Credit Card Online Shopping Portal Survey 2012
We have just conducted a study of credit card online shopping portals. This post presents the results of our findings.
Executive Summary - Credit card online shopping portals offer a great way for consumers to save money from their credit cards either through earning more reward points or earning cash rebates. We have found that for the most parts, most portals are pretty similar in that they have a couple of hundred online merchant partners. Each also has their share of unique and exclusive merchant arrangements. Discover's online shopping portal (shopdiscover.com) stands out as the only portal to offer at least 5% rebates (most go as low as 1% or 2%) and though they have the least amount of merchant partners, they have the highest percentage of merchants with the highest rates compared to the other portals.
Methodology - To conduct this survey, we used the online shopping portals of the five major credit card issuers. They included Discover, Chase, Citi, Bank of America and Capital One. American Express does not really have an online shopping rebate portal. Discover's portal is called shopdiscover.com. Chase portal is part of their Ultimate Rewards program. Citi's portal is called Citi Bonus Cash Center. Bank of America's portal is called AddItUp and is also available to checking account holders via their debit cards. Capital One's online portal is called Perks Central. Only the Citi Bonus Cash Center allows you to see their merchant partners and rebates without the need to have a Citibank credit card. The rest of the programs required an actual credit card and to login into the account to access the information. Fortunately for us, our staff members collectively had cards from Bank of America, Capital One, Discover and Chase.
For each portal, we painstakingly listed all the merchant partners in a spreadsheet. We total up the number of merchant partners each portal had. We also counted the number of merchants in each portal that paid the highest rebates (or matched the highest) if other portals had the same merchant as their partners. This allowed us to compute the percentage of merchants with the highest rebates across all portals. This gave us a clue as to how competitive their offerings were to consumers relative to the number of partners they had.
We started gathering the data in mid December 2011 and the the final data was completed on January 20 2012.
Observations - Over the weeks when we are compiling the data, we noticed that the rebates paid out were changing. The reason was because of special holiday season offers. We also found out that the rebates also change after the holiday season. Another thing that we observed was that merchants were frequently dropped by one portal and picked up by another. For example, we noticed that Chase dropped quite a few merchant partners in January and other portals took them on as partners. These observations alone would suggest that we should not take numbers like total number of merchant partners and the rebates paid out as fixed. If you look that these on a monthly basis, they will be lots of changes.
As of the date of the study, there were approximately 980 merchants participating in the these credit card shopping portals. Chase had 360 online merchants, of which 91 of them offering the highest rebate (or matched the highest rates) among the other portals. Capital One's Perk Central had 351 merchant, of which 238 had the highest rebates. Bank of America's Add It Up had 528 merchants, of which 246 had the highest rebate rates. Citi's Bonus Cash Center had the highest number of merchants at 594. Discover had the least number of merchants (207). But out of the 207 merchant partners, 166 of them offered the highest (or matched the highest) rebate rates compared to its' peers.
Conclusion - With the exception of American Express, all the major credit card issuers offer an online shopping portal to their card members. This is great way for consumers to either earn extra reward points or cash rebates. All the portals have at least 200 merchant partners.
Two portals stood out in the survey. The first was shopdiscover.com. Though they have the least number of merchants, they had more merchants that paid the highest rebates compared to other portals. The minimum rebate that their cardholders get is also set at 5% (higher than any other portals). Most of their merchants are also mainstream brands.
The other portal that stood out was Citi's Bonus Cash Center. They simply had the most number of merchant partners. What made their program stand out was that that their cardholders could also earn rebates with certain off line stores as well. Because of the sheer number of merchants that they have partnered with, many of them are boutique niche type online stores (which cannot be found in Discover's portal).
Comparison among the other three is difficult because of the constant changes in merchant partners and rebate levels. All we would say is that with the exception of Discover (which has a minimum 5% rebate for all their merchants), choosing the best among the other portals is difficult for the reason mentioned above.
Cards That Participate In These Portals
Below are a list of cards that can have access to these shopping portals.
- Ultimate Rewards - Chase Freedom, Chase Sapphire, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Classic, Chase Ink Bold.
- Perk Central - Capital One MasterCard, Capital One No Hassle Cash Rewards, Capital One Venture Card
- Bank of America - You do not need a BOA credit card to have access to Add It Up program. Those with checking account and a debit card have access to the portal. All BOA credit cards have access to the portal
- Citi Bonus Cash Center - Citi Dividend Card, Citi Dividend Card for College Student
- ShopDiscover - Discover More Card, Discover Open Road Card, Discover Student More Card
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