By Jason Steele


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Issue #14 of the Credit Card Reviews Industry Roundup touches on innovation, specifically which credit card companies are the most innovative through their products and why. Let's see which institutions lead the pack in the credit card perk/innovation race as we hit the halfway point of 2018:

Which credit card issuer do you think is the most innovative and why?

This week's contributors are Zina Kumok, Louis DeNicola, Eric Rosenberg, Ben Luthi, Jason Steele, and Robert Harrow:

Zina Kumok - Personal finance writer, speaker and author of Conscious Coins

I think Chase is one of the most innovative credit card companies. They always seem to have new products that target different types of consumers. I have their Southwest card which is perfect since I travel a lot. It's by far my favorite credit card. It's really easy to use, I never have an issue disputing a transaction and Chase has never let fraud slip past their fingers. When I'm out with my friends, I notice that most of us have Chase cards. If they're new to credit cards, they probably have a Chase Freedom card. If they're just starting to travel more, they use a Chase Sapphire Preferred card. I think Chase's willingness to serve every kind of customer makes them really popular. You can transition from a basic rewards credit card to a more sophisticated one just by using Chase products.

Louis DeNicola - Personal finance writer who works with Fortune 500 financial services firms

There are a lot of individual credit cards that are innovative in the programs and features they offer, but I think Discover stands out as one of the most innovative issuers. Partly because of the features they offer on their cards, like the ability to get cash back when making a purchase without paying a cash advance fee or higher interest rate. But there are also other cardholder benefits, such as the Social Security Number Alerts, FICO score tracking, and the ability to quickly freeze or unfreeze your card (although the latter two are more common offerings now).

Eric Rosenberg - Finance/travel writer and Owner of Personal Profitability

While it may not have the strongest rewards program, Barclays is the winner in terms of innovation in the credit card industry. While Capital One, Chase, and American Express each bring unique and innovative cards and rewards programs to the market, you can't beat the cutting edge, fun, and outside the box cards and rewards at Barclays today. For example, the Ring credit card has features voted on my its user community. While many companies listen to customer feedback, letting them choose the rewards and features puts Barclays in a class of its own. While that card does not offer rewards, it offers a great low-fee structure that makes annual fees, balance transfers, and foreign transactions all free.

Barclays also offers a fun range of partner branded cards that offer some unique rewards structures, such as the Uber card's 4% back on restaurants including delivery and some compelling airline offers. But even its own branded Arrival line of cards offers flexible redemption options many regular travelers can get a lot of value from without jumping through hoops or taking the time to investigate the best redemptions, something often required with other cards. They may not be the best cards for everyone, but Barclays cards are definitely innovative, and that is always something to get excited about in a finance industry better known for conservatism over innovation.

Ben Luthi - Credit card expert and personal finance writer

I'm constantly impressed with Discover, not because they're flashy, but because they have a lot of innovative ideas and features.

They're the only credit card issuer, for example, that offers a free FICO score to everyone, regardless of whether you're a customer or not. They're also one of the first issuers to create a "sign-up bonus" that encourages loyalty with their cashback match program. A lot of people go for the big upfront sign-up bonuses, but the cashback match is an amazing offer for big spenders.

Their secured credit card changed the standard of a good secured card from just not charging an annual fee to actually providing decent benefits.

Then there are other features, including their account freeze tool, Social Security number alerts, and its U.S.-based customer service. All in all, I think it's worth having a Discover credit card even if it's not your top-of-wallet card.

Jason Steele - Award travel journalist and credit card expert

There’s a handful of credit card issuers that are innovating, and a bunch that are just copying their competitors. The innovation that I like to look out for is the kind that actually benefits cardholders by offering more value and fewer fees. PenFed is the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, and it’s been doing some very innovating things with its products. It offers the Promise card with no fees on anything, including annual fees, foreign transaction fees, late fees, balance transfer fees and even cash advance fees.

This year, PenFed also released its Pathfinder American Express card which offers you 1.5 points on all purchases the chance to earn 4x points on all travel and commuter expenses but also a $100 annual air travel credit and a $100 TSA application fee credit, and this card has no annual fee. You have to be a member to apply for these cards, but there’s no military service required, so nearly anyone can qualify.

Robert Harrow - Product Manager in charge of the credit cards vertical at Value Penguin

Currently, for me it is a tie between Barclays and Discover. In terms of innovation, these two issuers stand apart from the pack.

Credit cards usually come in the same mold. There's a sign up bonus, some earn rate on everyday purchases, and the standard assortment of ancillary benefits (fraud protection, purchase protection, etc.). However, Discover is one of the few issuers out there that is breaking this trend. First, instead of a traditional signup bonus, they double the cash back members earn at the end of the first year. That's a great incentive for big spenders, and makes this card one of the most valuable rewards credit cards you can get (especially during that first year). Secondly, Discover provides dark web monitoring services. They will search through the underbelly of the internet to make sure your social security number isn't being sold on the black market. That's a unique and extremely useful feature in today's world, where data security is at the top of everyone's mind.

Barclays is another issuer worth paying attention to. The bank recently launched the Barclays Arrival Premier credit card, and it's one of the more interesting offers I've seen in awhile. While every other issuer seems to be coming out with their own $450 premium credit card, Barclays dared to something different. Their new card has an interesting tiered points system, that rewards loyalty and big spending over the lifetime of card membership. While most cards tend to give you the most value during the first 12 months, the new Barclays Arrival Premier is designed in a way to pack a punch for as long as you have it.


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