Don’t Judge A Mailer By Its Headline


Just got a new advertisement from my bank and it bothers me. My bank, for the record, is TD Bank (formerly Commerce Bank) and they’ve been a rather exceptional bank over the years with just a hiccup or two along the way.

However, this latest marketing effort just hit me entirely the wrong way. Let me give you the details before I outline the problems.

It purports to be a mailer designed to inform me about the benefits of using my debit card instead of my checkbook. It highlights several benefits in big bold print—Enjoy A Faster, Easier Way To Make Purchases. Just Use Your TD Bank Visa Debit Card Instead Of Checks. It then lists “some of the reasons to reach for your debit card instead of your checkbook”. The list mentions four key items that I get by “using my debit card”.

The problem is that this isn’t what the mailer is about at all. All of the items and minutia are really about getting me to use the Visa side of the card instead of the debit side of the card. In case you’re not aware of it all of these cards are essentially two services in one. There’s a debit side that is activated when you input your PIN and a credit card company side when you sign for a purchase.

I’m given all these incentives within this mailer to use my debit card but to remember to always sign for my purchases instead of using the PIN. None of the benefits are given when I use my pin. Why? Well, because Visa and the bank make more money from the retailers I’m buying from when I do this. It’s that simple. They’re trying to offer me a bribe to make them more money at a direct negative cost to the very retailers I’m frequenting.

First of all, the mailer is dishonest on several levels. It says it’s about one thing but it’s about another. It also says things like, “…plus you won’t hold up the checkout line writing checks.” While that’s true, the fact is that signing is slower and more complicated than just entering my PIN. This mailer treats the recipient like a total moron.

Second, if this sort of thing does succeed the end result will be higher prices for all of us as the retailers move to offset the increased costs they’re bearing. The only ones happy in this arms race will be the bank and Visa. Sure, I get points I can use to get some crap that’s worth a fraction of what the bank makes but I end up paying more in the end.

For the first time ever I called the bank to complain about this sort of approach. If this is what the new owners of Commerce Bank have in mind with regard to how I should be treated then it’s time to find a new bank.

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