What 1970s credit card ads teach us
Plus a gallery, because obviously they're hilarious.
There's an exhibition called The Sell on the history of advertising running at the National Library of Australia in Canberra from now until April. I visited earlier in the week, and one of the many featured items that grabbed me was an advertisement for Bankcard which ran in Cleo back in June 1977.
Launched in 1975, Bankcard was Australia's first credit card, introduced long before Visa and Mastercard were an option locally. As such, there was a need to persuade a generation of Aussies who had only ever paid with cash, cheques and perhaps store cards that this could be a useful option. Here's how the ad tried to go about that:
You're welcome to apply for a Bankcard, whether you're a Miss, Mrs. or Ms. With a Bankcard you'd be able to buy clothes, a meal, cosmetics, a toaster for the flat and dozens of other things at hundreds of stores. Wherever you see the Bankcard sign. (A few stores have minimum purchase amounts such as $3 or $5 - and for some goods and services Bankcard may not be accepted.) Having a Bankcard also means you probably needn't put things on lay-by. You can be using them right away. And you'll find a Bankcard helps keep your ready cash for "cash things" like taxis and drinks. It's a girl's most desirable accessory. Pick up an application booklet at your bank today.
The world has changed a lot since then. Bankcard is no more, and neither is Cleo. Lay-by has all but disappeared, and I would hope that single women don't need advertising to tell them that they can apply for a credit card even if they're not married. When they do, it will probably be online, not through an "application booklet".
What really strikes me is how much our general attitude to credit has changed. Some 40 years on, taxis and drinks aren't "cash things" anymore - those are contexts where we're much more likely to use contactless cards. Actually, for taxis we're increasingly likely to just jump in an Uber and skip the formal payment stage altogether.
Some things are the same. We're still faced with minimum purchase amounts in many stores, though $10 is a more common figure these days. And it remains the case that there are some things you generally can't pay for with a credit card.
In the spirit of nostalgia, here are some other vintage 1970s Bankcard advertisements, drawn from the pages of The Australian Women's Weekly. That one's still around, albeit only once a month!
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.
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