AmEx Fights Back Against Credit-Card ChurnersBy
Lender in ‘hand-to-hand combat’ with Sapphire card, AmEx says
Card issuer focused on 6 percent revenue growth, CEO says
American Express Co. is looking to weed out customers who jump from credit card to credit card just for the sign-on bonus.
An increase in incentive bonuses has boosted so-called gaming by credit-card applicants looking for a quick reward, Doug Buckminster, president of global consumer services, said Wednesday at the firm’s investor day in New York. AmEx is using analytics to identify and “suppress” gamers, while creating offers that incentivize long-term loyalty, the company said.
AmEx sees an “opportunity to use our analytics and technology to surgically remove gaming and reinvest in higher-quality, more loyal new customers,” he said.
The lender is in “hand-to-hand combat” with JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Sapphire Reserve card as issuers sweeten rewards to attract new customers, Buckminster said. JPMorgan made a splash in August with its Sapphire Reserve card featuring an initial sign-up bonus of 100,000 points, drawing so many applicants it temporarily ran out of materials to mint it.
“What will be interesting to see not just with Chase but with other competitors is what happens when the short-term incentives are dried up or what happens if people game” the offers, AmEx Chief Executive Office Ken Chenault said at the event.
AmEx is also providing more sweeteners, offering customers of its Platinum card $200 of free Uber rides, while raising the annual fee, the company said this month. Users will also be able to earn quintuple rewards points at eligible hotels booked through the lender’s website.
American Express was battered last year after parting ways with its biggest co-brand partner, Costco Wholesale Corp., which accounted for 10 percent of AmEx cards in circulation. The lender also broke ties with Fidelity Investments. The firm trades for less than its 2014 closing price and slipped 0.7 percent to $79.04 Wednesday in New York.
At the event, Chenault laid out a scenario showing AmEx can increase per-share earnings for 2017 and beyond by 10 percent with revenue growth of 6 percent, while stressing that he wasn’t offering those figures as a new target.
During a question-and-answer period, analysts pressed as to whether the new scenario meant the company has lowered its outlook for revenue growth. AmEx had long sought to boost per-share profits by 12 percent to 15 percent on average over the long term, while targeting revenue growth of at least 8 percent.
“I think we’ve been crystal clear,” Chenault said. “The entire management team -- our strategy, our tactics -- is focused on 6 percent revenue growth.”