Credit Card Basics

5 Things Credit Card Companies Don’t Want You to Know

Last week, the Experian team attended the inaugural CardCon Expo, a conference for people who work in or write about the credit card industry. While it was mostly a chance for us to discuss the nuts and bolts of covering the rapidly-changing credit card landscape, I sussed out these five nuggets of information that consumers will find useful:

1. Robust credit card rewards aren't going anywhere.

Credit card rewards have been especially rich lately, peaking last year with Chase's 100,000 points signup bonus offer on its Sapphire Reserve card. But is this sustainable? Representatives from PenFed Credit Union, Barclaycard, Discover and Capital One agreed that while mega bonuses like the Chase offer probably won't continue (Chase has already dropped the bonus to 50,000 points), card issuers are committed to offering competitive rewards that help retain customers.

"I do think it's sustainable," said Rachana Bhatt, managing director of U.S. branded consumer products for Barclaycard. "I don't see regulation changing on the credit card side. The 100,000 bonus miles that Chase was doing—that is pretty difficult to sustain. But providing rewards for our customers—that's how we're going to build loyalty." Check out the best rewards cards here.

2. Your credit card issuer pays attention to what you say.

Unhappy with one of your credit card products? Don't like the features, benefits, terms or other requirements? Tell your issuer. While it may seem like your complaints are going into a void, the people responsible for these products are listening closely to customer feedback—and evolving their products to reflect it.

"My day starts with the consumer," said Laks Vasudevan, the vice president of products and innovation for Discover, who starts each morning reading emails with comments from cardmembers. If you're unhappy with something, you can count on the fact that the credit card company wants to know.

"I really pay attention to negative feedback," said Eric Bahl, director of product and channel development at PenFed Credit Union. "We dive into the negative feedback and issues that people have and tie them to what we're doing to improve in an actual project log."

3. Look for a new travel rewards card from PenFed Credit Union this winter.

PenFed Credit Union is one of the most consumer-friendly financial institutions around, and they are about to add to their credit card offerings. The credit union's current travel rewards card from American Express offers five points per dollar spent on airfare and one point on everything else.

Because PenFed can't offer cards that reimburse baggage fees or come with other airline perks, Bahl says they are looking for "creative ways to add nominal value to compete with airline cards." While PenFed is keeping a tight lid on the details, consumers can expect a tiered-reward travel card to debut sometime this winter (think the ability to earn points on everything from Uber rides to airfares, at various levels of earning).

4. If you're worried about your credit score, pay attention to three things.

The world of credit scoring can be confusing. But you don't have to sweat the details, says Barry Paperno, a credit industry veteran who now educates consumers at

"There are three things to remember: pay on time, keep balances low and only open new credit when you need to," said Paperno. "That's really all you need to know about credit scores."

Paperno added that the responsibility of managing your credit report and score lies squarely on the consumer's shoulders—no one else is going to do it for you, he explains. So get your free Experian credit report today, if you haven't already.

5. There is one consumer behavior that tells lenders a lot—so avoid it.

Sarah Davies, senior vice president for product management and analytics at VantageScore Solutions, shared an important insight in the closing address at CardCon.

"One behavior identifies 91% of predictive behaviors," said Davies. "Out of consumers who have been late on one payment in the last two years, 77% of them are going to default again."

Late payments can also stay on your credit report for up to seven years.

The bottom line? Don't make late payments if you want to set yourself up for the best lending rates and products.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.
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