December 4, 2023

How Your Credit Card Can Get You Streaming Services For Less

STUDIO CITY, CA – OCTOBER 16: Amy Poehler (R) and the cast of “Parks And…

How Your Credit Card Can Get You Streaming Services For Less

How thirsty are some new streaming-video services for your business? Ask your credit card’s mobile app. 

The cash-back deals that such card issuers as American Express and Chase regularly offer with particular merchants have become a popular lure among new online TV services. 

For example, my copy of Amex’s
app lists the following Amex Offers:

• Peacock, the streaming service launched last year by NBCUniversal, is offering three months free, in the form of getting $4.99 back for spending $4.99 on its Premium plan. 

• AT&T’s
HBO Max has a $7 credit on the $14.99 monthly rate for the first three months.

• Sports-centric Fubo TV will give $20 a month for spending $40 or more a month for the first three months. 

Chase’s app, meanwhile, reveals these two Chase Offers:

• Fubo TV is less generous here, offering a one-time credit of $15 for spending $39.99 or more.

• CBS All Access (soon to be replaced by Paramount+) will give me $3 back once.

Citi’s app doesn’t show any comparable Merchant Offers—but the year is still young.

This trend is yet another thing you can blame on the novel-coronavirus pandemic shrinking our social lives. 

“The offers really started coming in at the start of the pandemic,” emailed William Charles, founder of Doctor of Credit, a site that tracks card incentives, adding that they first began appearing on a smaller scale two years ago

“The pandemic has people sitting at home begging to be entertained, which means streaming services have exploded in popularity,” agreed Benét Wilson, senior credit-cards editor at The Points Guy, a travel site at which I’ve written a few posts.

Some high-end cards have also rolled out their own credits good for multiple streaming services to replace the shriveled utility of travel and dining benefits. 

For example, Amex Platinum card holders got a $20 monthly credit over 28 streaming services for eight months last year. Chase Sapphire Reserve card holders received 10 Ultimate Rewards points for each dollar spent on a smaller set of streaming services (the previous maximum was three points per dollar for travel and dining) over three months. 

Charles and Wilson each pointed to Amex’s total of $160 back on streaming as the best benefit, with the former citing Peacock’s freebie as the next best.

These service-specific deals are usually available across a wide variety of cards, not just premium cards with three-digit annual fees. But cashing in takes some initiative: You must sign up ahead of time, and not all card issuers make that equally easy.

For example, while Amex has long let you sign up for Amex Offers on its site and in its mobile apps, Chase took much longer to let mobile users activate its offers. Citi’s site sometimes doesn’t list Merchant Offers, while its mobile apps hide them two menus deep (tap “Services” and then “Products & Offers”). 

If you stick with a streaming service after its incentive ends, remember to move its billing to whatever card offers the best cash or points rate—Wilson noted, for example, Amex’s $95/year Blue Cash Preferred Card and its 6{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} back on streaming.

While these offers can benefit disciplined shoppers, it’s less clear how well they boost streaming services. 

“Short-term, they work,” emailed Michael Greeson, president and co-founder of The Diffusion Group, a Los Angeles research consultancy. “Mid-term, jury is still out. Long-term, not so much.”

He suggested there’s a certain level of wishful thinking about streaming services: “They are convinced that their video service is truly special; that consumers, once they see just how great the service is, will pay for it post promotion.”

TDG’s own research suggests less loyalty, with 19.3{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} of streaming viewers in a December 2020 survey reporting that they occasionally dumped a service after a free trial in favor of the next one offering a deal—while 7.5{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} indicated they often engaged in this “app hopping.” 

(Peacock said its offer is part of ongoing experiments with different partnerships; Fubo said these deals do yield long-term subscribers.)

Greeson suggested that the competition for your entertainment budget will only get more intense—except for the ruling class of streaming services.  

“Those driven only by saving money will continue to hop around based on promotions, maybe keeping a few anchor services like Netflix
or Disney+ but otherwise in constant change/churn,” he said.

That is, Netflix and Disney+ may be priceless; for everything else, there’s whatever streaming service just threw money at the customer-acquisition problem.