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How Can I Get a Credit Card Bonus for Referring a Friend?

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TPG reader Jenna sent me a message on Facebook to ask about referral bonuses:

“I thought all credit cards offered a bonus for getting a friend to apply (with approval), but Citi told me there’s no benefit to current clients for referring someone to the AAdvantage Platinum Select card. Does that sound right? It seems crazy to not get rewarded for referring a new customer.”

Most rewards credit cards offer a sign-up bonus when you first apply, but many also offer referral bonuses as in incentive for existing cardholders to spread the word. These bonuses can add a lot of value to your existing accounts and are a great way for couples (or other award travel partners) to maximize each card application. However, there are fairly specific rules for initiating a referral, and you’ll have to follow them if you want to cash in.

Jenna’s experience is typical, since Citi generally doesn’t offer referral bonuses for AAdvantage credit cards (or any card for that matter). You can earn referral bonuses for certain checking accounts (not the ones that earn rewards), but Citi’s marketing department has apparently decided credit card referrals aren’t worthwhile, even though both Chase and Amex (as well as other card issuers) offer such bonuses regularly.

Chase makes it easy to access referral bonuses through the Refer-A-Friend site. There, you can preview any offers on your account (including what the people you refer will receive for signing up), and send out invitations by email or on social media. For example, you can get 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points by referring the Chase Freedom card, and anyone using your link will still be able to earn a sign-up bonus of  $150 (or 15,000 points) after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening.

American Express has a similar site, or you can often see what’s available by just logging in and looking for the small banner that says “Refer a friend. Reward yourself.” Some offers are public (like the one earlier this year for the Starwood Preferred Guest Card), while others may be targeted. Amex referrals are a bit less consistent than the ones from Chase, and they don’t always come with the best available sign-up bonus, so check for other offers to help the person you’re referring maximize his or her rewards.

Citi doesn’t offer referral bonuses for its travel rewards credit cards.

In any case, you have to issue credit card referrals through an official channel — usually by filling out a form online that will generate a personalized application link. Simply telling a friend about the card or forwarding a generic application link won’t be enough. All the usual application restrictions will still apply, so make sure anyone you refer is actually eligible to earn a bonus.

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

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • 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 Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit