Yesterday American Airlines announced a new credit card deal where both Citibank and Barclaycard would continue offering AAdvantage credit cards — and signing up new accounts.
That’s great from a customer standpoint (card acquisition bonuses at least) since we’ll have two card issuers competing for our business. It’s unique, though, for a rich co-brand deal not to have exclusivity.
Instead, they will be dividing up territory. Citibank cards will be on the American Airlines website and in American Airlines lounges. Barclaycard cards will be on American Airlines flights. That’s a strange coexistence.
In April American Airlines President Scott Kirby said he expected a big credit card renewal along the lines of deals by Delta and United over the last year and a half. He got it. But he may not have gotten everything he’d hoped.
According to the airline’s 8-K filing yesterday,
As a result of the new arrangements announced today, American Airlines Group Inc. and American presently expect consolidated pre-tax income for financial reporting purposes to increase by approximately $200 million in the second half of 2016, $550 million in 2017 and $800 million in 2018, with continued modest improvement in pre-tax income each year beyond, in each case as compared to results expected under the prior credit card arrangements.
Even as American’s miles are worth less and the airline is making clear it wants customers to buy exactly the product they want instead of buying on loyalty, they’ve managed to get the banks to pay them more — a lot more.
Delta got its mega deal done in late 2014, as Amex was losing a deal for Costco. Delta was their next-biggest cobrand product so Delta had them backed into a corner. That set a brand new bar. Delta’s big number set things in motion for United and Southwest to get bigger deals out of Chase.
Back when American’s last Citi deal was done, Citibank still had pretty strong leverage over American. They had pre-purchased $1 billion in miles as part of a complicated loan arrangement backed by American’s route authorities and slots at London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita. $800 million or so outstanding on that arrangement at the time that American and Citi extended three and a half years ago.
The banks had much more leverage over the programs coming out of the Great Recession. When times turned better for the airlines that changed. And of course with fewer players in the airline industry, the banks have been in much the same position as consumers. There are fewer airlines to issue cards with.
Against that backdrop, American gets a ‘me too’ deal. They don’t set a new bar, they get a price point their competitors got. They aren’t too late to the party for that.
American will see an annualized $400 million benefit this year, $550 million incremental benefit in 2017, and expects to see $800 million more than they would have received under the existing credit card deal in 2018.
It’s interesting though that there isn’t a single bank exclusivity here. They got a higher price, but presumably they wanted more and the banks wouldn’t bite, based only on there being an unsold feature in issuer exclusivity at the end of the day here. No doubt American wanted a higher price still.
American AAdvantage was one of two ‘last giant deals’ I’ve expected to see. American Express issues the Starwood card and Chase issues Marriott. With Marriott acquiring Starwood there’s a good chance that we see future bidding along the lines of Citibank and Barclaycard for American’s business.