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Business competition is good for consumers. We’ve been losing airline competition rapidly for the last five years as Northwest, Continental, and US Airways have been folded into Delta, United, and American. That’s been bad for us as fewer airlines means less capacity and fewer award seats.

But bank competition has been heating up, which has been excellent for us.

Case in point: Barclaycard.

Barclaycard now offers five rewards cards that I have or would consider getting.

  • Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases with 40,000 bonus miles after spending $1k in the first three months
  • The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard® with 40,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in the first 90 days
  • Lufthansa Miles & More World MasterCard (currently 20k bonus, but it went to 50k twice last year)
  • US Airways Premier World MasterCard (currently a 40k offer is floating around, which I explained how to get here)
  • Hawaiian Airlines card with 35k miles after spending $1k in the first 90 days (I could only access it by signing into my Hawaiian Miles account)

Even more than just having good cards, Barclaycard has been offering promotions designed to get us into the habit of using the cards regularly by:

  • offering limited time sign up bonuses
  • offering limited time category bonuses
  • offering limited time spending bonuses
  • denying applications for new cards from cardholders who don’t use their current Barclaycards

What has Barclaycard been up to? How can you take advantage?

It seems like Barclaycard has implemented a step-by-step system to get us to open and use their cards. And at each step, there are a lot of miles in it for us.

1. Limited time sign up bonuses.

Many cards have their sign up bonuses go up and down in value to some extent, but Barclaycard’s sign up bonus fluctuations have been extreme.

The Lufthansa Miles & More World MasterCard twice went from 20k miles to 50k miles last year. Both times the card went from afterthought to must have.

The The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard® went from 35k to 40k. It’s not a huge difference, but I wouldn’t spit on 5k Frontier miles.

The US Airways card just bumped its sign up bonus to 40k even. More details here.

In all these cases, the bumps were not permanent, but did redound to our benefit as miles collectors. If you stay on top of Barclaycard bonuses, you can snag the increased offers.

2. Bonus for meeting an ongoing minimum spending requirement.

All credit card companies attempt to get us into the habit of using their cards by tying sign up bonuses to minimum spending requirements. They hope that even after meeting the requirement, we’ll be so used to pulling out the card that we’ll continue to do so.

Barclaycard has gone a step farther and offered many account holders a second ongoing minimum spending requirement and bonus a few months after they’ve opened cards.

I’ve personally gotten the targeted offer by email and snail mail for 15k bonus miles after spending $750 per month for three straight months on my Lufthansa Miles & More World MasterCard (see here) and US Airways Premier World MasterCard (see here).

I think the theory behind these bonuses is to prolong the time period during which we use the cards for everyday spending in hopes that inertia will make the card our permanent every day card.

3. Temporary Category Bonuses.

Barclaycard has also been incredibly active with temporary category bonuses.

I’ve documented up to 7x category bonuses offered to select Arrival cardholders. The category bonus lasted for three months at gas stations, restaurants, and department stores.

A similar three month category bonus was offered to cardholders of the Lufthansa Miles & More World MasterCard who were offered 3x to 5x on select purchases.

Even the US Airways Premier World MasterCard got in on the act with a commentor saying he’d been offered 3x for three months on select categories.

As I’ve opined about category bonuses, banks offer them in categories where people believe they spend more than they actually do to make the value proposition seem even better than it is. (Cf. avialability heuristic.) Most people overestimate the value of category bonuses.

Barcalycard capped these category bonuses at 2,500 bonus miles, but that’s $30 to $50 in free travel for spending we’d already be doing.

4. Not Approving New Cards for Inactive Accounts

The last thing I’ve noticed with Barclaycard is a sharp increase in reports of people not being approved for multiple cards. Many people who have one or two Barclaycards that they use sparingly if at all have reported being told when they call the reconsideration line on a new application that they will not be approved.

It seems like the old “carrot and stick” ploy. On the one hand, we are offered the great rewards for continuing use of our cards that I discussed above. On the other, if we don’t take advantage, we can’t get new cards.

I’ve personally loved all of these Barclaycard tactics for two reasons:

1. I’ve benefited and earned an extra 60k miles from them:

  • 30k extra from the increased Lufthansa sign up bonus
  • 15k extra from the Lufthansa spending challenge
  • 15k extra from the US Airways spending challenge

2. We all benefit from the pressure these offers put on other banks to compete with equally compelling offers.

Have you noticed these phenomena in your dealings with Barclaycard? Are other issuers offering you similar deals? Have you used these new Barclaycard tactics yo your advantage to score more free travel?

 

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