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Reader Nick asked,
Amex lost some big partners recently, can we expect some big signup bonuses from them in the near future (1-3 months)? I’m thinking of signing up for the Amex Plat but wouldn’t want to miss out on a big bonus.
American Express is losing JetBlue and Costco co-brand credit cards. The JetBlue relationship is helpful in the New York market, which is important, but it’s a much smaller portfolio than Delta, Costco, etc. Costco is a big hit — but in a sense American Express is the winner here, because if there was ever a case of ‘the winner’s curse’ it has to be Citibank overpaying for a deal that would have been more valuable to Amex than to Citi (given their big installed cardmember base).
While American Express needs to be aggressive in building its business in the faces of losses like this, the bigger threat that they face is downward pressure on interchange rates (the prices they charge merchants for processing card transactions) given a recent court decision that would allow merchants to ‘prefer’ cheaper cards.
I do not see these competitive pressures driving up signup bonuses.
- If anything, there new customer acquisition could become less profitable with lower interchange rates (though lower merchant fees don’t necessarily translate to lower awards).
- American Express’ focus has been building new business lines geared to female heads of household like the no fee Amex Everyday card [although they concurrently created the Amex Everyday Preferred which is the strongest Membership Rewards-earning card].
- Their biggest growth area has been in lower income segments through the Walmart co-branded Bluebird and now the Target co-brand Redcard.
The standard offer for the Platinum Card by American Express is 40,000 points after $3000 spend within 3 months.
If you want to search for better offers, a great place to start is the Creditcards.com Match Tool which sometimes has more lucrative offers such as 100,000 points or more commonly 60,000.
American Express made a competitive response to losing American lounge access, the loss of other partners, and limitations on their Delta partnership by building out their own Centurion lounges which are fantastic — and which the Platinum card gets you fee-free access to. They added gogo inflight internet passes to the Business Platinum card. They added unlimited Boingo internet to the Platinum product.
These are on top of the addition of the airline fee credit which is a relatively recent addition. And it’s worth remembering that even American lounge access wasn’t always a part of the program, and US Airways lounge access was brought on pre-emptively when it was clear that the United-Continental merger would mean the loss of Continental as a partner.
So benefits are always changing, and American has aggressively added benefits when they’ve needed to do so. Those benefit packages work better for some, less well for others.
In general I see signup bonuses as much bigger than they used to be (50,000 mile offers are common, whereas a decade ago 20,000 point offers were far more common) but there are few 100,000 mile offers the way there were during the Great Recession when programs were buying miles cheap from airlines who ran fire sales through their loyalty programs to raise case.
Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either.