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Every once in a while, my credit card will have a "special limited-time offer" in the form of a additional statement credit on a specific purchase category.

For instance, the most recent one was a 2% statement credit on grocery and drugstore purchases for two months.

What's the point of these? I already get some rewards from this credit card, why do they want to give more rewards? Does the credit card company get anything from this?

Additionally, I am wondering why these offers always require me to do something to opt in (usually visit some website and enter a special code). Why make them explicitly opt-in instead of automatically enrolling everyone?

  • The rotating bonuses annoy me, particularly the ones where you have to select the reward category each quarter. To make my life easier, I just use 2 cards. One is 3% off grocery, gas and drug stores all year long and the other is 2% off all purchases, again, all year long. A more profitable undertaking is the occasional new credit card offer that provides a $100 bonus if you spend $500 in 3 months. And FWIW, I've had credit cards for decades and have never paid any of them one penny in finance charges :-O – Bob Baerker May 30 at 21:33
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Credit card companies make money when you use the card from interchange fees. Most people carry multiple cards. So companies have an incentive to get you to treat their card as your primary card and do most of your transactions on that card. If they give you 2% cash back on grocery store purchases this month or this quarter, the hope is that will drive you to use that card at the grocery store all month and thus make it more likely that you'd treat that card as your primary. If you use the card at the grocery store for a month, the hope is that it will become a habit and you'll continue doing so once the special offer ends.

The opt-in requirement ensures that the company is only giving the benefit to people that know about the offer and, thus, whose behavior is potentially being altered. If I never look at my statement and never see the offer, the company never has to give me the extra cash back. If you look at your statement, see the offer, and decide that's a good deal, the company has to give you more cash back but they can hope that you're building the habit of using their card at a particular common destination like the grocery store. That just makes it more likely that they'll come out ahead by getting more from future interchange fees than they pay in extra cash back today.

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