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United MileagePlus and Chase today announced they have extended their agreement to issue credit cards that earn United MileagePlus miles for ‘years to come.’
This is a bit earlier than anticipated, as their prior agreement wasn’t set to expire until next year, but it removes the possibility of another bank like Bank of America or Barclays picking up the United MileagePlus card business.
And it doesn’t sound like there are any big changes coming in the form of new products or benefits.
In the announcement, United said the existing MileagePlus Explorer and MileagePlus Club cards will continue to be offered, and that Visa is the official network of the cards, so don’t expect any new MasterCards to be in the mix.
There’s no word on Chase Ultimate Rewards mile transfers to United MileagePlus, but our sense is that’s going to stay unchanged as well, which would be good news.
This is pretty much what American Express and Delta did last year, when they renewed their agreement and made no real changes to the card products.
Given the direct global competition between Delta and United, there was about zero chance American Express would pick up the United business.
And Citi is tied up with American AAdvantage for now.
Barclaycard and Bank of America were the only other banks in any real position to grab United’s business from Chase, though given Chase’s scale it was hard to make a case United would leave them entirely.
But American AAdvantage could be a wild card.
Once American and US Airways merged, Citibank got the rights to offer brand new cards for the combined airline, while Barclaycard, which had offered US Airways cards, got the rights to offer American AAdvantage cards only to existing holders of US Airways cards.
The Citibank agreement ends in 2017 – just two years from now, and it’s possible American could award the business of issuing new cards to Barclaycard, while letting Citibank keep the accounts of its existing customers.
That kind of ping pong between the two banks could let American extract more favorable terms, and it could be better for consumers as a new bank like Barclaycard would fight hard to get you to switch from your legacy card with better benefits and introductory offers.
US Airways had a history of having two banks handling its cards, and its management is running the show at American now.
JetBlue will be moving its cards to another bank starting in December, and this month Amtrak Guest Rewards switched its card business over to Bank of America.
It’s early to call anything with American, but it’s worth watching the developments.
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