TPG reader credit card question: How can I get a better, targeted sign-up bonus?
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
While applying for a new credit card is typically the fastest and easiest way to rack up a meaningful number of points and miles all at once, sometimes the first offer you see for a given card isn't always the best.
Before applying for a new credit card, it makes sense to spend a few minutes ensuring you're getting the best deal possible. This is important because you can often only get card welcome bonuses once -- or at least only once for several years. Sometimes, there are targeted offers available to lucky individuals who can get an even higher sign-up bonus than just by going with the most widely available link.
Targeted offers can be sent in the mail, via email, might be lurking in your online bank or loyalty account, can be sent to you by friends who make referrals or might even live in the CardMatch Tool. TPG reader Colorado wants to know how companies decide who to target with these improved offers ...
[pullquote source="TPG READER COLORADO"]How do credit card companies select users for prequalified/targeted offers? I never seem to get any.[/pullquote]
New to The Points Guy? Sign up for our free daily newsletter.
It's important to say upfront that we'll never know the full answer to this question. Companies spend a lot of money developing their own proprietary methods for generating and targeting these offers. Still, we've been around card offers enough to make a few educated guesses on how this works -- and how to improve the chances you find and notice these offers.
Use the CardMatch tool
Let's start with a tool that is an obvious first stop when seeing if you have special offers available to you.
By using the CardMatch Tool (offers subject to change at anytime), you can potentially gain access to enhanced welcome offers on cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express or the American Express® Gold Card that's available to a select group of individuals. Current Amex offers in CardMatch include an up to 125,000-point welcome offer for the Platinum Card or a 75,000-point for the Gold Card after meeting minimum spend requirements. Note: These offers are subject to change at any time.
The CardMatch website explains that after you input your information, a soft credit check will be performed. This means CardMatch accesses the information on your credit report, but this won't show up on your credit report or affect your score in any way (i.e. it's not a new inquiry on your report). Of course, if you go ahead and actually apply for one of these offers, then that will be a regular new account on your report.
CardMatch partners with a number of banks, including Chase, Amex and Capital One, and based on the information they obtain from your credit report, they use a proprietary algorithm specific to each card issuer to generate offers for you.
Anecdotally, we've seen some of the best CardMatch offers with American Express, specifically often available to those who don't have any other open accounts with that bank.
Check your pre-approval offers
Sometimes, you have better offers -- or perhaps even better eligibility terms -- available to you via some pre-approval offers. These may arrive to your inbox or mailbox, but you can also go looking for them. While a pre-approved offer doesn't guarantee you'll get approved, you likely have solid odds -- and potentially access to better offers.
When logged into your Chase account you can scroll to the top and select "open an account" and then click on the "just for you" option to see if there are any special terms or offers available for you based on your existing Chase relationship. While it's not an exact science, the more accounts you already have open with Chase, the smaller chance a new account will be dangled in front of your face.
Related: All about the Chase 5/24 rule
Within your American Express account, it makes sense to navigate to "cards" and then "check for pre-qualified offers" to see if there is a unique upgrade or new account offer available to you.
Phone a friend
Sometimes, a bank decides that the best way to find cardholders similar to the ones they already have is to let their current cardholders do the 'work' in referring their friends. There's usually a set number of bonus points or miles in it for the one who makes the referral if someone gets approved with their links, making it a potential win-win.
These friend referral links can be the same, better or occasionally worse than the common public offer. For example, the friend referral link available right now for the United Quest Card is just for a total of 80,000 United miles, the same as the public link allows you to earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
However, on the flip side, there are some Amex friend referral links that are potentially better than the public offers. As one example, through May 5, 2021, a friend referral link for the Amex Gold card gets you not only 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first six months (the same as the public offer), but you also get up to $200 back in statement credits on eligible purchases made at U.S. home furnishing stores such as Bath & Beyond, CB2, Crate and Barrel, Crate and Kids, The Home Depot, Lowe’s and more. Terms apply. (Offer no longer available)
Your friend who referred you will get a whopping 30,000 Amex Membership Rewards points (up to 55,000 in a calendar year) and will earn four extra Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at the same list of U.S. home furnishing stores on up to $25,000 spent in three months.
Pay attention for better offers
There are other ways to receive targeted offers including directly from an issuer or via a link you run across online. Beyond what we've already covered in CardMatch and via friend referrals, Amex has a few offers worth noting. As first reported by Frequent Miler, some applicants are receiving targeted offers on Delta's cobranded cards:
These are some of the best welcome offers we've seen yet on these cards compared to the offers currently available on TPG through May 5, 2021, as noted below:
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 or more on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 or more on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 or more on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
To access some of these all-time high offers, you'll want to try links and see if the welcome bonuses is available for you. Just know that sometimes a random link to a better offer you find online may not always apply to you, so proceed with caution. Sometimes, it's worth trying again later if you don't see what you want on the first try as it can change -- but don't wait if you see what you want as it can also disappear.
Issuers will also consider your history with them along with other information you might have provided on previous applications. In all these cases, banks are trying to identify profitable customers who they can entice to open a new card, but the exact metrics they use to determine these individuals aren't readily apparent.
Amex is also currently offering targeted bonus point offers for some existing cardholders of the Amex Platinum. In some cases, you can earn 20,000 Membership Rewards points when adding one or more authorized users — for up to four users total. Note there is a spending requirement of $2,000 in the first six months for each authorized user in order to earn the bonus. This offer ends Sept. 7, 2021.
While we'll never know exactly why one person receives a targeted offer and the next person doesn't, it helps to put yourself in the mind of the companies sending out these offers and think about what they're trying to achieve: new business.
When it comes to new card openings, banks are looking for responsible and valuable long-term customers, while airlines and hotels are simply looking to attract new customers away from their rivals. If a targeted offer succeeds in getting even a few years of loyalty, it's likely done its job perfectly.
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg.