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Credit cards that are affiliated with brands — such as American Airlines, Uber, L.L. Bean and Ikea — are aback amping up rewards for accustomed purchases at restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores.

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These rewards cards, co-branded by the issuer and a retail brand, were aforetime one-trick ponies that were best for purchases at a distinct merchant only. But with bigger rewards, the cards are now acceptable added advantageous for consumers.

Now, co-branded agenda issuers adeptness action bifold or amateur credibility — or added — every time you bash at the pump or duke your agenda to a aide or abundance clerk. Ikea alike offers account credibility for spending on utilities. Traditionally, co-branded acclaim cards offered a banal 1 per cent aback on purchases fabricated alfresco the brand. Now, Uber’s card, for example, offers a whopping 4 per cent aback on restaurant purchases.

“This is a aureate age of rewards for consumers,” said John Grund, managing administrator at Accenture Payments, a close that provides consulting casework for banks and acquittal providers. Consumers who accept acceptable abundant acclaim to authorize for such cards angle to benefit. “The accoutrements chase appropriate now is actual abundant centred on the appliance of the rewards.”


Intense antagonism has led issuers to action fatter rewards in an accomplishment to attraction consumers’ absorption and advance new and absolute cards to the advanced of the wallet. Bank-branded cards were aboriginal to action accelerated rewards on accustomed spending, and co-branded cards were affected to follow.

“This is a awful aggressive time in the chump agenda business, with abounding amount propositions actuality pushed to the max,” said Eric Marks, chief administrator with the cyberbanking convenance of adviser West Monroe Partners. “Consumers are abundant added adult about their banking casework artefact options today than they were aloof a few years ago.” That’s mainly because they’re able to calmly comparison-shop, alike via smartphone, he said.


The attraction for consumers is the adeptness to acquire rewards for accustomed spending. Meanwhile, agenda issuers accretion users, and merchants drive sales and chump loyalty.

“Just accepting a agenda to use will admission abundance sales by some 28 per cent to 30 per cent,” said acquittal industry adviser Robert Hammer of R.K. Hammer.

Synchrony Banking is the bigger issuer of store-only cards and a top issuer of co-branded cards, with ally from Amazon to Zulily.

“Consumers are award applied affidavit to use the agenda alfresco the abundance because the rewards for spending are increasing,” said Synchrony backer India Kessler. “Brands can added differentiate themselves from added cards in the bazaar and drive a added affection to their brands.”


Even with boundless rewards, co-branded acclaim cards aren’t ideal for everyone. Here’s what to consider:

– HIGHER INTEREST RATES. Co-branded cards tend to backpack college absorption ante than bank-only acclaim cards, Grund said. That makes the cards a poor best for accustomed a balance.

– VALUE OF REWARDS. Co-branded cards usually allotment out rewards in their own adherence currency, such as United Airlines’ MileagePlus afar or L.L. Bean’s “Bean Bucks,” which can’t be spent everywhere, as dollars from a cash-back agenda can. Credibility and afar can be attenuated by retailers or airlines by adopting accretion prices.

– UPGRADES TO EXISTING CARDS. Some cards accept been automatically adapted with bigger rewards. Recently, two above airlines, American and United, both revamped absolute versions of their cards to action accelerated rewards on purchases alfresco the airlines. American and Citi added bifold afar for anniversary dollar spent at gas stations and restaurants. The co-branded agenda from United and Chase added restaurants and hotels as double-mile categories.

More generally, reevaluate your portfolio of acclaim cards to accomplish abiding they’re still competitive, Grund said.

– CARD PERKS. Co-branded cards can action allowances that bank-only cards can’t. Airline cards adeptness action chargeless arrested accoutrements and antecedence boarding. A banker adeptness action approved discounts and coupons, aboriginal admission to sales, chargeless gift-wrapping or chargeless alterations.

– INDUSTRY TRENDS. Rewards are so affluent now that it adeptness not be sustainable. “The claiming is that these amount propositions are creating actual attenuate margins — if any at all — for the companies alms the rewards, and at some point it is acceptable that the rug will be pulled out from beneath consumers’ feet,” Marks said.

Watch for issuers devaluing rewards programs by abandoning agenda perks, and always analysis whether the agenda is a acceptable fit for you.

Until then, consumers will acquisition co-branded acclaim cards added advantageous than in the past.


This commodity was provided to The Associated Press by the claimed accounts website NerdWallet . Gregory Karp is a biographer at NerdWallet. Email: gkarp @spendingsmart.


NerdWallet: Rid your wallet of characterless acclaim cards

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