For years, people have been tied to rewards programs where they earn airline miles or points by making purchases. The most common problems for users of these types of rewards cards are not spending enough to earn significant rewards or not spending enough to pass the arbitrary spending threshold set by the credit card company that you must pass before you are able to redeem your points. Other variables, like points or miles the expire and the inability to use rewards on the things that you really want further complicate the game.
Some credit cards are making it possible to get perks up front instead of having to wait a year or two for an award that you might or might not qualify for. By partnering with retailers and using social media to communicate with card-holders, credit card companies are giving impatient or infrequent card users access to upfront perks, which are usually in the form of discounts at participating retailers.
Not all cards offer the same perks. Some force users to shop through their credit card brand’s shopping portal in order to qualify for discounts, meaning that the options are limited, and it is difficult to find out if the discount is really a good deal or merely a gimmick. Sometimes, these sites feature retailers who have no discounts at all, only free shipping for purchases over a certain amount (something most online retailers offer anyway).
To avoid this, people can take advantage of a new trend in the credit card industry: card companies using social media to broadcast deals and connect with customers in new ways. Of course, you don’t want to follow your credit card issuer on Twitter only to be attacked by hundreds of irrelevant, spammy tweets. So here are some social-media-savvy card companies who are worth connecting with.
A vast majority of people become a fan, follower, or friend of credit card companies because they want to know about special promotions or deals. Social-savvy companies are very aware of this and generally cut down on communications that don’t have to do with discounts. American Express users have the best options via Facebook and Foursquare. AmEx, perhaps motivated by a desire to get more small retailers to accept their cards, which are not part of the Visa or MasterCard processing networks, partners with small businesses to offer deals to AmEx cardholders. While not all discounts are noteworthy, some of the initial offerings are for significant discounts amounting to 10%-20% off at both participating nationwide retailers and local retailers. Foursquare benefits because they get a higher profile and draw attention away from social web stalwarts like Facebook and Twitter. American Express gets people to use their cards more often and perhaps convinces smaller retailers to accept their cards despite their higher swipe fees. Consumers get access to some good deals without having to clip coupons or wake up at 3a.m. to stand in line.
Discover and Chase, along with AmEx, allow users to link their accounts directly to Amazon.com so that they can use their rewards directly on merchandise and receive the maximum rewards payout. Of course, Discover and Chase both have online shopping networks, but the deals can vary from free-shipping to 25% discounts. Citi allows members of its popular ThankYou rewards program to pool their points with other members on Facebook, making it possible for multiple relatives to save points to purchase airline tickets for a family trip or a group of friends to save for event tickets or a gift for a member of their group. These are all interesting traits that are worth looking into, but thus far, the AmEx Foursquare partnership is the most promising feature of credit card companies’ foray into the world of social media.