-PDF surcharge). Maybe. Probably not.

Image credit: me

Follow Up: ASB Tertiary Accounts

Last month I posted about what I hate about banks. I mentioned ASB was trying to convert me to a tertiary account. Here’s some clarification around that, courtesy of ASB:

  • Tertiary accounts are available to anyone going past normal schooling to study, regardless of whether they are over 18.
  • Headstart (youth) and the Tertiary account have the same fees – both have no transaction fees.ASB's fee table
  • When you turn 19 a Headstart account migrates to a Streamline account that has more fees. The reason for the campaign is to direct students to a Tertiary account if they’re eligible for one.

Damien Leng, Head of Transactions says “We try to outline the full services of the tertiary account so that you know these are available to you when you are 18” and “I think we could be clearer with what is available to under and over 18’s”, which is great.

Financial Advice

Money

Here is a New Zealand Herald article that contains some shitty and some good advice about money.

Thumbs down

Buying over renting

Buy property young, preferably in your 20s. Move heaven and earth to get the deposit. Rent is wasted money.

Buying a house is not for everyone. Sometimes it doesn’t make financial sense for a particular person. Insurance, rates, money spent on repairs (~$5k~ a year) etc. sometimes make renting a better choice. Run the numbers.

Avoid fines

It’s moronic to incur fines. Like the maniac driver in a big red American-style pickup truck who overtook me on State Highway 2 on December 17, just to be pulled over and fined.

Yes, you shouldn’t speed etc. etc., but this doesn’t contain any useful advice if you do get a fine. Actual advice would be to set up an automatic payment account to a ‘Stupid mistakes’ savings account so you have money to pay inevitable fines.

NEVER SPEND MONEY EVAAAA

Every dollar is precious. Think before you spend it.

I regret frittering money on coffees and unnecessary eating out. It would be better to direct that money towards savings.

Needs and wants are often confused. This is perhaps the biggest financial mistake that people make.

If you enjoy a coffee a day, buy a coffee a day. If you enjoy eating out, eat out. There’s no point earning money if you don’t spend it on stuff you love. Cut back on the stuff you don’t care about, optimize existing spending (subscriptions and phone/internet/TV/power etc. plans) and/or earn more money.

Have a [email protected]@111

Track your spending. You can’t budget if you don’t know what you’re spending.

Perhaps the most popular piece of financial advice ever given out. How many people who write this actually do in it in practice, I’m not sure. Tracking your spending by typing into a spreadsheet or basically anything with mainly manual entry is doomed to fail. Xero with BNZ and ASB by itself both offer spending tracking services within online banking. Or, Xero allows the import of other bank’s transactions. Do mainly electronic transactions (because they can automatically coded into categories) and use these.

Credit cards

Credit cards make you look rich. Anyone can live well for a few years, but the debt catches up.

Credit cards with benefits that are automatically paid off each month are excellent.

Thumbs up

Judging people

People are too quick to judge others’ financial decisions, me included.

1) No one wants unsolicited advice. 2) You have your own problems to worry about.

Pay bills

Pay your taxes on time. The IRD has a big stick.

Pay all bills on time. Automate them. The IRD and other companies are always up for negotiation around deadlines.

Experiences

Spending money on experiences is good spending. I am eternally grateful that I sold all but one of my shares at age 22 (by coincidence in August 1987) and went backpacking through Latin America. It’s good spending if the experience enriches life.

Yes. Also, give experiences as presents instead of physical things.

Save for things. Automatically.

Save before you buy. A bit of a radical concept in 2011, but it can change people’s financial future.

Enter into interest-free deals cautiously

Interest-free hire purchase deals are for suckers. You still pay ad establishment fee and the majority of people fail to clear the debt on time and pay interest anyway.

These places invariably have great clauses such as charging you if you pay anything over the set monthly amount. Once you’ve finished paying the item off you get mailed offers from the company for ever and ever.

Avoid interest

Interest payments on personal loans, credit cards and HP are “idiot tax”. Why throw money away unnecessarily?

Work out how much something will really cost when interest is added before jumping into these. There’s calculators online that will help.

KiwiSaver

KiwiSaver is good.

Get in it.

Advice

Take your advice from people who have been through several cycles. Johnny-come-latelies going through their first financial cycle underestimate the risks.

Ask older people what they would have liked to have known at your age. What would they save for if they could turn back the clock?

Read a book

You can learn more about money. The easiest and cheapest way to improve your knowledge is to get a book out of the library.

Image credit: 401k/401kcalculator.org