The Chase Sapphire Reserve. The American Express Gold. The first of the Marriott Rewards program. To people who are part of the growing subset of credit card loversThese are not just cards that make day-to-day expenses easier: they are an essential way to score points such as free flights and cash back.
So, what are the benefits for the banks? Essentially, banks offer customers a line of credit in the hope that they will earn money on interest rates when their bills are not paid on time or in full. This is an extremely lucrative field: there are 364 million credit cards open in the United States, according to the American banking associationand these have contributed to the collective development of the country. $ 1 trillion in credit card debt.
In recent years, banks have competed by softening transactions for their customers, offering benefits such as point systems and refund offers. The Chase Sapphire Reserve map, for example, debuts in 2016 with a huge 100,000 point signup bonus after customers spent $ 4,000 in their first three months, a move AmEx called "Full frontal map". For this purpose, the American Express Platinum Card offers access to lounges of international airlines and a free credit for Discover It Card offers a cash back of 5% without any annual fee. This type of reward has fueled a crazy and dedicated faction spenders who carefully optimize their spending and sign up for multiple credit cards to earn points.
However, banks apparently do not seem too happy to pay for free flights, unlimited lounge access and triple points for your dining habits. Soon, credit card rewards could slow down. Sources told the Wall Street newspaper Companies like Citigroup, JPMorgan and American Express are currently considering re-evaluating their credit card rewards program as they realized they were rewarding too much. Their cards were supposed to attract the big spenders and generate huge profits, but the rewards programs cost the banks.
Why banks want to withdraw rewards
Since the great recession, bank spending on credit card rewards has more than doubled, according to a survey conducted in 2017 by the financial products website MagnifyMoney. In 2010, banks were spending about $ 10.6 billion a year on credit card rewards, but in 2016 that number jumped to $ 22.6 billion.
Chase is the biggest buyer, whose spending on rewards has increased 123% since 2010. Today, Chase is above AmEx, but the financial services company still spends a lot – $ 9.2 billion last year, to be exact.
Each year, banks use credit cards to generate 14% of their income, according to the Newspaper. It may not seem so bad, but now the credit card rewards industry has become a major problem for them. Large corporations are now forced to pay billions of dollars for flights and other benefits for credit card holders who do not pay high interest rates or late fees.
Part of the problem is that consumers are more economical than ever. Many credit card holders have understood how to play the systemSome sign credit cards specifically for bonus points, then give up the card (which does not interfere with their credit score as a card would), while others make sure to pay their bills on time and in full. Some even pay a bill with another card in order to get as many rewards as possible. These "players" who work in the system to accumulate miles and points as well as for the thrill itself, are an expensive byproduct of the credit card ecosystem
Of course, this type of game is not for everyone – many Americans who deal with personal debt are not able to switch between cards or mix heavy bills.
"This requires a lot of organization and spreadsheets," says Ben Schlappig, obsessed with credit cards. m said in 2015. "It's not for people who can not afford to travel. It is intended for people with disposable income. "
The world of credit card fanatics has also grown exponentially. It was once considered a fringe to be part of a community of card makers and card hunters, and probably also a dirty secret to own dozens of cards. But today, it's almost the mainstream. There is tons of credit card blogs over there that teach users how to play the game, from creating complex spreadsheets to configuring automatic payments. A cult blogger, an Ohio-based rabbi, Dan Eleff, who runs the blog Dan's Deals, proudly owns more than 500 credit cards and organizes annual seminars to teach readers its tips.
"Some people think it's a time trap and it's extremely stressful. I like it, "Oren Wachstock, a full-time dentist and blogger of credit cards and part-time money, m said. "It's my hobby and the more it gets intense, the better I feel. It's a bit of a perverse logic. I have a lot of fun helping people recover money, increase their income and be able to travel. "
The benefits are already reduced
Last year, Chase stopped offering price protection on their cards, which previously allowed cardholders to make a claim to the bank if they had purchased something on their card at a single price, to find it later at a lower price. Citi also adjusted its limits on price protection. In August, Discover the reduced benefits of credit cards such as product warranties, insurance against theft and rental of automobiles. AmEx recovers cards that come with big bonus points to sign up, and sources told the paper that Chase was considering not allowing cardholders to pool points accumulated on multiple credit cards.
"There is no doubt that banks are worried about the arms race linked to the rewards of credit cards, which will weigh on their profits," said a credit card analyst. New York Post during the summer.
These credit card companies are trying to skimp on rewards in order to save money, but taking advantage of it may not be the best solution, especially if they want to keep on courting the odds. Millennials. A subset of spenders burdened by student debt and a general distrust of the financial sector, millennials are more likely to ditch credit cards than older Americans. Without benefits to differentiate them, it is likely that buyers could turn away from credit cards with these old banks, especially since Venmo has become a verb as fast growing money application makes expenses and payments frictionless.
As a disappointed credit card user commented When Discover announced that it would stop offering price protection a few months ago, "I am extremely disappointed to learn that they have canceled this benefit, which is frankly the only reason I had the trouble to get a discovery card. It is time to cancel. "