JPMorgan Chase & Co. is giving its three top credit card program customers several options to redeem points and buy gifts for the holiday season, a move the company hopes will create buzz for the products and one that may help spur consumers to move back to using credit cards more often for holiday shopping, analysts say.
Chase's annual Ultimate Rewards holiday program will provide special deals to holders of Chase Freedom cash-back cards, Sapphire affluent cards and Ink small-business cards as the issuers continues to encourage use of the Ultimate Rewards website to access card benefits, says Sean O'Reilly, general manager for Chase card services.
"The promotion is a way to provide more value to the customer and a way for them to use points for something they may not buy for themselves," he says.
For the promotion, Chase is running several options. From Nov. 15 to Dec. 12, Chase Freedom, Sapphire and Ink cardholders who shop online using the ultimaterewards.com site can earn up to 10 extra reward points for every dollar spent at select merchants. On CyberMonday — the Monday after Thanksgiving — cardholders who use rewards points to shop on the site will save 25% on purchases.
Chase ran a similar promotion last year and saw a 300% increase in the number of items redeemed that day compared with its regular redemption rates, the company said.
Chase Sapphire, which features experiential rewards for affluent consumers, is offering a rewards ski trip with Olympic gold medalist Picabo Street. Ink from Chase is offering four holiday trips small-business cardholders can give to employees as a reward or as a "thank you" gift to customers.
Freedom cardholders may use their points to receive gift cards discounted between 10% and 20% through the rewards website, a move Chase and analysts say connects with Freedom's cash-back feature because consumers use cash to give cash via prepaid gift cards. Those gift cards from such retailers as Kohl's, Barnes & Noble and Banana Republic will be available through Jan. 4.
Chase also may be tapping into new rewards-redemption behavior with its second effort to offer auctions for Freedom, Sapphire and Ink cardholders as part of the holiday promotion.
The issuer's first auctions in April that featured travel packages were well received by customers, O'Reilly said.
The first holiday-merchandise auctions was for a Wii game console and ended Nov. 1.
These promotional efforts jibe with cardholders shopping patterns, Chase says.
"We know folks like to go out and be savvy shoppers and use their rewards points where they see the most value during the holidays, so we know there's a behavior we're already tapping into," he says. And that makes for more sales for the merchants who participate in the rewards website, because Chase has a large scale of cardholders who can redeem rewards at merchants through the redemption website, he says.
If Chase can show participating merchants that its cardholders are making rewards purchases at their stores, then the promotion justifies their investment in supporting those credit card programs, says Ron Shevlin, senior analyst at Aite Group.
Various factors are emerging to suggest other issuers will offer similar credit card promotions, Shevlin says.
"What the issuers are seeing is credit card usage and debt increasing, which is signaling that people are using credit cards again and feeling better about using them," he says.
Moreover, the effort by large banks to encourage customers to switch their spending behavior from debit to credit card use and entice affluent cardholders into making use of rewards programs is creating a "perfect storm" for the holiday season, Shevlin says. "The credit card issuers are going all out to push credit card use," he says.
Such promotions also generate interest and awareness in an issuer's card products, adds Megan Bramlette, director at Auriemma Consulting Group. "All of these efforts accomplish the single goal to generate buzz about the card and get people to think about the card," she says.