Credit card “versioning” to target different user segments

American Express recently launched two versions of its Blue Cash Card.  The Blue Cash Everyday has tiered reward levels (3% at supermarkets, 2% at gas stations and drug stores, and 1% on other purchases) and carries no annual fee.  Blue Cash Preferred features higher reward levels (6% at supermarkets, 3% at gas stations and drug stores, 1% on other purchases), but carries a $75 annual fee.

This continues a trend seen in recent months, with leading credit card issuers launching different versions of the same card, with one version offering greater rewards and/or bonuses, as well as higher annual fees.  These leading issuers believe that heavy credit card users will be willing to pay the annual fee in exchange for the potential to earn the greater rewards.  These heavy spenders generate significant interchange income for the issuers.

The following table is a comparison of different versions of the same card, which have recently been introduced.  In most cases, the premium card offers higher reward levels as well as bigger incentives (for their first purchases, reaching spending thresholds, or for anniversaries).  And in the case of Citi, there is also variation in the APR for its three ThankYou cards.

As credit card issuers seek to generate additional noninterest income, we should expect to see more credit card versioning.  Issuers must carefully set pricing, rewards and incentives for the different versions of the cards, and clearly communicate the benefits of each version to appeal to different cardholder segments.