Chase reports major volume improvements in Q1

Chase’s consumer credit and debit card volume sprang up 9% annually in Q1 2021—a significant jump compared with the 1% year over year (YoY) growth it posted in Q4 2020, per its latest earnings release. Chase’s credit card volume specifically returned to growth in Q1, climbing 2.6% YoY after the previous quarter’s 3.5% annual decline. The issuer’s card volume in Q1 was likely lifted in part by stimulus payments—but improving economic conditions toward the tail end of the quarter mean Chase could see further pandemic recovery in the coming months.

Chase overhauled its reward offerings to encourage card spending during the pandemic. Many consumers limited credit card spending last year to avoid accruing debt during a period of uncertainty: Credit card volume shrank during the holiday shopping season, and overall in-store credit card transaction volume dropped 5.7% YoY in 2020, according to Insider Intelligence forecasts. To encourage credit card spending, Chase periodically updated its perks and rewards to keep up with consumers’ evolving shopping habits: The issuer launched Pay Yourself Back for select cards, a feature that let cardholders put idling travel points toward certain purchases. It also introduced new reward offerings like bonus points on grocery, gas, and restaurant purchases. These offerings, along with a resurgence in retail spending, might’ve helped Chase weather the pandemic and boost volume in Q1.

Going forward, the issuer’s new travel-related offerings can help it maintain growth momentum as the industry picks back up.

  • The issuer’s brand-new travel cards should lift credit card volume even further. Chase just launched the United Quest Card, which features a limited-time 100,000-bonus-mile offer and a bevy of mile-based rewards on travel, dining, and streaming purchases. The issuer also recently announced a card with Air Canada coming later this year that will feature travel rewards as well. These cards should help Chase take advantage of pent-up travel demand as consumers signal interest in vacationing again.
  • And its acquisition of cxLoyalty’s travel platform will help it maximize growth opportunities in the coming months. The acquisition gave Chase access to cxLoyalty’s travel and rewards businesses and could help the issuer beef up its travel booking portal, Chase Ultimate Rewards. Enhancing the portal with more travel perks could attract cardholders who are interested in booking summer and fall vacations, which should help Chase capture more volume.