Yesterday I moderated a panel of some pretty impressive credit card executives — David Gold, who manages the United portfolio for Chase; Lisa Kalhans who manages the Delta and Starwood portfolios for American Express; Bob Daly who is the US Bank Senior Vice President for FlexPerks; Matt Massaua who manages airline partnerships for Barclaycard; and Bruce Sibley, a Senior Vice President with MasterCard.
I also had the chance to chat with several other bank executives at and around the Freddie Awards in Atlanta.
A couple of tidbits. Probably the funniest moment on the panel, to me, was when Bob Daly from FlexPerks shared that he (thought he..) needed to sign up for an American Express card to use at Costco, so he picked the Starwood Amex. He met his minimum spend. When the signup bonus didn’t post, he called in and was told that since he had the card a decade ago he wasn’t eligible.
The new American Express signup bonus rules don’t just cut off the sorts of customers that Amex wouldn’t want. They clearly cut off customers that aren’t just after bonuses, too. And customers who — despite being clearly savvy in the world of rewards cards (!) — aren’t even aware of the restrictions on personal cards that you’re only eligible for one bonus per product during your lifetime.
Of course American Express backed off of this policy once before, and Chase recently liberalized theirs — because Chase is taking a portfolio approach, acquiring customers, recognizing that they will acquire customers that are both good and bad for them, and are most interested in simply having a positive mix.
I also learned something about the Barclaycard-American Express relationship. Barclaycard picked up the JetBlue co-brand from American Express. Interestingly, the back end for JetBlue — and for the Arrival program — are going to be managed by… American Express (through their Loyalty Edge business). American Express also manages Wells Fargo’s Visa rewards program. Sometimes it’s a strange world we live in.
We’ll see the United co-brand renegotiate in a couple of years. Unquestionably Chase has the resources to keep it, and few have the deep pockets to outbid them. But no one expected Citi to unseat American Express for Costco either.