Credit card reward programs may be racing frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty programs to their finish, according to recent news reports. For months, banking industry analysts have speculated that new credit card regulations and proposals to limit interchange fees could hinder banks' ability to fund splashy reward programs. However, economic pressure on the travel industry has made many once-standard perks harder to redeem. For instance:
- Traditional airlines have added redemption fees to frequent flyer reward tickets that often cost close to similar trips on discount airlines
- Cash-strapped hotels have refocused loyalty rewards around special experiences and services instead of free nights through affinity credit card usage
- Retailers, including Home Depot and Sony, have scaled back or eliminated product reward redemption programs
Personal finance experts advise prospective credit card shoppers to evaluate their overall purchasing patterns before making decisions about reward credit cards. For many cardholders, funneling most transactions through a single credit card with a cash back rebate program still offers the best value.