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When I think about the flexible points programs, it’s usually framed as Chase vs Amex. Both programs are extremely valuable for travelers. Though despite their immense popularity, there’s always room for improvement!
I’m hoping this post/video doesn’t come across as a rant. Instead, I wanted to share some thoughts on ways that both Chase and American Express can improve their respective flexible points programs. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll cover six improvements that I want to see from Chase and then another six that I want to see from American Express.
Things I want to see from Chase
1. Bonus category for groceries and fuel:
This is an area that I wish Chase would address in their cards. Chase doesn’t have any Ultimate Rewards earning cards that earn a bonus for groceries other than the Chase Freedom. The Freedom does have a 5% rotating bonus categories every quarter, and one quarter is typically reserved for grocery stores. Since this is often a huge expense category for many folks, I think Chase is missing a big opportunity.
For example, I probably would not have applied for the American Express Gold Card last year if Chase had an equivalent card for grocery spending, and I suspect a lot of you are in the same boat. In fact, I’m still on the fence on whether I’ll keep my Gold card for the second year. Right now, I’m leaning toward canceling it and reinstating my old grocery and fuel card, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred.
I’m also mentioning fuel since Chase doesn’t have a personal Ultimate Rewards earning card that has a fuel bonus, unless you count the Freedom’s rotating bonus category. They do have 2X bonus on the Ink Business Cash card, but I know a lot of folks may not qualify or be interested in getting a business credit card.
2. Apple Pay for Ink Business credit cards:
This is one that completely baffles me. I don’t know why Chase is reluctant to enable Apple Pay on their Ink Business cards. I’ve had a few occasions where I forgot my Ink Business Cash card at home and wanted to make an office supply store purchase. If it was available on Apple Pay, I could have easily used the card. Instead, I missed out on the bonus.
3. A premium “Ink Business Reserve” card:
I did an April’s Fools post on a new Ink Business Reserve card with all sorts of crazy benefits, and I know I “tricked” a few folks. But I do think that Chase is missing an opportunity to capture a specific segment … particularly business travelers and road warriors. I would love to see a premium business card from Chase that competes against the American Express Business Platinum card. Perhaps with more lounge options, CLEAR program reimbursement, wifi, and other business-related benefits. I’m hoping one is in the works. Though since Chase did report an initial loss due to the Sapphire Reserve, I’m wondering if they are hesitant to release a card with so many benefits.
4. More flat-rate cash back offers:
I love the way that American Express does its offers. We’ve used them many times and been surprised by how much we’ve earned on purchases. Combine it with a shopping portal, and you’re often able to double dip in rewards.
While I appreciate that Chase has entered the offers game, I’m not crazy about the way they’re structured. Most of the offers are for a percentage back. The majority of American Express offers tend to be a flat-rate cash back deal, which I find to be a lot more enticing. If I could advise Chase, I would say focus on these types of offers as I think they are a lot more compelling.
5. Additional lounge options:
I know that the Priority Pass lounges that are offered through the Sapphire Reserve are a bit hit or miss, depending on the location. With all the reports of lounges getting overcrowded, it would be valuable to have more options. Chase obviously can’t compete with American Express’ Centurion lounges, which is a compelling reason to get the American Express Platinum card if you often travel through airports that have them. However, Chase does have airline relationships. I’d love to see them integrate lounges from United, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, and Air France. Even adding other private lounge networks to their list of lounges would be great.
6. Less restrictive rules:
It does seem like Chase has the most restrictive unofficial application rules of all the issuers. Between 5/24, 2/30, and the four-year bonus restriction for Sapphire cards, it’s complicated and intimidating for many who are new to credit card rewards. I know that lending and underwriting is a complicated business and they need to manage their risk profile, but I wish they would make it easier to get their cards
Maybe I am being too critical. However, I think that Chase could really increase the value proposition by implementing some of these changes. To be honest, the Chase Sapphire Reserve does feel a bit dated nowadays, especially next to the American Express Platinum and Citi Prestige. Both of those cards seem to get their benefits refreshed more often. I think that Chase could boost their top premium cards by adding some extra valuable benefits.
Things I want to see from American Express
What about American Express? I have a whole list for things that I would like to see on their cards too.
1. No fees to transfer Membership Rewards points:
American Express charges a percentage when transferring points to domestic carriers. I feel like this prevents a lot of people from even trying it. You can calculate how much it’s worth, and in some cases, it’s probably worth the cost. However, I don’t like the principle around it. It’s similar to being charged a convenience fee when you know it’s something straightforward and relatively simple.
2. More high-value redemption options:
One of the big selling points to me about Chase is the fact that you can use the travel portal to book independent hotels, tours, and experiences using your Chase points at either 1.25 or 1.5 cents, depending on the Sapphire or Ink card that you have. The American Express’ travel portal offers hotel bookings at around 0.7 cents per point, which is extremely low. I think if they increased the rate to 1.25 cents per point, they would see a lot more usage of their portal.
Also, American Express could more valuable redemption options. For most people, you’re restricted to point transfers to airlines in order to maximize your per point value. I’d love to see American Express offer more lucrative hotel transfers and additional redemption options like experiences and tours. Speaking from my personal experience, I struggle with finding ways to redeem Membership Rewards points for most trips. For me, it’s primarily long-distance business and first class flights where I am able to get decent value from the points.
3. Travel bonus category on their Gold and Platinum card:
American Express is the original travel credit card company. Though ironically, they don’t offer a general bonus category for travel on their two biggest cards. The Platinum card does earn a bonus for purchased flights, but when you consider how much qualifies as a travel expense with Chase, it feels like a lost opportunity. And since American Express is trying to convey a brand image of luxury and travel, I think they should cater to customers who are spending money on travel.
Also, a common travel scenario is eating at a restaurant that might be part of a hotel or resort. In those cases, you’re often not sure how the charge will encode on the card. It might show as dining out or hotel. Having a travel bonus category along with dining out eliminates that hassle.
4. Less restrictive credits and bonus categories:
This is probably my biggest pet peeve with American Express. While Chase makes it very easy to redeem the travel credit on the Sapphire Reserve, American Express seems to make it a lot more difficult to redeem their credits. That’s not to say that I don’t use them or value them, but I wish they weren’t so difficult to use. The dining credit can’t be used at once and the airline incidental credits can only be used for specific charges. While people will use workarounds to redeem them, like buying airline gift cards for the airline incidental credit, I think it would be a welcome change to have more options when redeeming the credit.
Also, I dislike that the Gold card bonus categories only apply to US restaurants and grocery stores. Again, for a company that has such a strong heritage in travel rewards, it seems like the policy is not aligned with the brand image.
5. No annual fee charge card option:
If you want to downgrade an American Express charge card, you’re limited in your choices. In fact, most people are stuck downgrading to the Green card, which has an annual fee, or canceling the card, which can negatively affect your credit. I think American Express needs to have a no-annual-fee charge card option so you can downgrade easily and not lose your points or take a hit on your credit score. Maybe a Bronze card? I know there are rumors that the Green card is going to be revamped soon, so I’m hoping we’ll see a charge card from them that doesn’t have an annual fee.
6. Ability to earn welcome offers again:
While Chase still has the most restrictive rules, American Express does have one rule that most points and miles collectors hate. It’s their one welcome offer per lifetime of a card rule. This rule means that you can only earn the welcome offer once for any card. That means that if you were to get the American Expres Gold card and earn the welcome offer, you would no longer be able to earn it again if you canceled the card and reapplied in the future. Now there are some exceptions, like when a card dramatically changes or rebrands. However, for the most part, you can only earn a welcome offer once for a specific American Express card.
What are your wishlist items for Chase and American Express? Am I missing anything in my list?
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