Gosh: important to understand credit card terms before signing

MasterCard site: Personal cards

MasterCard offers simpler contracts in Canada, says the Calgary Herald. Hats off to MasterCard Canada for this radical step.

MasterCard Canada wants the banking industry to drop the legalese in their credit application form in favour of plain language so consumers can understand how hefty interest rates are calculated if they can't pay their bill.

The bit that made me say Gosh! is this po-faced response from Maura Drew-Lytle, spokeswoman for the Canadian Bankers Association:

Generally speaking, though, banks believe that it is important for consumers to understand the terms and conditions of a credit card application before signing it.


Is Mastercard Canada's web site usable and in plain language? I looked long and hard at the home page in search of a place where I could apply for a credit card. Was it New! Find a credit card? Couldn't be: I haven't lost a card, and anyway, how could something so fundamental be new. Wouldn't getting a credit card be the main reason for visiting this site?

I eventually saw and clicked on Personal Cards in the main menu, only to see the header Looking for a card? Again, no thanks, I haven't lost one.

The next screen reveals the reasons for this strange wording, find instead of get.

Get the card that is right for you... Tell us what you want in a card.

Aha, it's the usual problem: navel gazing.

This section may be newly designed or worded, or there may be new products -- which the business owner is proud of. But we, the readers, don't care about that. We actually want something old: a credit card.

We, the readers, just want to get a credit card. Our motivation is to get, not choose. We have already chosen MasterCard over Visa. They, the business owners, want to display all their products and have us choose between 4 types of credit card. OK, we'll do it. But I'd be interested to know how many people struggle to get this far, just because of a few apparently simple but misleading words:

  • New
  • Looking for
  • Find

I figure the online documentation of Canadian Mastercard has not yet been revised into plain language:

Consent - By proceeding with this application, you consent to the use of your personal and business information (including your Social Insurance Number, credit report and business name (used in a corporate search)) for the purpose of validating your identity and the existence of the company to help facilitate the processing of your application for this account and for no other purpose. Your agreement to the Terms and Conditions both as a signing officer of the business and in your personal capacity is required in order to submit an application for a credit card.

A drop down menu on the MasterCard home page sends you swiftly to independent sites for each of dozens of countries. The look and feel and structure are superficially identical, but even on the home pages, variations in the content are noticeable. Some are more usable than others.

Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine


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