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Responsible Credit Card Use Phenomenon

Is it just me or have credit card companies been on a big “responsible credit card use” bandwagon lately? I think credit card companies, with the pending credit card legislation, have been on this responsible use kick because they see consumers in a bit of a revolt.

For years, cheap credit has fueled American consumption and lenders have been eager to feed that hunger. Now that the average household credit card debt [3] has become less of a trivia statistic and more of a sobering reminder of our economy’s fragility, I think credit card companies are responding to what the climate is demanding – more financially responsible credit cards.

It makes perfect business sense too. Rewarding someone for good behavior and paying on time is better for the customer and the company. While it’s great to collect fees, I think it makes better business to just be a responsible partner in the relationship. Borrowers don’t walk out on their responsibilities, lenders don’t gouge their customers because they think they’ll default, and everyone is happy.

If you don’t believe the trend, here are some examples…

Discover Rewards Debt

The first case was Discover and their Discover Motiva card. The major appeal was to consumers with credit card balances because you get 2 months of interest back when you pay on time each and every month. This was coupled with a 3.99% introductory APR on balance transfers for twelve months, which isn’t as awesome as a 0% balance transfer [4], but certainly tailored to people carrying balances and getting them to repay on time.

Citi Lowers APR for On-Time Payment

Then, if my memory serves me correctly, next was Citi rolling out their Citi Forward card. The Citi Forward offered a 0.25% APR reduction when you pay on-time for three months plus 100 points to the ThankYou Network [5]. The APR discounts were cumulative up to 2%. There is also a 0% promotional APR for six months to lighten the debt load.

Chase Blueprint

Next up, we have Chase offering up their whole Chase Blueprint program [6] with their four different ways of paying (Full Pay, Split, Finish It, Track It). It coincided with a whole rebranding of their credit card lineup so that their cards had fancy names like Slate, Sapphire, and Ink (probably more).

The program doesn’t reward you the same way Citi and Discover does, by giving you APR reductions, but it does put you on a structured path towards debt repayment.

American Express Charge Cards

Finally, American Express has been heavily promoting their line of charge cards [7] as a way to help people spend responsibly. They’re even getting consumers into the design phase of a card with their new American Express Zync [8] card and it’s various cashback “packs.”

(I think the trend is especially pronounced because I watch a lot of television on Hulu.com and I spend a lot of time online. I see the same ads repeated over and over again. Lately, the Chase Blueprint and the AMEX Charge ads have been everywhere)

I like where the trend is going and I’m eager to see some features that reward consumers who don’t have credit card debt. Have you seen this trend too? What do you think about it?