Access to ExcessYou may not know this, but credit cards don’t only get cardholders cash-back or help them earn frequent-flier miles. Credit card companies are increasingly partnering with different venues and organizations to offer cardholders VIP access to sold-out concerts, in-demand sporting events, fashion shows and much more. Issuers say experiential offerings are in response to requests from their customer base.
“Through our regular dialogue with card members about what types of benefits they would like to receive, the idea of access came to be,” says Terry O’Neil, executive vice president of Citi Cards. He explains that while Citi (Stock Quote: C) has offered experiences since 2006, traffic to its Private Pass website where the VIP packages, preferred seating and pre-sale events tickets are sold has increased exponentially during the past few years.
“It’s mission critical to tap into what matters most to our card members,” echoes Jennifer Murillo, vice president of brand communications for Discover Financial Services. Murillo says Discover’s (Stock Quote: DFS) existing partnerships are determined through market research and validated through the responses it receives once the events are publicized.
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How Do I Earn Experiential Rewards?These experiences are available to consumers in a variety of ways. Some are associated with specific cards, branded by whichever partnership is paving the way for the offering. The MLB Extra Bases Rewards Card from Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC), for instance, lets cardholders redeem the points they earn toward special events with team members, VIP tours of stadiums, or the opportunity to throw out a game’s ceremonial first pitch.
Other experiences are available to all cardholders and can be purchased with points or dollars through online platforms. Citi has Private Pass, Amex (Stock Quote: AXP) promotes packages on its Entertainment Access website and Chase (Stock Quote: JPM) uses lets cardholder shop online at Inside Access from Chase. Other events are branded as “Invitation Only” and are offered to premier or elite cardholders as they become available during the year either on card-specific websites or through email.
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Pay to PlayCurtis Arnold, founder of CardRatings.com, agrees that though experiential rewards have been around for a while, they are now starting to grow in popularity. Some of this has to do with an improvement of offerings that resulted as a need to remain competitive in an increasingly crowded market space.
“We’ve gotten over airline miles,” Arnold says. “The more options you can give consumers, the better.”
Additionally, Arnold explains, more organizations are co-sponsoring events or branded credit cards in order to leverage the credit card industry’s customer base, which, in many instances, includes millions of people. However, he adds, consumers shouldn’t necessarily just opt for every VIP package they see, since it can often be difficult to determine what experiences are worth the number of rewards points (or dollars) they require.
“Do the math and don’t get caught up in the sexiness of the gift,” he says, suggesting that customers stick to seeking out VIP experiences that resonate with them.
Read on to find out what types of events your credit card can grant you access to.
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Olympic EventsCapital One lets those who have its USA Water Polo branded Platinum Visa use rewards points towards a London Olympics package that includes tickets for two to USA Water Polo games (both men and women) as well as the opening ceremonies for the games.
A spokeswoman from Capital One says "friends and family hospitality" and a "meet and greet" with the members of the USA Water Polo Men's and Women's Teams is also included in the package. Accommodations and transportation, however, are not.
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FootballFootball fans can use their cash-back bonus, Discover card or both to purchase a $225 Orange Bowl package that includes a premium sideline ticket to the game, a pass for a Discover tailgate party, a sneak peek at the half-time show the night before the game and access to the fan zone the day of. The Orange Bowl will be played on Jan. 4 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
The National Football League Extra Points Visa from Barclays (Stock Quote: BCS) lets cardholders use points on exclusive game tickets, VIP experiences and NFL merchandise. Additionally, the issuer charges no interest on single-game or season-ticket purchases of $500 or more if you make minimum payments on time and pay the balance in full within six months.
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Holiday EventsAmex is offering its Platinum and Centurion cardholders the opportunity to take in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while enjoying breakfast from the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square. Afterwards, they can enjoy dinner at a restaurant in Manhattan and have their photo taken with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall before watching the Radio City Christmas Spectacular from prime seats. The experience costs $1,500 per person or 187,500 Membership Rewards points and is on sale now on Amex’s Invitation Only website.
Chase also offers customers a chance to take in the parade from the seventh floor of the Museum of Arts & Design in Columbus Circle. The package, which is currently sold out, includes a buffet breakfast and costs $125.
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Culinary EventsFoodies can also gain access to in-restaurant cooking classes, exclusive tastings and VIP access at upcoming food festivals as a cardholder. Citi, for instance, is currently letting cardholders purchase a cooking lesson for nine people at Valbella Ristorante in New York City. Pricing varies and will be determined after discussion of custom menu choices with Valbella.
Amex is offering all card members the opportunity to receive a sommelier lesson with Joshua Wesson in various cities over the next few months for $25. Its Platinum and Centurion members can pay $1,350 per person or 168,750 membership rewards points to attend a white truffle tasting with Chef Thomas Keller at Per Se in New York.
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Film FestivalsAmex is currently partnering with the Tribeca Film Festival and putting on indie film screenings in the Rialto Theater in Westfield, N.J. Tickets cost between $8 and $12 and some screenings are followed by a Q&A with filmmakers and stars, including Abigail Breslin and Dennis Farina.
Film fanatics looking to attend the Sundance Film Festival can do so if they have a Chase Sapphire credit card, but they’ll have to hold out until 2013. A spokesman for Chase says packages for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, which include hotel accommodations, festival credentials, passes to several screenings and invitations to an exclusive dinner event and a post-screening party, sold out in 45 minutes last week. The package costs $3,500 or 350,000 rewards points.
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Amusement ParksDiscover has partnered with Six Flags Entertainment, which has 19 amusement parks in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, since 2010. Through the partnership, all Discover cardholders receive a 5% discount when purchasing admission tickets, season passes, food, retail, games and attractions with their card.
Cardholders also receive expedited entrance to the theme parks and exclusive access to "Coasters After Dark" events, which allows them to enjoy the parks after regular operating hours on select dates throughout the season, or “Discover Preview Days,” which grants special access to parks at a discounted price before its official opening day.
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ConcertsCiti partners with LiveNation to offer its cardholders pre-sale tickets and VIP access to shows. Artists featured on Private Pass have included The Police and Lady Gaga. You can currently purchase premium seat tickets to Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, Guns N’ Roses and Jane’s Addiction.
Amex is currently offering pre-sales on preferred seating tickets to see Andrea Bocelli and Paul Simon.
Photo Credit: TJ Senge
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