Their Take: Credit Card Bill Could Gut Points and Miles Programs, Hurting Arizona’s Travel Industry

by Cathy Stein

March in metro Phoenix signals the peak of our travel season: the Valley bustling with guests filling up our restaurants, hotels, hiking trails, and golf courses. With the conclusion of the WM Phoenix Open, the spotlight now shifts to the Cactus League. This annual rite of passage, consisting of 15 baseball teams, hosts over 200 games, attracting thousands of winter visitors and contributing around $710 million to the economy last year alone.

Drawing from over 30 years of experience as a travel agent, I can’t stress enough the significance of this time of year for both my small business and our state’s economy. Travel and tourism brought in about $28 billion in economic activity statewide last year, supporting nearly 180,000 industry jobs.

However, this economic success is placed in jeopardy by a bill introduced by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Roger Marshall (R-KS).

The Durbin-Marshall bill threatens to dismantle credit card points and rewards programs widely used by my clients to offset vacation expenses. Consider this: In 2022, approximately 600,000 travelers utilized credit card rewards to visit Arizona, supporting over 8,000 jobs and generating more than $916 million in economic activity. These are more than mere statistics, these rewards programs support travel for real people, enabling them to create lasting memories in Arizona.

By eliminating these hard-earned rewards, this bill would spike the cost of travel, severely impacting businesses reliant on tourism and stripping the tax revenue this industry generates to fund vital state resources like education, public safety, and infrastructure.

The aftermath of this legislation will not be a surprise. In 2010, a similar bill targeting debit cards resulted in the loss of debit card rewards and a decreasae in free banking services. Most importantly, this bill failed to follow through on its promise to save consumers and small businesses money. With Arizona’s thriving tourism industry finally recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot afford another blow that would harm businesses and travelers alike.

While Senators Durbin and Marshall claim their bill aims to promote competition in the credit card industry, the unintended consequences could spell disaster for Arizona’s travel sector. It is clear that the rewards offered by credit cards are essential tools that make travel more accessible to many Americans. If these programs disappear, millions of travelers might opt to stay home instead.

It’s crucial for our Senators to prioritize the interests of tourism businesses and travelers. Every credit card point and frequent flier mile contributes to making travel feasible.The Durbin-Marshall bill undermines these benefits, and if it is passed, it will adversely affect travelers, businesses reliant on tourism, and taxpayers.

I’m sure we can all agree on 28 billion reasons why that’s a bad idea for Arizona.

Cathy Stein is the President of Concorde Travel Management, which specializes in sports travel, conventions and meeting planning.

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