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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted society and the economy on a global scale like few other events in living memory. Even as we struggle to come to terms with the extent of the coronavirus pandemic’s human tragedy, its second-order effects are sure to be with us for years to come.
Financial companies large and small recognize the pandemic’s magnitude. While their chief focus in the near term is blunting the fiscal impact of the crush of loan delinquencies caused by spiking unemployment and falling incomes, they’re reacting in less visible ways as well.
One such response is a reasonably widespread adjustment to popular credit card rewards programs and fringe benefits packages. Well over a dozen credit cards — mostly premium travel rewards cards and business credit cards affected by sharp drops in tourism and business travel spending — have temporarily added new rewards categories (or increased existing rewards rates) and potentially valuable fringe benefits to reflect their newly homebound users’ changing spending habits. New cardholders can take advantage of many (though not all) of these new rewards and benefits, so there’s still time to get off the fence and apply if you’ve been considering a new card.
But don’t just sign up for the first card that sends you a mailer. First, take a detailed look at the best new credit card features and benefits for the COVID-19 era.
New Credit Card Perks & Benefits
Multiple credit cards from American Express, JPMorgan Chase, and Citibank have added temporary perks and benefits to their most popular rewards credit cards.
These American Express cards have added new perks, benefits, and credit opportunities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
The Platinum Card From American Express (Consumer & Business)
The Platinum Card® from American Express and its business-friendly cousin, the Business Platinum® Card from American Express, introduced some potentially valuable limited-time benefits. The consumer Platinum Card’s include:
- Up to $20 per month in statement credits against purchases made with select U.S. streaming services through December 2020
- Up to $20 per month in statement credits against purchases made directly with select U.S. wireless telephone service providers through December 2020
- For cardholders who renew their accounts before Dec. 31, 2020, up to $200 in general-purpose statement credits against purchases made through the Amex Travel portal.
These benefits complement an existing consumer Platinum perk for those spending more time at home: $15 in Uber credits per month (plus a $20 bonus Uber credit in December) that apply against UberEats food delivery purchases.
Meanwhile, the Business Platinum Card’s temporary benefits include:
- Up to $20 per month in statement credits against direct purchases with select U.S. wireless telephone service providers through December 2020
- Up to $20 per month in statement credits against U.S. shipping purchases through December 2020
- Up to $100 in bonus statement credits against U.S. purchases made with Dell Technologies through June 2020 and up to $100 in bonus statement credits against U.S. purchases made with Dell Technologies through December 2020 (for a total cumulative bonus credit of $200)
The Dell credit effectively doubles an existing Dell credit opportunity in place before the pandemic: up to $100 in statement credits against U.S. Dell purchases through June 2020 and up to another $100 in statement credits against U.S. Dell purchases through December 2020.
For more details on these cards’ rewards programs and benefits, see our Platinum Card from American Express review and our Business Platinum Card from American Express review.
American Express Green Card
The American Express green card offers up to $10 in statement credits per month against eligible U.S. wireless telephone service purchases through December 2020.
Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express card introduced two useful (and potentially valuable) perks for temporarily grounded cardholders:
- A Dec. 31, 2020, expiration date for any companion certificates scheduled to expire before June 30, 2020, regardless of issue date
- A six-month expiration date extension for any one-time guest passes to participating Delta Sky Club airport lounge locations (for instance, an original expiration date of June 30, 2020, becomes Dec. 30, 2020)
Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card
For a limited time, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express card has a nice little bonus for cardholders who’ve temporarily paused their travel plans during the pandemic: A $100 Delta flight credit that’s yours after spending $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year.
This promotion has no set end date, but it’s subject to change at Amex and Delta’s discretion.
Hilton Honors Amex Credit Cards (Consumer)
Hilton Honors points earned via spending on the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card and the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card through December 2020 count toward elite status qualification (including lifetime Diamond status). That’s a departure from the normal state of affairs, wherein only base points earned on eligible Hilton purchases — whether you make them with a Hilton Amex card or not — count toward elite status qualification.
Meanwhile, free weekend night certificates issued through Dec. 31, 2020, stay valid for 24 months from the issue date.
These JPMorgan Chase credit cards have added new perks and benefits as well:
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card has a very impressive lineup of temporary benefits:
- The $300 annual statement credit, generally reserved for travel, also applies to supermarket and gas station purchases through December 2020
- $100 off the annual fee (usually $550) for cardholders who renew their accounts before Dec. 31, 2020
- The Pay Yourself Back redemption option, which assigns a redemption value of $0.015 per point for statement credit redemptions made against purchases in select categories — initially restaurants, supermarkets, and home improvement stores, but subject to change — through April 2021. That’s a 50% boost to the usual redemption rate.
- From Nov. 1, 2020, through April 30, 2021, earn 3 points per $1 spent on eligible supermarket (grocery store) purchases, up to $1,000 in purchases per month. This temporary rewards category is available in modified form for Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders as well: 2 points per $1 spent on eligible supermarket purchases, up to $1,000 in purchases per month, during the same timeframe.
These temporary opportunities complement a raft of permanent Chase Sapphire Reserve perks and benefits rolled out in early 2020, including:
- A complimentary subscription to DoorDash DashPass through at least 2020, with benefits like free delivery on eligible DoorDash takeout (delivery) orders
- $60 in statement credits against eligible DoorDash purchases in 2020 and another $60 in statement credits against eligible DoorDash purchases in 2021
Pay Yourself Back on Other Chase Credit Cards
For a limited time, several other Chase credit cards have added Pay Yourself Back, albeit at a slightly less generous redemption rate than Sapphire Reserve. The following Chase consumer and business cards allow statement credit redemptions made against purchases at restaurants, supermarkets, and home improvement stores:
- Chase Ink® Business Preferred Credit Card, through Dec. 31, 2020
- Chase Ink® Business Plus Credit Card, through Dec. 31, 2020 (closed to new sign-ups)
- Chase Sapphire® Preferred Card, through April 30, 2021
- Chase Freedom® Credit Card, indefinitely (closed to new sign-ups)
- Chase Freedom Unlimited® Credit Card, indefinitely
- Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card, indefinitely
Freedom Flex is also noted for its quarterly rotating 5% cash back categories. Refer to our up-to-date Freedom 5% category list for more information.
These Citibank credit cards have added limited-time new perks and benefits:
Citi Prestige Card
You can apply the Citi Prestige card’s 2020 travel credit — worth $250 — to restaurant and grocery store purchases in addition to airfare, hotel bookings, car rentals, and other types of eligible travel. This offer is available only to current Citi Prestige cardholders.
See our Citi Prestige card review for more details about this card’s rewards program and benefits.
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
Current Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard cardholders earn a $225 statement credit upon account renewal. This perk is only available to accounts open as of March 31, 2020.
See our Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard review for more details on this card.
Pandemics don’t come with expiration dates. Infection rates might ebb and flow, and outbreak hotspots might come and go, but the COVID-19 era will be with us for a long time to come — at least until an effective vaccine is available at scale. Even then, COVID-19 will probably persist as a seasonal or regional menace. According to the CDC, measles caused more than 100,000 deaths worldwide in 2017 despite the widespread availability of a safe, effective vaccine.
As we all adjust to the new normal of the COVID-19 era, it’s fair to expect credit card issuers (and cardmembers) to do the same. That could mean more temporary or permanent changes to existing cards’ rewards programs and benefits packages, such as new rewards categories, sign-up bonus opportunities, and fringe benefits. Perhaps more exciting, it could also lead to entirely new cards that reflect long-term changes in consumer behavior and spending.
Do you have any of these credit cards in your wallet? Are their limited-time perks enough to keep you engaged, or are you shopping for a card that better suits your post-pandemic lifestyle?
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.