When Does the Clock Start on a Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus?
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
TPG reader Tyler sent me a message on Facebook to ask about earning sign-up bonuses:
“When does the clock start on the spending requirement for a credit card sign-up bonus?”
I often get questions like this when a lucrative sign-up bonus pops up, like the one currently being offered for the new Chase Sapphire Reserve. Not spending enough or failing to meet the requirements in time can cause you to miss out on a bonus entirely. To avoid making such a costly mistake, it’s important to be clear about the terms of your sign-up bonus offer whenever you apply for a new card.
Credit card issuers typically start bonus periods from “account opening,” which is the day your account is actually approved. That means the timeline is not based on your statement closing date or when your card is activated, and doesn’t necessarily coincide with the application date (if you’re not approved right away, for example). Once your account is open, you generally won’t be able to extend the bonus period, so think twice about applying if you can’t meet the requirements.
Because the bonus period is based on the approval date and not when you actually get the card, you might not have the full advertised period to meet the spending requirement. Banks do a pretty good job of getting cards in the mail quickly, and some even give you access to your card number immediately for online purchases. However, on occasion I’ve had to wait as long as two weeks for a new card to arrive, so factor possible delays into your spending plans.
When I activate a new card, I find it helpful to speak with customer service so I can verify when the bonus period ends. A representative can give you a specific date, but keep in mind that purchases have to actually post to your account by then — pending transactions won’t count toward your total. Sometimes charges take a few days to clear, so I recommend trying to complete your spending at least one week before the cutoff date. Similarly, keep in mind that some charges don’t count toward the spending requirement, such as annual fees and balance transfers.
If you need help keeping track of how much you’ve spent, check out the TPG To Go app. Once you link your card account and add a sign-up bonus, the app will monitor your progress toward meeting the spending requirement. You’ll also receive an alert if you’re still short of the goal and the bonus period is ending soon, so you can adjust your spending as needed.
See these posts for answers to other frequently asked questions about sign-up bonuses:
- When Will My Sign-Up Bonus Reach My Account?
- How Should I Pursue a Missing Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus?
- Do Charges Offset by Credits Count Toward a Sign-Up Bonus?
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: Up to 100,000 bonus miles
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,040
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X miles on United® purchases
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80K bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 20K bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
- $250 Annual Fee
- Earn 3X miles on United® purchases, 2X miles at restaurants, on select streaming services & all other travel, 1X on all other purchases
- Earn 3X miles on United Airlines purchases
- Earn 2X miles at restaurants and on select streaming services
- Earn 2X miles on all other travel
- Earn 1X mile on all other purchases
- Each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.