The bundle gets bundled

“If American Express can offer their users a one-year subscription to the Calm app, why not a one-year subscription to The Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, or your local McClatchy paper?”

Do you know how many digital subscriptions you have? When’s the last time you scanned your credit card statement? As recurring charges pile up, it’s easy to miss one of the biggest subscription costs out there: your credit card itself.

For one annual fee, many credit cards wrap up incentives to keep your spend with Chase, American Express, or Citi. Those “incentives” are expanding rapidly. Chase added DoorDash, Lyft, and Peloton credits to some cards this year. American Express is expanding its deal with Uber and Soulcycle/Equinox. And that’s before you get to co-branded cards that carry loyalty to a particular hotel chain, airline, or bank.

With each new product and adjustment to old ones, credit card companies are building their own bundles, nudging customers to a set of select brands, many of which have higher Net Promoter Scores than their own.

My prediction: Credit card companies will add a news subscription to their mega-bundles. If American Express can offer their users a one-year subscription to the Calm app, why not a one-year subscription to The Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, or your local McClatchy paper?

What’s in it for news publishers? A ton of new leads, complete with credit card numbers and email addresses on file. Most companies look at partnerships like this as a marketing cost: Hook some new subscribers for a period of time at a discount, and once the incentive goes away, some percentage of users will stay on. No doubt the first few attempts will be aimed mostly at determining the quality of the leads and how to position them among existing subscribers.

The strike against such a prediction is that credit card companies may not want to be seen as playing news favorites in an era of political polarization. Many publishers also aren’t set up technically to onboard new subscribers in bulk like this. And, of course, some publishers may not like being the fourth bullet point behind DoorDash, Lyft, and Peloton in a marketing email.

While my prediction is tilted toward bigger spenders with fancier cards and high annual fees, a partnership should also explicitly include those with lower-tier cards, no credit, and those who are unbanked. Given the public service mission of many publications — and the not-great track record of many credit card companies in serving low-income Americans — there’s just as much of an opportunity to get high-quality, factual information in front of those who can least afford it.

Ryan Kellett is senior director of audience at The Washington Post.

Do you know how many digital subscriptions you have? When’s the last time you scanned your credit card statement? As recurring charges pile up, it’s easy to miss one of the biggest subscription costs out there: your credit card itself.

For one annual fee, many credit cards wrap up incentives to keep your spend with Chase, American Express, or Citi. Those “incentives” are expanding rapidly. Chase added DoorDash, Lyft, and Peloton credits to some cards this year. American Express is expanding its deal with Uber and Soulcycle/Equinox. And that’s before you get to co-branded cards that carry loyalty to a particular hotel chain, airline, or bank.

With each new product and adjustment to old ones, credit card companies are building their own bundles, nudging customers to a set of select brands, many of which have higher Net Promoter Scores than their own.

My prediction: Credit card companies will add a news subscription to their mega-bundles. If American Express can offer their users a one-year subscription to the Calm app, why not a one-year subscription to The Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, or your local McClatchy paper?

What’s in it for news publishers? A ton of new leads, complete with credit card numbers and email addresses on file. Most companies look at partnerships like this as a marketing cost: Hook some new subscribers for a period of time at a discount, and once the incentive goes away, some percentage of users will stay on. No doubt the first few attempts will be aimed mostly at determining the quality of the leads and how to position them among existing subscribers.

The strike against such a prediction is that credit card companies may not want to be seen as playing news favorites in an era of political polarization. Many publishers also aren’t set up technically to onboard new subscribers in bulk like this. And, of course, some publishers may not like being the fourth bullet point behind DoorDash, Lyft, and Peloton in a marketing email.

While my prediction is tilted toward bigger spenders with fancier cards and high annual fees, a partnership should also explicitly include those with lower-tier cards, no credit, and those who are unbanked. Given the public service mission of many publications — and the not-great track record of many credit card companies in serving low-income Americans — there’s just as much of an opportunity to get high-quality, factual information in front of those who can least afford it.

Ryan Kellett is senior director of audience at The Washington Post.

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