Top 10 Credit Cards Ads Which Encourage You to Get into Debt

Credit card advertisers have a uniquely difficult job – they are selling something that no one in the world wants, credit card debt. Therefore, many take the route of talking about anything and everything but the actual debt, repayments and interest rate, and the results are some very clever and quite funny commercials.

Following are 10 ads which are encouraging you to get into debt – hopefully you can see through them, and are able to use your credit card wisely. Have a laugh, but don’t be fooled:

1 Mastercard Priceless – Elephant

The Mastercard ‘Priceless’ ads are quite well known in popular culture and they work well for credit card issuers as they are focussed on what you can do with the card, rather than what you will need to do to pay off the card. The Priceless elephant ad not only shows you how you can use your Mastercard, but also tugs on all the emotions associated with cute (and clever) animals, and feeling sick and wanting someone to take care of you. This ad is a clever and subtle mixture of humour and real emotions which you’ll be falling for before you know it.

2 Mastercard Priceless – The Simpsons

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It is nothing new for credit card issuers to use celebrities in their advertising so it is no surprise to see one of the world’s most famous men in a Mastercard ad. Again humour plays a big part in the ad – as it does in the Simpsons TV series – but the ad is of course coupled with a moral too (again, much like the TV series). After using his Mastercard to run errands quickly and easily, Homer is now free to spend time with his family – but must be forcefully prodded by the ‘voice over guy’. So, in keeping with the TV series rule that the end of the show must finish in the same place it starts, Homer must be convinced to leave Moe’s, and still carelessly brushes aside the old man outside of the pub on his way home, without really learning his lesson.

3 American Express – Robert De Niro

The American Express ‘My Life. My Card.’ campaign was a very successful one for the company because American Express is a lot about selling the prestige of the card, and the exclusivity of the brand and what better way to do that than to use a celebrity customer. In this ad however, we also see De Niro take us through his life, ‘my oldest friend…my first love…’ and he doesn’t show us his expensive cars or opulent hotel rooms, we instead see his roots and his everyday life. Therefore we can both relate, and aspire to the lifestyle, and to the card which facilitates this lifestyle for De Niro.

4 Visa – Mr Brosnan
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In this commercial Visa are pointing out that they know we know they use celebrities in their ads to catch our attention – just as Pierce Brosnan has caught the attention of the taxi driver. However, they play down his importance, as Brosnan plays himself, and when he’s not playing James Bond, he faces disasters just like the rest of us – but with his Visa card, he can handle anything.

5 American Express – Making it Big

This American Express ad doesn’t feature a super star or a high flyer – it’s about a girl and her band, working hard to make it big. The ad shows the band struggling but succeeding because they have the help of an American Express card, and as they succeed they are part of the prestigious life the card advertises – Nicole is able to fly her friends out to see her play, all because of her credit card.

6 Visa – Jaws

For this ad to make sense, you have to know that the man in the ad is the actor who plays Jaws in the James Bond movies and as Jaws, he has a full mouth of metal entwined teeth. Regardless the ad still plays to humour and tells us we shouldn’t judge people by their appearances – ‘Jaws’ is polite and smiles despite his overbearing appearance, and the Visa Mini card can make large purchases despite its size.

7 Korean Big Debt

You don’t need to be able to understand the words in this ad to know that the credit card provider is trying to tell you that with a bigger credit card limit, you’ll be the bigger man (or woman). The ad plays to natural insecurities about success in business, being able to buy nice clothes and eat in nice restaurants, not to mention the schadenfreude-like desire to enjoy the discomfort of others, in this case, those who are ‘beneath’ you.

8 Citibank – Rewards

This Citibank simply makes you smile and when you’re smiling and laughing at the teens making up for not having a games console, you’re not thinking about how much they would have had to spend to earn the points for that reward.

9 Citibank – Security

Credit card fraud and identity theft is not a funny issue, but it is one which most people dismiss with ‘that will never happen to me’. This ad is clever and funny, but it also gets your attention and shows you how easy it is to have your credit card details used fraudulently, and how important it is to have a credit card with fraud protection. Citibank are making you focus on the security features of the card, making you think you really can’t do without it – ‘Help getting your life back – that’s using your card wisely.’ You don’t want to use your credit card irresponsibly now do you?

10 Citibank – Big Boy

This ad is for a Citibank Simplicity credit card, but the voice activation scenario could be applied to any number of banking, financial, phone or services business as voice activation systems are used more and more, and they seem to be getting harder to use. Therefore, Citibank are doing what ads do best – relating to your life, to a situation which bothers you and you wish you could change, and offering you a solution.

Fred writes for Credit Card Finder, where is he offers advice on the best credit cards


  1. Jeri Havens says

    Vacation credit rating cards might be a lot much much more than pre-printed credit rating cards stuffed in envelopes with mailing labels applied. With some imagination and also the correct greeting card supplier, a greeting card can be a truly unique, higher higher high quality present that projects organization professionalism as nicely as heartfelt wishes for that holiday season.
  2. michael says

    That is where the advertisers are being pay of; making ads that will make people patronize their clients’ products. How they will encourage the people to join, apply, buy etc., but as you have said, don’t be fooled but rather think twice and think smart, if you got one then spend wisely.

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