Weekly Credit Card Lowdown: Dec. 10, 2020

Our summary of the top credit card news this week

Weekly Credit Card News Lowdown

There may be a winter chill in the air, but the past week was filled with toasty credit card tidbits, including elite status boosters for some Delta credit cardholders, a peek at upcoming Spirit Airlines card changes, and Discover gift card promotions perfect for all the last-minute holiday gift shoppers.

Our weekly credit card news roundup contains all the things you should know about the cards in your wallet, other available offers, and new product announcements or reports that made our ears perk up. 

What’s the Lowdown?

Here’s what caught our attention between Dec. 4 and Dec. 10, 2020:

Delta and Amex Amp Up Elite Status Swag for Cardholders

If you have a Delta SkyMiles Platinum or Delta SkyMiles Reserve card, your annual elite status bonuses for spending a lot are about to get sweeter. Those with either card can earn 25% more Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) in 2021, according to an American Express and Delta announcement Thursday. That means Delta lovers can earn up to 25,000 MQMs by spending $50,000 in a year with the Platinum card, or up to 75,000 by spending $120,000 in a year with the Reserve. Those are serious boosts toward the next status tier, and you can reach those spending levels without traveling, too, which is helpful these days. 

Oh, and Delta has extended your 2020 Medallion Status through Jan. 31, 2022, to help make up for all the at-home time this year. To learn about the goodies that come with earning elite status within the Delta SkyMiles program, see “Delta SkyMiles Rewards Program: Your Complete Guide.”

No-Interest Purchase Deals Still Exist, But Getting One May Be Tough

There have been numerous credit card changes this year, but 0% purchase APR promotion updates have been few and far between. The Balance database of more than 300 credit card offers shows that many issuers are still offering new cardholders deals that last for a year or more, which is great for those who want a low-cost way to finance a big purchase, like those fancy new Apple headphones.  

Banks are being stingy about approving card applications as the pandemic rages on, so you’ll likely need really good credit to qualify for the best no-interest offers. Learn more about this—and what cards are offering the best deals right now—by reading “0% APR Card Deals Persist, But Approval Bar Is High.” 

Consumers Are Keeping Card Debt in Check

It’s been a roller coaster year (and it’s not over yet), but cardholders have managed to reign in their credit card debt. The U.S. revolving debt balance (which is mostly credit card debt) fell for the seventh time in eight months in October, according to the latest Federal Reserve consumer credit report released Monday. The national balance is now $979.6 billion. That’s the lowest level recorded since May 2017, a time that now feels like eons ago. To see how U.S. credit card debt has fluctuated year-to-year, see the interactive chart in “Consumers Pull Back on Credit Card Debt, Fed Data Shows.”

More Gift Card Bang for Your Discover Cash Back Buck

The gift card deals Discover is offering for cash-back cardholders right now are well-timed for the holidays. Use your rewards for a gift card instead of a statement credit or payment elsewhere, and they could be worth 10% to 25% more than usual, depending on the partner store offer. For example, you can snag a $50 Nike gift card for only $40 worth of cash-back rewards. Cha-ching!

For a list of some of the best gift card deals The Balance found in the Discover rewards center this week, check out “Discover Boosts Gift Card Reward Values Before Holidays.” 

Spirit Airlines Credit Card Changes Are Cleared for Takeoff

The Spirit Airlines World Mastercard from Bank of America is getting a makeover early next year that includes a higher annual fee ($79, up from $59) and a whole lot of rewards program changes, according to a letter sent to current cardholders. In February, we will bid the old rewards earning rate adieu and welcome extra points on Spirit, grocery, and dining purchases, plus an assortment of new perks such as in-flight purchase rebates, early boarding, and ways to earn elite status with the budget airline. 

The anniversary bonus is getting a facelift, too. Those who spend at least $5,000 each year will get a $100 companion pass to put toward a future flight—a good deal that makes the annual fee increase easier to swallow.  To learn more about what’s ahead for the budget airline credit card program, read “Spirit Airlines Card Annual Fee Will Fly Higher in 2021.”

What Else Is Happening?

  • Wells Fargo Inches Up Late Fee Caps on Some Cards: Wells Fargo has upped the maximum late fee it will charge from $37 to $40 on four of its credit cards: Wells Fargo Rewards Card, Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card, Wells Fargo Platinum Card, and the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card. While late fees are entirely avoidable and this move just aligns those penalty fees with the current legal limits, it’s worth noting if you have one of these cards in your wallet. 
  • Giant Capital One Venture Card Bonus Will Disappear Monday: The massive Capital One Venture Card 100,000-mile bonus that made headlines back in September will be changing early next week, according to an issuer email sent to The Balance. You still have time to open this card to qualify for the offer that’s worth as much as $1,000, based on our calculations. Mum’s the word on what the new offer will look like, but we’re skeptical it’ll be as good as this one was. 
  • Two Chase Travel Cards Are Now Even More Elite: Chase has quietly updated the recommended credit score range for consumers applying for the United Club Infinite Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card to “excellent” (which means a FICO score above 800). These two swanky travel rewards cards are no longer intended for people with “good” or “very good” credit, but considering their annual fees are upwards of $500, that might be A-OK for many. 
  • Big IHG Rewards Club Premier Card Bonus Will End Jan. 13: You officially have about a month (or less, depending on when you are reading this) to open the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card to get the massive 140,000-points it’s offering new cardholders who spend $3,000 within three months. The bonus is worth $1,050, based on average hotel point values calculated by The Balance, so if you’re a fan of this hotel chain, don’t sleep on this deal.