Tony retailer Bloomingdale’s and American Express Co. on Sept. 7 announced the launch of their cobranded credit card, which, by touting some lofty perks, indicates rewards still will play a key role as card issuers use the offers to compete.

The new AmEx card, issued by Citigroup Inc., offers several major enhancements, including double rewards through 2010 on gasoline, groceries and drugstore purchases, a $25 statement credit when spending $500 or more outside of Bloomingdale’s before October, and a complimentary coach companion airfare voucher from one of 19 participating airlines when spending $500 on the card at Bloomingdale’s stores during Bloomingdale’s “Hot” event Sept. 10 to 12.

Cardholders, who pay no annual fee, also will receive 15% cash back from the total bill at participating restaurants from Sept. 6 through Dec. 31. The dining discount and the double rewards perks also are features of AmEx’s new Macy’s cobranded card, which it introduced in August (see story). Macy’s Inc., formerly Federated Department Stores Inc., owns both Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.

The key message about this rewards card is more about how it is reflecting the reality in the market versus the expected impact of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act and the interchange-regulation fallout, one analyst says.

“I don’t know how long I’ve been hearing about changes in the marketplace and how rewards are dead because no one can afford them,” Ron Shevlin, Aite Group analyst, tells PaymentsSource. “This is so clearly a sign that rewards have become the new basis upon which cards will compete with each other.”

Many cards now are trying to one-up each other’s rewards programs and generate more use of their cards, Shevlin says. Rewards programs such as the Bloomingdale AmEx card are not looking to acquire new customers but instead are targeting those consumers who spend the most money and have the best credit, he says.

“This is not targeted at consumers who don’t have cards,” Shevlin says.

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