How Should I Pursue a Missing Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus?
TPG reader Marc sent me a message on Facebook to ask about missing rewards:
“My wife and I both got Citi AAdvantage cards. I received my sign-up bonus, but hers didn't come through, so we're wondering if something isn't syncing correctly. What should we do?”
Credit card sign-up bonuses are a great way to boost your loyalty accounts, since you can earn rewards much faster than you would normally. The best offers provide a lot of value, so failing to collect a sign-up bonus after you've applied is one of the biggest mistakes award travelers can make. That's why it's important to follow through and make sure you actually get your bonus once you've earned it.
There are several reasons why your points might fail to show up. One is that you haven't actually fulfilled the terms on your application. Sometimes cardholders simply fail to meet the spending requirement — keep in mind that things like cash advances, balance transfers and annual fees don't count toward your total. Another possibility is that you charged enough on your card, but missed the deadline. Make sure you know exactly when you have to hit the spending threshold, since there's little recourse if you come up short.
Assuming you did meet the requirements, there are a few other explanations. Sometimes sign-up bonuses can be delayed based on when your card statement closes. If Marc and his wife have accounts that cycle on different dates, then their bonuses would be unlikely to arrive together even if they met the spending requirements simultaneously.
Another potential pitfall is if your loyalty account number is processed incorrectly. If your AAdvantage number wasn't on the card application, then a new account would have been opened in your name, and the miles should have been deposited there. In that case, American Airlines can merge the second account with your original one. If the wrong account number was listed on the application instead, then the solution is less straightforward, but a supervisor at Citi should be able to sort it out.
In Marc's situation, I would start by contacting Citi customer service. A representative can verify the terms of your bonus offer and tell you whether they've been met. If so, the rep should be able to estimate when the bonus will arrive, or help you track down the cause of the delay. If the bonus hasn't been earned yet, at least you'll have a clear answer, and hopefully there will still be time to meet the requirements.
There are some steps you can take to avoid situations like this. First, I recommend verifying your bonus offer and loyalty account number when you first activate a credit card, so you can catch mistakes before they become a problem. Second, don't assume that your bonus is on its way. It's worth checking in with customer service to make sure you've met the requirements, especially if you need the points to book an upcoming award. I've had representatives offer to expedite bonuses in the past, so calling in can help when time is short.
Finally, think twice about applying for a card if you're going to have trouble earning the bonus. There are plenty of options out there, so choose one that suits your finances.
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at email@example.com.