We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The most ill-considered banking product ever devised

Is a credit card. But James, I hear you cry, the availability of capital credit supercharged Western civilisation’s development through the Renaissance and beyond, and a credit card is an instrument of a developed debt market – arguably the most socially beneficial institution we possess! Have you gone quite mad?

No, dear reader, just clumsy; I meant to write that the most ill-considered banking product ever devised is this credit card. It is a National Australia Bank (NAB) Visa Mini – confoundingly counter-intuitively, this card’s most notable feature is that it’s about half the size of a conventional credit card. Apparently this distinction alone will irresistibly and relentlessly reel in the target demographic – fashion conscious twenty-somethings (I think that might include me!) – but NAB has other slick devices in store to simultaneously deliver a KO in the coolness heavyweight championship of the banking world whilst obfuscating the somewhat steep interest rate levied on any transactions billed.

So let us dive in to this treasure-trove of modé. Before our young charges sally forth and actually use their Visa Mini cards to – you know – buy stuff, they need to know that The Bank wants them to be creative and flamboyant in the way they carry their card on their person, so it has thoughtfully provided some accessories to give each trendy young Visa Mini cardholder a dash of inspiration. Why not hang your Visa Mini on your mobile phone using the purpose-built attachment, o budding sophisticate? Does it look cool, and it is also great for the person who finds your misplaced Nokia; if they exhaust your mobile credit telephoning Siberian astrologers, they’ll be thanking their lucky stars because instant replenishment is quite literally on hand! Now that is convenience. Of course, NAB’s not saying we should trade the security for the superfabulous – ho ho, quite the opposite! Just read the small print on the “accessories” page (linked above):

Remember, you have to look after your Visa Mini Card and companion card as you would cash. So the best place to wear them is up close and personal.

Yes, yes, excellent advice. The long strap should come in handy for that. See? And where would we be without a safety clip? Silly question. For the truly elite – the style aristocracy – why not subtly incorporate the Visa Mini into a piece of bespoke jewellery, like so? Yes, it probably would require less effort to don a prominent sign displaying “ROB ME” painted in large flourescent letters and then wander down the darkest, dodgiest backstreet alley in an effort to discover a smackhead suffering profound withdrawal symptoms so you can shove your Visa Mini between his chattering teeth. But that’s simply not how they do it in Europe, philistine. So, point made and henceforth disregarding your obvious shortcomings, I’m sure by now your head is no doubt spinning with credit card couture-related possibilities. Yet do try to keep up, because what if I threw a choice of “five must-have metallic colours” into the mix? Yes, you heard the man – he said “must-have”. So that’ll be five Visa Minis for you, sir? Madam? Thought so – the experienced eye can always pick the slave to fashion! Hang on a tick, says the Voice of Reason, this financial superstyling is all well and good, but what if the cardholder wishes to transact via an automatic teller machine or a manual imprint device or a vertical-loading swiper unsuited to such generation-NEXT Mini cards? Oh ye of little faith, those clever folk at NAB and Visa are one step ahead of the likes of you and I. If you are one of the select fashionistas who manages to successfully obtain a Visa Mini card, you will also receive a Visa Mini Companion Card, known in-house as Visa non-Mini Mini, which financially functions identically to your Mini card as it is linked to the same credit account. Instantly, it should be obvious to all that the inclusion of this extra card represents rare value – two cards from just one application! – but do not neglect to observe that the Companion Card has also been ingeniously designed to share the exact same dimensions of a conventional bank card! This comes in handy if you are ever concerned that your cute Visa Mini card might get shredded by one of those aforementioned dashed démodé – and rather expensively repaired – Mini munching machines. Or forever lost in a hopelessly antiquated, outsized wallet (this will not be a problem in the future, for wallets will shrink in lockstep with credit cards, which will in turn shrink in counter-lockstep to the increasing speed of CPUs. It’s my rule). Sure, the Companion Card cannot be trendily worn dangling from a hog-style nose piercing like its Mini brother – in fact, Visa and NAB expressly forbid such inappropriate displaying of the Companion – but its “re-optimised” size does allow it to fit snugly into the card pockets of most purses and wallets. Now that’s thoughtful design.

Okay, let me come clean. I believe the Visa Mini concept is rather less clever than the glowing words above might suggest. The more perceptive may even have detected a touch of cynicism creeping into the latter half of this post. Perhaps I am wrong to criticise – the virtues of this particular credit card might well have escaped my puny comprehension – so in the spirit of justice I will consult that estimable arbiter of financial products, The Hindu Business Line, to give its opinion on an Indian bank’s version of the Mini:

ICICI Bank’s Visa Mini Card is almost half the size of a normal credit card and, thus, handy.

There’s not much I can say in the face of such irrefutable logic – evidently the press pundits are mad about the Mini. However, in a demand-driven market, surely the customer deserves the final word. Wheel in amateur product reviewer Caroline Liang who really throws egg in the face of my scepticism:

The good: I love this card. The annual fee I’m paying now is only 19 bux. Being female I like all the little things and it was throughtful of NAB to give me accesories with my card like a safety clip, a long strap, phone attachment and a card cover. The phone attachment is useful for all those people who lose their cards but dont lose their phones(LOL)

The bad: nothing yet-only if they rase the rates

Overall: Love the card-its joined my collection of credit cards….

If NAB is “throughtful” it’s because NAB loves you like it loves few others, Ms Liang. Cha-ching times one.

5 comments to The most ill-considered banking product ever devised