Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Sep 03

When Bad Things Happen to Good Credit Card Customers

One of my favorite credit cards is the new Barclays JetBlue card, the successor to the American Express JetBlue card. It has a great sign-up bonus (although the bonus for the free card has been reduced), makes it easy to earn a ton of points and offers a path to elite status. So I was disappointed to learn from a reader at Inside Flyer that they were refused a bonus because they were not a new customer. Here’s where it gets interesting.

Rules And Regs

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Hey, it’s right there in the fine print (and I left it as fine print because it’s so easy to miss). If you are an existing customer, you’re not eligible. Except the reader wasn’t an existing Barclays customer. They had been an American Express JetBlue cardholder whose card was involuntarily converted to the new one when Barclays took over the JetBlue partnership.

As far as I’m concerned, this one is not even close. Barclays is the merchant and the one making money off the reader (with the exception of the points that JetBlue sells to Barclays). This customer had not been a Barclays customer previously. Why should they have not had the benefits that everyone else gets?

But wait, you may ask, didn’t they get a sign-up bonus when American Express had the card? Isn’t that double-dipping? Yup, it is. So what? This is not a case of an individual signing up for the same card multiple times and being denied a bonus on subsequent cards. The Amex and Barclays versions are two completely different cards.

What Barclays Should Have Done

The solution to this problem is easy: When Barclays converted JetBlue cards from American Express, they should have given existing Amex cardholders the same option as anybody else. It was a new card for everybody. An even more customer-friendly solution would have been to offer Amex customers a “points challenge.” If a converted customer spent $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days, they’d receive the same 10,000 points that a customer who was completely new to a JetBlue card would receive.

What Can Be Done Now?

Unfortunately, not much. Barclays’ definition of “existing customer” is different than mine, and they ultimately decide. But this is exactly the way to lose a customer. American Express may not be perfect, but they never would have pulled this one.

PS: If you want an a card from an absolutely underrated company, get a Discover It card, one with rotating 5% cash back categories. If nothing else, Amazon is a participant for both the third quarter and the fourth of this year, giving you 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of spend in each 3-month period. That’s one of the few ways to get money back from shopping at Amazon. Department stores and Sam’s Club are also fourth quarter participants. And, as an added bonus, I have found Discover’s customer service to be impeccable.

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