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There’s nothing better than a welcome bonus on your travel credit card that gets you closer to your next award flight or hotel stay, but nothing worse than waiting for the points or miles to post to your account after meeting the minimum spend requirement. Unfortunately, each bank is different when it comes to how fast they post points or miles to your account.
Today, we’ll show you how long you can expect to wait before rewards post, broken down by issuer. We’ll cover both cobranded and transferable points cards. In general, you’ll receive points from programs like Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards quicker than you’ll receive points or miles from a third party such as an airline or hotel loyalty program, since for the transferable points programs the issuer is managing your loyalty account directly.
Welcome bonus: Officially, American Express pays welcome bonuses “8-12 weeks” after meeting the minimum spend. But in most cases, we see the bank pay out welcome bonuses on both its Membership Rewards cards and cobranded cards within a few days of minimum spend being met, so you shouldn’t have to wait long.
Warning: American Express will withhold a welcome bonus when it suspects card holders of “gaming” its cards. In most cases, this means buying large amounts of gift cards or other cash equivalents when you first get your shiny new Amex. At the very least, your bonus could take several months to post if your account is flagged for review.
Everyday spending: Generally, we have found no rhyme or reason to exactly when points from spending post to your Amex Membership Rewards account. There’s nowhere on Amex’s website where you see earnings by transaction. In conversations with Amex, we were told that points are added up and posted based on transactions by calendar month. However, anytime we’ve tried to reconcile TPG accounts, we haven’t been able to tie back to their numbers. Amex’s basic stance is “trust us.”
For co-brand cards, airline miles and hotel points from standard spend are paid out at the statement close date. For Membership Rewards-earning cards, it’s a more complicated story. The points first go into a “pending” state for a month and then post to your account when the following statement closes. So if your statement closes on Jan. 30, you can expect points to be in “pending” immediately, and in your account available to use at the end of February. If you don’t pay your credit card bill on time, you’ll forfeit the points (or pay $35 to reinstate them). Also note that in our experience, changing your statement close date can push back your points going through for another billing cycle.
If you’re curious how many points you have coming soon, you can see your “pending points” on your account dashboard. Just click on the information button next to “Available Points” to get a pop-up with your pending points. This is a total across all of your accounts; this doesn’t break out earnings by card. If you have multiple Amex log-in accounts — which can be helpful for Amex Offers — note that the pending points seem to be combined across all accounts tied to a particular Membership Rewards account.
If you’re in urgent need of some Amex points, you might be able to “borrow” from your pending points. However, I wouldn’t expect to be able to do this unless you’ve established a relationship with Amex, as the issuer is getting more and more concerned about “gamers.” That said, Amex has allowed TPG to borrow from these pending points to fill a redemption, temporarily sending his available Membership Rewards account negative.
Bank of America
Welcome bonus: Bank of America says it pays out welcome bonuses “approximately 6 to 8 weeks” after you meet the minimum spend requirement. But in practice, we see points from Bank of America bonuses right after statement close.
Everyday spend: Rewards should show up as “pending” immediately, but will be available for use the next billing cycle.
Capital One notes that it pays out its welcome bonuses “within two billing cycles” of meeting the required credit card spend. Generally, though, we’ve seen bonus rewards post to accounts the day after the statement closes or soon after.
Welcome bonus: Chase asks that you “please allow 6 to 8 weeks for bonus points to post to your account” after meeting the spend requirement. The issuer waits to post your welcome bonus until your statement closes. However, from personal experience, we’ve found that Chase may delay posting your bonus points if you meet the minimum spending requirement too close to the statement closing date. This is true even if all of the transactions for the minimum spending fully post and show on your statement. So, don’t cut your spending too close to the deadline if you’re counting on those points.
Everyday spend: Chase makes it quite easy to track your Ultimate Rewards earnings. Each purchase will show up in the Ultimate Rewards Activity Dashboard with the category and points earnings for each transaction. There are even metrics to show you how many points you earned from each category.
All of the points listed in the transaction list are just pending points until your statement closes. Then, the points will post to your Ultimate Rewards account, generally the day after the statement closes.
Pro tip: When you meet the minimum spend on an Ultimate Rewards card, the bonus will be added to the “Points Earned on Next Statement” box in the Ultimate Rewards portal.
Welcome bonus: Officially, Citi states that it pays welcome bonuses “8-10 weeks after you have met the purchase requirements.” But in our experience, you can expect Citi to pay out bonuses for both cobranded and Citi ThankYou cards within a couple days of your statement closing.
Everyday spend: Your earned points post to you ThankYou Point account typically the day after your statement closes. Citi breaks out your earnings by card and by bonus category — making it a little easier to double-check the math.
Welcome bonus/referrals: On the Discover it cards, there’s no traditional welcome bonus, but you’ll get all of the cash back you earned matched after the end of your first year with the card. Discover says you’ll get the matched cash back within 1 or 2 billing cycles. Discover also runs a refer-a-friend promotion where both the person referred and the referral receive a $50 statement credit. The company awards this bonus “within the first three months” of new account opening.
Everyday spend: As for the cash back you earn from Discover cards, the issuer says it will be added to your account at the end of each billing period.
Synchrony Bank issues the Cathay Pacific Visa Signature Card. The bank says that the bonus will post “1-2 billing after the net qualifying purchase(s) are made.” However, in our experience Synchrony pays out miles when your monthly statement closes.
U.S. Bank asks that you “allow 6–8 weeks for your bonus points to be credited to your account” after meeting the minimum spend. Most of the time, however, we’ve found that both the welcome bonus and regular spend are paid out when your monthly statement closes.
Welcome bonus: Wells Fargo promises that welcome bonuses are “redeemable within 1 – 2 billing periods after they are earned.”
Everyday spend: Wells Fargo shows rewards as “pending” in your account until the day after your billing cycle ends. So rewards earned on a purchase made March 15 for a billing cycle ending March 27 should be available on March 28.
That’s how all of the major credit card issuers pay out points for both welcome bonuses and regular spend. Keep this in mind when planning out your next credit card application. If you need to book a ticket quickly, you may want to consider opening an Amex card that posts instantly. If you have time or no immediate redemption in mind, apply for the card that best fits your future travel plans.
Featured image via Getty Images.
Additional reporting by JT Genter.
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