Cebu Pacific Citibank Card - a Risky Deal

28 July 2011
Cebu Pacific credit card
Cheap and quality services  don't always go together. This is why I am very apprehensive and suspicious of the Cebu Pacific Citibank Card which the airline company is currently promoting. 

The invite had landed in my inbox last Monday, and my stomach immediately churned at the sight of the screaming subject line: ""Be the first Juan to apply!" It's one thing to be fun and another to suck at word play. Anyway....

The Offer

It turns out that Cebu Pacific will be partnering with Citibank. To solidify the collaboration, the airline will offer a free one-way ticket for people whose credit card application is approved by the bank any time between July 24 and October 15, 2011.    

The Cebu Pacific Citibank credit card will supposedly allow the holder to:

  • Redeem a one-way airline coupon for free
  • Utilize the one-way coupon to travel to any domestic or international destination 
  • Avail of points which never expire
  • Use the points to claim e-vouchers
  • Receive text alerts or reminders two hours before a promo goes live
  • Book without fare and destination restrictions

The Catch

Before you get carried away by sweet promises and sundry, be sure to read the fine print - yes, that inconspicuous link found at the lower right portion of the landing page - and you will actually feel like you're opening a can of worms. Here's why:
  • The return flight is on you and you cannot use the freebie in conjunction with any of the carrier's other seat sale or promotional offer. You must also use your credit card only to pay for the return ticket.

  • The freebie does not include taxes and surcharges. I'm not talking about a few hundreds here, but thousands. Hidden costs usually amount more than the ticket price itself, so be warned.

  • The one-way "free" flight stays free only when you remain a credit card user of "good standing" within 18 months. If for any reason you or the bank decides to cancel the card earlier than the stipulated period, you will be charged for the full amount of the "free" one-way ticket. Ouch!  

  • The "any domestic or international destination" clause is deceptive. In fact, you will not get to enjoy any free flight for the following destinations:   

    • Boracay, Philippines
    • Busan, Korea
    • Hong Kong
    • Incheon, Korea
    • Osaka, Japan

  • Although you can theoretically use the travel coupon within one year from the date it was issued, you cannot use the freebie one-way fare to travel on these dates:

    • October 27, 2011 -- November 4, 2011
    • December 15, 2011 -- January 10, 2012
    • March 29, 2012 -- April 10, 2012
  • The points and e-vouchers are virtually unheard of. Are these mileage points or credit card points? Perhaps Cebu Pacific yet has to make the point system public. At any rate, the airline has to do a better job than the lousy web check-in service.

    Case in point: I tried to use Cebu Pacific's online web check-in services once for a trip to Singapore (and for a steep fee of P100 - imagine!), and the result was a flop. The airport personnel at Cebu did not recognize the document and insisted that I get a "real boarding pass." I promised myself that it would be the last time I would shell out money to be inconvenienced by a document that is foreign to airport staff.

  • Booking "without fare and destination restrictions" also seems to be vague. What could the airline possibly mean by "restrictions"? If these things are to demarcate the common folks from the privileged, does this mean that the creation of a "business class" in a budget airline is in the works? 
  • Finally, the offer lacks sufficient and pertinent information from Citibank's end: the application form, requirements, qualifying criteria, annual fees, service charges and interest rates. The promise of freebies is let down by too many gaping holes in the advertisement itself. 

The Bottom Line

Customers need complete information to make a decision. At the outset, the deal is rife with too many conditions that aren't exactly customer-friendly.  The Cebu Pacific Citibank card might benefit the frequent flyer, but chronic credit card usage is in itself a huge risk.

A portion of the customer complaints against Cebu Pacific stem from poor service, poor (or almost nonexistent) refund policies, fraudulent card transactions and an unreliable online payment facility.

I would really think twice about using the credit card on Cebu Pacific's website, because I might be charged twice or thrice for a transaction compromised by a buggy Internet connection.

As such, I find it impractical at this point to get one when I know that I can conveniently pay for flights without using a credit card.*
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