Banks Don’t Want Your Credit Card Business Unless It’s for the Long-Term

Banks have in many ways tightened their criteria for issuing premium rewards credit cards over the past year, especially for folks who have had the same product in the past or who have a pattern of switching around their wallets frequently.

It’s not just about avoiding giving customers the same bonus multiple times — it’s also about realizing they need cardmembers to stick with them and keep a card top of wallet in order for the customer to become profitable.

Bonuses are expensive, they recoup the cost over time when a cardmember behaves with typical spend into the future — but not if the consumer is someone who tends to switch products.

Fortunately there are several banks, lots of products, and still plenty of competition as a result. And that means if you’d like to change cards you can still do it and be rewarded for it.

Chase

Last year Chase made it possible to get signup bonuses again on a card even if you’ve had it in the past, as long as you aren’t a current cardmember and haven’t received a bonus in 24 months. That’s much more generous than ‘once in a lifetime’ per card (unless the card had changed sufficiently to be considered a ‘different product).

On the other hand they’re being much more careful, it appears, approving accounts for Ultimate Rewards card products if you’ve applied for several cards in the recent past (which can be as few as 5 in two years). They don’t seem to apply these rules to co-brand cards like United, British Airways, IHG Rewards Club, Hyatt, Marriott, etc.

American Express

American Express went back to the future last year. When I got really involved in the hobby you could get a signup bonus from American Express once per card (though if they increased the bonus on the card, they’d give you the difference between the new offer and what you had received in the past). They liberalized for awhile but then went back to one bonus per lifetime for personal cards.

Here’s the story of a top credit card executive from a competing bank denied an American Express signup bonus and being shocked that it happened, because he had the card product a decade earlier.

Business card terms are much more generous. The following language is typical:

Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product within the last 12 months.

Citibank

Citibank has long been generous but inconsistent, almost a moving target. A decade ago you could get the same card bonus every 90 days. More recently most products were 18 to 24 months. Sometimes there were exceptions — Citi Executive cards were obtainable over and over, people got 100,000 mile signup bonus offers a second time after a week and a third time after two months. That’s over.

And now what’s typical is that you aren’t eligible for a bonus if you’ve had the given card product opened or closed in the past 18 months. In other words, you can’t have had the card in 18 months (rather than not having received the bonus in 18 months). It’s a change from signing up every 18 months to waiting 18 months from when a card is closed.

Barclays

Barclaycard used to be a soft touch, approving multiples of the same product. Now they’re much tougher, approving a card every six months at most (for most people) and they’re much more skeptical of getting a second of the same card.

US Bank

US Bank is simply tough, but they don’t have many worthwhile cards in any case. There’s the Club Carlson card, the Flexperks card, and the Korean card. There are others, but they don’t get much of my attention.

Bank of America

Bank of America remains the most generous, as I explain they approve multiples of the same card and often continue to do so as frequently as every 60+ days. There aren’t a lot of worthwhile Bank of America cards, my favorite is that Alaska Airlines Visa although some people like the Virgin Atlantic card because of its giant signup bonus (with significant spend) although the miles tend to be worth less than most currencies.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Congrats on being the first of what I consider the major travel/points bloggers to point out that things are changing at Chase. Although I do wish you were more specific on what is happening and even dedicating an entire post to it. You deserve credit for at least acknowledging it, which your peers have not.

    I am really surprised how little attention this has received.

  2. I totally get what Chase is trying to do & understand the need for it. However, I have a big issue with the details of Chase’s new policy. I’ve had the Sapphire Preferred since it came out (I had an old product that was converted to it). It’s been my main card for over a dozen years & I put $30-40k on it annually (a conservative estimate). I was just this week shot down for a Chase Freedom card and specifically cited the too many applications over the last 24 months.

    My issue is that I’m not a big churner, at all. I probably just hit the 5 card limit since I took out a few AA cards & US Air cards a 12-18 months ago knowing they would merge. I always hit the minimum spend of those cards & switch back to my Sapphire out of laziness and loyalty. I’m ticked off the that one bank that I’ve actually made a concerted effort to be a great customer to is the one denied me for the 1st time ever. If anyone should be sick of me right now its Barclays or Citi.

    I get what Chase is trying to do, but they are catching good customers up in this new policy change. I’m seriously considering going to Citi TY points and being done with Chase over this. And to be frank, I’d like to see more bloggers, especially BA ones push back on this as well. I’ve never had a problem with affiliate links & have actually used yours more than once in the past. I do however, feel that asking people to use these links have a duty to push back when an overreaching policy such as this comes out. Imagine if the bloggers reacted to Chase with half the acrimony they treated Delta or Hilton after their devaluations.

    Chase, there is a middle ground here, a profitable one, that I encourage you to find or you will lose a lot of the good will you have generated over the last 5+ years. Thank you Gary for the forum to post this. I know you and BA have a line of communication with Chase, feel free to pass this along.

  3. Doctor of Credit had this posted several days ago (and he, unlike Gary, cited sources for the Chase changes). He also was much more specific and detailed.

    But he’s also not on affiliate commissions from Chase.

  4. Andrew and Mike make interesting points in different ways. Andrew wishes for a post that was framed differently, basically covering a different topic. Gary seems to be covering the overall trend, rather than the micro-level specifics and strategies for circumventing the banks. Mike is criticizing the post for covering one topic when he’d prefer to read something else. Andrew as a result has the much smarter comment.

  5. Al, are there ANY reports of getting Citi Executive a second time after 8 days and a third time after 2 months anymore, let alone at 100,000 a pop?

  6. Yes to your first Q. If you actually read the post you will see 100k is long gone but 50k is still churnable. The emphasis of Gary’s point was the ability to get the same citi card after 8/65 days, and not on the 100k aspect.

  7. im really surprised at the soft touch this development is getting. It’s huge: why should a newbie sign up for the ThankYou products if that means they can’t maximize UR? Aren’t UR the best? This totally changes the strategy. You basically have to make your five apps (including authorized users for other people) all Chase or lose out. It’s bad for affiliate bloggers that’s why they haven’t drawn the arrows to what this logically means.

  8. I just received the starwood card. I met the 5k spend but they denied the bonus because I had the card several years ago. Do you happen to know if or how I can appeal?

  9. @tim there’s not really an appeal, see the linked thread where a Senior VP at US Bank — who runs the Flexperks program! — had the exact same thing happen to him!

  10. Stvr, Gary is covering this issue (when most are not) and you’re giving him shit over his emphasis. Seriously?

  11. I can understand why Chase might be doing it, but it might also stop consumers who want to have a long-term relationship with Chase. Yes, like most points and mile junkies, we love sign-up bonuses. I was about to apply for the Chase Hyatt card, because I wanted to move my loyalty from Hilton to Hyatt, given now that HHonors points are not worth much. I also plan to hold on to the Chase Hyatt card long-term. After all the Chase news in the last week and the Doctor of Credit post, I’m thinking twice about whether the Chase Hyatt Card is worth a hard pull, since certain data points on Flyertalk suggest that few people have also been denied for co-brand Chase cards for the same reason of too many credit pulls in last two years. I’m in my late twenties and assuming that my income will only keep growing as my career heads forward, I’m keeping a major chunk of my annual spend with Amex for now, followed by Citi. I’ll rethink about applying for Chase once this policy eases.

  12. Ok, I will ask the question point blank to Gary, who I do respect. I would like his viewpoint. Blogging and being and affiliate are 2 things that I have no experience in so I have no idea what the dynamics are.

    Do you plan on covering the Chase developments in more detail? If not, why not?

    Also, any insight to why other bloggers have not weighed in on the topic. Gary, I like the business aspects of many of your posts and would really appreciate a response on this one.

  13. For those people who are questioning why Gary did not go into more detail what do you want? Seriously the other credit card bloggers are not even disclosing the changes being made by chase (which is completely shady and shows where their loyalty lies) and pushing people into cards that they could very well be getting denied for. At least there is some disclosure here and people can look further into it if they wish.

  14. Everything is cyclical. Things get easy, things get hard. Next downturn the banks will be crying and begging us again, and the cycle will begin anew. Get while the getting is good and then ride it out.

  15. Andrew I haven’t become an expert at this point and am not just parroting others plus lots of noise on the issue.

    Contra a whole bunch of claims by folks who don’t know how this all works I really don’t have editorial restrictions by virtue of working with banks. I write about what interests me, I don’t write about what doesn’t or I feel like I don’t have knowledge or value to add. Could others face challenges writing about things? Maybe I don’t really know. Perhaps I get more of a pass because of relationships that I have via the Freddie Awards or with the programs or because the blog is widely read. But that’s the realm of speculation.

    But the real answer to whether or not I have a plan to write about anything is that other than trip reports that are in the queue I don’t really have plans for anything I write. I write whatever catches my attention at the moment I’m writing it. 🙂 that’s just how I work.

    Hope that helps!

  16. @CW exactly although I don’t predict precisely how any bank or travel provider will behave. Remember that Amex was once in a lifetime before they weren’t before they are again and Chase was once in a lifetime before they weren’t before they started to apparently worry about total number of applications across issuers.

  17. “Banks Don’t Want Your Credit Card Business Unless It’s for the Long-Term”

    While that line up there seems to come as a shock to many here, I’d predicted on a travel forum about two years ago that this would happen. The practice of getting a bunch of cards just for the sign up bonus points or miles and then getting rid of the cards, often before the annual fee was due, was bound to irk the card issuers sooner or later and it now has, so they’re doing something about it. The clamping down is actually going to get worse and nothing anyone — especially bloggers — says would cause the card issuers to reverse course…

    If one steps back. looks at the big picture and reads many of the comments deploring the clamping down by the card issuers (e.g. “I get what Chase is trying to do, but they are catching good customers up in this new policy change. I’m seriously considering going to Citi TY points and being done with Chase over this. “) , one would recognize the situation as analogous to what happened when Delta and United decided to switch to the revenue-based FF system, which was designed to reward big spenders. This is exactly what the credit card issuers are now trying to accomplish. Only big spenders will now earn significant numbers of points or miles through credit cards — by getting cards for long term and actually spending! Gone will be the easy points from sign up bonuses, which @Gary had, in fact, predicted would become the primary source of miles/points after DL and UA switched to the revenue system. Well, he was wrong. The banks are also switching to what can be loosely called a revenue system because significant numbers of points/miles earned through credit cards will now require actual spending, a lot of it 😉

  18. There’s always going to be a major role for sign-up bonuses, because the easiest way for the banks to get business is to steal the other banks’ clients. The recent change by Chase with how they’re handling UR card applications gives Citi a major opportunity to take some good business; they aren’t going to get the business by following course immediately. It’s different than mileage earning by the airlines because there aren’t the same roadblocks to direct competition, since credit cards don’t need terminals and 787s.

  19. “In other words, you can’t have had the card in 18 months (rather than not having received the bonus in 18 months)”

    Some Citi data points say they’ve been interpreting the language quite literally as “can’t have opened or closed the card in the past 18 months”. It appears to be possible to get a second card if the first one was opened more than 18 months ago and not closed.

  20. @Al
    It is true.. That blogger and others reported the FT thread and within a couple days, Citi said thank you for letting us know and removed the application and broke the link.

  21. Hi,

    I am considering creating an LLC for my business but I am an Australian citizen and passport holder.

    Can American businesses take advantage of any business card offers to get free miles or you must have an SSN?

    The LLC would be quite legit and trading for my business.

    Dale.

  22. @DCS you’re wrong, I didn’t predict that credit cards WOULD BECOME the primary source of miles as a result of revenue-based changes, since already flights represented a minority of miles earned before that.

  23. Gary, I appreciate the response. We may disagree on if you would be parroting since IMO so little has been written on it. I have only seen the doctor of credit posts and a thread on FT. Then you at least broached the subject and I give you credit for that. However, if I had not read the other information I would not have thought your comment was important.

    My point is that bloggers do a good job about giving their readers heads up when things change, and even MAY change even if there is noise, but most have been dead silent on this. Again I do give you credit for mentioning it, I just wish you went further. More just curiosity as to why so much silence.

  24. @Andrew I really can’t speak for any other blog’s choices about what to write about. But bear in mind this is pretty new. I myself had an extremely busy week at work, so am a bit behind in catching up on what’s going on here. So I wouldn’t presume to ascribe motives elsewhere.

  25. If banks want to keep CC customers for the long term, they need to incentivize more for that then just giving great sign up bonuses for new customers. They could provide more bonuses for existing card members based on spend and longevity like airlines and hotel loyalty programs. For example the Citi Hilton Reserve Visa does this to a certain extent with a free weekend night with $10K spend. Why not a free night for each $10k spend? Chase Hyatt could up the category for the free night cert for each $X spend.

  26. @DCS ” Only big spenders will now earn significant numbers of points or miles through credit cards — by getting cards for long term and actually spending! Gone will be the easy points from sign up bonuses”

    This would make sense, if this was in fact what Chase was doing. In fact, they are doing the opposite. Read the comment by Mike at 1:38. $30 to $40K spend a year, for a dozen years, and Chase turned him down for a measly no AF Freedom card. Which I might add comes with a fairly small sign up bonus. Yet someone who hasn’t been spending anything at all on credit cards in the past will easily qualify for a CSP, due to no new cards in the past 2 years. And then may continue not spending much because they are adverse to using credit.

    I’m in the same situation as Mike, except when Chase announced the “no second card until 24 months after the last sign up bonus”, I took that as a assurance I would get a new CSP when I canceled and reapplied. I’d had it for 3 years, and had spent quite a bit on it over that time. I canceled it, planning on getting another that I would spend on quite freely and keep open for at least two more years.

    Instead I’m not reapplying as it’s crystal clear Chase will deny my application. So now the $30K a year I would have spent on the CSP will instead go on my new Citi TYPs Premier.

    Well played Chase. sarc/off.

  27. @Gary — I am not going to hunt for the post where you made the claim, but for many of us miles earned through CC spend paled in comparison to those we got through distance-based mile earning. With CC issuers now clamping down on sign up bonus miles/points I predict very lean days ahead for those who relied on CC sign up bonuses (maybe also for bloggers who pushed such cards…) 😉

  28. I think any indications that this is the harbinger of a larger trend are, at least at this point, overblown and unsubstantiated. Other banks may join in or other banks may welcome additional business that this pushes their way. Different banks tend to have very different responses to market conditions. That will likely continue into the future. This is one bank, and they aren’t even implementing this policy regarding all of their cards (I’ve personally seen four different people who would not qualify under the 5 accounts rule get Hyatt cards in the last week).

    The thing that really interests me is seeing Chase do this with their UR cards, but not treating their co-branded cards the same way. If this were simply a straight up anti-churning measure, there’s no real reason that I can see to keep handing out Avios like candy. But there are a lot of anecdotal reports that they are and that agents are going on record indicating that they are doing it on purpose. If they’ve determined that people with many accounts are unprofitable, what’s the upside on that play for them?

    I’d be very grateful to any thought leaders out there who have a sense of why the disparate treatment across product lines and who wish to weigh in on this.

  29. @Joel sez: “This is one bank,… I’d be very grateful to any thought leaders out there who have a sense of why the disparate treatment across product lines and who wish to weigh in on this.”

    Alright. First, just re-read the piece because it is not just about “one bank”. Chase; AMEX; Citi; Barclays; USB…have all clamped down. It may not not be obvious for newer products but that is because most people would qualify since it would be their first application.

    Second, that co-branded cards are immune supports rather than negates the obvious trend. Anyone who would get, e.g., the Chase Hyatt visa would get only Hyatt GP-specific points and benefits…How attractive is that for the public at large?! For a more generally attractive card like the SPG AMEX, you get this term & condition in bold letter when you go to apply: “If we identify you as currently having an American Express® Card account, you may not be eligible for this welcome bonus offer. This offer is also not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”

    The bottom line, in fact, is that the clamping down is no longer just a trend; it is now the status quo, which just took a while to recognize and may also take some time to accept but it is definitely here… 😉

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