Alaska Airlines Wins “Best Loyalty Credit Card”

Alaska Airlines won the award for “Best Loyalty Credit Card” thanks to voters at the Frequent Traveler Awards for its Visa Signature® card. Some of the perks that this credit card offers are 25,000 miles upon approval, attractive award levels when booking online and the ability to purchase a discount companion ticket of $99 once per year. This was the second year in a row that Alaska Airlines has been voted one of the best credit cards.

The Card

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® cardholders receive 25,000 miles upon approval and a discount code each year for the purchase of one roundtrip companion ticket for only $99. Amazingly, this perk is not limited by blackout dates or other travel restrictions. For every $1 cardholders spend on Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air tickets and Vacations packages, they earn three miles. For all other purchases, cardholders earn one mile for every $1 they spend. The airlines also offers award levels when booking online. With their user-friendly online booking, it’s easy for customers to see all their award-seat options for one-way and roundtrip flights.

Frequent Traveler Awards

The Frequent Traveler Awards were created by the Frequent Traveler Educational Foundation in 2010. The awards ceremony was held last week, when 1.3 million frequent fliers rated airline and hotel programs. These awards honor excellence in travel programs worldwide and include an airlines and hotel winner for each category in three different regions, including the Americas, Europe/Africa, and the Middle East/Asia/Oceania. This is the second year Alaska Airlines has been the favorite among voters in the category of “Best Loyalty Credit Card.”

About Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group, serve 90 cities between Alaska, the United States, Canada and Mexico.


Mobile Payment Wars: Credit Card Companies Arming for Battle

Payments are going mobile, and credit card companies do not want to be left behind. The big players are arming themselves to make sure that wherever the mobile payment field is headed, they get a little piece of the action.

Visa Invests in Square

Square is a mobile payment system that launched last May and allows anyone to accept payment through their mobile device. Square appeals to merchants who otherwise do not accept credit cards through a merchant account, such as small businesses, artists, or other vendors that want to avoid paying monthly fees to credit card companies. In the first three months of 2011 alone, Square processed $66 million in transactions. Not bad for a start-up company. But things are getting even better for Square as Visa announced this week plans to invest an undisclosed amount of money. In return, Visa gets a small piece of the action and has joined Square’s Board of Advisors.

Visa’s recent move will also open up new doors for the credit card company, as more merchants will be accepting credit cards for payment. According to the Central Penn Business Journal, this market includes some 27 million small businesses.

MasterCard in the Mobile Field

Visa isn’t the only company aiming to go big in the mobile payment field. MasterCard has been working its game since 2002 when it developed its PayPass system. PayPass-enabled cards contain a chip that allows shoppers to wave the card in front of a terminal in order to make charges. This takes advantage of a technology called radio-frequency identification, or RFID. The company now has 88 million PayPass cards and devices in use at nearly 300,000 merchant locations.

MasterCard is also teaming up with Google to allow Android users to make mobile payments. The Android device would contain everything a consumer needs, from being able to make payments to receiving offers and discounts after they make a transaction.

American Express Won’t Be Left Behind

As for American Express, it just launched Serve, a new payment network that lets people pay each other online through mobile phones or at merchant locations. Serve users manage their accounts through a smart phone app or with a prepaid card. Users can transfer funds from their debit cards, bank accounts or credit cards.

American Express also plans to partner with the start-up mobile payment company called Payfone, which also enables users to pay through their mobile phones.


Americans Shopping for Credit Cards — Again

According to the results of a recent survey by comScore, the findings reveal that Americans are feeling more optimistic about the economy. The optimism seems to be leading Americans to take on more debt. According to the comScore study of almost 2,000 Internet users and a research panel of 1 million U.S. consumers, 34% percent of respondents said they were feeling more confident about the economy. About 20% of survey respondents shopped around for a new credit card last year. There were several important factors consumers looked for most frequently when credit card shopping.

Primary Feature

According to survey respondents, the primary importance was a low interest rate. It seems to indicate that while consumers are once again looking to take on debt, they want to do so at the lowest interest rate possible. About 38% stated a low interest rate as the most important factor in choosing a credit card.

Second and Third in Importance

After a low interest rate, the next most significant feature credit card consumers are seeking is a card without an annual fee. Approximately 25% of survey takers said that they are looking for credit cards that come without an annual fee associated with it. Coming in third as the most important factor for choosing a credit card is a rewards program. About 16% of the survey respondents cited this as the most important factor when deciding on a credit card.

Consumer Spending Behavior

Sentiments on the economy apparently are not stopping short with applying for new credit and new credit cards either. A MasterCard survey in December 2010 also revealed that 61% of customers said they had not intentions on cutting back on spending in 2011. Of shoppers earning $100,000 to $150,000, 73% said they would not cut spending. So far, consumers are keeping true to their word, which is resulting in a return to applying for credit cards.


Wells Fargo and Chase Introduce Microchip Credit Cards in U.S.

It appears the U.S. is finally making an effort to catch up with other countries in the implementation of microchip-embedded credit cards, also known as EMV-chip technology. Wells Fargo & Co. announced Wednesday that they will test EMV chip cards with 15,000 customers who travel abroad frequently. On Thursday, JPMorgan Chase announced that it would add a chip to its high-end Palladium card.

The U.S. has lagged behind countries such as Japan, Mexico, China, Brazil and most European countries that have already made the conversion from magnetic strips to microchip-embedded credit cards. American Express Blue cards originally offered microchip credit cards, but without the necessary payment infrastructure at U.S. ATMs and merchants, the feature was unpopular. Fearing a drop in credit card applications, American Express replaced the chip with RFID, the technology that allows payment by holding the credit card near a reader, in 2005.

Microchip Versus Magnetic Strip Credit Cards

EMV technology has already become the standard throughout Europe and other countries because it provides heightened security and protection against fraudulent charges. It is beneficial to every party involved, including consumers, retailers and credit card issuers. Every in-person transaction requires a PIN. One reason the U.S. has fallen behind is that U.S. issuers have focused on RFID technology — also known as PayPass or Blink — instead, hoping to drive credit card applications.

U.S. Travelers Face Difficulty

Almost 10 million American travelers had trouble using credit cards in 2008, costing about $4 billion in lost transactions and $447 million in lost revenue for card issuers, according to Bloomberg News. In some cases, consumers can show identification to verify the card is indeed theirs, but many European retailers simply refuse to accept credit cards without the microchip. Additionally, travelers have faced difficulty using the ever-growing number of automated kiosks in Europe, many of which only accept microchip-embedded credit cards. As discussed in other articles, credit cards are often the most convenient payment method for travelers and it is not the smartest idea to travel with a large amount of cash.