I’ve had on & off-air bust-ups with Ryanair over its new card this week. I find this really frustrating, as Ryanair should be a Money Saving Expert’s dream – super cheap flights genuinely enabling people to travel for next to nothing if they get it right. Yet it’s the fingle-fangled added charges on top that I find tough to deal with.
I know many MoneySavers have bagged genuine £2 returns over the years, enabling them to go to places they never could’ve done otherwise. So why, when the company is genuinely cheap, does it feel the need to shift the goalposts and add hurdles for consumers (two cliches for the price of one, now there’s a bargain)?
This week’s spat has been about the new Ryanair Mastercard launch. The company has accused me of ‘overreacting’ – so I thought it’d be worth coolly setting out what’s happened and my arguments.
- Almost all budget airlines charge you for paying. The basic problem isn’t just a Ryanair issue, it’s a budget airline industry issue. They all add an extra fee if you pay with a credit OR debit card. Ryanair is at the higher end, charging a whopping £6 per person each way – which totals £48 return for a family of four.
The only reason they all get away with this is by allowing one niche form of payment to be free. With most airlines it’s using an Electron card, with Ryanair it’s (for the moment, as you’ll see below) a prepaid Mastercard. For exact details of how to avoid these, see the Beat Budget Airline Fees guide.
- The debit card cost should be the advertised price. The Office of Fair Trading has said very clearly (on the back of a super-complaint from Which?) that with online transactions the debit card price is effectively the cash price and therefore the one that should be advertised.
Unfortunately, the OFT doesn’t itself have the power to enforce this. It’s recommended the Government does it, but sadly nothing’s happening yet (see Which?’s hassle Mark Hoban campaign). And, in many ways, the airlines are sticking two fingers up by doing nothing to change.
If an airline has a £20 flight but charges a £6 fee on top – then it seems plain to me the advertised price should be £26, though it can then yell loudly "we give a £6 discount for paying by Electron/prepaid Mastercard".
- Ryanair’s card launch is a good thing. In October Ryanair will launch its own prepaid Mastercard and it’s indicating it’ll put it on its homepage and tell people to use it to avoid the additional fee for payment.
Now that, for me, is good news. It should help people avoid the additional fee, and I would be applauding (well, within context) if it weren’t for the fact …
- … It’s the ONLY card you’ll be able to pay for free with. From November pay with any other card – credit, debit, electron OR prepaid Mastercard – and the £6 per person each way fee will be charged. In other words, unless you’re using its card you pay more.
So when in my broadcast debates with Ryanair it’s been saying "this is a good thing, we’re making it easy, it’s favourable to consumers", to really do that it would’ve introduced this card and allowed all those who’ve already got prepaid Mastercards just to pay it with, to pay for free.
In fact, it’s worth remembering a few years ago the ‘free’ route was an Electron card. It changed that (it says because Electron was becoming less available for new customers) and thousands had to move to get a prepaid Mastercard. Now it’s doing it again, and those same people will have to get its card.
I do wonder why it bothers. Of course, I’m sure it’s revenue generative, but the airline is profitable and successful; it competes fiercely on price and often wins. Why not advertise its ‘all-in’ price, which would still win and not risk alienating so many people?