Loyalty credit cards heading for fees
Consumers are actively seeking more benefits and rewards from loyalty-based credit cards, according to the April 2010 'Cardbeat' study from Auriemma Consulting Group (ACG), which found that consumers are increasingly likely to carry a rewards credit card, even if they have to pay fees for the privilege.
Consumers are using and choosing rewards more carefully, and credit card companies are still faced with unprecedented income challenges. This, coupled with the recent regulatory guidance from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), has left the UK credit card industry seeking out new and innovative ways to increase profitability.
According to Megan Bramlette, managing associate for ACG, "It is likely that credit card companies will begin charging for benefits and services that consumers have historically received for free, particularly rewards schemes."
Leading retailers are at the forefront of innovative rewards propositions by introducing the concept of fee-based rewards cards through enhanced versions of existing propositions without annual fees.
For example, the Premium Club from Marks & Spencer features a 10 monthly fee, and appears to have been well-received by members who derive high value and usage from the enhanced product and are willing to pay the high fee. The Premium Club offers existing M&S cardholders accelerated rewards-earning capabilities, free travel insurance and free coffee vouchers for the in-store cafe. According to ACG, other issuers could use this as an example of how to develop credit card products to meet consumers' changing needs.
ACG expects these types of high-value, high-fee credit cards to become increasingly prevalent, and anticipates that by the end of 2011, all major credit card issuers will have at least one fee-based credit card to offer to their customers.
According to Bramlette, "As fee-based rewards cards become more prevalent in the market, the onus will be on issuers to develop products that offer consumers significant value. The consumers who continue to use credit cards will come to expect high-value products, and failing to offer such a product will result in a rapidly decreasing market share."
Other key findings of the study included:
- British credit card users were 19% more likely to hold a rewards credit card in 2009 than they were in 2008 (57% vs. 48%);
- Cash-back cards and those that offer petrol discounts have the highest perceived value amongst consumers, but they still have a very low penetration rate;
- 45% of survey respondents felt that cash-back cards had high value, though only 8% of respondents reported that they hold a cash-back card;
- Points-based rewards cards are growing in importance and now account for 33% of the market. While they have mass market appeal they also have high perceived value, as 33% assigned a high value to points-based rewards cards.
- 22% of rewards-based credit card holders claim never to have redeemed their rewards.