CardRatings Shares Credit Card Trend Predictions for 2021

With 2020 finally coming to an end, what can credit card enthusiasts expect from 2021? CardRatings has a few ideas. On the heels of announcing their top credit picks for 2021 across a number of categories, the site and its senior managing editor Brooklyn Lowery have revealed some predictions for the new year as they relate to credit cards. Here are some of their forecasts:

Continuation of “limited-time” perks

With the pandemic more or less halting travel and putting a greater emphasis on essentials such as groceries, some card issuers decided to pivot in order to provide more value for their customers. Now, some of those perks — such as the streaming and wireless service credits that American Express was providing to Platinum cardholders — are expiring while others are being extended. In that latter category, the Chase Pay Yourself Back program that allows customers to redeem points for everyday purchases will now last at least until early next year, leading CardRatings to ponder whether other programs of this nature will prove more permanent than what’s currently confirmed.

Tiered sign-up bonuses

It’s no secret that one of the major ways card issuers have attempted to lure new customers is with sign-up bonuses or welcome bonuses. More often than not, these sign-up bonuses have been structured to where cardholders can earn their bonus after spending a certain amount of money on the card within their first few months — typically three months. However, as CardRatings notes, this has allowed some customers to simply hit their bonus and “sock drawer” their card. Thus, some issuers have been experimenting with tiered bonuses that they hope will keep new cardholders more active for longer. As Lowery suggests, this could be a win-win for issuers and customers, noting “Sure, this strategy is good for the banks as they make money from processing fees every time you use your card. But it also means cardholders might have some stellar opportunities to earn sky-high bonus rewards.”

One recent (and now expired) example of this was a Capital One Venture offer that allowed cardholders to earn up to 100,000 bonus miles if they spent $20,000 on the card in their first year. It’s worth noting that the company has since returned to a more traditional structure, currently boasting a 60,000-mile bonus after $3,000 of spending in the first three months of card membership. Nevertheless, future experimentation is definitely possible.

Rising interest rates

Finally, in some potentially poor news for credit card users, CardRatings points out that interest rates are likely to rise if/when the economy rebounds next year. This comes after some cardholders have been able to take advantage of low-interest rates that have been a side effect of the pandemic-era economy. Of course, those customers who continue to pay their full balance at the end of each statement cycle will be unaffected by increasing APRs.

2020 was undoubtedly a unique year in the world of credit cards. While 2021 may prove to be more “business as usual,” there may be some lessons learned for card issuers that they’ll carry into the new year and beyond. As for whether CardRatings’ predictions will prove true, we’ll have to wait until 2022 to know for sure.


Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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