As The Credit Card Issuers Churn

Barclaycard lost the US Airways co-brand as a result of the airline’s merger with American, with Citibank retaining the right to issue new American AAdvantage cards..

American Express lost the JetBlue co-brand (to Barclaycard) and the Costco product (to Citi)

In an unofficial statement, Amtrak Guest Rewards says that their relationship with Chase is ending. I’ve heard this from two sources, but it hasn’t been stated publicly and could well wind up being premature (that the ink isn’t dry). For their part, Chase spokesman Rob Tacey simply replies,

We are not accepting new applications at this time for the Amtrak Rewards card.

(Amtrak promises an ‘official’ statement next week.)

Until very recently I would have thought that we had reached something of a steady state with airline, hotel, and credit card co-brand partnerships.

  • The big programs are very large.
  • Card companies that have co-brand relationships have a built-in advantage, because the dollars involved are huge and so are the cardmember bases.
  • It would be very expensive to dislodge an incumbent bank.
  • It’s worth more to the bank to keep a card portfolio than it is to a new bank to bid that portfolio away, because the former has so many cardmembers while the latter strarts out with none.
  • Even if a bank was willing to overpay, there are few positioned to spend the kind of resources necessary to steal away a big loyalty program.

So most of the action has been at the edges, and indeed other than Costco the moves we’ve seen thus far are very much at the edges. Barclaycard, which has been aggressive in adding loyalty program partners, doesn’t have any big fish now that US Airways is gone. And it even lost Virgin America to Comenity bank.

Barclaycard has been aggressive, though picking up the Hawaiian co-brand is probably their second biggest ‘get’ after JetBlue.

One has a hard time imagining them marshalling the sort of resources that would be necessary to dislodge Chase with United (though Chase doesn’t hold nearly as much sway with MileagePlus as they did prior to the Continental merger). And American has just re-upped with Citi and Amex with Delta.

The hotel portfolios are a bit less sexy, and Chase has Marriott, IHG, and Hyatt. American Express has Starwood, which was just re-upped this year. American Express and Citi both have relationships with Hilton, at some point one could muscle out the other.

Any changes likely come with smaller carriers (an Alaska Airlines merger) or foreign carriers (Bank of America issues Virgin Atlantic and Asiana, though Virgin partners on points transfers with everyone and picking up the South Korean airline hardly seems worth another bank’s time).

So even though we’re seeing some musical chairs around the edges, that’s not likely a portend of bigger change to come. Costco is likely the last ‘big fish’ for awhile where there’s already a significant installed cardmember base.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. My local Costco just told me that the changeover from Amex to Citibank will not happen until next year. That one should be able to apply for Costco Amex until the end of the year. Furthermore, despite all the reports of Visa acceptance starting this month, Costco’s customer service people and managers have heard nothing about accepting Visa, in Costco stores, yet. So, for miles and points collectors, the ability to use Visa at Costco, isn’t here yet. But, I guess if one really wants a Costco Amex, they should be able to get one, for awhile.

  2. What happens to those of us who just qualified for the Barclay USAir card and completed minimum transaction. Will we receive the sign up bonus in dividend miles or AA? And monthly rewards in Aa? Or nothing due to the switchover?
    Thanks z

  3. Gary, thing wrong with your RSS feed as of today. It seems to only show the first few sentences of the post, and without any formatting. Would it be possible to restore it to the old complete post?

  4. The official AGR rep on FlyerTalk posted this statement on 11 March, not that it provided any more detail on what might come next, and with whom…perhaps negotiations were/are still in process in some manner:

    “No new applications for the Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard from Chase are being accepted at this time. More information regarding the AGR credit card will be shared in the near future.

    If you have the Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard from Chase, you can continue to use your card and will continue to earn AGR points. Nothing will change without notification from Amtrak and Chase.

    Anthony Rizos
    Director, Member Experience Solutions
    Washington, D.C.”

  5. AGR hasn’t put out any statement yet – any follow-up from your sources Gary? Thanks

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