American Express has been one of the top issuers when it comes to meeting cardholdersâ 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 â 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:Â 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.Â
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 wonât 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 wonât 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 wonât 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, itâs 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 theyâll need to contact Amex to request a new card.
Is this a good time to apply for an American Express card?
If youâve been considering getting an Amex, now might be the perfect time â 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 CardMatchâ¢.
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.
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 â which is mostly based on credit card balances â was down $3 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis in December to $975.9 billion, according to the FedâsÂ G. 19 consumer credit reportÂ released Feb. 5.
In December, credit card balances were off 3.6% on an annualized basis, following Novemberâs revised 0.8% dip and Octoberâs 6.7% drop, which came on the heels of Septemberâs 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 quarterâs $1.704 trillion. And auto loan debt outstanding gained to $1.228 trillion, from the third quarterâs $1.219 trillion.
Total consumer debt outstanding â which includes student loans and auto loans, as well as revolving debt â 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 duringÂ 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 âsoftâ in the coming six months, they are less pessimistic than they were in September 2020 when the ABAÂ 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.
âAlthough 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,â said Rob Strand, ABA senior economist. âAs 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 Fedâs 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 âmoderate net share of banksâ reported that they had eased up on credit card loans.
As a result, a âmodest net share of banksâ also hiked up their credit limits on credit card accounts. And a âmoderate net share of banksâ reported that there was higher demand for credit card loans during the fourth quarter.
As for the outlook, a âsignificant net share of banksâ is expected to ease up on their standards for credit card loans. They are doing so in anticipation of an improvement in their loan portfoliosâ credit quality, as well as a hike in their tolerance for risk.
Also, the New York Fedâs 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 Novemberâs 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 Novemberâs 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. âThe labor market continued to reflect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it,â according to the Department of Laborâs 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, âCoupled 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 â a sign of discouragement â while household employment rose 201K.â
He added that âthe 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.â
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 TransUnionâs 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 fellÂ from a high of 3.73% in May 2020 to 2.42% in December 2020.Â
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.
âDelinquencies 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,â 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, âBank 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.â
Rossman noted that government stimulus programs deserve a lot of credit, along with many consumers spending less and making debt payoff a priority.
âIt 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,â Rossman said.
Rossman said weâre 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
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, major credit card issuers are offering relief to their customers.
Even though many places around the country are open, the pandemic continues to impact the U.S. economy. Workers are still at risk of being laid off or facing reduced hours or pay.
“This is a rapidly evolving situation and we want our customers to know we are here to provide assistance should they need it,” Anand Selva, chief executive officer of Citi’s consumer bank, said in a statement in Spring 2020.
At the same time, scammers are now trying to take advantage of coronavirus concerns by sending out fake emails about the virus that are designed to steal consumers’ personal and financial information or to infect their computers with malware.
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Many credit card issuers are allowing customers to opt into financial relief programs online. These programs are a convenient way to access short-term relief. But it could come with a long-term cost as many cardholders will continue to see interest accrue. With the average credit card interest rate sitting at 16.05%, cardholders might find more cost-effective relief through other options.
Here’s what issuers are currently offering:
Cardholders who are having difficulties can get assistance through American Express’s financial hardship program. Eligible cardholders have the option to enroll in a short-term payment plan, which provides relief for 12 months, or a long-term plan, which can provide relief for either 36 or 60 months.
Under both options, you will receive lower interest rates, plus waived late payment fees and annual fees. But you might not have access to certain card benefits and features.
If you enroll in the short-term plan, you might be able to continue putting new purchases on the card but with a reduced spending limit. If you are participating in the long-term plan, you will not be able to use the card.
Amex will report participating cardholders to the credit bureaus as current, assuming they comply with the program’s rules. But the program’s terms do offer some important caveats: Amex will inform the credit bureaus that you are enrolled in a payment assistance program (if you’re in the long-term plan). And under both plans, Amex will report that you have a lower credit limit.
While these factors do not have as much of an impact on your credit score as a delinquent account does, it could still signal to other lenders that you might be having some financial hardship.
Bank of America
Bank of America cardholders who have trouble paying credit card bills can request a credit card payment deferral by calling the number on the back of their card.
To qualify for payment assistance, cardholders must be carrying a balance, according to the website.
Bank of America sent an email to Preferred Rewards members in May 2020 stating that the company had temporarily suspended the annual program review process. Members whose assets dropped below the regular threshold to keep their status would continue to qualify for program benefits. It is unclear if Bank of America is still suspending this program.
Barclays urges credit card account holders to request payment relief online. As of May 4, 2020, the bank is granting payment relief for two statements, but interest will continue to accrue.
“We understand that this is a time of uncertainty for many people, and we know that there may be instances where customers find themselves facing financial difficulties. Capital One is here to help and we encourage customers who may be impacted to reach out to discuss how we might be of assistance,” the bank said in a statement.
In a March 26, 2020 update, Chairman and CEO Rich Fairbank confirmed that they are offering waived fees and deferred payments on credit cards for some cardholders.
Because each customer’s situation is different, the bank encourages customers to contact it directly. To contact Capital One customer service about an existing account, call (800) 227-4825.
See related: How to clean your credit card
Previously, Chase Bank stated that customers will be able to “delay up to three payments on your personal or business credit card” if needed, with interest continuing to accrue. The website currently does not specify how many payments cardholders can defer.
It also stated that active duty military members who are responding to a disaster might have access to additional benefits. Servicemembers can call the bank for more information.
In a letter to shareholders, the company’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, also promised to not report late payments to the credit bureaus for “up-to-date clients.”
See related: Chase offering limited-time bonus on food delivery for some cardholders
Citi customers who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic might be eligible for assistance. Previously, the bank was waiving payments and late fees for two consecutive billing cycles. However, Citi has ended its pandemic assistance program.
“Due to a significant and steady decline in enrollments, our formal COVID-19 assistance program has concluded and we will focus on providing assistance options to those customers financially affected by COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis. We continue to closely monitor the situation and will evaluate additional actions to support our customers and communities as needs arise,” a spokesperson for Citi said in an email.
During the bank’s pandemic assistance program, interest continued to accrue, but accounts that were current at the time of enrollment were not be reported as delinquent.
Discover will be extending relief to qualified customers who are experiencing financial difficulty caused by the spread of COVID-19.
“We encourage them to contact us by calling and are directing them to www.discover.com/coronavirus for phone numbers for each product line and other FAQs,” Discover said in a statement earlier this year. “We also can provide relief through our mobile text app, which connects a customer directly with an agent.”
Discover it Miles cardmembers can also put their miles towards their bill – including their minimum payment.
See related: What to do if you can’t pay your business credit card bill
Apple Card customers can enroll in an assistance program. Previously, cardholders could waive payments without accruing any interest. The website currently doesn’t specify if this is still the case.
Cardholders can defer payments for three billing cycles. Though interest will continue to accrue, enrolled cardholders will not receive late fees, and their accounts will be reported as current, as long as accounts were not delinquent at the time of enrollment.
Synchrony is extending relief to customers experiencing financial hardship. The company’s website previously stated that this could include payment relief for up to three statement cycles, while interest would continue to accrue. The website currently offers no specifics about what the issuer is prepared to offer.
Truist (formerly SunTrust and BB&T)
Previously, Truist offered payment relief assistance to customers with personal and business credit cards, among other products. As of April 14, it was willing to delay payments for up to 90 days. The website currently offers no specifics about what the issuer is prepared to offer.
Previously, impacted cardholders could defer monthly payments for two consecutive billing cycles. The company’s website currently does not specify what assistance cardholders can expect to receive.
See related: Coronavirus stimulus legislation doesn’t suspend negative credit reporting
ultimate guide to coronavirus limited-time promotions for more offers designed to help cardholders maximize rewards amid the coronavirus pandemic.