Will I Earn Points While Spending Toward a Welcome Bonus?
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
"Reader Questions" are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.
The easiest way to quickly rack up a meaningful amount of frequent flyer miles or credit card points is by taking advantage of a welcome bonus on a new card. These generally follow a pretty standard formula: Spend X amount of money in X amount of time (usually 3 months or 90 days), and earn Y amount of points. TPG reader Jeff wants to know if he'll also earn points on the money he's spending, in addition to the points from the welcome bonus...
[pullquote source="TPG READER JEFF"]I just got the 100,000 point welcome offer on the Amex Platinum after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. Will I also earn points on the $5,000 I spent?[/pullquote]
Jeff must have been one of the lucky people targeted for the 100,000-point welcome bonus on the Platinum Card® from American Express (offer subject to change at anytime). This is one of the most valuable welcome offers you can hope to get, worth $2,000 based on TPG's valuation of Membership Rewards points.
After Jeff spends $5,000 in the first 3 months, he'll earn 100,000 bonus Membership Rewards points, but he'll also earn points on the $5,000 he spent. If some of that money is spent purchasing airfare directly with an airline, for example, he'll earn 5x bonus points on that purchase. The reason we don't include these points when talking about the value of a welcome bonus is because you would have earned them no matter what, whether you were spending on a brand-new card or one that you've had for 10 years.
While these points shouldn't factor into your decision to open a new card, it might be worthwhile to include them in your planning. Some of the largest welcome bonuses we've seen, especially on business cards like the Business Platinum Card® from American Express and Capital One Spark Miles for Business, carry very high spending requirements spread across multiple tiers. For example, the current welcome offer on the Business Platinum is 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $10,000 in the first 3 months, and another 25,000 points after spending another $10,000 in the first 3 months. Factoring in both the up to 75,000-point welcome bonus and the points you'd earn through spending, you'd really end up with (at least) 95,000 Membership Rewards points to use. The information for the Capital One Spark Miles for Business has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Same thing with the limited-time Spark Miles for Business offer: You'll earn 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months, and another 150,000 miles when you spend $50,000 total in your first 6 months. In addition to that up to 200,000-point bonus, you'll earn 2x miles (or another 100,000 miles) on that $50,000 of spending. 300,000 Capital One miles is enough to unlock a whole host of redemption options, from premium-cabin international travel to a seemingly endless number of domestic flights.
While you're working on your new welcome bonuses, you'll continue to earn points and miles at the normal rate for your card of choice. We normally don't think of these miles as part of the bonus because you'd earn them no matter what, but when you're dealing with a big spending requirement that generates a lot of miles, it might be worth paying attention to. This ultimately shouldn't factor into your decision about what card to apply for, but knowing how many total points you'll end up with can help you plan some awesome getaways.
Thanks for the question, Jeff, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.