Weekly Credit Card Lowdown: Dec. 4, 2020

Our summary of the top credit card news this week

woman holding credit card with holiday decorations in the background
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 Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Along with way too many turkey leftovers and a Black-Friday-induced shopping buzz, the start of December brings news of the first Bitcoin rewards credit card, boosted bonus offers on Southwest airline cards, and a way for Discover cardholders to pump up cash-back earnings on gadget purchases this holiday season.

Our weekly credit card news roundup contains must-know tidbits about the cards in your wallet, other offers available now, and new product announcements that made our ears perk up. 

What’s the Lowdown?

Here’s what caught our attention between Nov. 26 and Dec. 3, 2020:

BlockFi Announces First Bitcoin Rewards Credit Card

The very first credit card to issue rewards in Bitcoin will make its runway debut this spring, according to a Tuesday announcement from cryptocurrency platform BlockFi. The new BlockFi Bitcoin Rewards Credit Card will function much like the cash-back rewards cards we know and love, offering 1.5% back on everything you buy and a respectable bonus for new cardholders. 

Only, there’s a twist. Instead of rewards that can be used for dollar-denominated statement credits or travel bookings, the cash back you earn will be turned into Bitcoin deposits that’ll go into a savings-type account with drool-worthy interest rates (currently 3%-6%). If you haven’t already jumped on the cryptocurrency train, you’ll need to do so—you have to have a BlockFi Interest Account with a Bitcoin deposit in order to use the card. 

The card will come with a lofty $200 annual fee, but the amount you earn in that BlockFi Interest Account may help you make up for the cost (just remember that Bitcoin valuations can change more often than the weather, so you’re signing up for whatever risks the wind blows in).

BlockFi customers can join a waitlist for the new Visa right now, and the card will launch publicly in spring 2021. Read more about this innovative product here: BlockFi Unveils First Credit Card to Offer Bitcoin Rewards.

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card Closes for New Applications 

The list of swank travel rewards cards that don’t tie you to one particular airline or hotel chain has dwindled to three: the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, and The Platinum Card from American Express. U.S. Bank pulled the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card information and application pages off its website this week, limiting the choices out there for a flexible premium rewards card. The Balance reached out to the card company to find out if this change is permanent or temporary, but did not hear back as of publication.

That leaves just those three cards for folks who want to enjoy hefty luxury perks like airport lounge access once the pandemic cools off (and, unfortunately, heavyweight $400+ annual fees to match).

Interest Rates Hold Steady With Holiday Shopping Well Underway

Good news: If you’ve pushed off card payments recently or if you’ve been suckered in by holiday sales that have you carrying a credit card balance, your card’s interest rate is likely still lower than it was last year. APRs aren’t falling like they were earlier this year, following emergency Federal Reserve rate cuts. But they aren’t rising, either. The average credit card interest rate is still lingering below pre-pandemic levels, according to card offer data collected by The Balance. 

We only recorded one small APR adjustment among the 316 credit cards tracked in our database in November. Learn more about what’s going on with credit card interest rates here: Average Credit Card Interest Rate is 20.24%.

Promotional interest rate offers didn’t change much either, with one exception: The TD Bank Cash Credit Card slashed its 0% purchase APR promotional offer for new cardholders last month, knocking it down from 15 months to a meager six months.

What Else Is Happening?

  • Chase doubles Southwest-branded airline card bonuses: Open a Southwest consumer card—either the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card—and spend $2,000 within three months, and you’ll earn 50,000 miles … plus another 30,000 miles if you spend $10,000 within your first nine months. That’s almost twice the size of previous bonuses. The full bonus is worth $1,160 when used for Southwest flights, based on The Balance’s analysis of how much different credit card points are worth, making it a solid contender among airline cards with annual fees below $100 in particular.
  • Discover adds Best Buy to its 5% bonus category line-up for December: Got a Discover it Cashback Card or Discover it Student Cashback Card? If so, you can now earn 5% back on purchases made at Best Buy through the end of the month (up to $1,500 spent across all the bonus categories). This is in addition to the extra cash back you get for Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com purchases right now, which is oh-so-fitting for online shopping done from your couch this month. 
  • American Express Membership Rewards points can buy featured small-business products through Dec. 31: Membership Rewards holders can use their points to buy gifty-type items online from a chosen set of small businesses this month. American Express launched a landing page just for these offers this week. While this isn’t the most valuable way to use Membership Rewards points (and there aren’t many items to choose from, honestly), if something catches your eye and you want to support a small business right now, this is an option.
  • Capital One no longer allows its credit cards to be used via Afterpay: If you want to spread out the cost of a purchase over time using buy-now-pay-later service Afterpay and a Capital One credit card, you’re out of luck. Thanks to a recent and quiet policy change, you can use a Capital One debit card to make purchases and payments through Afterpay, but not credit cards. Afterpay is notifying customers who need to update their saved payment card information as a result. The Balance contacted Capital One to learn what prompted this change, but did not hear back before publication.