Big retailers are teaming up with cards, offering rebates

Tony Mecia
Personal Finance Writer
Rewards expert who writes the "Cashing In" reader Q&A column for CreditCards.com

Banks cracking down on reward card applications

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers.

By now, you’ve probably heard of the main strategies for boosting your rewards on holiday shopping. You should use your card’s category bonuses to earn extra points at certain merchants. You should familiarize yourself with your card company’s shopping portal, too, for bonuses when shopping online. 

But there is also an emerging category of deals that you will want to be aware of for some credit cards from the biggest issuers. Historically, cards for a long time have had what are known as targeted offers – special deals open to certain customers. These traditionally have come in the form of mailings, and maybe they offered bonus reward points for spending a predetermined amount over a period of months. 

Now, though, with technology, card issuers are making these offers more routine and more available to everyday shoppers. And the issuers are teaming with merchants to offer not points, but rebates when you use your card.

The biggest player in this space has been American Express. It has offers for dozens of merchants, most of whom provide a rebate when you spend a certain amount at their stores – such as a $15 statement credit when you spend $100 at Macy’s, or $50 back when you spend $200 or more at Sunglass Hut. To get the rebate, you have to sign up for the deal on American Express’ website.

Chase and Bank of America join in on the offers game

Now, though, other banks are also getting into the offers game. Chase recently launched Chase Offers, a similar concept for holders of its Chase Marriott Rewards Visa (annual fee: $85) and Chase Slate (no annual fee) cards. It is easy to imagine Chase expanding this to other cards. Bank of America also has a similar program for its cards called BankAmeriDeals.

The partnerships card issuers are forging with merchants are clearly meant to steer you toward those merchants. But you can save money if you are planning to shop at those stores anyway.

I took advantage of one of these offers in August. At the time, American Express was offering a $40 rebate after spending $50 or more on Martha Stewart Wine. I previously knew nothing about Martha Stewart Wine, other than what the company represented on its website, that it offered “wine personally chosen by Martha Stewart.”

At my house, we enjoy wine, but we are nowhere near connoisseurs. At the same time, Martha Stewart Wine was offering a special: six bottles for $75, which included shipping. I bought the bottles on my American Express card. It was charged $75, then the $40 rebate appeared a few days later. The wine arrived the following week, at a total cost to me of $35. It was good wine – much better than what you can usually find for $6 a bottle.

Offers are now one alert away

When shopping, the tricky part with these offers is remembering which card offers a discount where. Here, too, the card companies have devised a solution. If you use their apps on your mobile phone and allow the apps to view your location, you can be notified on your phone when you pass near a store with an offer.

For years, card companies have been saying that mobile rewards are the wave of the future, as they can immediately alter shopping habits and make rewards instantly relevant to card holders. Card issuers like it because it makes their cards more valuable. Retailers like it because it steers business to their stores.

To find these deals, check out your card’s website to see if there are any offers. It’s one way that instead of getting you into debt this holiday season, your credit cards can save you some money instead.

See Related: What rewards should I get for holiday shopping?, How to score more rewards with your holiday shopping


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Updated: 12-15-2017