Today’s post is a fun one. It’s a look back at legendary credit cards that no longer exist.
Banks discontinue credit cards for a bunch of reasons. New contracts get signed with partners. Sometimes cards just don’t have enough of a user base to make them worthwhile. Marketing strategies change. But sometimes banks axe cards because they are so broken that they become wildly unprofitable (for the banks.) It the latter cards that we’re looking at today.
You can’t get any of these credit cards anymore. This is just a fun look back at credit card products that used to exist.
Citi Drivers Edge – 12% on Gas, Groceries, Drugstore
This no-annual-fee card started out strong with a 6% rebate on grocery store, gas station and drugstore purchases for the first 12 months. After the first year, you would earn 3% in the card’s bonus categories. Those kind of earnings alone would make this a stellar credit card, especially with no annual fee.
But the card’s killer feature could double these cash back earnings. Citi matched all of your rewards with a 1 cent rebate for each mile you drove. So if you earned $100 of cash back rewards and drove 10,000 miles, you’d end up with $200 in cash back rewards.
When this card was out, around 2006, I had just purchased a Toyota Prius and was driving about 25,000 miles per year. This was my go-to card for gas and groceries. Since my car was relatively efficient, I purchased gas gift cards for friends sold them at slightly less than face value.
How people broke it: Gas stations, grocery stores, and drugstores all sold a variety of gift cards. And you can make a healthy profit off of many gift cards, given a 12% rebate. Some people figured out that you could have multiple vehicles attached to the card. And, as far as I know, Citi was not verifying the copies of the service records I sent in. So, if you managed a fleet of vehicles, or were lacking in scruples you could get 12% back on a lot of spending in the first year.
Chase AARP – 5% Everywhere
I became an AARP member when I was 22. Not because I hit it big in my first engineering job after college and was ready to retire. But because Chase offered a credit card with 5% rewards everywhere, exclusively to AARP members. 5% was a great cash back earning rate to get on select category purchases. Getting a single credit card that earned 5% everywhere was well worth the $12 AARP membership fee.
The current version of the AARP Rewards credit card is issued by Barclays. It offers 3% back at gas stations and drug stores, 2% back on medical expenses and 1% back elsewhere. Not nearly as compelling.
How people broke it: Chase likely intended this card to be used by seniors who would occasionally pull it out to pay for groceries and gas. Or maybe they assumed that seniors on fixed-incomes wouldn’t be able to pay their bills and the bank would make some serious money on finance charges. Either way, this card didn’t work out as expected. When people on FlyerTalk and FatWallet (a now defunct personal finance forum) figured out that you could pay $12/year and become an AARP member, the 5% AARP card was not long for this world.
Old Blue Cash – Uncapped 5% on grocery stores
Amex offered several iterations of the Blue Cash card, but the most legendary is referred to as “Old Blue Cash.” This most lucrative variant earned 1% on “everyday purchases” and 0.5% on “other purchases.” At least until you hit $6,500 in spending during your cardmember anniversary year. Then you’d earn 5% on “everyday purchases” and 1% on everything else.
How people broke it: Amex was probably okay with people getting 5% cash back on a few hundred dollars of groceries each month. But they certainly weren’t okay with people getting 5% back on a few hundred thousand dollars of groceries each month. Eventually, Amex changed the product to award 5% cash back on only the first $50,000 of grocery store purchases. Today, the card’s great-great grandchild is the Blue Cash Preferred, with carries a $95 annual fee, but has its 6% grocery rewards capped at $6,000 of spending a year.
Other cards I remember, but the details are fuzzy
There are a few other credit cards that I remember having, but the details are fuzzy and I can no longer find information about them online. Here’s what I remember.
- U.S. Bank Radisson cards – I remember these cards as either fee-free or very low annual fee (think $49/year) cards that gave a free night every year. I had one of these cards at one point, but closed it during a credit card clean up.
- Citi card that earned 3% everywhere – At one point, there was a Citi-issued credit card that offered 3% everywhere, maybe only in the first year. I had this card, but closed it either because I picked up the Chase AARP 5% everywhere card or because the card’s rewards dropped to 1%