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What do you use a credit card for? To have access to a pot of extra money in the short or medium term? Or to gain as many rewards as possible before cutting it up and moving on to another card provider? There is an emerging generational difference between how consumers value the American Express or MasterCard in their wallets.

John Gapper looks at the balance between credit card transaction fees and rewards. A pending US Supreme Court case, challenging Amex’s practice of barring merchants from steering customers towards cards with lower transaction fees, could shake up the flexible friend’s business model. But the whole purpose of a credit card could pose an even greater challenge.

The premium part of the market has become very competitive for those who can offer the best rewards. As John explains, this has sparked a contest among savvy millennials (with good credit) to plan their spending cleverly and apply for multiple cards to maximise rewards. This increases pressure on the providers to offer ever greater rewards to entice new customers.

But, like casinos, card issuers will not want their customers to master the game too well and are striving to stop people signing up just for the welcome rewards and later dropping them. Adjusting to this newly competitive market will be just as challenging as a fairer playing field for transaction fees.

Empire revisited: Miranda Green looks at the row over the English literature curriculum at Cambridge University and asks whether Britain understands the history of its relations with the rest of the world. For her, it brings back uncomfortable memories of doomed campaigns of the past to shake up what is discussed in university lecture halls.

Succession in Africa: David Pilling argues it is a miracle that countries have kept to their borders while resentment simmers. Although some borders have changed, he says that porous borders and a sense of pan-Africanism has helped to maintain the status quo.

BoE rate rises: Our FT View editorial argues that a rate rise by the Bank of England should not be the first of many. Any increase today should be seen as taking back the interest rate cut made last summer after the Brexit referendum.

Best of the rest

Why we can’t admit being wrong about politics — Jenni Russell in The Times

America Is Not a ‘Center-Right Nation’ — Eric Levitz in The New York Times

The Terror in Tribeca — The Wall Street Journal editorial board

Putin, exposed, may become more dangerous — David Ignatius in The Washington Post

Groping, spiked drinks and rape allegations: the inside story on the dark side of the Commons — Pippa Crerar in the London Evening Standard

What you’ve been saying

Direct democracy doesn’t lead to dystopia — letter from Jeff Colgrave in London

“Sir, Janan Ganesh, in ‘Direct democracy threatens the way we are governed’), argues that it is direct democracy rather than dictatorship that is the gravest threat to representative democracy. ‘Imagine mass direct votes on tax rates or migrant numbers,’ he intones, perhaps forgetting that two of the most successful democratic economies in the world, California and Switzerland, both routinely utilise referendums to vote on such issues. California’s most famous ballot initiative, Proposition 13, limits property taxes to 1 per cent of the assessed value of a home, while the Swiss voted to limit migrant numbers in a 2014 referendum. I spend a lot of time in both California and Switzerland, and I am not aware that either are on the cusp of tipping into some dystopian future.”

Comment from ChrisLondon on Britain’s universities forced to face illusions of empire by Miranda Green

“Agreed with most of what you’re saying, however: nations — and in particular the English, who are currently going through a severe identity crisis — have the vicious tendency to seek collective gratification by inventing a grand and glorious past with which they can identify. That past is thus directly linked to the present: in that sense, we are more than just the heirs of that past, we ARE that past.”

To SMEs, patent trolls are an existential threat — letter from Gary Shapiro in Virginia

“Sir, Rana Foroohar’s article ‘America’s battle over patents dollars’ implies that Big Tech is hurting small companies by tilting the patent debate. Yet 80 per cent of the Consumer Technology Association’s 2,000 member companies are small and medium-sized enterprises, and while most big companies view patent trolls as an expensive nuisance, for the smaller ones they are an existential threat. The 2013 Government Accountability Office report cited only included suits brought between 2007 and 2011. Patent trolls continue to plague US tech companies, stymying innovation and stunting the growth of our job market and economy. Regardless of which measurement of troll activity you rely on, it’s undeniable that patent extortion schemes are a persistent and devastating threat to innovative companies.”

Join us: American diplomacy in a disordered world

Gideon Rachman, the FT’s chief foreign affairs commentator, and William J Burns, former US deputy secretary of state, will discuss the world in the Trump era in London on November 13. Buy tickets here.

Today’s opinion

US tax reform will boost innovation and entrepreneurship
The Republicans’ plan will streamline the code and grow our economy

Roula Khalaf: Both robots and Big Tech have to earn our trust
Driverless cars distract from Silicon Valley’s political challenges

Edward Luce: Mueller and the fate of the US republic
The ex-FBI chief has a zealous G-man quality to send shivers down White House spines

FT Alphaville: When AI becomes too big to fail

David Allen Green’s blog: Brexit and the ‘Age of Easy Answers’

Instant Insight: The House of Lords needs radical reform to reflect modern Britain
The UK’s upper chamber should not be abolished, but it needs to be smaller and younger, writes Sebastian Payne

David Pilling: Africa is not immune from secessionist sentiment
It is a minor miracle that countries have kept to their borders as resentments simmer

Free Lunch: US tax-cutters put their fate in deus ex machina
Can buoyant animal spirits plug the holes in the Republicans’ budget?

The Big Read: Reality dawns on India’s solar ambitions
The country has one of the world’s biggest solar sectors, but now faces the risk of a bubble

Miranda Green: Britain’s universities forced to face illusions of empire
The UK’s relations with the rest of the world come into sharp focus in curriculum row

John Gapper: Millennials play in the credit card casino
Amex and JPMorgan are the biggest winners from a closed financial system

FT View

FT View: The weaponisation of social media is real
Finding ways to curb disinformation will not be easy, but is overdue

FT View: The Bank of England prepares to jump the gun
The BoE should signal a rate rise is not inevitably the first in a series

The Big Read

The Big Read: Reality dawns on India’s solar ambitions
The country has one of the world’s biggest solar sectors, but now faces the risk of a bubble

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