I flew from Seattle post Alaska cruise to New York City to meet with the three major credit card companies earlier this week. It seems to becoming an annual event and it is nice to exchange ideas with the top brass regarding their offers and putting in our input on what we like and don’t like about their card offerings. We also get a glimpse at what may happen in the future. Here’s my report:
Monday at noon we visited the Manhattan headquarters of JPMorgan Chase (with full disclosure I am a stockholder) and were escorted to the 50th floor of the building where a light buffet style lunch was offered. There we had the chance to talk to the heads of the various co-branded and Chase branded cards. I got to be straightforward with United, Southwest, Ultimate Rewards, Sapphire Preferred, INK, and the other minor cards. Each and every major offering was there and mixed it up with me, the Points Guy, Million Mile Secrets, Dan’s Deals, MyMoney blog, and the NoobTraveler. The thing I really appreciate about the gang at Chase is they really do care about our opinions. Let’s be clear, we are bloggers and are middlemen between their card offerings and our readers. I get to pull no punches when it comes to what is good and what is bad about their products. In every instance Chase listens with the intent of getting you to apply for their cards and use them. I appreciate that. The guy from United, Mr. Gold, emphasized that those just getting the card for the sign-up bonus are not profitable for Chase. I can’t control that issue, but want you to know that they know.
Also to be clear, they pay us for card sign-ups through our blogs and websites. I try to promote credit cards that I think are best for you the consumer and it matters not if it is a card that we get a commission on or not (e.g. the US Airways card you will find in Rick’s Top Travel Deals or the Virgin Atlantic card I just got and reported on a week ago). We can have no favorites but I can tell you that Chase seems most interested at this moment in time in working with me to reach you. They supplied us each with a small SWAG bag and I kept the nice INK bound folder to give away to the first reader that can comment on what my latest Chase personal card approval was. I can’t return the four pieces of marinated steak I had or Diet Coke but do want you to know, I still do not accept items from the card issuers, airlines, or hotels for my opinions.
I also relayed to Chase that I am still a big fan and personal user of the Sapphire Preferred card. I think it is their best product and it seems you all do as well. I had no indications of either increases or decreases in offers that seemed of substance to me from Chase. I expect close to a status quo from them on their offers.
Next stop was Citibank in neighboring Long Island City. I had just been on the phone with them in the last month or so and really want to offer more of their products but only find the Citi Forward card as one that I can strongly recommend; and that is for a small niche of readers with high restaurant spend. It pays five points per buck in restaurants and far surpasses anything else in the category. We talked about old expired links. I can tell you they are trying to clean up old links and have put on extra personnel to do so. They seem interested in what I have to say. They asked me specifically what it takes to move the needle and I told them slightly higher sign-up bonuses a la the US Airways 40K card. My personal opinion is the size of the sign-up bonus appears of more interest to you the readers than the extra benefits offered within each card offered. I anticipate one or two improvements in card offers in the third quarter. Maybe not to our exact liking but they really seem to care. Both Chase and Citi have products for scores under/around 700 and I plan on discussing them more in future posts for our newbies to credit and those with scores slightly below 700.
I had a second meeting with Chase on Tuesday morning that was more focused towards Internet Brands issues and how they plan on folding me into that group of websites. Most of it was in marketing speak way over my head, but again Chase wants our business; the travel rewards cards.
Our last stop late Tuesday morning was at American Express located across the street from Ground Zero and the site of the new Freedom Tower. Watching those guys working on that site and seeing some of the memorials made me proud to be an American. My last visit there was late 2001 or early 2002 and lots is happening in the area. We are rebuilding.
You all know that American Express has my personal favorite, the SPG card, and they can count on me to continue to promote and recommend that card to all of you in the travel space. I can’t think of a higher value redemption any where than the “cash and points” option for hotel redemption with that card. I told Amex about the Chase 90-day policy for “bump the bonus” and they seemed to like that idea, and will take it under advisement. They were clear that they are not in the market for sub-700 applicants, gave no indication of anything new other than a hint that a summer promotion similar to last year’s may be in the works again for later this summer (sorry can’t say more). Amex freely admits that they target higher offers on their co-branded cards. I indicated my support for all the benefits for the Platinum card but got no indication of a higher sign-up bonus in the works. I complimented them on their outstanding online customer service. Amex to me is a well established institution happy with their position in the market that will stay competitive and mindful of profitabilty.
Wow, one of my longer posts but a big part of our hobby. In summary, look for more of the same. Don’t look for a monster offer. I think those are done for now. I expect Citi to try to increase their market share and Chase will continue to lead the travel reward cards market for now. Chase reads my blog everyday (I’m flattered). I believe Citi looks in occassionally, and Amex does not monitor me individually. I don’t know if that last bit of info is important to you but wanted you to at least know.
And don’t forget the Chase INK bound notepad giveaway. Comment on my last personal Chase card approval. Which personal card was I last approved for from Chase?
Deal of the Day
For today’s Deal of the Day we have TripAlertz who is donating $50 in Trip Cash for the best overall travel deal submitted. A great mileage run, mistake fare, partner promo, new card sign-up offer, or the special twist you figured out on a deal today. Add it to the comments section of this post (make sure to include your first name, last inital, and home airport) or this afternoon’s Deal of the Day post to be eligible to win.