From more flexibility to more lounges: My 2022 predictions for credit card rewards
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For those of us who use credit cards, especially travel rewards cards, there were transformations across the industry in 2021.
The pandemic continued to shift our relationship with cards and their benefits in the travel arena.
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From new premium card products to head-scratching lifestyle benefits and increased welcome offers (and much, much more), it was a very busy year for the cards team here at TPG. Looking ahead, what can we expect from the world of credit cards — as it relates to rewards and benefits — in 2022?
Well, we will likely see some of the same COVID-19-era trends continue into the new year. But there might be a curveball or two as well. Let’s take a look at six of my predictions.
Intense competition among premium cards
Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen new and revamped premium rewards cards, from launches of all-new products from established players — such as the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card — to a full refresh of The Platinum Card® from American Express with a host of new benefits.
There have also been other minor but noteworthy moves, such as revamping the Chase Sapphire Reserve and niche new rivals, including The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Elite credit card.
The information for the Bank of America Premium Rewards Elite credit card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
On the one hand, some of these cards are facing an identity crisis of sorts. Take the Amex Platinum, for example. It is trying to do too many things, all in the name of adding to its lengthy list of perks and benefits, but without actually benefiting cardmembers in meaningful ways. I expect more changes and additions to this card in the upcoming year.
Overall, increased competition among premium cards will continue into 2022, especially among three key players: the Amex Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Capital One Venture X.
Airports with more credit card lounges
For years, the network of Amex-owned and operated Centurion Lounges dominated the cobranded card airport lounge space. But that’s now changing.
Capital One is serious about its lounge ambitions, with two spaces set to join an existing location at Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport (DFW) in 2022, located at Washington Dulles (IAD) and Denver (DEN) airports.
In addition, Chase will enter the lounge world with its own branded airport spaces — called “Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club” — set to open beginning in 2022, with locations at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA).
In 2022, there’s little doubt that airport lounge competition will intensify among major credit card issuers.
More cards between entry level and premium
But that mindset is rapidly shifting. More card issuers are stratifying their card products and getting more specific in their audience targeting and feature set.
That means more cards that have unique benefits and a product portfolio with four or more cards. Take United, for instance.
Earlier this year, United’s credit card lineup expanded from three to four with the United Quest Card. The Quest finds itself in a bit of a sweet spot with a $250 annual fee, straddling the line between the $95-per-year (waived the first year) United Explorer Card and the $525-per-year United Club Infinite Card.
In 2022, I expect more launches, similar to the United Quest, that will fill out a card product lineup.
More flexibility with your points
Transferable rewards currencies — such as Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards — offer inherent flexibility within their programs.
For instance, with Ultimate Rewards points, you can not only book travel directly on any airline through the Chase travel portal but also transfer points to British Airways or Iberia to book American award flights, transfer points to the World of Hyatt for luxurious hotel stays, redeem for gift cards and so much more.
But even within certain more “fixed” loyalty programs, such as airlines, we’re seeing a trend toward the ability to redeem in a multitude of ways.
Take the new Chase Aeroplan Credit Card, for instance. In 2022, the card will offer the ability to leverage Chase’s popular Pay Yourself Back program. For any travel purchase, Aeroplan cardholders will be able to redeem points at a rate of 1.25 cents per point (up to 50,000 points per year) via the Pay Yourself Back feature.
That creates a significant amount of flexibility should cardholders need to use their points for redemptions other than through Aeroplan, Air Canada and their partners.
In 2022, I envision other card products creating more flexibility within their respective cobranded programs to redeem for other things besides what we typically expect.
Personalization is the future
While travel remains affected by the pandemic, we may see more targeted welcome offers and sign-up bonuses in 2022 and beyond. Banks are continuing to invest in artificial intelligence and algorithms, so two things will likely happen from this: more targeted offers and perks on an individual level, and fewer approvals for people who aren’t considered high-value customers.
To that latter point, banks are getting better at discouraging credit card churning. With Amex’s once-per-lifetime welcome bonus restrictions and Chase’s 5/24 rule, applying solely for a card’s sign-up bonus and sock-drawering it thereafter is already increasingly difficult.
Expect more of this in 2022. If you’re applying for a new card, be strategic.
More card perks tied to specific brands
The credit card landscape in 2021 showed us that cobranded partnerships are here to stay — for better or worse.
Amex is the card issuer that comes to mind when it comes to specific (and sometimes, inflexible and questionable) benefits that are tied to brands. For instance, the Amex Platinum now has a partnership with Walmart+ and SoulCycle in addition to a multitude of other perks from Saks, Uber and more.
Issuers want to be the top card in your wallet. But an increasing number of brand-specific perks may not help their case, especially if you typically don’t spend with that company. Hopefully, we’ll see card companies build more flexibility into the product, even when linking up with certain brands.
Featured photo by 279Photo Studio/Shutterstock.
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