Fearing customers may choose to stick with cash, debit cards and prepaid cards, many lenders are rolling out offers that give them extra points, deeper discounts and other bonuses, according to a report from Dow Jones News Services. Some of these additional benefits include free gift cards and cashback. Meanwhile, retailers are adding to their loyalty and credit card programs for similar reasons.
"Some card issuers are seeing this as an opportunity to change the game and engage their customers further," Kelly Hlavinka, managing partner at Colloquy, a loyalty marketing research firm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, told the news service.
The National Retail Federation believes holiday sales are expected to rise this year despite more meager climbs last year, the report said. However, it's unclear just how large that increase will be as many consumers are still affected by unemployment, and others remain concerned about their credit card debt. The NRF recently conducted a poll that found only 27.6 percent of consumers will use these accounts this season, the lowest amount since 2002.
Some of the bonus offers being pushed by lenders and retailers alike include Toys R Us tripling its rewards points for every dollar of credit card debt taken on, for all transactions both in stores and online, the report said. This comes over fears that the toy giant could be undercut in prices by both Walmart and Target. The latter discount retailer recently increased rewards for its REDcard customers, extending a 5 percent discount on all purchases made with its branded debit and credit accounts in its stores and on its website.
Similarly, every transaction made with a Citi card this holiday season will enter the holder into a contest to win a prepaid card valued between $10 and $10,000, the report said. Discover will increase cash back bonuses to 2 percent on purchases of up to $1,000 made online, and 5 percent on purchases of up to $500 made at restaurants, department stores and clothing retailers.
Many consumers have cut their use of these accounts significantly in recent months, and some have opted to eschew their credit card debt altogether.