According to Mintel Comperemedia, cash in the credit card industry is becoming the enticement of choice for membership, as 23% of credit card offers in January-April 2011 included an additional cash incentive, compared to just 1% during the same period in 2007. 59% of offers for new credit cards in the first four months of the year promoted some form of additional incentive to encourage potential applicants to sign up for a card, compared to 30% during the same period in 2007. Miles and points are still the most popular incentive, with 25% of offers during the period luring potential customers.
During the first quarter of 2011, more than 1.4 billion offers were sent to consumers, compared to about 825,000 just a year before, the study found.
Andrew Davidson, senior vice president at Mintel Comperemedia, concludes that “… the incentive is so attractive that consumers may as well apply for a card to cash-in on its incentive regardless of whether they have any serious intent to use the card in the long term… ”
Chase gives $300 as a cash incentive in some offers for its Freedom card and 100,000 bonus miles in offers for its British Airways Visa Signature card-enough for two transatlantic round-trip tickets, or four domestic round-trip tickets, Davidson notes.
“The challenge,” says Davidson, … (is to get) “incentive-driven switchers to change their spending behavior and become loyal cardholders…”
A recent study by Colloquy, reported by Susan Ladika at Creditcards.com, notes that it’s not unusual for consumers to fail to cash in on the rewards they’ve accrued. It found that Americans chalk up about $48 billion worth of rewards points and miles each year, but about one-third of those go unredeemed. That’s equivalent to every household leaving $205 lying on the table. Kelly Hlavinka, Managing Partner at Colloquy, says that happens for several reasons:
- Consumers forget about their rewards. The average household is enrolled in 18 rewards programs but actively participates in only eight
- Rewards don’t add up fast enough, pushing consumers to focus on using just one or two credit cards
- Consumers may forfeit points simply because they haven’t shopped at a particular retailer for a certain amount of time
The CreditCards.com survey of major card issuers’ reward cards finds that sign-up bonuses are both creative and generous, as noted in the summary chart:
|Reward Cards Bonus Features|
|Chase Freedom Visa||$300 cash back after making $500 in purchases, plus 1% cash back on all purchases, and 5 percent cash back on particular merchant categories each quarter|
|Chase British Airways Signature Visa||50,000 bonus miles after your first purchase with the card and an additional 50,000 miles after spending $2,500 in the first three months. Plus miles for purchases and no foreign transaction fees|
|American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles||20,000 bonus miles for first purchase. Free checked bag for up to nine people in party. No annual fee for a year|
|Citi Forward Card||Up to 6,000 ThankYou points for making $600 in purchases and signing up for paperless statements. 1,200 bonus points for paying on time and staying under credit limit. Reduction in APR when under credit limit and pay on time three consecutive billing periods|
|Walmart Discover||Spend $100 online day account opened and get a $20 cash rebate. Save 5 cents per gallon at Walmart gas stations and earn up to 1 percent cash back on all purchases|
|Chase Amazon.com Rewards Visa||Receive a $40 gift card when credit card approved. Earn 3 points for Amazon.com purchases; 2 points for gasoline, restaurant and drug store purchases; 1 point for all other purchases|
|Lowe’s||5% off Lowe’s purchases. No interest on purchases above $299 if paid in full within six months.|
|ExxonMobil MasterCard||15 cents per gallon rebates on gasoline purchases at Exxon and Mobil stations. Up to 2% rebates on first $10,000 spent on other purchases, and 1 percent rebates on purchases above $10,000.|
|Source: CreditCards.com, May 2011|