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Don't think you'll hit your sign-up bonus because of COVID-19? Here's what to do

April 29, 2020
8 min read
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Editor's Note

/strong> This is a recurring post, regularly updated as new information becomes available. Keep in mind that some comments below may refer to older information from previous updates. 

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Editor's note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated as new information becomes available. Keep in mind that some comments below may refer to older information from previous updates.

COVID-19 has caused a lot of uncertainty in our lives — from health to finances to travel and just about everything in between. We at TPG have received a lot of questions about what card issuers, travel providers and other companies are doing to help customers cope with the uncertainties. One of the more common questions has been about credit card sign-up bonuses. Many new cardholders who have applied for cards within the past couple of months are concerned about hitting spending requirements since we've all been holding off on traveling and trying to save money.

Stay up to date on how the novel coronavirus is impacting travelers and cardholders by bookmarking our dedicated COVID-19 hub page and signing up for the TPG daily newsletter.

Most major card companies have issued statements that they are dedicated to helping cardholders with their financial situations whenever possible, but only a few have announced official deadline extensions. Here's what we know so far about the extensions offered by issuers.

Related reading: Credit cards we've applied for since coronavirus

Capital One

Although Capital One hasn't released an overarching policy that extends sign-up bonus spending deadlines, there is anecdotal evidence that they are being flexible and working with individuals (both consumer and business cardholders), who are worried about hitting spending requirements to earn their bonuses.

In recent weeks, a TPG Lounge member was told by Capital One that an extension couldn't currently be granted but was told to ask again for reconsideration when they were within two weeks of the end of the promo period. But Miles to Memories recently reported two instances where Capital One Spark Miles for Business cardholders who applied for the 200,000-mile offer (after meeting minimum spend requirements) a few months back were able to call and request an extension. (This offer is no longer available. The current offer for the Spark Miles card is 50,000 bonus miles after spending $4,500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening).

I contacted Capital One, and a representative told me that at the present time, extension offers for both small-business and consumer cardholders would vary on a situation-by-situation basis. They encouraged customers who may be affected to reach out to customer service to find a solution.

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If you are closing in on your sign-up bonus deadline, it's definitely worth calling Capital One to request an extension. There's no guarantee that you'll get one, but anecdotal evidence points toward it being likely that they'll work with you to help make sure you can hit your bonus.

Related reading: The types of relief credit card companies are offering during the coronavirus crisis

Bank of America

If you opened a Bank of America credit card account between Jan. 1, 2020, and March 31, 2020, you should automatically receive an additional 90 days to hit your welcome bonus (giving you a total of 180 days). Unfortunately, this extension does not include new cardholders who applied after March 31.

However, this policy could change depending on how long the current economic situation continues.


(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

Chase announced a policy similar to Bank of America's. If you applied for an eligible credit card between Jan. 1, 2020, and March 31, 2020, you'll automatically get an additional three-month extension to hit your sign-up bonus spending requirements. Chase listed all "points-based" credit cards as eligible, regardless of whether it is a consumer, cobranded or business card. Keep in mind that, although the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) and Chase Freedom Unlimited are cash-back credit cards on their own, they still technically earn points. We confirmed with Chase that both cards are included in this policy, as are the Ultimate Rewards cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

The extension is automatic, but you should receive an email from Chase informing you of your sign-up bonus deadline extension. If you believe you are eligible for the extension and did not receive anything from Chase, I'd suggest giving them a call (though keep in mind that you may have to wait on hold for a while since phone lines are busy during this time).

If you've applied more recently than March 31, there is no official policy out right now regarding an extension. Things could change as we get closer to dates when those applicants would likely be figuring out if they will or will not be able to hit the requirements.

The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related reading: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review

American Express

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

The only exception to the recommendation above is American Express. Amex announced on April 2, 2020, that all new cardholders who applied or will apply for a card between Dec. 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020, will have a three-month extension to earn any welcome bonus on Amex-issued consumer or business credit cards, including The Platinum Card® from American Express. This is the first major issuer to grant automatic extensions across the board.

If you have applied for an eligible Amex card this year, you don't have to call or request the extension; it should be automatically granted. Considering how strict Amex is with earning welcome bonuses (you can only get one bonus per card per lifetime), it's not entirely surprising that they are being the most proactive about helping cardholders who are worried they won't be able to capitalize on earning the bonus because of COVID-19.

Related reading: Ways to meet credit card bonus minimum spending requirements

For anyone eyeing an American Express credit card, now is a great time to apply. From now through the end of May, you'll get extra time to hit your welcome bonus on eligible cards. And by the time you do hit that bonus, we'll hopefully be on our way back to normalcy when it comes to booking travel and taking trips.

Requesting an extension via customer service

(Photo by Shutterstock)
(Photo by Shutterstock)

If you are struggling to hit a sign-up bonus for another issuer, you should reach out to the number on the back of your card. Some people have been able to call their card's customer service line or use the chat feature in the app to request an extension. There's no guarantee that you'll be approved for an extension, but it's worth asking to save yourself from losing out on a great bonus.

Generally speaking, you're most likely to get an extension if you are close to your sign-up bonus deadline. If you aren't within two weeks of the deadline, it's less likely (though not impossible) that you'll be granted the extension. It always helps to explain the reason you are requesting the extension too. ("I haven't been spending as much as usual due to stay-at-home orders," for example.)

Remember to be kind and courteous when interacting with customer-service agents, even if the call or request doesn't go your way. Agents have been working nonstop to field a ton of requests and questions from cardholders, while juggling the same stressors in their own lives.

Not a member of the TPG Lounge? Join our dedicated Facebook community for all things travel, points and miles.

Bottom line

One of the reasons why we add new credit cards to our wallets is to earn the awesome sign-up bonuses. You can get more than $1,000 out of some card bonuses, which can help you cover upcoming purchases or help you score a great travel redemption in the future.

This guide outlines the policies some of the major U.S. card issuers have right now, but these will probably continue to evolve. Some issuers may extend deadlines again if it becomes apparent that lockdowns and significantly lower spending habits continue into late summer.

Featured image by POIKE/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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