JPMorgan sweetens rewards on United cards after airline’s gripes

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JPMorgan Chase & Co. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. sweetened rewards on their credit cards as the companies continue to renegotiate the terms of their longtime partnership.

For the first time, JPMorgan and United will offer sign-up bonuses on all four of their joint cards, according to a statement Thursday. They also introduced a new card for small-business owners that awards airline miles for every dollar spent on purchases such as local transit, gas, office supplies and restaurants.

The new card and sign-up bonuses could signal that tension between JPMorgan and United has begun to thaw. The airline has complained that its cards face intense competition from JPMorgan’s proprietary offerings, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

“We’re constantly evaluating that our partnership is a win-win-win,” Kristen Bowdoin, general manager of the United program at JPMorgan, said in an interview. The portfolio has seen double-digit growth in new accounts in each of the last eight quarters, she said. “This is an over 30-year partnership and this will continue to evolve.”

United and JPMorgan last renewed their partnership in 2015. But in the last year, United has grown vocal about its desire for a better deal. The airline has been under pressure to get more out of its co-brand cards after American Express Co. and Delta Air Lines Inc. renewed their partnership last year.

United’s chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella said on a conference call Wednesday that the airline noticed a pick-up in advertising from Delta and AmEx.

“We’re in close contact with our partner at Chase and we continue to work with them on making sure that our co-brand card is the biggest and best it can be,” Nocella told analysts and journalists on the conference call. “There’s a lot more to come in this space.”

Nocella and Scott Kirby, who will take over as chief executive officer of United in May, worked together at American Airlines Group Inc. They collaborated when that airline negotiated a new card deal with Citigroup Inc. and Barclays Plc.

Chase and United continuously evaluate their product offerings, according to Luc Bondar, vice president of loyalty for the airline. He said the small-business card will help United achieve its goal of gaining more market share among business travelers.

“We’ve had a long relationship with Chase -- we’ve been together as partners for more than 30 years and I expect we’ll be together for a long time to come,” Bondar said in an interview.

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