The next best credit card perks that will be taken away

Clawback Perks

There’s nothing new about credit card companies offering valuable perks and later taking them away.  They all do it.  But Amex must have set a piss-off-customers record with the removal of the 50% flight rebate.  They introduced the benefit on October 6th 2016 and are set to take it away from most existing cardholders by June 1 2017 (and that benefit has now expired).  The feature survived less than 8 months.  Fortunately, those who opened, or will open, accounts between October 2016 and May 31st 2017 will keep the benefit for their full membership year.

They all do it (just not as quickly)

You probably remember the killer “Bonus Award Night” feature of US Bank’s Club Carlson card when it was first launched.  On award bookings of 2 or more nights, the last night was free.  So, with two-night award bookings, the price in points for two nights was the same as for one night.  It was awesome.  And then one day it was gone.  It seemed fast, but the feature lasted two and a half years — an eternity compared to Amex’s new record.

And, of course, there’s the Citi Prestige card.  The card currently offers 1.6 cents per point value towards AA flights and 1.33 cents per point value towards other flights; 4th Night Free hotel benefits; Admirals Club access when flying AA; and free golf benefits.  On July 23rd 2017 point values for flights drop to 1.25 cents; 4th Night Free becomes a 25% rebate on 4 night stays not including taxes; Admirals Club access will be gone altogether; and no more free golf.  All of these benefits were first introduced on October 19th 2014, so we got to keep them for a bit more than 2 and a half years.

Going further back in time, the Chase Freedom card used to offer 10 bonus points per transaction to those who also had a Chase checking account.  That wasn’t a big deal for most purchases, but for tiny purchases it was huge.  Consider that 10 points are worth 10 cents cash and that it was possible to make purchases of as little as 1 cent each.  You would profit by 9 cents on each 1 cent transaction!  And, of course, people took advantage of it.  One guy supposedly wrote a script to buy 1 cent Amazon gift cards.  He apparently earned thousands of dollars before Chase shut him down.  I don’t know how long the 10 point bonus lasted, but I’m sure it was far longer than the Amex Business Platinum 50% rebate (which, as noted above, expired on June 1st, 2017).

Above is not even close to an exhaustive list of nerfed benefits.  This is just a reminder that no card perks are safe.

What’s Next?

I don’t have a working crystal ball or inside information about any of this, but a good way to predict benefits that will be removed is to simply look for overly generous existing benefits.  Here are some that I fear losing…

Chase IHG Annual Free Night for $49

The Chase IHG card is the only card on the market that offers an annual free night with no annual spend requirements and no cap on the hotel category that can be booked.  Plus, Chase charges only $49 per year.  When you consider that the card also offers IHG Platinum elite status, and a 10% rebate on point awards, you can see that this card offers tremendous value.

Prediction: Chase will keep the free night intact, but eventually increase the card’s annual fee

BankAmericard 75% bonus for Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors customers

Those with $100K savings or investments with Bank of America and Merrill Edge, qualify for Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors status.  This status gives you a 75% bonus on points earned with certain credit cards.  One of the best is the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card.  On its own, the card offers just 1.5% back towards travel, but with this 75% bonus the card offers 2.625% returns on all spend.

Prediction: My bet is that this feature will stick around. It’s the price Bank of America pays to keep their top customers happy.

Chase Ink Cash 5X categories

The no-fee Chase Ink Cash Business Credit Card offers 5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for office supply purchases, phone, TV, and internet; and 2X for gas and restaurants.  It is an awesome card to keep around to autopay your phone, TV, and internet bills and for buying gift cards from office supply stores.  Recently Chase discontinued the similar Ink Plus Business Card in favor of the new Ink Business Preferred Card (which has 3X categories), so it seems likely that they’ll eventually do the same to this one.  The one thing that keeps this one alive, in my opinion, is the $25K per year cap on 5X rewards.  Still, my guess is that Chase will eventually sunset this card too.

Prediction: Chase will introduce a no fee business card with 3X categories similar to the Ink Business Preferred. At that point they’ll stop taking applications for the Ink Cash card.

Chase Southwest cards count towards companion pass

Southwest’s Companion Pass is arguably the single best value in travel today.  Once you get the pass, you can add a companion for free to any number of flights (paid or award flights) for the rest of that year and all of the next.  See: Complete guide to the Southwest Companion Pass.  Southwest recently stopped counting point transfers from hotels and car rental companies towards the companion pass.  They still count base points earned from partners (e.g. when you select to directly earn Southwest points from a hotel stay or car rental, those points will count), but they don’t count “bonus points”.  One explicit exception is with the co-branded Southwest credit cards from Chase.  With those cards, both the base points earned from spend and the credit card signup bonus points count towards the Companion Pass.  Signing up for two 50K or 60K signup offers continues to be the best and easiest way to earn the companion pass.  How long will that last?

Prediction: Southwest clearly made an explicit decision to continue counting the signup bonuses towards the Companion Pass.  My guess is that they see this as a great way to add new credit card customers and to make travelers more loyal to the Southwest brand.  For those reasons, I think this benefit will stick around for at least a few more years.

Chase Ritz $100 Companion Discount

When Chase converted the Ritz card to a Visa Infinite card, they added the $100 Companion Airfare Discount as a new feature (which was already available on the CNB Crystal Visa Infinite card).  This benefit lets you book round trip domestic flights for two or three people for $100 off.  And the perk is repeatable any number of times.  Depending upon your travel habits, this can be a huge or minor benefit.  Clearly, though, the benefit isn’t cheap to provide.  The latest Visa infinite cards on the market (Chase Sapphire Reserve and US Bank Altitude Reserve) do not include this benefit despite each card’s high annual fees.

Prediction: This benefit is one of the most attractive features of the Ritz card, so I think it will stick around for a while.

US Bank FlexPerks Visa 3X Charity

My favorite feature of the US Bank FlexPerks Visa card is that it offers 3X for charity.  With points worth up to 2 cents each towards airfare, that’s a generous rebate.  And, Kiva loans code as charity purchases.  I love it, but the writing may be on the wall for this one.  US Bank recently dropped Charity as a 5% cash back option from their Cash+ card.  It seems likely they’ll do the same here.  If they do, I’ll cash out my rewards and cancel the card.

Prediction: I expect that US Bank will soon discontinue the 3X charity benefit.  I’m surprised it lasted this long.

Update: This perk is already scheduled to drop to 2X by the end of 2017.

CNB Crystal Visa Infinite annual $250 statement credit per card

The $400 per year CNB Crystal Visa Infinite card isn’t easy to get, but if you can get it, it’s awesome.  In addition to a number of other valuable perks, this card offers up to $250 per calendar year in airline fee reimbursements per card.  I have one account with 3 free authorized users, so I have four cards that each earn $250 in airline fee credits per year.  That’s $1000 in fee credits, and several other valuable perks, for $400.  Sweet.  See: Crystal Visa Infinite: The best card you can’t get.

Prediction: The card seems to be a loss leader for CNB to help acquire valuable customers. For this reason, I’m prediction (hoping, really) that this feature and its other great perks will remain intact.

US Bank Altitude Reserve 3X mobile wallet

The US Bank Altitude Reserve card is brand new, but I think that the writing may be on the wall already (see Nick’s post: I’m calling it: US Bank Altitude will be DOA).  As more and more vendors accept mobile payments, it will become easier and easier to get 3X nearly everywhere with this card.  That’s not sustainable.

Prediction: US Bank will add an annual cap to 3X rewards.  Honestly, I can’t believe they haven’t already done so!

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. Do you think the Citi Prestige is worth keeping anymore for those of us that don’t really take advantage of the “4th night free” value?

    • No. Without valuing the Prestige card’s special perks, the Citi Premier card is better in every other way (better 3X categories, better redemption value for travel other than flights, lower annual fee). That said, I’m expecting that Citi will add on new attractive perks in July or August. If they don’t do so, they better at least offer us very attractive retention bonuses when we call to cancel.

  2. Greg- With the Amex devaluation, Citi Thank you points devalution, what are your go to cards for spending?

    Thanks

    • It’s funny… I was getting ready to move to a more Amex MR centric spend, but now I won’t. My current spend pattern is:

      Delta cards for ms (to get top level elite status)
      Chase Sapphire Reserve for 3X travel & dining
      CNB Visa Infinite for Gas and Grocery (3X)
      Chase Freedom Unlimited 1.5X is my “all other” card when I’m not trying to meet minimum spend requirements on new cards.

    • Ink+ allows UR transfer to partners so keep if you see that as a benefit and don’t have another card with that ability (CSP, CSR, or CIP). I’m over 5/24 and don’t feel like jumping through hoops to get one of those cards so paid my AF this year.

    • That claw is super creepy…..love it!

      Also, I still get 10pts/transaction on my Freedom card. I don’t really abuse it, but it is my go to card for small purchases. 6X on my morning coffee…though admittedly 12 pts is nothing to write home about. I would be surprised if I’ve earned more than 10k on this feature over the lifetime of my card, but that’s still $100 cash/more towards travel

      • I still get the 10pts/transaction too! I’m not sure why, but I’m not complaining, nor am I going to ask Chase about it!

      • Did you open your Freedom card after you had a Chase checking account? I assume you still have both? Do you still get the annual bonus or just the 10 points/transaction

        I opened my Chase checking account after I had the Freedom card, so I only got the 10% annual bonus and never the 10 points/transaction.

  3. I’ve got an InkPlus and an InkCash (converted from a SW Biz a few years ago). I don’t max out the 5X on either card, I do maybe 15-20k/year total across both at 5X.

    I’m hesitant to cancel my InkPlus b/c it seems to me the InkCash 5X (w/ no AF) cannot be sustainable considering the new InkPreferred is only getting 3X in those categories. BUT, with the $95 AF it seems to me that the InkPlus 5X stands a better chance of being around long term. What do you think Greg?

    • Given that they still offer the Ink Cash, but not the Ink Plus, I think that the Ink Cash 5X will stick around longer. Could I be wrong? Of course. You could hedge your bets by keeping both, but obviously that would mean another $95 annual fee

    • I’m in the same boat as Ben. I have both the Ink Plus and Ink Cash. I’m also hesitant to cancel the Ink Plus. Something is definitely going to happen to the Ink Cash card in the future. I have a feeling that Chase could change the reward earning structure at any time on the Ink Cash to a similar structure as the Ink Preferred. Since the Ink Plus and Ink Preferred are currently coexisting, I have no reason to think that Chase would force us Ink Plus holders into the Ink Preferred card. I think it’s worth paying $95 on the Plus card and seeing what happens down the road.

    • I’ve heard that before about Tennessee. They seem to be more welcoming in NY. I know people who do not live in one of the 5 states, but have traveled to one and signed up successfully. Warning: signing up for this card is similar to applying for a mortgage. CNB takes this stuff seriously.

  4. US Bank already announced the reduction in Charity category: 3X FlexPoints per net $1 spent for charitable donations until 12/31/17, therafter 2X FlexPoints

  5. Do you think if Ink Cash goes away, those who already have the card will get to keep it and the existing 5x benefits?

  6. I think you are wrong about the IHG card. If you look at IHG pointbreaks, those are an even bigger value that anything from the card, and IHG seems to have no intention of ending pointbreaks. There is word that IHG management is perfectly happy with IHG points earning the way it is.

    As for Chase 5x and Southwest companion pass, oh yeah, I agree. Those are the 2 most abused perks out there. I’m a bit surprised they’ve lasted this long. No surprise if Chase kills them off.

  7. If we want to go really old school, and I’m old at 42, the Chase Freedom card gave 5% back on all gas, grocery and drugstores all year long. My friend said they use to include wholesale club’s, like Sam’s, in the “grocery” category.

    Ahhh the good ol days.

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