Blue Indigo Card: Rewards and Convenience

Credit cards have become an integral part of the American consumer landscape over the past 70 years. What began as simple charge cards issued by department stores and gas companies has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry dominated by massive networks like Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. Today’s market is saturated with thousands of credit card offerings, from basic no-frills cards to premium travel rewards cards catering to affluent spenders. The recent launch of the Blue Indigo Card represents the latest salvo among premium credit cards, offering luxury perks and rewards to compete with the incumbents. With its innovative rewards structure, focus on technology and customer service, the Blue Indigo Card aims to carve out a niche in the competitive premium card segment.

The Evolution of Credit Cards

Though payment via credit has existed for centuries, the modern credit card industry emerged in the early 20th century. Store-issued charge cards were the early progenitors, allowing customers to make purchases on credit at department stores and other retailers. Oil companies like Texaco and American Express issued the first general-purpose charge cards in the 1930s and 1950s, allowing consumers to make purchases at multiple locations. But it was the launch of BankAmericard (later renamed Visa) in 1958 by Bank of America that truly kicked off the general-purpose credit card industry. Within a few years, competing card networks like Master Charge (Mastercard) and American Express joined the marketplace, issuing cards nationally through partnerships with banks and merchants.

As consumer credit expanded rapidly in the postwar period, credit cards became a convenient and popular payment method for the middle class. Banks looked to cards as a way to provide revolving credit to consumers and earn interest on outstanding balances. By the 1970s and 80s, companies like Visa and Mastercard had assumed the primary role – partnering with issuing banks, signing up merchants, and building national acceptance. American Express took a different path, operating its closed-loop network and issuing cards directly to consumers. Discover entered the mix in the mid-1980s as one more competitor.

The later decades of the 20th century saw a proliferation of new uses and options for credit cards. Airlines launched their co-branded travel reward cards, capitalizing on the growth of leisure travel. Banks began offering cash-back bonuses, insurance benefits, and other perks to attract customers. The inception of the premium card tier arrived in 1999 when American Express launched its exclusive Centurion “Black” card. But the real transformation came in the digital age, as credit cards morphed into multi-functional payment tools integrated with apps, mobile wallets, and budgeting technology. The credit card landscape looked vastly different in the 21st century compared to those early charge cards of the 1950s.

The Rise of Premium Credit Cards

As credit card options multiplied, card issuers sought new ways to differentiate themselves and attract affluent, high-spending consumers. The result was the launch of the first premium credit cards in the late 1990s, led by American Express with its invite-only Centurion Card. Designed as an ultra-luxury status symbol, the black metal Centurion card carried a $5000 initiation fee and $2500 annual fee but included lavish perks like a dedicated concierge service, $1 million travel insurance, and unlimited first-class upgrades. It became an instant, if controversial, status symbol.

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Naturally, competitors scrambled to create their premium card offerings aimed at the wealthy clientele. Chase was first out of the gate in 2002 with the JP Morgan Palladium Card, sporting a $595 annual fee. It was rebranded as the Chase JP Reserve Card in 2005 after Chase took over the JP Morgan credit card portfolio. Citibank followed soon after with the ultra-exclusive Citi Chairman Card in 2007, while Mastercard debuted its Luxury Card lineup.

However, it was Chase that democratized the premium card market in 2016 with the launch of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. With a $450 annual fee, it was far more accessible than previous premium offerings. But it included a robust set of travel-focused perks: a $300 annual travel credit, 3x points on dining and travel, airport lounge access, and the ability to transfer points to airline and hotel partners. Paired with a 100,000-point sign-up bonus, the Sapphire Reserve was an instant hit and spurred a flood of competitors.

American Express updated its Platinum Card in 2017, boosting the annual fee to $550 but packing it with up to $200 in annual credits, airport lounge access, Uber benefits, and more. Capital One entered the fray in 2018 with Venture X, while Wells Fargo launched the Propel American Express in 2019. But in 2022, Chase did it again – introducing the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card. With a reasonable $149 annual fee, it offered flight credits, upgraded boardings, and lounge access alongside 3x points on Southwest travel.

The newest player in the premium card arena is the Blue Indigo Card launched in early 2023. With its lucrative rewards program, best-in-class technology, and stellar customer service, it aims to carve out a niche against titan competitors like Sapphire Reserve and Platinum.

Introducing the Blue Indigo Card

The Blue Indigo Card was launched in February 2023 by Blue Bank, marking the bank’s first foray into the premium credit card space. As a regional bank based in the Midwest, Blue Bank lacks the national footprint of credit card giants like Chase, Amex, and Citi. But as an online-focused institution with low overhead, it can leverage technology to provide digital-first customer experiences. The Blue Indigo Card exemplifies that approach.

Rather than compete directly with the luxury perks and travel benefits of cards like the Centurion or Sapphire Reserve, Blue Bank focused on maximizing everyday rewards for consumers. With no category restrictions, the Blue Indigo Card offers an industry-leading 5 points per dollar on all eligible purchases. It supplements that with technology-focused customer service, an intuitive mobile app, and tools to manage your spending. A competitive signup bonus and a modest $95 annual fee round out the value proposition.

The goal of the Blue Indigo Card is to provide premium features and service without the outrageous fees. For consumers turned off by $500+ annual fees but still wanting special perks and rewards, it hits a sweet spot in the market. Early reviews have been glowing, especially for the flexible rewards program. But can the Blue Indigo Card go through when consumers already have ample premium cards to pick from?

Blue Indigo Card Benefits and Rewards

A credit card is only as good as its rewards and benefits. Fortunately, the Blue Indigo Card delivers strongly in this regard with generous point-earning rates across categories. The headline feature is 5 points per dollar spent on all purchases, with no category exclusions or rotating bonuses. That’s among the highest flat-rate rewards available. Additional point bonuses are earned on:

  • 10 points per dollar spent on hotels, rental cars, and restaurant purchases when booked through the Blue Travel Portal
  • 5 points per dollar spent on select streaming services like Netflix and Spotify
  • 3 points per $1 spent at grocery stores and gas stations
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Points can be redeemed for cash back or statement credits at a rate of 1 cent per point, meaning the above 5x rate equates to 5% back on spending. For travellers, points can be transferred 1:1 to major airline and hotel partners including:

  • Airlines: United, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, British Airways
  • Hotels: Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, IHG, Best Western

When redeeming points for flights instead of cash, a 25% mileage bonus is applied when booking through the Blue Travel Portal. So 100,000 points would score you a free flight worth 125,000 miles.

Beyond earning, the Blue Indigo Card comes with a suite of premium credits and perks:

  • $100 annual travel credit, reimbursed automatically without minimum spend
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership
  • Up to $100 in annual statement credits for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck
  • Visa Infinite benefits like premium rental car insurance, trip delay coverage, and special access to entertainment events

The card also offers extended warranty protection, return protection, purchase protection, and other standard Visa Infinite benefits. No foreign transaction fees are also a nice perk for international travellers.

Technology and Customer Service

Given its digital DNA, Blue Bank understandably put significant focus on the technology experiences and customer service offerings attached to the Blue Indigo Card. The goal was to meet or exceed competitors in capabilities while removing friction points for users.

The Blue Indigo Card mobile app has been lauded as a model of intuitive design. Features include:

  • Integrated card management with payment automation and alerts
  • Interactive budgeting and financial management tools
  • Digital wallet integration like Apple Pay and Google Pay
  • Mobile offers and discounts activated through the app
  • Convenient features like locking your card or pausing payments
  • Banking and money transfer capabilities between accounts

But technology only goes so far. Thus Blue Bank invested heavily in cultivating top-notch customer service available 24/7. Options span:

  • Live chat, email, and social media support from within the mobile app
  • Digital concierge for booking restaurants and local experiences
  • 24-hour customer service hotline with video chat ability

Users can access a personal account manager for guidance on maximizing rewards or assistance with bookings. The goal is delivering white-glove service rivalling American Express without the hefty annual fees. So far customer response has been overwhelmingly positive.

The Blue Rewards Ecosystem

While the Blue Indigo Card anchors the new Blue rewards program, it is bolstered by an entire suite of redemption options and integrated benefits. Like its competitors, Blue Bank aims to make the Indigo Card the tentpole product in a broader loyalty ecosystem.

Points earned by the Blue Indigo Card are pooled with other Blue Bank cards like the Blue Cash Back Visa, Blue Travel Rewards Card, Blue Secured Card and Blue Business Rewards card. That allows users to accumulate points faster and redeem them across the family of products. Points can also be combined with those earned from Blue Bank checking and savings accounts, adding to the opportunities to rack up rewards.

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The unified Blue Mobile App connects the entire rewards experience under one seamless interface. You can manage multiple Blue Bank accounts, and credit cards, track your point balance, get intelligent spending insights, and utilize benefits from any device.

For travellers, the Blue Travel Portal offers an expedited booking experience for flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, and vacation packages. Cardholders earn bonus points as outlined above on top of exclusive discounts, upgrades, and perks that Blue Bank has negotiated with brands. The portal experience is competitive with those from Chase and Amex.

For heavy card users, special elite tiers provide additional benefits like annual bonus points, airport lounge passes, statement credits, and unlocked offers. This incentive system rewards the highest-spending customers.

Blue Indigo Card Signup Bonus

Given the crowded premium card market, a compelling promotional signup bonus is essential for standing out. The Blue Indigo Card launches with an offer of 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening. Based on redeeming points for cash back, those 60k points are worth $600. When used for booking travel through the Blue Travel Portal at a 25% bonus value, they equate to $750 toward flights.

The $4,000 minimum spend to earn the bonus is reasonable for a premium card. Competitors like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum require $4,000 and $6,000 in spending respectively to earn the bonus. The average initial spend on a new card typically ranges from $1000-$3000, so users need to put a few extra thousand on the card over the first 3 months to earn the reward.

New cardholders tempted by the signup bonus should ensure they understand the redemption options for Blue Points before applying. If cashback is your goal, the 1 cent per point valuation makes the math simple. But travellers can maximize the bonus by transferring points to airline miles or using the 25% mileage boost in the online booking portal.

Applying for the Blue Indigo Card

Given the stellar rewards program and generous signup bonus, many consumers will be eager to get approved for the new Blue Indigo Card. The application process is straightforward and can be completed online in minutes. Here is what to expect:

  • soft credit check first to determine if you pre-qualify without impacting your score
  • If pre-qualified, submit a full online application with personal details
  • Application decisions are rendered within 60 seconds in most cases
  • If approved, you can activate your new account instantly
  • A hard credit check will register after accepting the final offer terms

To qualify, you will need excellent to good credit – generally a credit score around 690 and above. Income requirements are not formally published but most premium cards look for at least $70,000-80,000 minimum to approve. Low debt balances and a responsible credit history with on-time payments will also be key qualifying factors.

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