American Express Co.'s announcement today of the return of a popular rewards perk for its charge card customers is the latest example of how the economic downturn is likely to reshape card-based rewards, one analyst says. Through March 15, 2010, AmEx charge card customers can earn double points on up to $1,000 spent each month on grocery and gas purchases. New customers approved for AmEx's charge card from April 1 through June 30 automatically will be enrolled in the double-points promotion for gas and grocery purchases for 12 months. AmEx suspended a similar program in 2006, but an AmEx spokesperson tells CardLine the company reintroduced it this month "to reward (charge) card customers for necessary spending they need to do right now." The move underscores AmEx's renewed focus on its charge card customers, who are required to pay an annual fee and tend to generate more revenue, Megan Bramlette, a managing associate with Westbury, N.Y.-based Auriemma Consulting Group, tells CardLine. "AmEx is responding to the economic downturn by getting back to basics and rewarding the customers who help them earn the most revenue," she says. The fact that AmEx is providing a new level of rewards for dues-paying customers is part of a broader trend among rewards cards, Bramlette adds. "Fee-based lending is just around the corner, as card issuers cope with economic trends," she says. "As a result, we're seeing more tier-based rewards programs that require customers to pay for points."

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