Two travel and entertainment rivals have concurrently enhanced their rewards offerings.
Diners Club International, a division of Citigroup, has added travel agency services to its Club Rewards program, which appeals primarily to frequent business travelers.
American Express Co., which enrolls people with a similar profile in its Membership Rewards program, is trying to get these customers to use their cards more frequently for everyday spending by offering more points at certain drug stores and supermarkets.
Both changes took effect Feb. 1. The American Express offer expires May 1.
American Express said its promotion-giving eligible cardholders two reward points instead of one for every dollar spent at a participating retailer-is meant to broaden the appeal of its cards.
The promotion is open to Membership Rewards customers, who earn points toward merchandise, airline tickets, hotel stays, and other travel-related expenses.
Holders of American Express' Delta SkyMiles Optima card, Hilton Optima card, Golf card, or New York Knicks and New York Rangers cards can participate if they pay the $25 Membership Rewards fee.
"Historically, we were a travel card or upscale card," said Monica Beaupre, an American Express spokeswoman.
The company ran a similar promotion last summer with supermarkets and gasoline stations, Ms. Beaupre said. These programs "lift spending" at such merchants, she said.
Among the participating merchants are the on-line grocery purveyors Peapod and Netgrocer and an on-line health and beauty product service called mybasics.
Amex also has added 14 retailers, including Borders Books and Music, Foot Locker, and Sharper Image, to its list of Membership Rewards partners.
Though American Express is reaching for a broader audience, Diners Club is hoping to strengthen ties with its frequent-business-traveling cardholders. Tailored Travel, a free enhancement to Club Rewards, lets customers book travel reservations and redeem their points in one phone call.
Diners Club has a contract with a travel agency-the name of which it will not disclose-to provide the service.
A key benefit of Tailored Travel is elimination of the blackout periods airlines impose on redeeming frequent-flier points, said Diners spokesman Walter Sanders.
Diners Club representatives will secure hotel, car rental, and airline ticket reservations in exchange for Club Rewards points.
Randy Petersen, editor of InsideFlyer magazine in Colorado Springs, called Tailored Travel a convenient program but said the idea of avoiding blackout periods is not new.
"Every major airline already offers that for an extra cost," he said.
InsideFlyer named Diners Club the best frequent traveler affinity charge/credit card for 1998 and 1997.