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As frequent travelers look ahead to a new year of new credit card offers, I’m taking a look back to reflect on the past 12 months of news for cardholders and see which of my credit card predictions came true over the past year. Here’s my personal report card. Feel free to grade my performance in the comments below, and weigh in with the developments from this year that mattered most to you.
Prediction in 2016: APRs will increase.
This prediction wasn’t exactly tough to make. As the outlook for the US economy has strengthened, it was clear that the Federal Reserve would continue to raise interest rates. Whatever the Fed does trickles down to the variable rates that cardholders pay if they carry a balance. The nationwide average APR currently sits at 16.15%, nearly a full percentage point higher in a year-over-year comparison with 2016. That upward climb will continue. If you’re carrying a balance, paying it down to zero should be at the top of your list of resolutions for 2018.
Prediction in 2016: Banks will reevaluate bonus opportunities.
At the end of last year, I speculated that banks would reevaluate whether it made sense to offer massive sign-up bonuses to attract new cardholders. All those rewards have carried a hefty price tag. It certainly feels like the bonus party has died down a bit this year. The Chase Sapphire Reserve 100k bonus disappeared, and American Express warned that anyone who wants to game the system can lose their points. However, there are some promising signs for the sign-up bonus landscape. In November, four travel credit cards offered their highest-ever sign-up bonuses for a limited time.
There have been reminders that bigger bonuses are reserved for bigger spendings. The new Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card offers a 50,000-point sign-up bonus after $3,000 in spend in the first 90 days, which is in line with the industry’s norms, but the card’s biggest earnings potential kicks in for BofA customers who can deposit $100,000 in a checking, savings or investment account with the bank. Chase copied the move with targeted offers to entice Sapphire Reserve cardholders to deposit $100k into a Private Investment account. Those offer aren’t exactly going to appeal to, you know, average customers.
Still, there have been simpler ways to earn smaller bonuses. For example, if you use the Platinum Card from American Express, you might be able to score an easy additional 10,000 Membership Rewards points before the end of the year with just 10 purchases.
Prediction in 2016: Debt will climb to the sky.
Again, not the toughest prediction to make, based on American spending habits. Last summer, Americans set a not-so-great record: the highest debt in history with $1.02 trillion in revolving debt collectively. According to TransUnion, there are more than 171 million Americans with credit cards — approximately 21 million more than in 2010.
Prediction in 2016: Swiping will disappear.
Major merchants have embraced chip payments, but I’m still swiping my card at gas stations, my neighborhood grocery store and a number of other retail outlets. However, the extinction of swiping isn’t the big story here. The real news is that the need for signatures is disappearing. Mastercard, Discover and American Express have all announced plans to do away with the need for a personal autograph on a receipt.
Prediction in 2016: Mobile payments will make a bigger impact.
We’re all used to using our smartphones to do loads of tasks, but paying for purchases does not seem to be one of them. Smartphone users aren’t yet sold on mobile payments, according to a recent report from Auriemma Consulting Group. The research showed that mobile payments have declined by 5% this year due to concerns about security and challenges at checkout. Banks obviously still believe in the potential of mobile payments. Chase just signed a deal with Kroger, the biggest grocery store chain in the US, to start using the Chase Pay mobile wallet services. Getting customers to actually use the service clearly isn’t going to be an easy task, though.
What’s in store for 2018? Check out some new predictions here.
Know before you go.
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