Learn from rewards cards’ 2017 trends, changes


New offers and mergers offered new reward opportunities

Personal Finance Writer
Rewards expert who writes the “Cashing In” reader Q&A column for CreditCards.com

Banks cracking down on reward card applications

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With credit cards, as with physics, inertia can be a
powerful force. If you think back to physics class in high school, you might
recall that Newton’s first law of motion is that an object at rest remains at
rest until acted upon, or if it is in motion, it continues on that trajectory
until something alters it.

Credit card issuers make it easy to continue on a familiar
path. Your payment is due on the same date every month. You probably have set
up bill pay online. You have learned the features of your card, and it has
become familiar. Most people hang onto their cards for years.

But as we look back on the biggest credit card rewards news
of 2017, it is clear that reward programs and card offers are ever-changing.
For that reason, it makes sense to pay attention and sometimes take action to
reverse the natural tendency to keep the same set of cards. Taking advantage of
new offers and calculating your response to industry changes can yield more and
better rewards.

Changes, trends

Here are some of the big changes and trends of 2017 – and
how you might take advantage of them.

Cards for
. Banks are noticing that younger consumers have spending power,
and they are tailoring
rewards cards to match the interests of the younger generation
. New
entrants include U.S. Bank’s Altitude Reserve (bonus points for paying with
mobile wallets) and Barclaycard’s Uber Visa (bonus points for online purchases,
credit for streaming services, mobile phone damage protection). And other cards
have modified their rewards, such as American Express Platinum (Uber credits)
and Capital One Quicksilver (Spotify discounts). You don’t have to be in your
20s or 30s to take advantage of these cards, but check them out to see if the
rewards sound appealing to you.

Continued expansion
of premium travel cards
. A year after Chase launched its Sapphire Reserve,
American Express refreshed its Platinum card – and raised the annual fee to
$550. There are now nearly a dozen luxury credit cards with annual fees of $450 or
more. Although that sounds expensive, they typically come with travel credits
or lounge access worth a few hundred dollars, so they can be a good deal if you
travel frequently.

Video: Credit card reward hacks

Hilton and Citi
part ways
. Citi has offered Hilton credit cards for years, but the two
announced they were ending that relationship effective in early 2018.
People with Citi Hilton cards are slated to receive new cards from American
. Before letting that happen, though, Citi Hilton cardholders should
examine other options, including canceling the Citi card and applying for a
card with a sign-up bonus.

Marriott and
Starwood merger continues
. The two hotel chains are continuing to integrate
their operations
, including their reward programs. For now, both still have
their loyalty programs and separate reward cards, and you can transfer points
between the two for hotel stays. If you’re looking for a quick infusion of
points, consider the sign-up bonuses that come with both the Chase Marriott
card and the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card.

America-Alaska Airlines merger chops card options
. With the two airlines
, they dropped the old Comenity Bank Virgin America Visa card. The
only remaining credit card available is the Bank of America Alaska Airlines
– which you might want to consider for flights on the combined airline, or
if you liked the old Comenity Bank card.

If the past is any guide, 2018 will probably bring its share
of mergers and new reward card offers. The best advice: Pay attention, so that
you can take advantage of changes and make the most of your rewards.

See related: 5 steps to get your rewards for the new year, Save money in the new year with these 8 card tricks

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