PNC revamps credit card portfolio to focus on relationship rewards

Earlier this week, PNC introduced three new rewards credit cards, with bonus rewards tiers for cardholders who also have specific PNC checking accounts. This relationship rewards approach builds on PNC’s existing PNC Points program, which enables customers to combine points earned on credit card and debit card spending, as well as on various banking activities. Two of the three new cards are also in the PNC Points program; the other offers a cash rebate.

While Citi’s ThankYou Network is frequently cited as the archetypal relationship rewards program, PNC’s bonus rewards concept has more in common with the Chase Exclusives program. Both programs provide bonus earnings for their checking account customers, and underscore the primacy of the checking account as the key relationship product for banks. It is also notable that all three banks have built their relationship rewards programs using a card-based points architecture.

With the Federal Reserve’s proposed cap on debit card interchange, many leading banks have announced the discontinuation of rewards on debit card spending. From a relationship perspective, this means that some banks are refocusing attention on the checking account itself, rather than the plastic attached to it. In the case of PNC, it is telling that the level of bonus reward is based on the checking product owned, each with different minimum balance requirements (e.g., 50% bonus with PNC Performance Checking Account; 75% bonus with PNC Performance Select Checking Account).