An Oral History of the World’s First Viral Credit Card

An Oral History of the World’s First Viral Credit Card

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The premium credit card had just been released, and it was already dominating the Internet—at least, the parts of the Internet susceptible to domination by credit card. The offer seemed insane, and far too good to be true. It came with a 100,000-point intro bonus (worth between $1,500 and $2,000 on travel depending on how you valued the points), a $300 travel credit, bonus points for travel and dining spending, and access to hundreds of airport lounges across the world. The deal was so good, Chase had many borrowers downright giddy about ponying up what seemed to be a relatively paltry $450 annual fee.

Jackson’s spontaneous taping, which has garnered more than 20,000 views, represented a dream release for Chase’s credit card execs. And Jackson was hardly alone: Lots of otherwise well-adjusted and apparently high-earning adults posted videos of themselves delightedly unboxing credit cards like 4-year-olds unwrapping Dora the Explorer dolls.

The Reserve acquired more customers within two weeks than Chase had expected for 12 months, which helps explain why it cost the bank so much money up front. And the group skewed younger: More than half of all cardholders were under 35. The card was so popular that Chase temporarily ran out of the metal version.

Chase hired television personality James Corden to talk up the card in digital ads, and paid social media influencer Chrissy Teigen to embrace the card. But ultimately it was the card’s tremendous value that motivated so many burgeoning miles hounds to sign up.

However, those new customers didn’t come cheap. JPMorgan Chase lost hundreds of millions due to the huge intro bonuses that made the Reserve a must-have. And although we don’t know whether the bank’s executives were successful at tempting these new customers into a Chase car loan or mortgage, we do know that Chase has spent the past three years chipping away at the Reserve’s rewards.

We’re nearly three years on from that summer of credit card love, and the credit card scene has changed for the better. More than 90% of cardholders renewed their card, according to Chase (PDF), in 2018, and they rang up an eye-popping average of nearly $40,000 in spending on their plastic. Competitors have raced to catch up, as well. Citibank and American Express relaunched their premium travel cards to satisfy millennials’ wanderlust, with one Amex card face-lift (on the Gold) potentially pushing the Reserve from its perch.

Nevertheless, the Reserve remains a favorite travel card, at least in our eyes, though the usurpers have since dethroned the king.

But why did the Chase Sapphire Reserve inspire avant-garde mini-docs by superfans in the first place? Why was it so desirable to millennials? What’s the real story behind the world’s first viral credit card?

That story has largely remained untold—until now.

Source: NY Times – Wirecutter
Keyword: An Oral History of the World’s First Viral Credit Card

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