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TPG reader Lance sent me a message on Facebook to ask about earning a credit card sign-up bonus:

“If I’m trying to meet the spending requirement for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, will refunds count against my total? The terms and conditions don’t mention refunded purchases in the list of non-qualifying transactions.”

The top credit card sign-up bonuses can easily be worth $500 to $1,000, so falling short of the spending requirements to earn them can be a costly mistake. That’s why it’s important not only to keep track of your purchases, but also to know which of those purchases ultimately count toward your total.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card currently offers a bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The offer details include a list of charges that don’t qualify, and as Lance points out, refunds aren’t mentioned. However, despite the omission, refunded purchases generally will not count toward your spending requirement.

While the wording isn’t obvious, the offer details actually do address this question by stating that “you must make Purchases totaling $4,000 or more” to qualify. The key word there is totaling; since refunds essentially count as negative purchases, what matters is the net amount you’ve charged to your card in qualifying transactions, not just the sum of positive charges. This is in contrast to charges that are offset by a statement credit, since those may still count toward your purchase total.

A good rule of thumb is that if a purchase doesn’t earn points, then it also won’t count toward earning a sign-up bonus. For example, balance transfers don’t count, and neither do annual fees (though that’s moot in this case, since Chase waives the Sapphire Preferred annual fee for the first year anyway). If there’s ever any doubt about whether a transaction qualifies, you can always ask a customer service representative to check your progress.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Be sure to clear spending thresholds so regrettable purchases don’t become regrettable returns. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

So what happens if you meet a spending requirement and earn a sign-up bonus, but a refund later puts you back under the threshold? In that scenario, your card issuer could reclaim any rewards you earned on the purchase, including the sign-up bonus. Whether that actually happens may depend on the amount of the purchase and your subsequent account activity. If you acted in good faith and continued using your card regularly after the bonus period, it may be less likely that your points would be clawed back, but it could happen.

To be safe, I always try to clear spending requirements with room to spare in case I need to make a return or a purchase isn’t counted as expected. And if you have to return an item, consider asking for store credit instead of a refund. For more information about earning sign-up bonuses and avoiding other common pitfalls, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

With great transfer partners like United and Hyatt, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.