Chase offering free Companion Pass in a new Southwest Rapid Rewards promotion

Most travel has been on halt since the COVID-19 pandemic started, and earning and using travel perks has been a challenge.

Fortunately, credit card issuers and rewards programs have been introducing limited-time offers to help customers retain and enjoy travel benefits, even in the pandemic. For instance, last year, Southwest gave all Rapid Rewards members a “boost” of 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 flight credits toward Companion Pass status.

This year, new Southwest Rapid Rewards cardholders can get the Companion Pass for free as a part of an intro bonus.

The Companion Pass allows you to take a designated companion on any flight you book for just the cost of taxes and fees, as long as your Companion Pass is valid.

Normally, you’d need to earn 125,000 qualifying points or take 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year to earn a Companion Pass.

How the new sign-up bonus offer works

Through March 10, 2021, if you sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months, you can earn the Companion Pass, valid through Feb. 28, 2022, and 30,000 Rapid Rewards points.

See related: Southwest credit cards: Which Rapid Rewards card is best for you?

Is the new offer a good deal?

The length of the Companion Pass you can receive as a part of the new sign-up bonus offer is shorter than what you’d get if you earned it in a traditional way – the Pass is typically good for the remainder of the year in which you earn it, and the year after that.

Still, considering that getting the Companion Pass provides a lot of value but requires quite an investment, the new offer from Chase is an excellent deal.

That said, it’s understandable that many continue to avoid traveling. Still, the vaccine is continuing to be distributed, offering hope for the return of safe travel, and with the new offer from Chase, you’ll have plenty of time to use your Companion Pass before it expires.

Source: creditcards.com

Average credit card interest rates: Week of January 27, 2021

The average credit card interest rate is 16.11%.

The national average credit card APR rose Wednesday to its highest point in nearly nine months, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

U.S. Bank revised several credit card APRs this week, causing the national average card APR to increase for the first time in weeks. Among the 100 cards tracked weekly by CreditCards.com, for example, three U.S. Bank cards advertised new offers, including two business cards.

For example, U.S. Bank hiked the lowest possible APRs on the U.S Bank Business Cash Rewards World Elite™ Mastercard® and the U.S. Bank Business Platinum card by 2 percentage points, causing both cards’ APRs to exceed pre-pandemic levels for the first time in months.

A year ago, for example, the lowest available APR on the Business Edge Cash Rewards card was 13.74%. It’s now 13.99%.

Meanwhile, the minimum APR on the Business Platinum card was 11.74% last January. Today, the best rate new cardholders can get is 11.99%.

U.S. Bank also increased the maximum APR on the Platinum card by an even larger margin this week, hiking the card’s maximum APR by 3 percentage points. Applicants may now receive an APR as high as 20.99%, up from a previous high of 17.99%.

U.S. Bank customers who want to transfer a balance are also contending with higher rates this week. The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card offers one of the longest balance transfer periods on the market, giving cardholders 20 months to repay an old balance. But once the card’s interest-free period expires, it will grow significantly more expensive.

The card’s minimum APR rose by half a percentage point, while its maximum rate climbed by 2 percentage points. As a result, the best rate new cardholders can expect is now 14.49%, while those with lower scores may get hit with an APR as high as 24.49%.

Average card APRs are likely to remain unusually low for a long time

Despite this week’s rate hike, average rates on new card offers are still near three-year-lows­­—and are unlikely to rise much higher anytime soon.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, only a handful of issuers have been willing to make big changes to brand-new offers. U.S. Bank has been among the most active lenders this year. However, most card issuers tracked by CreditCards.com haven’t touched card offers in months. As a result, the national average card APR has remained within striking distance of 16% since March.

APRs on most card offers tumbled dramatically last spring after most credit card issuers matched the Federal Reserve March 2020 rate cuts. A small number of issuers have reversed at least some of those rate cuts. But the majority of cards tracked by CreditCards.com continue to advertise the same unusually low APR they’ve advertised since spring.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is also taking a wait-and-see approach to consumer lending rates, making it even less likely that cardholders will see a big rate increase in the near future.

On Jan. 27, 2021, the central bank announced that it will again leave its benchmark interest rate near zero. It also signaled that rates will likely remain low for some time since the U.S. economy is still relatively weak.

The economy has struggled so far to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, making it unlikely that the Fed will increase rates any time soon. As a result, most U.S. credit card holders can expect lower rates for months and possibly years to come. As long as the Fed keeps rates near rock bottom, most lenders are also likely to keep interest rates unusually low.

*All information about the U.S Bank Business Cash Rewards card, the Business Platinum and the Visa Platinum has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This offer is no longer available on our site.

CreditCards.com’s Weekly Rate Report

Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.11% 16.05% 16.03%
Low interest 12.88% 12.77% 12.83%
Cash back 15.91% 15.85% 16.09%
Balance transfer 13.93% 13.85% 13.93%
Business 14.22% 13.91% 13.91%
Student 16.12% 16.12% 16.12%
Airline 15.56% 15.53% 15.48%
Rewards 15.80% 15.76% 15.82%
Instant approval 18.47% 18.38% 18.65%
Bad credit 25.30% 25.30% 24.43%
Methodology: The national average credit card APR is comprised of 100 of the most popular credit cards in the country, including cards from dozens of leading U.S. issuers and representing every card category listed above. (Introductory, or teaser, rates are not included in the calculation.)
Source: CreditCards.com
Updated: January 27, 2021

Historic interest rates by card type

Some credit cards charge even higher rates, on average. The type of rate you get will depend in part on the category of credit card you own. For example, even the best travel credit cards often charge higher rates than basic, low interest credit cards.

CreditCards.com has been calculating average rates for a wide variety of credit card categories, including student cards, balance transfer cards, cash back cards and more, since 2007.

How to get a low credit card interest rate

Your odds of getting approved for a card’s lowest rate will increase the more you improve your credit score. Some factors that influence your credit card APR will be out of your control, such as the length of time you’ve been handling credit.

However, even if you’re new to credit or are rebuilding your score, there are steps you can take to ensure a lower APR. For example:

  1. Pay your bills on time. The single most important factor influencing your credit score – and your ability to win a lower rate – is your track record of making on-time payments. Lenders are more likely to trust you with a competitive APR – and other positive terms, such as a big credit limit – if you have a lengthy history of paying your bills on time.
  2. Keep your balances low. Lenders also want to see that you are responsible with your credit and don’t overcharge. As a result, credit scores take into account the amount of credit you’re using, compared to how much credit you’ve been given. This is known as your credit utilization ratio. Typically, the lower your ratio, the better. For example, personal finance experts often recommend that you keep your balances well below 30% of your total credit limit.
  3. Build a lengthy and diverse credit history. Lenders also like to see that you’ve been successfully using credit for a long time and have experience with different types of credit, including revolving credit and installment loans. As a result, credit scores, such as the FICO score and VantageScore, factor in the average length of your credit history and the types of loans you’ve handled (which is known as your credit mix). To keep your credit history as long as possible, continue to use your oldest credit card so your lender doesn’t close it.
  4. Call your lender. If you’ve successfully owned a credit card for a long time, you may be able to convince your lender to lower your interest rate – especially if you have excellent credit. Reach out to your lender and ask if they’d be willing to negotiate a lower APR.
  5. Monitor your credit report. Check your credit reports regularly to make sure you’re being accurately scored. The last thing you want is for a mistake or unauthorized account to drag down your credit score. You have the right to check your credit reports from each major credit bureau (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) once per year for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Source: creditcards.com

Apple Card temporarily offering $50 sign-up bonus for Exxon Mobil purchases

Many rewards credit cards offer the opportunity to earn a sign-up bonus. Even some no-annual-fee credit cards offer them, allowing consumers to maximize cash back or points without paying every year for simply having the card.

The Apple Card only started offering a sign-up bonus in June, when Apple cardholders could earn $50 in Daily Cash after spending $50 at Walgreens. This was followed by offers in September, October and November, most recently including a $75 sign-up bonus after spending $75 at Nike in-store and online via Apple Pay.

And now through Jan. 31, new Apple Card holders can score a slightly lower sign-up bonus. You’ll get $50 in Daily Cash after you spend $50 or more on purchases with Exxon or Mobil.

See related: Apple Card: One year later

How to get the Apple Card sign-up bonus

New Apple Card holders who open an account between Jan. 8 and Jan. 31, 2021 can earn $50 in Apple’s Daily Cash when they spend $50 using Apple Card with Apple Pay (where available) at Exxon and Mobil stations at the pump or at attached convenience stores in the U.S., within 30 days of the account opening. To pay at the pump with Apple Pay, you can use either the Exxon Mobil Rewards+ mobile app or contactless payment.

This month’s sign-up bonus from Apple is lower than its previous offer from Nike, but on par with the older offers from Walgreens and Panera Bread, both of which got you just $50 in Daily Cash back after a matching spend.

You can apply for the Apple Card from the Wallet app on your iPhone.

Should you apply for the Apple Card now?

If you have been considering applying for the Apple Card, it might be a good idea to do so this month, especially if you commute or drive often enough to spend $50 at gas stations in a month. While the card doesn’t always come with a sign-up bonus, new cardholders currently have a great chance to earn one.

Besides that, the Apple Card offers 3% cash back on Apple purchases, as well as 3% cash back when you use Apple Pay for Walgreens, Nike and Uber and Uber Eats purchases and at T-Mobile stores. Other Apple Pay purchases will earn you 2% in cash back. When you use the physical card, the cash back rate goes down to 1%.

However, the Apple Card might not make sense for everyone. The earning rate is good on Apple purchases, but if you’re looking for a primary cash back card to add to your wallet, there might be better options.

For example, with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express you can earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. All other purchases will get you 1% in cash back.

Another alternative is the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, which earns you unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase and doesn’t have an annual fee. Plus, you only need to spend $500 in the first three months with the card to earn its $200 sign-up bonus.

There are quite a few other cards to look into. Shop around before you decide to take advantage of Apple’s offer. The sign-up bonus alone shouldn’t tempt you into signing up for a card that doesn’t align with your spending.

See related: Apple card credit score requirements and reasons for denial

Final thoughts

If you’re an Apple enthusiast and have been looking into the Apple Card for some time, now might be a good time to apply. The new limited-time sign-up offer gives you an opportunity to earn an easy sign-up bonus – something the card doesn’t normally have.

Source: creditcards.com

Credit card industry trends to watch for in 2021

Each year, CreditCards.com asks the experts to predict what the credit card landscape will be like in the coming year.

Read industry gurus’ forecasts now and see what changes credit card issuers might have in store for 2021.

See related: Best credit cards of 2021

More flexibility in card offers

Steven Dashiell, credit cards expert for Finder, expects the exceptional welcome offers and expanded reward opportunities we saw throughout 2020 will continue into 2021.

“These card adjustments were a response to evolving consumer spending habits during the pandemic and I foresee these spending habits lasting well through 2021,” Dashiell said.

Nishank Khanna, chief financial offer for Clarify Capital, noted that consumers are spending more on essential goods than discretionary items, so credit cards will likely offer more benefits for groceries and home goods.

“We can expect to continue to see flexibility with card offers, with many card issuers providing cash back options and diverse opportunities for the cardholder to decide how she or he spends rewards,” Khanna said.

This move is especially important for consumers who are exploring the perks they can get as they battle the impact of lockdowns and travel restrictions.

‘Buy now, pay later’ options will be more in demand

Given the current financial climate, consumers have gravitated toward alternative payment methods such as buy now, pay later options, said Imani Francies, a financial expert at USInsuranceAgents.com.

These services allow consumers to make large purchases by paying only a percentage of the total cart amount – they are then expected to make biweekly or bimonthly payments until the entirety of the purchase amount is paid off.

But Francies warned that if this way of paying becomes too addicting, people may start using credit cards to keep up with their payment plans, which could hurt their credit scores and transform the buy now, pay later option into a negative experience.

contactless payment technologies, said Vince Granziani, CEO of IDEX Biometrics.

For example, biometric fingerprint technology allows the user to make touchless payments via a fingerprint stored on a credit card that is safe, secure and unique to that individual.

The global demand for biometric technology in the payments industry is robust and will accelerate as business returns to a new normal in 2021 and beyond, Granziani predicted.

In 2021 and beyond, biometric smart cards will also become increasingly necessary to combat payment fraud. These cards prevent hackers from stealing your PIN or fingerprint data since it’s all stored directly on your card.

Therefore, if anyone were to steal or attempt using your card, they couldn’t do it without your fingerprint to activate a transaction, Granziani said.

Biometric cards have multiple uses, capable of holding passports and driver’s licenses ­– even library cards and travel passes – while holding your payment details all in one place, he added.

See related: Credit card scams in the time of coronavirus

Increased transparency will be the name of the game

Charles Tran, founder of CreditDonkey, forecast that credit card companies will offer increased transparency in 2021.

Transparency has always been a significant factor in the financial industry and it’s becoming an essential point of focus considering the tough times we are in, so credit cards will have to offer simplicity and utility to stand out.

“This will include transparency in the reward systems, fewer hidden fees, complimentary credit score monitoring and easier rewards redemption,” Tran added.

See related: 2020 credit card fee survey – What happened to 0% balance transfer offers?

Issuers may get tougher on delinquent debtors

Adem Selita, CEO and co-founder of The Debt Relief Company, sees an unsettling trend happening with regard to cross-collateralization, a method lenders use to secure one type of loan with the collateral from another.

For example, if you bought a car from a credit union and didn’t keep up with the payments, the credit union could repossess the car to satisfy your loan.

Selita believes credit card companies will become more aggressive regarding credit card defaults – depending on how the economy unfolds in the intermediate term – and even add features like collateralization to use consumers’ funds to pay their delinquent credit card bills.

In addition, Selita said, an updated law that goes into effect in 2021 will allow debt collectors to contact debtors via social media channels, text and voicemail.

And although they are not allowed to use social media to harass debtors, Selita said it still amounts to “essentially stalking consumers behind on their credit card bills and in default.”

2021 will be a comeback year for credit cards

There will still be some pain in terms of delinquencies and difficulty accessing credit, but 2021 will be a comeback year for credit cards, according to Ted Rossman, industry analyst for CreditCards.com.

The news of an effective COVID vaccine bodes well for a return to travel, dining and other discretionary spending that is so important for credit card companies.

But the improvement won’t be immediate or evenly distributed, Rossman warned.

Unfortunately, many consumers will fall behind on their payments, especially as stimulus and hardship programs wear off.

Many banks are expecting delinquencies to peak around mid-2021, although there’s still a fair amount of uncertainty around that.

This trend should keep a lid on 0% balance transfers and access to credit for people with lower credit scores, but the rebound will mean more competition for people with high credit scores and incomes, Rossman predicted.

“We’re already seeing some of this with the recent Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card bonuses, and in 2021 I think we’ll see even hotter competition for the most creditworthy applicants.” he said.

Start your journey to financial freedom

Whatever might happen in the credit card industry in 2021, if you and manage your credit well you will stay financially healthy.

Spend wisely, avoid opening new credit you don’t need, manage your existing debt and live within your means, and you’ll be on the road to financial freedom.

See related: Overcoming hardships by embracing financial independence

Source: creditcards.com