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Cash back credit card offers at highest level since 2007

By , CardRatings contributor
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Cash back rewards have crept into credit card offers with the highest frequency since 2007, according to analysts at Mintel Comperemedia. Nearly one in four credit card solicitations sent between January and April of 2011 contained some kind of cash back offer, even on airline credit cards and other accounts that don't normally offer cash incentives.

The temptation of cash

Researchers found that three in five credit card offers use some kind of special incentive to lure new cardholders. Although 23 percent of credit card offers dangled cash in front of prospective applicants, 25 percent of solicitations featured frequent flier miles and hotel points. Affinity credit cards from retailers and other service providers rounded out the special offers Mintel's team found online and in consumers' mailboxes.

Credit card issuers have leaned on special offers even more in the past year, especially compared to offers Mintel studied in 2007. Five years ago, only 1 percent of credit card offers presented cash back rewards. However, today's rewards often offset balance transfer fees that many banks added since restructuring their consumer lending policies.

Mintel's study cited Chase credit cards as some of the most ambitious offers during the first half of 2011. Having shed many of the subprime accounts it inherited after its acquisition of Washington Mutual, Chase stepped up its hunt for affluent consumers with varying bonus offers and cash back rewards offers for new card holders on a new Chase Freedom® account and an offer of bonus Avios for the British Airways Visa Signature Card after meeting spend requirements within the first three months the account is open.

Credit card companies work to keep customers

In a statement to reporters, Mintel Comperemedia spokesperson Andrew Davidson said that a growing number of consumers have started to apply for credit cards they don't intend to use for very long. Davidson said that credit card issuers may have to work harder to retain new account holders after the terms of the initial offer have expired. Many special rebate deals require cardholders to meet purchasing goals in their first 90 days, enough time to win loyalty through customer service and online banking features.

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