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Proposed credit card law a threat to Colorado’s thriving outdoor economy

December 21, 2023, 9:58 am

As a longtime resident of Colorado, I have watched our beautiful state transform into a thriving hub for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. As the restaurants, attractions and offerings of our cities continue to grow and improve, tourists from around the world now travel to Colorado every year to enjoy more than just the fresh powder. Our state has become the ideal winter destination, and tourism keeps our economy running, providing countless jobs for hardworking Coloradans.

Jeff Moffett

But all of that could change if the Durbin-Marshall credit card bill introduced in the U.S. Senate were to become law.

This bill would cut the credit card cash-back and travel-rewards programs all Americans know and love, making travel to Colorado cities less accessible and vastly reducing revenue gained from tourist spending in the state. Colorado is packed full of things to do year-round, and tourists love to use their credit-card rewards to come see the family attractions, national parks and outdoor adventures that our state has to offer. In fact, more than 719,000 travelers use earned rewards to visit Colorado annually, supporting 9,548 jobs in our state and contributing to an economic impact of more than $1.19 billion.These dollars spent often make all the difference to the survival of all the businesses that thrive on tourism.

Credit card cash-back and travel-rewards programs are an integral part of the American tourism market and help make travel possible for many people across the socioeconomic spectrum, especially during the busy holiday season. What lawmakers may not realize is 84% of credit card holders have a rewards card, and in the U.S. alone, there are nearly 30 million airline credit card holders. That means one in four households have access to credit card benefits that allow for expanded travel and spending. If these rewards are stripped, many of the tens of millions of Americans who book travel accommodations and experiences each year using their credit card rewards program might opt to travel less. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that without much revenue, many businesses would be forced to lay off employees or even close.

For ski-town communities like mine, credit card rewards programs mean our economy is supported by people who are traveling to our area using rewards. And when they’re here, they patronize our local main street businesses and restaurants. As a founding member of the Gunnison Crested Butte Air Alliance, and through my work with resort communities throughout Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region, I have witnessed this firsthand.

Credit card rewards programs also provide me the opportunity to take a well-earned vacation or travel to the east coast to visit family. With our son most likely heading to an out-of-state college next year, it will allow my wife and me to visit him. If this bill passes, experiences like these could disappear for countless hardworking Americans who rely on cash-back, and reward programs to run their businesses, reward their employees, or take that extra family trip.

With the holiday season upon us and the level of holiday travel in full swing, this legislation poses a real threat to our state’s tourism industry. The authors of the bill say the intent is to make the credit card industry more competitive. And though that may sound like a worthy goal, the devil is in the details.

I’m counting on our states U.S. senators to fight back against the harmful impacts of the Durbin-Marshall credit card bill on hardworking Coloradans. Together, we can ensure credit card rewards continue to boost our tourism industry and that Sens. Durbin and Marshall do not go down a slippery slope and take our economy down with them.

Editor’s note: Jeff Moffett, of Crested Butte, is principal of Triple Point Strategic Consulting.

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