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The Making of a Rewards Credit Card

A behind-the-scenes look at how Zions Bank developed its new Premier Credit Card suite.

Ali Hardy Jun 26, 2019

As you look around the marketplace there are many travel reward credit cards to choose from. From trip cancellation insurance to automatic hotel upgrades, issuers boast bigger benefits and richer rewards than ever.

So when Zions Bank began the process of developing its new suite of premium credit cards*, the question was: What can we offer that’s different and better?

 “As we looked around the market and observed what issuers were doing, we noticed that the premium credit card segment was rich with rewards, but cardholders often had many hoops to jump through in order to take full advantage of the rewards they had earned,” says Ian Stewart, Product Manager of Bankcard Products & Services at Zions Bank.

In recent years, more consumers started choosing premium credit cards with enhanced benefits, rewards and perks. Consumers began to recognize the utility in paying an annual fee for access to increased overall value.

Stewart says this shift prompted a conversation internally at Zions Bank about building a better rewards credit card.

Rewards credit card feature #1: More redemption flexibility

As they examined the premium card landscape, Stewart and his team noticed that many travel rewards cards had multiple redemption restrictions.

“In many cases, access to the full value of the rewards was dependent on booking travel with a certain airline or travel site,” Stewart explains. “This process doesn’t allow cardholders to shop around and doesn’t necessarily represent the greatest value.”

With an emphasis on redemption flexibility, Zions Bank began the process of developing a card loaded with rewards, but that offered greater flexibility when it came to redemption.

“Our aim was to provide enhanced rewards, but to eliminate any obstacles to accessing the value of the credit card,” Stewart says. 

Rewards credit card feature #2: Offer experiences

As Stewart and his team continued their research — which included reviewing feedback from bankers and clients — they found a new wave of clients that were more concerned with experiences than possessions.

“Today’s travelers are more concerned with building a portfolio of unique memories, rather than amassing belongings,” Stewart says. “Recharging between flights in an airport lounge, becoming immersed in a foreign culture, embarking on a new adventure – these cards are built to create the types of experiences that make travel so compelling.” Features like airport lounge access, automatic travel reimbursement and lucrative rewards deliver on this vision.

Rewards credit card feature #3: Versatility

In the past, fee-based credit cards were thought to be an option only explored by affluent consumers. Stewart points out that Premium cards are no longer just about prestige, and instead focus on flexibility and value.

“We wanted our card to deliver more utility, rather than bells and whistles with little practical use,” Stewart explains. “Our objective was to make sure that cardholder benefits were embedded in everyday card use.”

The Zions Bank Premium Visa credit card suite offers three tiers for consumers to choose from: Premier, Elite and Reserve. Stewart says that these tiers are less about a specific income level or travel plans, and more about a choice that is most attractive to the individual customer.

Rewards credit card top feature #4: Earn rate

Once all the research and development was finished, Stewart said he believed they had developed a product that outperforms its competitors.

“If I could boil down our competitive advantage over other travel cards, I’d say it’s our no-hassle approach to delivering value. Cardholders can take advantage of the benefits they want without changing their spending behavior. Plus, our standard rewards earn rates of 1.5% and 2% on every purchase, make our cards really unique in this segment. Many issuers invest heavily in rich introductory offers. And while these bonuses are enticing, they’re very short-lived and don’t reflect our commitment to the long-term, everyday value of a premium card account with Zions Bank. Instead, we chose to invest in best-in-class ongoing rewards earn rates and easy-to-use benefits to eliminate the guesswork about whether a cardholder is receiving the value they signed up for.”

Learn more about the Zions Bank Premium Visa credit card suite and find out which card fits your lifestyle by using our credit card comparison tool to research the Premier, Elite and Reserve Visa cards.

*Credit Cards are subject to credit approval. Terms, conditions and restrictions apply. See a banker for details.

Ali Hardy is a freelance writer for Zions Bank.

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