The paper check has received another death knell, as it is being eliminated as a redemption option in JPMorgan Chase's Ultimate Rewards Program as the issuer encourages more consumers to request statement credits instead.
Chase informed its Chase Sapphire, Chase Freedom and Ink from Chase customers last week that they will no longer be able to receive cash rewards via mailed check starting in November. Chase's decision eliminates what it sees as a "friction" point for customers, said Manning Field, director of marketing and innovation for Ultimate Rewards.
"We found through our analysis, not surprisingly, that checks are our slowest fulfillment item because we are using a physical printing process and sending it through the mail," Field said.
Chase also lets cardholders receive cash rewards as a statement credit or as a deposit to a linked bank account which are faster and more reliable methods than mailing a check, Field said. Oftentimes, a check would go uncashed because the customer lost it or mistook it for junk mail, he said.
Getting rid of paper checks makes sense because customers prefer to use points to reduce the payment of their monthly statement, said Brian Riley, senior research director and analyst with Boston-based CEB TowerGroup.
"It's better than requesting a check and it's really kind of silly to wait for a check when you are working with a credit card company to redeem rewards," Riley said.
Chase is also ditching the title of the Pay Yourself Back program, which allows consumers to use points to pay off each month's credit card bill.
Too many customers were not sure what Pay Yourself Back really meant, Field said. "Like the paper check, it was just creating too much confusion not only with our customers, but in some cases within our servicing environment," Field added.
In the same vein, Chase is rebranding its Ultimate Rewards Mall, where cardholders would view the items they could purchase with rewards points. Instead, it will be called "Shop Through Chase," to indicate that the bank wants to engage in the spending process with its customers, Field said.
In the competitive arena of credit card rewards programs, Chase knows what it is doing, Riley said.
"Our research shows that some issuers manage loyalty programs better than others, but Chase is definitely at the top of the heap," Riley added. "They are very aggressive with rolling [out] incentives and giving you different bonus categories."
Chase views rewards as a means to "drive spending engagement with our customers," Field said. "We've had a lot of success with the Ultimate Rewards program since we started it in 2009."
Recent Auriemma Consulting Group research concluded that communication is critical for the issuing banks' reward programs.
The Auriemma study found that 59% of consumers rate cash rewards programs higher than other programs that may offer higher returns within certain merchant categories or at certain times of the year.
In addition, 41% of the 417 credit card users surveyed said the rewards offered through a card are the primary reason they use that card.