Best of 2021: New credit card launches

January 5th, 2022 | Lierin Melvin

With 2021 in the rearview mirror, banks are looking for ways to maintain and increase the relevance and competitiveness of their credit card offers. Here, we take a closer look at two of the best new credit card launches of 2021, what they offered and why consumers responded well to them.

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card

The Active Cash card represents two things: a new beginning for Wells Fargo, and the issuer’s latest attempt to offer simplicity to cardholders.

The card became officially available in July of 2021, offering an unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase, $0 annual fee, and a $200 bonus offer. The Active Cash card is yet another player entering the 2% cashback war, alongside other cards such as the Citi Double Cash, PayPal Cashback, SoFi card, and the TD Bank Double Up card.

The Active Cash is the first card of a revamped credit card portfolio from Wells Fargo, which also features the Wells Fargo Reflect card – this low-APR card launched in December and offers additional features and benefits including Wells Fargo’s lowest intro APR for up to 21 months.

In the 2% cashback wars, the Active Cash card wins the sign-up bonus battle offering $200 after spending $1k within 90 days. With the Citibank Double Cash, Paypal Cashback, and SoFi card offering a $0 dollar sign-up bonus and the TD Bank Double Up offering a $75 sign-up bonus, the Active Cash card comes out on top.

The Active Cash card’s earn rate is also very simple compared to other cards, including the Citi Double Cash card’s “1% when you buy + 1% when you pay” offer. With the Active Cash card, customers receive unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases with no rewards category limitations or quarterly activations.

Marketing strategy

Wells Fargo relied heavily on video and TV to kick off the promotion of the Active Cash card.

In the first month, Wells Fargo spent $2.9M on the Active Cash card, with video accounting for 45% of all media spend, followed by TV (35%) and display ads (21%). In the beginning, its focus on TV and digital media, alongside a lack of direct mail, it is clear that Wells Fargo is leading with a top-of-funnel strategy in an effort to create awareness around the newly launched card. As of October, direct mail was 30% of Active Card Card’s marketing spend, second to National TV at 41%. Direct mail spend peaked at $6.6M.

Source: Comperemedia Omni [7/1/2021 – 7/31/2021] as of 8/3/21; Mintel analysis of MediaRadar [7/1/2021 – 7/31/201] as of 8/3/2021


Wells Fargo leveraged the massive reach of the 2021 Olympics to promote the Active Cash card on TV. The brand partnered with Katie Ledecky, Olympic Gold Medalist, to show how the card earns cardholders 2% cashback on what they like today, and what they might like tomorrow.

Source: example

The brand showcased the simplicity Wells Fargo is striving for, alluding to how the card’s straightforward value proposition makes it ready for real life.

What we think

The launch of the Wells Fargo Active Cash card means one thing for the landscape: the 2% cashback wars are heating up.

Cashback, for the most basic card owner, is still the simplest reward. There are no point conversions, and most of the time, no categories to sign up for. This desire for simplicity is exactly what makes the Active Cash card an appealing offer, especially among other 2% cash back cards, whose value propositions are not as straightforward.

In addition to its simplicity, the card also offers a $200 bonus offer, making it stand out from other cards in the category, which for the most part, do not offer any bonuses. According to Mintel research on the US credit cards market, half of US adults consider a cashback bonus the main motivator for applying to a card, making the card a strong competitor in the landscape.

To stay competitive in the ongoing 2% cashback wars, brands should focus on unique cardmember features and stressing comprehensive loyalty programs.

Capital One Venture X Card

Capital One has evolved to become a major player in the luxury credit card space with the recent launch of its Venture X Rewards Credit Card. The Venture X card is a unique addition to the travel card space, in turn, establishing Capital One as a luxury travel credit card provider.

Venture X offers two miles per dollar earned on non-bonus spending, making it a truly competitive option in the travel credit card space. Capital One recently improved its points transfer ratios for six new airline partners, opening up a variety of options for travelers. 

With this new change, Venture X cardholders can earn twice as many miles on non-travel spending as they can with other popular travel cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Platinum Card, or American Express Gold Card.

Traveling should elicit both excitement and luxury in the mind of a consumer. As financial service institutions continue to expand travel credit card offerings, it is important that they do not overlook offers that speak to exclusivity and private access. Venture X cardholders will have unlimited access to Capital One new lounges starting up to three hours before their flight’s scheduled departure time, allowing for a newly-elevated, luxurious travel experience.

Venture X is a comparable option to other competing travel credit cards in the space.

The annual fee of $395 can be completely negated through a $300 annual travel credit and 10,000 mile anniversary bonus, making the Venture X credit card a viable option for those looking to get their hands on a travel card that comes with a variety of perks. For consumers that currently pay a higher annual fee for a competitor card, Venture X poses as a great alternative.

Capital One Venture X Card

Capital One launched its Venture X campaign on Instagram. Their target demographic of young travelers that can afford the annual fee and repeated trips likely frequent Instagram over other social platforms. Although TikTok has a strong grasp on Gen-Z audiences, it is evident that Capital One is hoping to grab the attention of Millennials who are more likely to have the financial cushion it takes to embark on frequent travel plans.


By prioritizing owned social media to capture attention and announce the official launch date of Venture X they gained mentions and buzz leading up to the launch. Capital One opted for scenic “Destination X” in Santa Fe, New Mexico to announce the launch of its Venture X campaign. Capital One aims to differentiate itself from competitors who typically launch new cards in a simplistic manner; a calculated approach on behalf of Capital One, resulting in a unique, social-media-friendly campaign. Posts began circulating on Capital One’s Instagram page up to a week before its official launch date.

By partnering with social media influencers to reach their niche audiences of young travel enthusiasts, Capital One was able to stay top of mind for millennials during the launch. In an Instagram post, American actress, singer, and dancer Becca Tobin said, “Thrilled to finally share I’ve partnered with @capitalone to celebrate their new travel rewards card, Venture X!!”

Capital One posted an influencer-studded reel on their Instagram account showcasing how its new card can be used. “Venture X is designed to take you farther, and with even more rewards along the way.”

Source: Mintel social media monitoring as of 11/10/21

What we think

Versatility in travel credit card marketing is imperative with the launch of future cards.

Influencer marketing is on the rise and has proven to be a great alternative to digital ads, as influencers create meaningful relationships with their followers and can make great strides to promote a brand or product in a positive and effective manner. Capital One’s choice in selecting specific influencers with distinct niches across the travel and lifestyle spaces has helped the Venture X card reach a multitude of diverse individuals.

With the increased competition in the travel credit card space, competitors are encouraged to be aware of the importance of diversification when it comes to perks and point potential. The Venture X card allows users to book confidently with free price drop protection and price matching up to 24 hours after booking through its Capital One Travel portal.


Lierin Melvin

Lierin Melvin

Lierin Melvin is the Director of Insights at Comperemedia, overseeing content, client engagements, and insights for Financial Services, Telecom, and Insurance. Lierin uses her nine years of experience in omnichannel marketing to provide recommendations and industry insights for how to effectively manage full-funnel marketing campaigns.