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.
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 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 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.
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 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.