How Do Companies Select Members for Targeted Bonuses?

Jun 18, 2019

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.

While credit card welcome bonuses are typically the fastest way to rack up a meaningful number of points and miles, you should also make sure to take advantage of other opportunities available to you. These might include leveraging Amex Offers or online shopping portals, or even taking advantage of targeted offers that are available specifically for you — and not the rest of the general public. TPG reader Colorado wants to know how companies decide who to target with these offers …

How do credit card companies select users for prequalified/targeted offers? I never seem to get any.


For starters, it’s important to note that we’ll likely never know the full answer to this question. Each company — be it a credit card issuer, airline or hotel — has its own (proprietary) methods for generating these offers. However, while we don’t know the exact formula, we can make a few educated guesses based on the type of offer.

Let’s start with credit card preapproval offers, where a card issuer essentially guarantees that you will be approved if you apply for a card. These fall into the same category as (targeted) elevated bonus offers, like the enhanced welcome bonus on The Platinum Card® from American Express that’s available to a select group of individuals the CardMatch Tool (offers subject to change at anytime).

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.

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.

When you get a targeted offer directly from an issuer — like Amex mailing out a unique offer code for a welcome offer or Citi mailing out offer codes for elevated bonuses on the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard — you can assume that the same process is taking place. However, the 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 isn’t readily apparent.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have offers from airlines and hotel programs. Some of these include American Airlines gifting temporary elite status to select customers, or spending bonuses on the old SPG (now Marriott) credit cards. This marketing budget is being used to attract new customers, so infuriatingly enough, these valuable bonuses are more likely to go to people with limited to no history with the airline or hotel. Providing these offers to already-loyal customers essentially cannibalizes a company’s revenue stream.

It would be like giving a coupon for an item to a grocery store shopper that was going to buy said item at full price anyway. That doesn’t attract new customers; it cuts down on the profit that customer is bringing to the store.

I’ve experienced this from two angles. I routinely qualify for American Airlines Gold status through my actual flying, so I never receive a targeted offer for Platinum status. AA knows it has my business and doesn’t need to spend any more money to entice me to travel. Most of the people I’ve talked to who received this offer fly 1-2 times a year with American.

Similarly, Marriott knows that I’m a loyal Titanium Elite member, so I’ve never been targeted to earn bonus points or free elite night credits like other people have. While it hurts seeing “my” airline or hotel reward other people instead of recognizing the amount of money I spend with them each year, it does make sense from a business perspective.

Bottom Line

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.

Thanks for the question, Colorado, 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

Featured photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy

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