Discover-Amazon ‘Cashback’ Latest of Surging Rewards Offers

The term “cash back” has helped revitalize rewards programs and promotions in the aftermath of financial reform laws, and credit card issuers hope it’s the buzzword to snag shoppers as the holiday season looms.
Customers that seek rewards, cash back or otherwise, are prime consumers for the card issuers. They tend to spend more using credit instead of debit cards.
These cards tied to checking accounts have recently become a looming liability to the banks with the prospect of diminished merchant fees — thanks to legislation aimed at the “exchange fees” charged businesses for each debit card transaction.
Last week, Discover Financial Services announced a “cashback bonus” of 2 percent on up to $250 in purchases each billing period through the end of 2011 at Amazon.com.
Discover card members can also pay with “cashback bonus” directly at checkout when they link their card to their Amazon account. In addition to the Amazon program, Discover customers can earn a “5% cashback bonus” in rotating categories on the specified amount in each category.
“For example, from October through December, cardmembers can enroll to earn 5% Cashback Bonus on up to $300 in purchases at department stores, clothing stores and restaurants,” said Discover in a news release.
Chase continues its heavily promoted Chase Freedom offer to new customers. You can earn $100 “bonus cash back” when you spend $500 in your first three months, and 5 percent cash back offers on up to $1,500 spent in bonus categories each quarter.
Card issuers want to lash onto more affluent customers for rewards programs, especially in the wake of the financial crisis and economic hard times, resulting in more Americans reducing their credit card balances. The Federal Reserve has reported that revolving consumer credit has fallen 19 percent in the past three years.
In its recent report on third-quarter earnings, American Express said that “marketing, promotion, rewards and cardmember services” expenses increased 11 percent from a year ago.
“This increase primarily reflects higher volume-related rewards costs and a small increase in the ultimate redemption rate estimate for the Membership Rewards program,” American Express reported.
Spending more on rewards has paid off for AmEx, as third-quarter net income came in at $1.2 billion, up 13 percent from $1.1 billion a year ago.
Citibank’s “Citi Dividend World MasterCard’” offers $100 cash back if you spend $500 in purchases within three months of becoming a card member. You can “earn 5 percent cash back on department, clothing, electronics and toy store purchases from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31” of this year, Citi’s credit card mailer reads.
“Since 1986, Discover has awarded more than $8 billion in Cashback Bonus to cardmembers, and the holiday season is a great time to thank them for their loyalty,” said Dana Traci, vice president of rewards and product management at Discover.

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