The credit card market is officially booming: Here’s what it means for you

1
Photo by Getty Images/Illustration by Bankrate
Bankrate Logo

Why you can trust Bankrate

While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .

It’s a bad idea to not stay on top of credit card news today. And by “bad idea,” I mean it’s terrible for your wallet because of all the missing out it’ll have to do.

The credit card market is white-hot right now. While the country has been slowly emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, the world of credit cards has quickly gone from cautious standby to full-on overdrive.

What it means for you as a cardholder is that you can receive outstanding value from all the new offers—think free airfare, cash back quickly pooling in your account and exciting new perks.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s been going on with credit cards and how you can benefit from the current situation.

What has been happening in the credit card space

New credit cards

Starting in July, fresh credit card offers began popping like mushrooms after a rain. That’s where the competition among issuers became the most obvious.

We’ve seen the bar raised across each card category.

I think Wells Fargo deserves a special callout. The issuer has intended to revamp its credit card suite to make it more competitive. So far, it’s been doing a fantastic job.

The issuer launched the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card with 2 percent cash back on all purchases—the highest rate among flat-rate cards—and proceeded with the announcement of the Wells Fargo Reflect℠ card, which boasts an industry-leading balance transfer offer. The Reflect comes with up to 21 months of an introductory 0 percent APR on balance transfers (followed by a variable APR of 12.99 percent to 24.99 percent), an offer only matched by Citi.

Speaking of Citi, it’s shown to be quite innovative with the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, which launched at the beginning of the summer. Its flexible 5 percent cash back category—on up to $500 on purchases made on the category you spend the most in each billing cycle—can fit brilliantly in more than one type of credit card strategy. Whether you’re a cardholder who doesn’t want the high maintenance of rotating categories or one who doesn’t mind doing extra work to maximize cash back, the Citi Custom Cash is a solid choice.

For those new to credit or working on their credit scores, there are exciting new products, as well. Bank of America launched attractive secured versions of their rewards credit cards, Capital One announced a highly rewarding student credit card suite and Chase replaced the old Chase Slate card with the Chase Slate Edge℠*, which encourages good credit behavior.

Finally, there’s been some activity in the business credit card space, as well, with Chase launching the World of Hyatt Business Credit Card and Bank of America launching the Bank of America Business Advantage Unlimited Cash Rewards.

Needless to say, this is quite a lot to happen in the span of four months.

The take-away

If your perfect credit card isn’t on the market yet, stay tuned—it might just appear soon.

Credit card issuers design new products based on what they find is in demand among their customers, and they try to deliver it better than their competitors. With so many issuers launching new cards, as a consumer, you’re winning.

Keep an eye on new card announcements as these new products may serve you better and be much more competitive than what’s currently in your wallet.

Positive changes to existing credit card products

If we look back, I’d say the credit card boom became apparent around May, when Capital One increased rewards and added new cash back categories on the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card* and the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card. These two cards were already popular and could offer plenty of value to the right cardholder. With the new changes, however, the Savor cards became even more lucrative.

In July, American Express followed suit and upgraded The Platinum Card® from American Express, one of its most iconic products. The card got a ton of new benefits, including countless annual statement credits, which the issuer has kept adding since. In October, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express got similar new perks. The changes, however, came with higher annual fees.

That wasn’t the case for Chase. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve also received new rewards and benefits but kept the same annual cost. Now, Sapphire cardholders can earn even more on certain travel and everyday purchases, and the Preferred card got a $50 annual hotel statement credit and a 10 percent anniversary point bonus—rare features for a card that only charges $95 per year.

The take-away

What does this mean for you? There’s a lot of competition in the current credit card market, and top issuers are fighting for your business.

For you as a cardholder, it’s amazing news. If you stay on top of these changes, you may very well find out you can get more value from the cards in your wallet or decide to apply for a newly revamped card that can now offer more than before.

Outstanding sign-up bonuses

A large sign-up bonus is an excellent opportunity for a cardholder to easily score a huge amount of rewards—and for an issuer to attract more new customers.

Since credit card issuers have clearly been trying hard to achieve the latter, sign-up bonuses have reflected that.

In June, the Chase Sapphire Preferred announced its highest welcome offer to date: 100,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first three months with the card (no longer available). To put this into perspective, that’s $1,250 in travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Using that bonus, I booked round-trip tickets to Mexico for me and my mother (she’s flying from Moscow, Russia) and still had over 20,000 points left to shave off almost $300 in lodging costs.

Of course, American Express couldn’t stay behind. Less than a month later, the issuer also boosted the Amex Platinum’s welcome offer to 100,000 points.

Chase has recently reduced the bonus on the Sapphire Preferred back to 60,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first three months, but you can still earn 100,000 points with the Amex Platinum.

The take-away

Earning a sign-up bonus is an important component of a rewards credit card strategy. If you’re into traveling on points and miles, you don’t want to miss out on the most generous offers. They might not last long, and there’s no saying when and whether they’ll return.

For that reason, keep an eye on current welcome bonuses. I’d suggest checking CardMatch regularly, where you can get personalized offers from participating issuers almost instantly with no impact to your credit score. You may even score a higher offer on certain cards that way if you qualify.

What to expect next

In the near future, the credit card industry is likely to continue to grow, supported by the continually decreasing unemployment rate, post-pandemic pent-up demand and heated competition among issuers.

It’s safe to assume we’ll see even more new products, especially in the travel credit card space, as more and more people feel ready to travel again. If you’re ready, too, I’d recommend keeping track of travel credit card news. With credit card rewards and perks improving across the board for every kind of consumer, we may be in for something exciting soon.

I’m also curious to see how credit card issuers that haven’t been as active will respond to these trends. For example, Discover has traditionally offered highly rewarding products in a few popular categories. Now, however, these products are facing much more competition. Will the issuer work on its credit card suite to keep up?

I’m excited to see what’s next—both as a credit card writer and a person who loves nothing more than paying for things with points and cash back.

The bottom line

Is there a credit card version of the fear of missing out? If not, it’s time to come up with one.

In a massive shift from cautious pandemic-time strategies, credit card issuers are going all-in, upgrading their products, creating better new cards and offering eye-popping sign-up bonuses, to boot.

It’s a beautiful time to be a cardholder. If credit card news hasn’t been something you keep track of, you might want to change that. Otherwise, you risk missing out on hundreds or even thousands of dollars in potential value.

*All information about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card and Chase Slate Edge℠ has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.

Written by
Ana Staples
Credit Cards Reporter and Young Credit Analyst
Ana Staples is a reporter for Bankrate and an expert on all things credit basics and personal finance for the younger generation.
Edited by
Senior Editor, Credit Card Product News
Reviewed by
Senior Director of Content