Credit card issuers are pouring more of their resources into online ads and social media after concluding that more traditional marketing strategies aren’t as effective as they used to be. That, in turn, is creating a fresh opportunity for proactive card applicants: shopping online for the best deal.
If you’re in the market for a new credit card, it’s a good time to start your search online.
According to The Wall Street Journal, credit card issuers are increasingly pouring more of their resources into online ads and social media after concluding that more traditional marketing strategies, such as direct mail offers, aren’t as effective as they used to be.
“Nobody is opening the mail,” Mercator Advisory Group’s Brian Riley told the Journal.
So rather than rely as heavily as they used to on glossy mailers and in-person pitches, banks are instead spending more of their money on targeted social media ads and other online initiatives.
They are also paying influencers to help pitch their cards on Twitter, Instagram and other social media feeds, The Wall Street Journal reported, and looking for more creative ways to attract new cardholders.
That, in turn, is creating a fresh opportunity for proactive card applicants: If you’re looking for a new card and want the best deal you can get, you may have more success browsing strategically online, rather than waiting to see what shows up in the mail.
See related: Credit card special offers, limited-time promotions
The offer you’re given often depends on how you access it
These days, credit card offers are rarely static; so it’s smart to proactively search for a card online and compare deals, rather than wait for an offer to come to you. That’s especially true now that card issuers are putting more energy into online offers and are attempting to use technology and the web to lure more cardholders.
Issuers frequently retool offers and advertise different terms and promotions, depending on how a particular card is being marketed. As a result, you could potentially be shown several, dramatically different offers for the exact same card, even if your credit score, income and other details haven’t changed.
A targeted ad you receive via email or while browsing Facebook, for example, may offer a much larger sign-up bonus than an offer you see on an issuer’s website. Or you may apply for the same card in a local branch and not be offered a sign-up bonus at all.
Similarly, you may see a lower APR on a third-party website, such as CreditCards.com, than you see on an issuer’s website.
Or you could click on one online offer and see a lengthy 0 percent balance transfer offer and then click on it again a few hours later and the balance transfer offer has disappeared.
That’s why it’s so important to look around before settling on an offer. Unless you research a card widely, you won’t really know whether you’re getting the best deal.
Now that issuers are investing more resources into online channels, consumers may come across even more varied offers for the same set of cards, depending on when, where and how they access them.
A third-party site may advertise better card terms
Already, issuers are frequently experimenting with new online offers and are alternating the strategies they use to attract new cardholders.
Take, for example, the Discover it® Cash Back card. If you go to Discover’s website, you’ll see a decent intro 14-month 0 percent balance transfer offer (then 11.99 percent – 22.99 percent variable) that, at first glance, may seem like the best deal you can get if you really want the Discover card. There are currently no other balance transfer cards featured on Discover’s website that offer a longer promotion.
But if you visit Discover’s page on a third-party website, such as CreditCards.com, you’ll see an even better balance transfer offer: an intro 0 percent APR for 18 months (then 13.49 percent – 24.49 percent variable) on the Discover it® Balance Transfer card. (This offer is no longer available).
Similarly, Citi has been alternating offers on the Citi Simplicity® Card for weeks now. Some people are shown a 21-month balance transfer offer. Others are shown just 18 months.
If Citi offers you a 0 percent APR for 18 months on the Citi Simplicity card, you may assume that’s your best offer. But if you search for the card through other outlets, you may find a much better deal. For example, CreditCards.com’s Citi page currently shows a 21-month balance transfer offer (then 14.74 percent – 24.74 percent variable thereafter) to any computer user who clicks through to an application.
See related: 7 ways to attract targeted credit card offers
Promotions are also getting better and more creative
Issuers are also offering splashier rewards programs in an effort to attract new cardholders.
For example, many issuers are using big sign-up bonuses and other perks to try to earn more press and build excitement for their cards. That, too, is also benefiting cardholders as issuers come up with increasingly creative promotions that they know will get written up in credit card blogs and other online outlets.
For example, Chase recently started offering new Chase Freedom Unlimited cardholders 3 percent cash back on up to $20,000 worth of spending in their first year. (This offer is no longer available on our site as of Oct. 10, 2019.) Meanwhile, Capital One partnered with Hotels.com on a limited-time promotion that gives new Venture and VentureOne cardholders 10 miles for every dollar when they book and pay for hotel stays at Hotels.com/venture.
Multiple issuers have also dramatically boosted their cards’ welcome bonuses in an effort to get more applicants’ attention. For example, Chase recently started offering 100,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchase in the first 3 months on the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card. Meanwhile, American Express recently launched the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card with a 130,000-point introductory bonus and free weekend night reward when you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 4 months. (These offers are no longer available.)
An opportunity for proactive consumers
If you’re looking for a new card, it pays to do your research online and look at multiple offers before settling on a card.
If a card looks like a good fit, take the time to search for it and look at offers on multiple platforms, including third-party websites and issuers’ promotional pages. You may find a much better deal than the first one that you happened upon.
Also, keep an eye out for credit card news and promotional announcements: As issuers ramp up competition for cardholders’ attention, there’s a good chance you’ll continue to see eye-catching promotions.