Cautionary Tale: I Just Squeaked By When Earning A Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus

by joeheg

A few months ago, I wrote about how I signed up for three spending bonuses within a short time. This isn’t something I usually do but I didn’t think it would be a problem to earn all of the bonuses.

In fact, I met the $10,000 Capital One Venture X and $6,000 AMEX Platinum requirements sooner than I expected. I only had to finish the $3,000 spending with the IHG Premier card.

When I signed up at the end of March, the offer was for 125K IHG points plus a 40K free night certificate by spending $3,000 in three months. It was also the last chance for us to have both the IHG Select and Premier cards.

It took Chase a few days to review our application and they eventually approved the IHG Premier card. But Chase only gave us a $2,000 credit limit, the minimum amount allowed, that they moved from one of our other Chase accounts.

This added a challenge to meet a $3,000 spending requirement in three months. I couldn’t put any large expense on the card. Instead, I used the card for our smaller bills. Even with micromanaging our expenses, I came close to exceeding the credit limit. I had to make a payment in the middle of the billing cycle so that I could keep using the card and get closer to the 3K requirement.

As we approached the two-month mark, I was on track and knew I had an insurance payment due, which would put me over the top. My mistake was using the first day I used the card as the beginning of the clock. In fact, Chase uses the day you are APPROVED for a card to start your three-month clock, and it took over 10 days to receive the card in the mail.

What does Chase count as “three months?” Like the Chase 5/24 rule, there’s nothing in writing to say what 3 months really means. Chase reps have told people 115 days or 103 days, while others have said three months is the date of your approval (24th to the 24th.)

My third statement closed and my final charge hadn’t hit my account yet. I was just under 90 days and way before the 103-115 day mark.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I checked my Chase rewards page.

a screenshot of a receipt

The charge finally hit the account. I earned 3X points for the transaction and an extra 125,000 points. Interestingly, Chase includes the signup bonus with the transaction instead of posting it separately. I’d never seen that happen before. The Chase website says the points will post to my IHG account with the following statement.

Final Thoughts

I don’t have a good data point for what Chase counts as “three months,” as I made it in just under the approval date guideline. Who knows if I could have gone 95, 100 or 115 days and still earned the bonus. The only thing that seems to be consistent is that if you miss whatever the cutoff date is, you’re out of luck.

Moral of the story? Try to complete your spending requirements as soon as possible. Remember the clock starts when you’re approved, not when you get the card in the mail. Annual fees don’t count for your spending requirement. If you have any credits (returns or refunds), they will subtract from the spending amount. Don’t spend just the amount needed; always spend a little extra just in case you’ve messed up your math.

Once you’ve done all that, you can enjoy your newly minted stack of travel rewards.

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