For years, I resisted the requests of various credit-card issuers to add their apps to my smartphone. Why bother when I can log into their sites in my phone’s browser? But three of them finally won me over in the simplest way possible: bribing me.
American Express, Chase and Citi didn’t pay me directly to install their apps on my Pixel 3a. But beyond reducing an account login to a tap of my finger on that phone’s fingerprint reader, these apps offer simpler access than these companies’ own sites to the rebates and discounts I can opt into with designated merchants–and in some cases, to their regular cash-back rewards. So these apps effectively do hand me money, one $5, $10 or 20% per-transaction credit at a time.
Here’s how I rank these three Android releases:
1: Amex. The American Express app puts a button for Amex Offers right in the bottom row of its home page, then not only lists the offers awaiting your opt-in but provides an “Explore Nearby Offers” button to plot the closest merchants on a map. (If only you could search through them, as Amex is quite prolific with these deals; grouping these by category would help.) An “Added to Card” link lists those you already put in for, with the ones soonest to expire shown first. The app also shows a running total of how much money you’ve saved with these offers.
2: Chase. You have to swipe down to see the home screen’s Chase Offers module and its peek at three of your available rebates (with a helpful “new” stamp on the latest ones) and a number badge counting how many await (as I type this, 18). Tap that number to see all of them or eyeball only those in a category like “Dining” or “Shopping.” You don’t get a map view here, but on the other hand most of these seem to promote online merchants. (I wrote a cheat sheet Thursday for Patreon readers about the rebates available through all three issuers for digital services, the second time I’ve done that this year.) Chase fails to list the offers you’ve added to your card in first-to-expire chronological order, but the limited inventory here makes that less of an issue.
3: Citi Mobile. This app needs serious work. It effectively buries the Merchant Offers that Citi began offering in December; you have to tap “Services” in the bottom rail, tap “Products & Offers” on the next screen, then wait a few seconds before the currently featured offers materialize. Tapping “SEE ALL” produces a long list, grouped by such categories as “Travel” and “Dining & Entertainment.” This shows each merchant not by name but under a tiny thumbnail of its icon; with so many restaurants included, the absence of a map view like Amex’s represents a huge missed opportunity. Finally, this app fails to list enrolled offers in chronological order of expiration.
These apps also share the collective fault of serving as a little financial distraction machine. But having given up hope years ago of shopping like a normal human being, what’s one other screen to check for a possible discount or rebate before a purchase?