Randy Petersen's Opening Remarks – April, 19 2011

Randy Petersen's Opening Remarks – April, 19 2011

Credit Card Wars

Here’s what I know–credit card companies seem quite comfortable to pay out approximately $1,000 in bonuses to lure you to get yet another credit card on your way toward a better life as a traveler using the right kind of plastic. As I have noted before, this current craze of seemingly never-ending credit card wars reminds me of the days gone by of long distance telephone battles–with frequent flyer miles being the driver, not the dial tone.

As I wrote about last month, Capital One’s Venture Card seemed to come out of nowhere with its “Match My Miles” promotion of up to 100,000 miles. While Capital One used its own creativity to come up with this promotion, it no doubt was influenced by the original trend-buster, British Airways and Chase, with their 100,000-mile bonus offer first introduced in November 2009.

We hadn’t heard much from British Airways since then, but apparently it was too much to see all the attention that Capital One was garnering off their coattails, so back they came this past month (April) with yet another round of 100,000 miles as a bonus for acquiring that piece of plastic.

With a full year of analysis of the use and burn of the miles, apparently it wasn’t the loss leader that one might expect given the almost addictive nature that many of the applicants expressed to simply get the card for the bonus. Of course other frequent flyers haven’t sat on their plastic laurels either–witness Citibank and the AAdvantage program with their 75,000-mile bonus for their credit card, which ended back in February.

What I think is missed by almost everyone is that the current trend is the new standard. Here’s an example. While Capital One and British Airways seem to have earned all the headlines this year for their credit card offers of 100,000 bonus miles (or match), Citibank and AAdvantage have continued to offer their Platinum Select Visa card with its 100,000-mile bonus all along. Could it be that these credit card wars are like raves or flash mobs, we all wait for the next “must have” and run toward the fire?

Bottom line is that many travelers have figured out how to maximize these offers. One strategy is to stack the bonus offers. British Airways offers “family pooling” so if a husband and wife were both to apply and qualify for the British Airways card offer, they could easily earn the 200,000 miles into a single account for use. And if you wanted to be even more clever, this same couple could conceivably do the same with the AAdvantage Platinum Select offer of 100,000 bonus miles and the family could end up with 200,000 total bonus miles with AAdvantage and the same with British Airways, bringing an afternoon of applying for plastic delight to a whopping 400,000 bonus miles with airlines that are actual partners. Using these bonus miles for domestic coach awards on American Airlines means 16 airline tickets.

But the point of all this is that I don’t believe this is over. There is simply too much at stake here because as the economy strengthens here in the U.S. and around the globe, the credit card you have in your wallet will help define those consumer banks that will pass any and all stress tests.

But as I mentioned at the beginning, 100,000 bonus miles is worth approximately $1,000 even at its least recognized value and that is quite the bounty.

Here’s my take–this will continue for the next few months and I’m predicting that we’ll actually see something even bolder and grander than the current standard of 100,000 bonus miles. Okay, now I understand my speculation that 100,000 bonus miles isn’t the end might make you think I’ve lost my sense of reality and could be suffering from plastic overdose. But here at InsideFlyer, we have an uncanny sense of how all this works. So, follow your bonus mile whims, but if I were you, I might hold back at least one more pull to your credit rating just in case. You don’t want to be “denied” because you applied too often in the past. But what do I know?

And now to some other information I hope you find valuable. At the new startup forum for frequent flyers, -milepoint.com, members have begun building one of the largest depositories of relevant and useful information for frequent flyers with wikis. These wiki pages are increasingly becoming the place where I go to find an answer to some detail or benefit of a frequent flyer program. If you haven’t clicked on over lately, you might look in on the wikis for Hyatt Hotels, Air Canada, American Airlines and a wonderful airport lounge wiki.

While there are times when I just scratch my head at what happens and is said on the Internet, this type of community information building among frequent flyers always garners a smile from me.

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