Should I Wait for an Increased Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus?
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
"Reader Questions" are answered twice a week by TPG Associate Editor Brendan Dorsey.
Credit card bonuses are probably the easiest way to earn points and miles. So TPG reader Justin wants to know if it ever makes sense to wait for an increased offer...
[pullquote source="TPG Reader Justin"]Does Chase ever offer a higher sign-up bonus than the current 50,000 points on the Sapphire cards?[/pullquote]
When the Chase Sapphire Reserve first launched in 2016, it offered a 100,000-point sign-up bonus after $4,000 in spend. But that offer only lasted a few months — the Sapphire Reserve now comes with a 50,000-point bonus after the same $4,000 spend in three months. Interestingly, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has the exact same bonus — 50,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first three months as a cardholder.
People often ask whether we expect to see the CSR bonus go back up to 100,000 points. While we don't have any inside information on that question, the fact is we haven't seen a higher offer for the Sapphire Reserve since it was lowered to 50,000 points in early 2017. The Chase Sapphire Preferred public bonus has also stayed at 50,000 points for the last few years, although we've seen some targeted and in-branch offers for 60,000 to 80,000 points, albeit with higher minimum spends.
Again, we don't have any specific info from Chase on the likelihood of the CSP bonus going up or down in the near future, but it's always great when you can maximize sign-up bonuses and get them when they're at their all-time highs. But does it make sense to wait around for an increased offer? Here are some pros and cons of waiting for a larger sign-up bonus...
- More points: This one is pretty simple — you'll have more points in your account at the end of the day with a higher bonus.
- Limitations: American Express has a once in a lifetime welcome offer rule, so it might make sense to wait for the highest possible offer.
- Ease: When you get a bigger bonus, it often means you're getting more points for the same amount of work and spend (though sometimes bigger bonuses come with higher spending requirements).
- Opportunity cost: There's an opportunity cost by not signing up for a card now. It might be two years before the card gets an increased bonus, and in that time, you could have been earning valuable points from actual spend — maybe even enough to make up the difference between the two different sign-up bonuses. Cards like the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred make it incredibly easy to rack up points from spend with their generous travel and dining bonus categories.
- The increased bonus never comes: It's always possible that an increased bonus never appears. The banks up their offers to entice more customers to join, so if they're already getting enough business from their normal bonuses, then they don't have much of a reason to shell out extra points (which cost banks real cash) to acquire more customers.
- Chase's 5/24 rule: The issuer's infamous 5/24 rule says in order to be eligible for many of its cards, you can't have opened five or more personal credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months. That means if you're going to wait for an increased bonus on a card that falls under the 5/24 rule (like the CSP), you're also going to have to hold off on signing up for a lot of other credit cards to be sure you don't go over 5 cards in 24 months. That's a lot of extra points you could be leaving on the table.
- You want those points now: You earn points for a reason — so you can use them! The longer you don't have those points, the more you're using cash.
- Devaluations: In the long-term, most points and mileage programs are devalued and redemptions can cost significantly more than they once did. If you wait around for that bigger bonus, it might not even be worth it because the program was devalued along the way.
As always, you should weigh the pros and cons for yourself — each individual's personal situation will vary. It could make sense to wait if there are other points or miles you need first, so chase after those and trust me, other enticing offers will surely pop up along the way. You can find many of the top offers on our best travel rewards credit cards page, all of which factor in the value of the sign-up bonus. It's a great resource to consult when you're trying to figure out what card to apply for next.
Thanks for the question, Justin, 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 email@example.com.