Amex announces changes to Amex Gold benefits, brings back Rose Gold design

American Express has been one of the top issuers when it comes to meeting cardholders’ shifting needs. Last year, the issuer waived transfer fees for domestic airlines, offered valuable limited-time benefits and extended the period to earn a welcome bonus.

Amex has also announced new perks on The Platinum Card® from American Express, the American Express® Gold Card and the American Express® Green Card*, as well as changes to benefits on the Gold card. These changes are great news for cardmembers who frequently order food delivery – especially those who prefer Uber Eats.

Additionally, American Express is making the Rose Gold design a permanent option, available to new cardmembers and current cardholders who want to switch.

See related: Best credit cards for dining

Complimentary Eats Pass membership from Uber

Amex Green, Gold and Platinum cardholders now have access to a complimentary Eats Pass membership*. This monthly subscription option for Uber Eats users normally costs $119 a year or $9.99 per month.

The membership comes with deals on eligible restaurant takeout and grocery delivery, such as a $0 delivery fee (including on grocery deliveries over $30 from select merchants) and 5% off restaurant orders over $15 (taxes and service fees may apply and do not count toward order minimum).

To use this offer and get up to 12 months of free Eats Pass, cardmembers need to enroll by Dec. 31, 2021.

*Uber Eats Pass will auto-bill starting 12 months from initial enrollment in this offer, at then-current monthly rate. 

See related: American Express card benefits

Changes in benefits for Amex Gold cardholders

Amex Gold cardmembers are getting an even sweeter deal. On top of the new Eats Pass perk and the existing $120 annual dining credit, they will also get up to $120 per year in Uber Cash. The credits will be doled out in $10 monthly increments. Note that unused credits won’t roll over in the next month. Cardholders will get a notification from their Uber Eats app each time credits are added, letting them know when they are going to expire.

Unfortunately, the updated Amex Gold won’t retain all of the benefits it has previously offered. Namely, the $100 airline fee credit, which could be applied toward incidental airline fees, including for checked bags and seat selection with an airline of your choice, is leaving the card. New cardmembers won’t have access to this credit, but current customers will be able to use it until Dec. 31, 2021.

With the dining credit, Uber Cash benefit and the last of their airline fee credit, current American Express Gold cardholders can get up to $340 in annual credits this year. Considering the card only charges a $250 annual fee, it’s an excellent deal. And even without the airline fee credit, new cardmembers will be able to receive $240 in annual credits, which almost offsets the fee as well.

Rose Gold design is coming back

The American Express Rose Gold card was a limited edition of the Gold Card released in 2018. It came in a metallic rose color and became a popular design option.

In fact, it was so popular the issuer has decided to bring it back as a permanent design option. Prospective cardmembers will be able to choose the design when submitting their application. Existing customers can get the Gold card in Rose Gold too, but they’ll need to contact Amex to request a new card.

Is this a good time to apply for an American Express card?

If you’ve been considering getting an Amex, now might be the perfect time – especially with all the changes coming to the Amex Gold this year. Besides, the card is currently offering a 60,000-point welcome bonus (after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 6 months) through CreditCards.com, and you might earn even more points if you apply through CardMatch™.

See related: Amex Platinum offers bonus up to 125,000 points via CardMatch

*All information about the American Express Green Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This offer is no longer available on our site.

Source: creditcards.com

Fed: Credit card balances dipped by $3 billion in December

Credit card balances edged down in December, even as consumers engaged in holiday shopping, as uncertainty about a second round of stimulus checks extended to the latter part of the month.

Consumer revolving debt – which is mostly based on credit card balances – was down $3 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis in December to $975.9 billion, according to the Fed’s G. 19 consumer credit report released Feb. 5.

In December, credit card balances were off 3.6% on an annualized basis, following November’s revised 0.8% dip and October’s 6.7% drop, which came on the heels of September’s 3.2% annualized gain.

The Fed also reported that student loan debt outstanding for the fourth quarter rose to $1.707 trillion, from the third quarter’s $1.704 trillion. And auto loan debt outstanding gained to $1.228 trillion, from the third quarter’s $1.219 trillion.

Total consumer debt outstanding – which includes student loans and auto loans, as well as revolving debt – continued to grow and rose $9.7 billion to $4.184 trillion in December, a 2.8% annualized gain.

For the entire year, credit card balances were down 11.2%.

Card balances had been growing before the coronavirus impacted consumer spending and bank lending in 2020. They dipped below the $1 trillion mark last May, for the first time since September 2017.

See related: 51% of consumers accrued more debt during the pandemic

ABA sees brighter days ahead for credit availability

The American Bankers Association reports, based on input provided by chief economists of large North American banks to its credit conditions index for the first quarter of 2021, that credit conditions (both credit quality and availability) have rebounded from their lows of last summer.

However, all three components of the index (the headline credit index, the consumer credit index and the business credit index) remain below 50, which is not a robust index reading. It indicates that while bank economists expect credit conditions to remain “soft” in the coming six months, they are less pessimistic than they were in September 2020 when the ABA  conducted its last credit conditions survey.

The consumer credit index component of the survey gained to 45.3, its highest level since mid-2019. Economists are optimistic about both the availability and quality of consumer credit compared to September. They expect credit to be more available to consumers in the coming six months, although a small majority expects credit quality to decline.

“Although credit quality is still expected to worsen over the first half of the year for both consumers and businesses, the overall outlook for credit markets has improved significantly since the summer and fall,” said Rob Strand, ABA senior economist. “As widespread inoculations against the virus and new fiscal stimulus measures help heal the economy, banks will continue to work closely with policymakers, consumers and businesses to ensure that affordable credit remains available and recovery strengthens.”

Fed reports easing of credit card lending standards in fourth quarter

According to the Fed’s senior loan officer opinion survey on bank lending practices for January 2021 (which is based on input related to the fourth quarter of 2020), a “moderate net share of banks” reported that they had eased up on credit card loans.

As a result, a “modest net share of banks” also hiked up their credit limits on credit card accounts. And a “moderate net share of banks” reported that there was higher demand for credit card loans during the fourth quarter.

As for the outlook, a “significant net share of banks” is expected to ease up on their standards for credit card loans. They are doing so in anticipation of an improvement in their loan portfolios’ credit quality, as well as a hike in their tolerance for risk.

Also, the New York Fed’s survey of consumer expectations for December 2020 finds that consumers are less concerned about the possibility of missing a minimum debt payment in the coming three months. The average perceived probability of this occurrence dipped to 10.5% for December, from November’s 10.9%.

See related: What happens when you miss a credit card payment?

Jobs edge up in January

The New York Fed survey also finds that on average fewer consumers expect the unemployment rate to be higher a year from now, with this probability declining to 38.9%, from November’s 40.1%.

While the average perceived probability of losing a job in the coming 12 months rose up a bit to 15% (mainly on account of those without a college degree), respondents were also more likely to leave their job voluntarily. However, they were less optimistic about landing a new job if they lost their current ones.

The U.S employment situation was about stable in January, with the economy adding 49,000 jobs, the government reported Feb. 5. “The labor market continued to reflect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it,” according to the Department of Labor’s employment report media release. The unemployment rate dipped 0.4 percentage points to 6.3% and average hourly earnings were up $0.06 to $29.96. Also, the job numbers for both November and December were revised down, with November down 77,000 jobs (to 264,000) and December losing an additional 87,000 jobs (to minus 227,000).

In his daily email commentary, Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, noted, “Coupled with the -159K net revision, this is a significantly softer report than expected, at least in terms of payrolls. Bulls will cite the large and unexpected drop in the unemployment rate, but two-third(s) of the decline was due to a 405K drop in the size of the labor force – a sign of discouragement – while household employment rose 201K.”

He added that “the labor market was frozen at the start of the year, and is completely dependent on the pace of reopening, which in turn is contingent on the speed and sustainability of the fall in hospitalizations.”

Source: creditcards.com

Many consumers are still getting help with debt

At the end of December 2020, around 2.87% of accounts in the auto, credit card, mortgage or unsecured personal loan accounts were still in some form of financial hardship status.

But the percentage of accounts in that status continue to fall from a high of 4.77% in May 2020, according to TransUnion’s Financial Services Monthly Industry Snapshot Report.

TransUnion data includes all of the accounts with accommodations at the end of December plus those that had accommodations pre-pandemic.

The percentage of credit card accounts in financial hardship status fell from a high of 3.73% in May 2020 to 2.42% in December 2020. 

Repayment preferences vary

Among those consumers with loan accommodations, plans to repay the money were diverse, according to TransUnion.

The research showed that around 25% of them want to return to making regular payments and negotiate with lenders to increase the length of the loan, while 19% would like to continue the accommodation and 17% want to catch up by making bigger payments.

See related: Credit card spending rebounds from pandemic plunge

Delinquencies and hardship program situation surprisingly positive

Ted Rossman, industry analyst for CreditCards.com, said that in general, the outlook for delinquencies and hardship programs is surprisingly positive.

“Delinquencies have actually fallen during the pandemic and fewer customers than we initially expected have enrolled in hardship programs, plus many have already gotten back on track,” Rossman said.

For example, Chase reported that more than 90% of customers who exited their assistance program have remained current on their payments.

And, according to the ABA Banking Journal, “Bank card delinquencies fell 109 basis points to 1.52% of all accounts in the second quarter, declining to the lowest level on record. In the third quarter they were essentially flat.”

Rossman noted that government stimulus programs deserve a lot of credit, along with many consumers spending less and making debt payoff a priority.

“It seemed like the stimulus impact was starting to wane late in 2020, but Congress and the Trump Administration agreed on another round of stimulus right before New Year’s and the Biden Administration is intent on implementing an even larger program soon,” Rossman said.

Rossman said we’re not out of the woods yet, but there’s growing optimism that the worst has passed and we will not see nearly as many delinquencies and defaults as we did during the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

See related: What to do if your credit card is closed due to delinquency

Source: creditcards.com