What’s the Worst Credit Card Signup Bonus Ever?

I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).


Two years ago we saw what I think may be the worst signup bonus in history, worse even than the stuffed animal you could get signup up for a JAL Mileage Bank credit card.

It was the bottle of soda signup bonus.

Look at this great churn with the Walmart credit card!

In fact I take it that a giveaway may be for applying rather than on approval. So you’d expect it to be modest, sort of like getting an extra 500 miles from Barclaycard applying for their American Airlines co-brand card inflight.

Along the same lines Costco will apparently give you a cooler if you apply for their card in-store (HT: yugrudfoo).

Costco Cooler Bag Reward

Comments on Reddit are awesome, wondering if current cardholders can secure message Citi asking them to match the offer, and wondering if you can apply multiple times because “I have about four or five frozen lasagnas I’d like to take home on the plane for the 4th to my Mother’s.”

Credit card signup bonuses weren’t always generous. There were rewards cards on the market frequently two decades ago that didn’t even offer bonuses. I didn’t receive a bonus when I first got my Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express 16 years ago.

But to the extent bonuses are being offered, the stuffed animal has to be about the weakest — as long as bottles of soda and coolers are an extra spiff for in-person applications rather than all you’ll get.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. And I thought Cruise Line cards offered crappy sign-up bonuses. I guess most store cards are fairly bad.

  2. When I got the Costco card four months ago, the promo was for a free rotisserie chicken and that was enough to convince me (plus, I had a hole in my wallet for gas purchases, and 4% back was pretty good)! There wasn’t even a minimum spend requirement for the chicken!

  3. My first ever credit card in college I received a free T-shirt for signing up. I wonder if I re-apply now if they will give me one in a bigger size? haha.

  4. Hey, one of those Sirotan plush just sold for $25 on eBay. That’s more value than I’m getting for my American Airlines miles that I can never find any award availability to use them with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *