I receive compensation for content and many links on this blog. Citibank is an advertising partner of this site, as is American Express, Chase, Barclays and Capital One. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same). Terms apply to the offers and benefits listed on this page.
As we entered recession amidst heading towards a global pandemic, we started to see generous credit card offers dry up. People weren’t focused on travel, so they were less focused on travel rewards. The uncertain economy made it tough to approve new credit. Anecdotally small business cards especially became tougher to get, which is no surprise considering the challenges faced by small businesses.
That’s all familiar territory. But what’s new in the last several weeks is a clear shift in strategy from Chase for their travel rewards card portfolios.
First they came out with big new offers for the Marriott cards.
- The initial bonus for the Marriott Bonvoy BoundlessTM Credit Card is 100,000 points after $3000 spend on purchases in the first 3 months of cardmembership. I’ve seen them offer 100,000 points before with a $5000 spend requirement. The card is worth keeping for the annual elite night credits and annual night certificate.
- And the initial bonus for the no annual fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold(TM) Credit Card has an offer to earn 50,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. The card is worth keeping for the annual elite night credits without an annual fee.
Then they introduced big new offers for United cards.
- UnitedSM Explorer Card has an offer to earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
What’s great about this $0 the first year then $95 annual fee card is the travel benefits when flying United. You get first bag for free when you use your card to purchase your ticket. You’ll get 2 one-time United Club passes each year for your account anniversary as well.
- United ClubSM Infinite Card has an offer to earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
That’s the biggest offer they’ve ever made. And while the previous offer made the card available with a $0 annual fee the first year, there was actually no initial miles bonus. This is a huge improvement for the $525 annual fee product.
The card comes with United Club membership, which normally costs $650 per year for a general member. Additional benefits with this Visa Infinite product include up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PrecheckTM fee credit and 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flight when you pay with your Club Card. You receive free first and second checked bags (a savings of up to $320 per roundtrip).
And now there’s a big offer for Southwest cards, too, and don’t forget that earning large numbers of Southwest points this year makes earning a Companion Pass easier than it did last year.
Each will let you earn 65,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. And this year a Companion Pass – valid through all of 2021 – takes just 100,000 qualifying points to earn. (Offers expired.)
In fairness, Chase hadn’t gone entirely dark with offers during the pandemic. The offer for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has remained constant.
What’s going on here? I would posit a few potential explanations.
- The economy is likely to see relatively robust quarter-over-quarter growth in the third quarter, off the low second quarter base. This will still be disappointing levels of economic activity compared to the same quarter a year earlier, but it’ll be an improvement. Meanwhile unemployment has been falling and new unemployment claims have been falling. We still face deep economic challenges, but the first derivative is headed in the right direction.
- People are thinking about traveling again. While air passenger numbers in the U.S. are at nearly 10 times their lowest level on some days, that’s still off about 70% compared to a year earlier. Still, travel is thinkable again. People don’t have to be traveling today to think about travel rewards, they just need to be able to plan for it in the future.
- Competitive opportunity, Chase would like to grow its portfolios to amortize the high cost of airline and hotel partnerships – they’re going to be losing some cardmembers as annual renewals come due, so if they can be more aggressive in the marketplace than competitors they may be able to gain share shift.
I’d love to know the extent to which Chase versus travel partners are funding increased offers right now. These were certainly in the budget and chute to do, but the interesting question is why so many across partners and why now. I take this as an overall encouraging sign.
Is your behavior shifting, are you looking at rewards cards and travel again?