Credit card bonus complexity

Last Friday, I published results from my successful retention call with Citi: My 130K phone call.  That made me realize that I should write a post about Citibank credit card strategies.  When should you sign up for new cards?  When should you call for retention offers?  How can you keep your points when you don’t want to pay the annual fee?  Etc.  So, I figured I would publish a post like that this week.

As I thought about the contents of a Citi credit card strategy post, I realized that a credit card signup strategy can’t be done in isolation bank by bank.  Chase’s 5/24 rules, in particular, need to be acknowledged.

OK, so I would write a Chase strategy post first and follow up with a Citi strategy post a day or two later.  But… part of any Chase strategy post should include specific strategies for staying under or flying over the 5/24 rules.  That brings me to Amex.  Of all the banks, Amex probably has the most business card offers.  And, since those do not impact the 5/24 count, I need to fit in an Amex signup strategy too.  Maybe a general business card strategy would be even better…

At this point I was just overwhelmed thinking about it all.  It reminded me of my post about how to prevent your brain from exploding.  To save my brain, I decided to start with this simple-to-write post detailing credit card complexity…

Credit card bonus Exploding Brain

Credit Card signup complexity

For those who like to earn points, miles, and cash by signing up for credit cards regularly, the landscape has become more complicated than ever before.  For example, Chase has implemented its infamous “5/24” rule for most, but not all cards.  You can sometimes get approved despite the 5/24 rule, or you can find ways fly under the rule.  The latter is possible because many small business cards do not contribute the 5 card limit.  But some do.

On top of the 5/24 rule, Chase has a 24 month rule that is different from any other bank’s rules.  With Chase, the 24 month clock starts, not when you open or close an account, but when you receive your signup bonus.  Well, who the heck tracks that?

Amex too has made things harder by implementing their once per lifetime rule across both personal and business cards.  That is, the signup offers state that you can’t get the bonus again if you’ve had the card before.  But, is the rule really enforced?  We know that the rule is not enforced when people receive targeted offers without the once per lifetime language.  That’s a nice exception (except that my family has yet to receive any of these offers!).

Amex then sprinkles additional complexity on top of their processes by limiting people to signing up for no more than 1 credit card per day and no more than 2 per 90 days, and you can’t have more than 4 credit cards total.  Except when you can.  And, of course, Amex charge cards are exempt from these rules.  How do you know which cards are charge cards instead of credit cards?  Most cards named after colors and metals are charge cards: Gold, Green, Platinum, and Plum.  Co-branded cards (Delta, Hilton, SPG), “Simply” cards, Everyday, and Blue cards are credit cards.  Simple, right?

Citibank didn’t want to be left out of the complexity fun so they implemented a 24 month rule on top of their already complicated rules.  To apply for the same card you’ve had before, you have to wait 24 months after opening or closing the prior account.  What about product changes? Do those reset the clock too?  It’s unclear.  If you product change from product A to B, does that mean you have to wait 24 months before applying for product A?  What about B?  And then Citi has it’s great old standbys: You can signup for, at most, 1 personal card per 8 days and 2 personal cards per 65 days.  Business cards seem to be limited to 1 per 95 days, but since they only advertise one rewards business card (the American Airlines card) I’m not sure it matters anyway.  But, maybe it does matter since as recently as September 2015 our own Devil’s Advocate found a 40K in-branch offer for the old CitiBusiness ThankYou Card.

Complicated Credit factors

There are many factors that impact your credit score and your ability to get new credit: credit inquiries, credit utilization, payment history, age of credit history, account mix, etc.

Credit Inquiries are tracked separately by credit bureau, but the other factors are shared.

Credit utilization is reported by banks, usually based on your statement balance.  In other words, if you pay off your balance before the statement is finalized, they’ll report a low utilization (which is good).  But some banks report utilization on specific dates.

When you are added as an authorized user to an account, it can impact these factors.  Authorized user cards don’t generate new inquiries, but they usually appear on your credit report as new accounts.  Except that some banks don’t require SSNs for authorized users.  In those cases, if the primary cardholder’s address does not match any addresses on your credit report, your new authorized user card most likely won’t appear on your credit report.

When you apply for new business cards, the credit inquiries will impact your personal credit, but the new accounts won’t show up on your personal credit history.  In other words, business cards have very little impact on your personal credit.  Notable exceptions include business cards from Barclaycard, Capital One, and Discover since they are known to report business cards to the personal credit bureaus.

Complicated signup bonus requirements

Most signup bonuses have seemingly simple requirements: spend $X in Y days, and get Z points.  But… Does the clock start on the day you apply, the day you are approved, the day you activate your card, or some other time?  Doctor of Credit has many of the answers here.

What charges count?  We know that cash advances and credit card fees, including annual fees, do not count towards bonus minimum spend.  But what about other types of charges?  Amex’s terms & conditions say that “purchases or reloading of prepaid cards” do not count, but in practice we know that they do.  Do any banks enforce restrictions like these?  Then there’s US Bank.  Some people have discovered the hard way that spend on employee cards does not count towards minimum spend requirements.

Wrap Up

On the surface, signing up for credit cards in order to earn bonuses appears simple.  And, for those who just dabble in it, it really is simple.  For those who sign up for cards often, though, the details become important.  And, unfortunately, the details can be overwhelming.

I’ve done a bit to simplify things by adding an App Tips table to the top of each bank’s section on my Best Offers page.  Next, I’ll start writing up strategies based on the current rules as we know them.  Then, the banks will undoubtedly change the rules that those posts are based on.  When that happens, I’ll publish new strategies… if my brain doesn’t explode first.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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15 Comments on "Credit card bonus complexity"

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james
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Can you provide examples of business credit cards that do count against Chase 5/24?

Wise2u
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let your brain explode…no need to spoonfeed. If someone wants to get a signup bonus they should at least be smart enough to read the T&C and understand them…everything they need to know is stated in English, if they need circles and arrows to help them they don’t need to be applying. If they are getting a second or 3rd card with a bank they will need to check for time limitations on signups, which is available many places without too much work finding out how many applications of any kind are allowed by certain banks and how long to space them out.

I know you need to write about something everyday and that can get difficult, but explaining every possible detail and strategy for every bank and card line is overkill. It panders to the dumb opportunists who normally wouldn’t bother, you may want them as readers, but why encourage someone too dumb to read T&C and understand them to join the game? Setting up mental midgets to run app-o-ramas is irresponsible. Might as well start a stock market tip blog and teach people the finer points of speculating….either way, nothing good will come out of it.

Me
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Conversions.

Raul
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Reading the T&C will not always give you the correct information. We all know it says in the T&C that u can’t use airline reimbursement for airline GC purchases but we all know that airline GC do count as airline reimbursement, or at least some do. So your argument is stupid. If we all just read T&C and followed it to the letter we would lose out on some opportunities. I’m against spoonfeeding but I don’t believe this is that. Plus all this info is already out there mainly on DofC so what’s wrong with consolidating all that info and updating with the new rules that have been rolling out

Wise2u
Guest

not info on card benefits, that is touted by every commission hungry blogger….I’m talking application T&C and that is what he’s talking about. As you said all the info is out there already for benefits and each cards benefits have been discussed ad nauseam here and many other places….this sounds like he wants to hold their hands and walk them through applying for each banks cards….is someone so dim they haven’t heard, or can’t read, one signup bonus per lifetime with Amex?!? is that confusing in any way?…I hate to say it but MMS is seeming like a more diverse and informative blog right now, how’s that for a sad, shocking juxtaposition?

JL
Guest

Really good info here, good reminders on the rules. Fantastic job.

jcb
Guest

Haha yea I was thinking while reading this “hey, no need for more posts, all the known rules are here” :p

I keep a note on my computer with all these rules, plus recommended times to call for retentions for each bank, and any other churning and MS tips.

jordan
Guest

Speaking of amex and ‘lifetime’ language – I have not been able to find that language in the Ameriprise Platinum terms. Can you find it? If it’s not there I wonder if it’s able to get the signup “bonus” of no annual fee and 3 free AUs over and over.

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