Top Rewards Card and Loyalty Program Stories of 2014

As expected, this year brought considerable change to the credit card industry, particularly when it comes to rewards cards and loyalty programs. Here’s what made headlines in 2014:

TD launches Aeroplan credit cards

January 1st marked the beginning of a new partnership with Aeroplan as the loyalty company ended its exclusive agreement with CIBC and formed a new alliance with TD Canada Trust. CIBC sent about 550,000 of its Aerogold cardholders over to TD to complete the new three-way partnership.

TD mishandled the transition, however, as the bank failed to get cards to many of its new customers by the time their CIBC cards expired, and those who got their cards on time failed to receive the accompanying PIN until weeks later.

The highlight for those Aeroplan customers was the new TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card, which became the go-to card for Aeroplan collectors and frequent Air Canada flyers.

Air Miles expands redemption options

Air Miles promised a faster and better way to redeem reward miles when it introduced Air Miles Cash in 2012. But the lack of sponsors offering in-store redemptions hurt the ability to grow Air Miles Cash and reach its target audience – members who want to receive an instant reward.

That changed this year with the launch of its e-Voucher program, where Air Miles Cash collectors can go online to redeem their miles and get a voucher emailed to them for use at retailers like Safeway, Cineplex, iTunes, and Starbucks.

The program has expanded to include more in-store Air Miles redemptions at Safeway, Sobeys, Rexall, Metro, and Jean Coutu, to name a few.

Costco splits with Amex, partners with MasterCard and Capital One

Costco ended a 15-year marriage with American Express this summer as talks broke down south of the border between the wholesale giant and its long-standing credit card partner.

The writing was on the wall when marketing material for the popular TrueEarnings Card was pulled from stores and the card was closed to new applicants in July.

Two months later, American Express officially confirmed that its cards would no longer be accepted at Costco’s in Canada after December 31st, 2014 and that its co-branded credit card would be scrapped.

Just hours later, Costco and MasterCard announced a new partnership that would see MasterCard become the new exclusive credit card accepted at Costco’s across Canada.

It was also announced that Capital One would step in to offer a co-branded credit card that would replace the TrueEarnings Card – serving as both a credit card and a membership card.

Amex introduces new SimplyCash cards

Reeling after losing an exclusive deal with a major retail partner, American Express jumped into the cash back credit card space with the launch of its new SimplyCash credit cards.

With a bonus offer that cash back fans hadn’t seen since the glory days of the MBNA Smart Cash card, SimplyCash turned heads by giving 5 percent cash back on every purchase for six months, and 1.5 percent back on every purchase thereafter.

The no-fee version gives 1.25 percent back on all your spending, which is good enough to become the top no-fee cash back card on the market.

Visa, MasterCard lower interchange fees

Even after the competition tribunal said last year that retailers did not have the right to impose a surcharge on credit card transactions, small businesses continued to lobby the government for changes to what they consider to be unfair rules and rising costs.

New finance minister Joe Oliver listened and told Visa and MasterCard to “voluntarily” lower their interchange fees – the fees charged to retailers for credit card transactions – or face potential government regulations over the practice.

The credit card companies obliged, agreeing to lower the fees by about 10 percent where it will remain for a minimum of five years.

Final thoughts

The last two years have been interesting for the credit card and loyalty program industry – filled with acquisitions and turmoil as major partnerships ended and new ones began. The upheaval has largely been good for consumers, as banks and credit card issuer’s battle for share of your wallet.

Related: How I earned $1,555 in credit card rewards this year

Who knows what 2015 will bring, but perhaps the big story next year will be the launch of Tangerine’s long-awaited cash back credit card?

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