The X1 Credit Card: Game Changer?

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Reader Lee Y. asks my take on the upcoming X1 Credit Card which isn’t available for application yet.

Here’s what we know:

  • No annual fee, no late fees, no foreign transaction fees
  • Up to 4% rebate
  • Stainless steel

They seem to make a big deal about the look and feel of the card, but at an advertised 17 grams this is no heavier than an Amex Platinum or Capital One Savor card and lighter than Citi Prestige (18g) and J.P. Morgan Reserve (27g), and only a hair heavier than Capital One Venture (16g).

Your Income Not Your Credit Score

Much of the coverage of the card has focused on determining your credit line ‘based on your current and future income’ not your credit score. What this means isn’t entirely clear. I haven’t seen them say they don’t look at credit scores to approve cardmembers for the product.

They suggest that “some customers” can expect credit limits as much as 5 times higher than with another credit card, but that’s a pretty meaningless claim since almost any card issuer can make it. It’s like saying that a majority of people who switch to [particular car insurance company] save money, that’s because nearly the only people who switch are those getting a better deal.

They’ve got a different algorithm, it seems, but what this means in practice compared to meaningless marketing hype is simply not yet clear.

Potentially The Best General Rebate Card – But Average For Most?

Here’s the reward structure:

  • 2x on all purchases
  • 3x on purchases over $15,000 in a year
  • 4x on purchases for a month for each successful referral to the card

We do not know yet how much each point is worth but for the sake of argument let’s assume one cent in value. The card website says that 45,000 points are worth “at least $450” but it’s not clear whether lower point totals can have a value that’s less than one cent, or will in the future.

We also don’t know how they’ll let you use the points, other than listing specific retail partners on their website including Airbnb, Alaska Airlines, Apple, Delta, HotelTonight, JetBlue, Nike, Sephora, and zipcar.

This card is presumably a 2% back card at a restricted set of merchants, though it gets up to 3% for spend over $15,000. You have to discount that if the choices of how to use the points are restricted, since that’s not as valuable as cash. And for most people spending up to or not much more than $15,000 a year then the Citi® Double Cash Card is better since that’s going to generate 2% back in real cash.

Where this card shines is for folks who can generate a lot of referrals. 4% back, even with a restricted set of merchants, it a pretty good return for otherwise-unbonused spend. It won’t get my travel, dining, or other category bonus spend where I’m already doing better than this (5% – 9% effective return) but it serves a role at merchants not bonused by other cards.

Still, it could be strategically useful for big unbonused purchases – refer a friend or family member so that you can qualify for a 4% rebate, then make your large purchase as a one-off.

Cancel Recurring Payments

The card helps you avoid getting hit with recurring payments for services you’re not interested in. They offer virtual credit card numbers so services can’t keep billing you, and there’s a feature of their app to cancel subscriptions that are being billed to the card.

A lot of businesses rely on providing low value at low prices, with transaction costs to cancel so high that people don’t bother. In other words, effectively taxing consumers. Card issuers should help customers avoid these traps – while respecting the merchants they work with who provide genuine value for subscriptions.

X1 Card’s Bottom Line

We don’t know enough about this product yet to have a real idea of its value – if you can actually generate a 4% return through spend and referrals that’s going to be really strong, but most people won’t be able to successfully refer someone every month. 

Referrals aside then we’re talking about 2% back on the first $15,000 of spend each year. This card is only interesting for spend above $15,000 to get to 3% back. But you’re going to have to spend substantially more than $15,000 on the card before you’re really getting enough value to make the higher rate of return worthwhile.

What do you think of the X1 Card coming ‘winter 2020’?

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. The points are worth a minimum of 1 cent each – up to 2 cents, depending on the retailer. Right now, there are a little over 100 retailers but they will be adding more before launch.
    Referrals are uncapped and if you earn a bunch in one month, they stack on top month to month (so 12 in one month gives 1 year at 4X).

  2. Not sure who is the issuer? I suspect Apple Card begun a trend and now a lot of issuer (if not the same) are copying. Am I wrong?

  3. @Charlie – referrals are uncapped, that’s great for bloggers 😉 my point is the value of this card is going to depend on a cardmember’s referral potential/network.

  4. If they offer a plastic version, I’m a buyer. Metal cards make my pocket heavier, and there’s nothing worse than the douchebag at the register who clanks his metal card down on the counter in order to impress the people behind him.

  5. @Gary – right, I was just saying that it is ok if people get referrals racked up early because they will stack and they won’t offset if they are in the same month.
    Yes, and blog readers now, too! I am cycling through reader links since I should have 4X for the next 80 years – if everyone actually gets it. 🙂

  6. So potentially, I could overpay my January estimated taxes by $1m using a card processor that charges 1.9 percent. Earn a spread of 1.1 percent if I file taxes early and get a refund. Although realistically I can’t possibly file before May with all the K1s

  7. And if the Citi 2% card is perhaps better, then then Amex/Schwab combo and Alliant card, each of which yield 2.5%, cash back, are perhaps much better for many.

  8. Well, at least we can identify one thing that’s worse: the DL Amex card. It was getting really difficult to squeeze more than a penny a mile out of Skypesos, even before ‘rona, so X1’s 2X on Delta flights alone beats DL Amex.

    Here’s my X1 referral link, and thank you if you use it: https://x1creditcard.com/r/uFSFEBv

  9. This is a 4X points card. So its not direct cashback. This will all depend on what you can redeem the points for an how. If so this is a major shakeup to the points game. Especially considering travel is down for most for at least 2020 and possibly a good part of 2021.

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