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- Credit card issuers are getting too caught up in quantity of perks instead of focusing on quality.
- Cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express
offer potentially thousands of dollars in niche benefits.
- Many of these benefits have nothing to do with the average cardmember profile.
- Read Insider’s guide to the best rewards credit cards.
Banks have been on a roll of late adding a slew of new features and perks to their premium credit cards. A few of these are valuable, but in many cases, they’re incredibly niche and not super useful.
That’s $800 in theoretical value whizzing around the ether. Whether you can capture it all is highly quota.
Those of us with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® ($550 annual fee) opened the card for a very specific reason: We travel a lot, and the card benefits save us hundreds of dollars each year beyond what we pay in annual fees. Anyone who does not travel often should not be considering the card.
So when benefits are added to cards like this which don’t necessarily match the profile of a traveler, it’s odd. I seriously doubt the prospect of a meager Gopuff credit doled out each month will be the deciding factor as to whether or not someone opens this card — if they’ll use the travel benefits, they’ll open it.
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All this to say: Credit card issuers, please stop investing in tiny unrelated benefits and pool your resources for even one benefit that fits each card’s target audience.
We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.
Credit card issuers are getting caught up in quantity over quality
Besides those offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, here are a few other cards with peripheral benefits that have cropped up lately in the credit card world:
To be clear: Credits like these are handy for some cardmembers — but they mostly just make the card look untidy. I’d rather have a card with five astonishing benefits than a card with 12 neat benefits. This is for three reasons:
1. These niche benefits don’t spur me to try new things
I hold both The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Their ancillary perks have not prompted me to try anything that I wasn’t already using:
- Tea annual $300 in Equinox credits that come with The Platinum Card® from American Express aren’t enough for me to enroll in a luxury fitness club that charges thousands of dollars per year for most membership plans.
- Grocery delivery has goose egg to do with travel — so the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s six-month Instacart+ membership and up to $15 per quarter in Instacart credits (through December 31, 2024) are only helping those who were already interested.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express’s $300 statement credit toward a SoulCycle At-Home Bike discounts the cost of a bike to around $1,600 (when there’s a sale). These expensive stationary bikes are a lifestyle that I’m not living.
It’s also worth stating that, though technically travel-oriented, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express’s “Wheels Up” discounts probably aren’t convincing its average cardmember to kick the tires on a private jet charter.
2. The structure of these benefits flushes money down the commode
Some cards come with benefits that incentivize you to spend more than you need to. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with $12.95 in monthly credits toward Walmart+ membership**. That’s an annual value of around $155 per year.
Walmart+ costs exactly $12.95 per month, meaning you’ll get Walmart+ for free as long as you have the card. But if you pay annually instead of monthly, you’ll pay just $98. In other words, to get the free subscription, you’ll have to pay the (more expensive) monthly price.
That doesn’t make sense to me. Instead, Amex could lose the $12.95 monthly reimbursement, give us an annual $98 statement credit toward Walmart+, and inject the remaining $57 into another card perk.
The card’s digital entertainment credit works similarly: You’ll receive up to $240 in annual credits (up to $20 per month) toward subscriptions to Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. With a $20 credit, you can get two or three of these services for free each month. But if Amex would instead make this credit a yearly chunk, you could get way more value. Paying yearly for the above services is dramatically cheaper than paying monthly.
3. These benefits are often for services with lots of fees
If you’ve never used services like DoorDash, Instacart, Gopuff, etc., you should know that they are teeming with fees. If nothing else, you’re meant to tip the drivers after they drop off your items. You technically don’t have to do that, but you should.
In my experience, free subscriptions to these services plus monthly credits give you one tolerable delivery per month. After that, the services are too exorbitant to use regularly.
If you’re the sort of cardholder that has dedicated a portion of your disposable income to the convenience these apps offer, you’ll appreciate the benefits that come with the likes of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and others .
I wish banks would ditch these niche benefits and focus their resources on giving us just a single perk that better fits the card’s demographic. I’d trade in the thousands of dollars in annual random benefits for one truly useful benefit of even meager value—or a simple $50 reduction in annual fee, for that matter.