Macy’s Inc.’s launch last week of the new Macy’s American Express card has several perks that improve on earlier versions of the store operator’s cobranded cards, one observer says.

Macy’s announced initially in March that American Express Co. would replace Visa Inc. this fall as the card network supporting its Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s cobranded credit cards (see story). Citigroup Inc., which purchased Macy’s credit card receivables from the retailer in 2005, issues the retailer’s private-label and cobranded credit cards and switched the brand to AmEx.

Cardholders still get savings offers through Macy’s Star Rewards program, but they also may earn more points and will receive such AmEx card perks as emergency assistance referral services while traveling and access to AmEx’s Daily Wish program, a service that features hand-picked products from travel to electronics at discounts of 50% or higher. There is no annual fee applied to the card, according to a Macy’s spokesperson.

In particular, Macy’s AmEx cardholders can earn double rewards through the end of 2010 on gas, grocery and drugstore purchases. They also will receive 15% cash back from the total bill at participating restaurants from Sept. 6 through Dec. 31.

“As retail card and other rewards cards came somewhat under siege in 2008 and 2009 in terms of profitability, it’s nice to see the value [of this card] to the consumer is staying at the same or better levels than a year or two ago,” says Steven Jacowitz, managing director at New York-based Auriemma Consulting Group. “I suspect part of that has to do with the shift from Citibank and Visa to American Express.”

Some other programs, which Jacowitz would not name, may be restricting benefits of cobranded cards, but the new Macy’s AmEx card stands out because of its enhancements, he says. The card switching to AmEx brings new and additional benefits, Jacowitz adds, citing the dining discount and the double points for gas, grocery and drugstore purchases as examples.

The decision to reissue the card will provide a “pop” in business for both Macy’s and AmEx, Jacowitz predicts.

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