With January finally behind us, it feels like we can also leave 2020 in the dust … maybe. Regardless, the credit card world is moving on, and this week was jam-packed with fresh news, including an updated (and slightly higher) average APR, a rose-colored Amex, and even more rewards for some airline and hotel cardholders.
This weekly credit card news roundup contains what you should know about the cards in your wallet, other available offers, and new product announcements or reports that made us forget about our stock market whiplash for a few minutes.
What’s the Lowdown?
Here’s what caught our attention between Jan. 29 and Feb. 4, 2021:
Report Shows Average Credit Card APR Is Now a Skosh Higher
The average credit card interest rate is now 20.28%, up slightly from prior months when card issuers were largely abstaining from tweaking card costs, according to our latest credit card APR report. While that average is still less than what it was a year ago, the changes we recorded in January were notable.
A couple of banks (U.S. Bank and First National Bank of Omaha) disturbed the peace and raised some cards’ advertised purchase and cash advance APRs enough to impact the average interest rate of all 317 credit cards in our database.
Mum’s the word on what exactly sparked the array of APR changes, but industry experts we talked to said card issuers may be bracing themselves against the financial risks that come with more lending. The latest Federal Reserve survey of banks found that card issuers have eased the tight lending standards they clung to last year, but there are still concerns about consumers' ability to repay balances later this year.
That may mean new credit comes with added costs if you carry a balance. And since the average cash advance APR also rose, you could get dinged a bit harder if you use your card to pull cash from an ATM, too.
Amex Revives Rosy Card Color Just in Time for Cupid’s Arrival
American Express has brought back a once-popular Amex Gold Card color option right before Valentine’s Day: rose gold. It’s superficial, much like the Hallmark holiday, but we still love it. Starting Thursday, current cardholders can call or chat with customer service online to request a new card in the pretty hue. New cardholders will be prompted to pick between gold and rose gold when they sign up.
News of the revived rosy card color follows the launch of a new Amex Gold card Uber Cash perk. Cardholders now get $10 of Uber Cash each month ($120 annually) to put toward Uber or Uber Eats purchases, which pairs nicely with the existing complimentary UberEats Pass Membership that waives delivery fees on eligible restaurant or grocery purchases.
Tax Filers Can Pay for TurboTax Services With Citi ThankYou Points
If you have a Citi card that awards ThankYou Points (such as Citi Prestige, Premier, or Rewards+), you can save up to $20 on your TurboTax costs this tax season by paying with your Citi card via PayPal through April 15. You also redeem ThankYou points for some or all of your TurboTax software expenses through that channel, too.
We usually recommend cardholders use Citi ThankYou Points to book flights or hotel stays to maximize their value, but this is a nice option if travel isn’t in the cards right now but tax prep is.
Fresh Offers for Travel Rewards Cardholders (Still) Sitting at Home
American Express announced a new lineup of short-term reward offers on Monday for the Delta, Hilton, and Marriott-branded rewards cards languishing in your wallets:
- Up to $220 back for dining purchases: If you have an eligible Delta, Hilton, or Marriott consumer card, you can now get up to $220 back in statement credits on dining purchases made through Dec. 31, 2021. There’s only so much you can earn each month, which varies depending on the card, but this new perk can recoup a good chunk of the annual fee expense.
- Up to $220 back for cellphone expenses: If you have an eligible Delta, Hilton, or Marriott business rewards card, you can earn up to $220 back in statement credits for cellphone services paid for with your card through Dec. 31, 2021. Like the consumer card offers, there are monthly limits on the credits you can earn.
Plus, most Delta cards are still offering 5 miles per $1 spent on Delta purchases, Hilton cardholders can earn up to 10,000 bonus points by spending $5,000 (up to 10 times) on purchases through June 30, 2021, and Marriott cardholders can earn up to 75,000 points by spending $7,500 on purchases (up to 10 times) through the end of the year. Wowza.
Brand new cardholders likely won’t qualify for these offers. In many cases, you must have had the card on or before Jan. 1, 2021. For all the deets about these offers, see the American Express website.
Chase Emails Fine-Print Updates, Quietly Adds Penalty Rates to Some Cards
Some colleagues alerted us to emails they received about the Chase cards in their wallets, and now we’re passing along the news. The issuer is updating the terms and conditions tied to several of its flagship credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, United Explorer, and the Freedom Unlimited Card.
The updates include the ins and outs of the My Chase Plan payment option, defining what “cash-like transactions” qualify as cash advances (heads up: buying cryptocurrency with your card is one), and in some cases, the addition of a penalty APR of “up to 29.99%.” According to the notices, the new terms go into effect early April.
We reached out to Chase to learn more about these updates, and if they will apply to all Chase cardholders, but have not heard back. We’ll let you know if we learn what’s behind the fine print tweaks, especially the addition of penalty APRs to some accounts. For now, if you have a Chase credit card, check your inbox to see if you received a similar notice.
What Else Is Happening?
- Hyatt Rewards Card Bonus Gets An Upgrade: Open the World of Hyatt Credit Card and you can earn a 30,000-point bonus worth $603 (based on our point valuations) by spending $3,000 within three months. Within your first six months with the card, you’ll also earn 2 points per $1 spent on all purchases (up to $15,000) that would otherwise earn just 1 point per $1. Given the high average value of Hyatt hotel points and how rare it is to earn more than 1 point per $1 spent as a base rate on a credit card, this is a swell offer.
- Temporary Bank of America Rewards Redemption Option Made Permanent: If you have the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card, you can keep redeeming rewards for any dining or takeout purchase made in the past 12 months, just like you would for travel. This limited-time option was introduced last year (and included grocery purchases then), but the issuer has made it a permanent addition to this card. That gives you some flexibility when it comes time to use your rewards without losing any value.
- International Airline Cards Get an Earning-Rate Boost: The Iberia Visa Signature, Aer Lingus Visa Signature, and British Airways Visa Signature Card from Chase are now offering cardholders more rewards per $1 spent with their co-branded airlines and on hotel purchases. The new earning rates are nice (ranging from 3-5 points per $1 spent, depending on the card and the purchase), but given the current state of international travel, maybe not so useful. This may be more of an FYI for the future.
- Freedom Cardholders Can Fill Up on Extra Gas Rewards in February: If you have a Chase Freedom, Freedom Flex, or Freedom Unlimited card, you can get 5% back (up to $150) on gas station purchases made now through Feb. 28. Just activate the offer online first.