From free hotel nights to VIP football tickets, credit card companies are dangling incentives to tempt customers even as consumer lending swells.
Growing consumer confidence across the Emirates has led to a sharp rise in borrowing this year and card companies are upping their marketing to get a bigger slice of the action.
According to data from the Central Bank of the UAE, consumer lending increased in June by the most on record as personal loans to residents increased by Dh3.8 billion, the sixth consecutive month of increases.
Credit card spending is a major factor in that growth – and spend-happy consumers are being bombarded by offers from lenders and card companies.
Last week, MasterCard, which issues consumer credit cards, debit cards and commercial credit cards, expanded its shopping, dining, travel and entertainment deals programme, Priceless Cities, to the Middle East and Africa.
In a survey among UAE cardholders (not restricted to MasterCard customers), the average amount spent per person on an international leisure trip was Dh10,184 in the 12 months through May.
The survey’s cardholders spent Dh1,544 per person on an average domestic leisure trip over the same period. If access to a pharaoh’s tomb in Luxor that is closed to the public is your idea of cardholder privileges, you can now get it if you are a MasterCard elite customer.
Priceless Arabia began with more than 100 merchants as partners, but MasterCard expects to reach 500 partners after the first year of operation, said Raghu Malhotra, the division president for the Middle East and North Africa at MasterCard.
The 140 experiences under the Priceless Arabia and Priceless Africa programmes are open to any MasterCard debit or credit cardholder, but a few experiences, such as the pharaoh’s tomb, are reserved for elite cardholders. The programme is beginning with about 10 such privileged deals.
“We are partnering with [the luxury travel management company] Abercrombie & Kent and Jumeirah Group to create exceptional experiences,” said Eslam Darwish, the head of marketing for the Middle East and Africa at MasterCard.
Asia and Africa have become increasingly important for MasterCard. It reported a 19 per cent increase in gross dollar volume processed from Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa in the first half of the year from the same period last year. The comparable figure was 5 per cent in the United States.
MasterCard has expanded the Priceless Cities programme it launched in 2011 to 10 destinations in the Middle East, including the UAE, and seven in Africa.
MasterCard’s main rival, Visa, last week launched a new promotion of its own, centred around a global football tournament in the UAE.
The company is offering its cardholders a chance to win VIP tickets to the Fifa under-17 World Cup, which starts on October 17.
By buying two or more tickets with their Visa card, cardholders will enter a draw to win a total of 10 Sky Box passes for the finals on November 8 at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in the capital.