Earning rewards for telecom purchases
By Cathleen McCarthy | Published: November 19, 2013
Dear Cashing In,
In Canada, Rogers Communications just announced a credit card that enables Rogers subscribers to earn points for every dollar spent on wireless, cable, Internet and home phone services. Those points can be redeemed for upgraded Internet packages, premium TV content, home phone long-distance calling and wireless international roaming discounts. Is there a similar telecom-specific rewards credit card available in the U.S.? -- Daniel
I notice from your email that you're employed by Rogers, the company you mentioned. That credit card is not yet available, but earlier this year Rogers received permission to launch from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, which supervises federally regulated institutions in Canada. Your company's credit card is a loyalty card, meaning it will earn points for purchases of Rogers' wireless, cable, Internet and phone services, but not for purchases of those services from other providers.
Based in Toronto, Rogers competes closely with Bell Canada. It will be interesting to see if Bell releases a loyalty credit card now -- or Telus, which competes for Rogers' wireless business.
Rogers releasing a credit card would be like Comcast releasing a loyalty card in the U.S. Comcast is the largest cable and home Internet provider in the U.S. and third-largest home phone service provider. Comcast generates about $62 billion in annual revenue to Rogers' $12 billion, but has not yet introduced a credit card.
AT&T has, however. Although it offers a broadband subscription television and Internet services, AT&T is known mainly as the largest telephone service provider in the U.S. The company offers two versions of the AT&T Universal Savings cards and neither carries annual fees. The AT&T Platinum MasterCard offers 0.5 percent back (issued as a statement credit on your AT&T bill) on the first $250 of purchases you make from anywhere each billing period, 1 percent on the next $500 and 1.5 percent on anything over that. No sign-up bonus for that one.
The AT&T Rewards MasterCard offers 10 percent savings (also issued as a statement credit) in the first year for every $1 spent on AT&T consumer products and services "that matches the amount you spend on other purchases." After the first year, you get 5 percent savings. You can save up to $350 in any calendar year. The sign-up bonus for the AT&T Rewards card is 10,000 points after you spend $500 in the first three months. You also get 1 ThankYou Rewards point per $1 spent on non-AT&T purchases, up to 50,000 points per year. Points are redeemable through ThankYou Rewards.
Loyalty credit cards are not the only way you can earn rewards on AT&T purchases, however, or on telecom in general. Aimed at small-business owners, Chase Ink cards award 5 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on phone, Internet or cable. Unlike a loyalty credit card, such as Rogers' or AT&T's, this benefit applies to any purchases of those services -- as long as it rings up under the merchant code Chase uses for that category.
Which gives you a better return on your AT&T spend? If you accept the standard valuation among miles bloggers, Ultimate Rewards points redeem at about 1.8 cents per point. That means if you spend $150 per month on AT&T with your Ink card, you earn 750 points or about $13.50 worth every month. The same $150 would get you only $7.50 back with the AT&T Platinum. With the AT&T Rewards MasterCard you would earn $15/month during the first year and $7.50 thereafter.
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