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Airline loyalty programs are contracting thanks to a stronger and more profitable industry, resulting in smaller partner programs in stride. Most notably, the credit card industry that uses points as a signup or purchasing incentive is slowly starting to scale back, evident from recent movement from Chase bank.
According to Doctor of Credit, the bank is starting to apply a “5/24” rule to a wider variety of its credit cards, restricting users to only five open accounts within a 24 month period. For most consumers that’s plenty of leeway for open accounts, but for a certain batch of consumers keen on cyclically signing up for credit cards in order to receive point bonuses (known as card “churning”), the restriction would dramatically reduce the volume of points issued by the bank.
The 5/24 rule has been applied to some degree since the middle of last year, but as of April, the restriction is coming to a wider family of Chase cards, including co-branded cards from Marriott and United.
In applying the restrictions, Chase appears to be closing a loophole for points hackers, indicating that the banking industry is getting stingier with that way that it manages points.
This would be in concert with the airline industry at large. Earlier this year, American Airlines was the last legacy carrier to change its loyalty program to award fewer frequent flyer miles based on revenue rather than distance flown. With fewer miles out in the open market, banks may now be thinking twice about enormous bonuses.
“The changes certainly appear to be aimed at card churners and are a way for Chase to clear the deck to assess the kind of applications they are getting.” says Charlie Barkowski who writes the points blog Running with Miles. “Long term, I expect to see higher required spending thresholds for the same volume of bonuses that we’re typically used to.”
If Mr. Barkowski is right and the trend continues, consumers may start to see fewer lucrative point bonuses and tighter restrictions on their future credit card offers. For looking to take advantage of a current credit card incentive, the time to act may be drawing to a close.