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New Year’s Eve! Going into 2014

As 2013 is coming to a close, 2014 is an opportunity for a fresh start.

What I enjoyed and appreciated the most in 2013 was the higher than usual sign up bonuses between the credit card companies, to name a few: American Express Gold Rewards CardAmerican Express AeroplanPlus Gold CardBMO World Elite MasterCardScotia Momentum VISA Infinite Card. Canada is finally looking more competitive in this industry. Furthermore, more and more companies are waiving their first year annual fees, which is a good sign.

This is the time for companies to increase their market share, so I hope that the 2013 momentum will carry over into an even more competitive 2014.

I will give some recommendations to financial institutions, loyalty programs and the transportation industry:

1) Stop devaluations. First of all, 2013 was the year of devaluations. Many loyalty programs, including Air Canada (Tango), Air Miles (increasing points required for many rewards), Capital One (lowering cash back) only to name a few, have decreased the value of their brands and points systems. I already know many people who avoid loyalty programs all-together because they do not feel the program offers enough value for all the hassle that they need to go through, devaluations only solidifies their position. Instead, customers are price shopping by making purchases at places that offer the lowest price. For example, using third party websites like Priceline to book a hotel room, but not earning any points in the process. Or they book the cheapest available flight ticket, even if they do not even have a loyalty program associated with that airline.

2) Therefore, I would like to see loyalty programs and financial institutions make some bolder moves at improving their programs so that they can capitalize on a bigger market share. It always feels like companies are content with the market share that they already have and have no interest in expanding their brand and business. To me, it’s like they don’t even want to get more business to make more money. If companies don’t even want your business, then why would we even be interested in giving them our business?

3) I’ve been waiting for more transfer bonuses between programs. Aeroplan and RBC rewards had a few decent promotions this year. I was hoping that American Express Membership Rewards would step up their game, but not much luck.

4) As discussed at the top, hopefully credit cards sign-up bonuses will continue to increase and first year annual fees waived. 2013 was actually the year of the credit cards in Canada, we’ve seen some of the highest sign up bonuses ever and hopefully the trend will continue. You can keep track of some of the top credit card sign up bonuses here.

5) Higher cash back credit cards that have no annual fee. Canada is quite weak in this area of the market. But the weakness also means that the market share is up for grabs. If companies are looking to expand their business, there is a huge market waiting to sign up for decent cash back credit cards with no annual fees. Any company that wants to come out with a superior product will definitely increase their client base, hopefully they are smart enough to capitalize on this opportunity.

**6) I saved the most important for last. I hope to see improved safety and security for travelers. We’ve seen a fair share of significant accidents over the past year relating to travelling. I hope that improving safety and security is a top priority for every company and working closely with government entities.

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