Found a better sign-up bonus? How to get your bank to match it

You’ve just been approved for a rewards card (and its sign-up bonus). But your excitement fades when the card-issuer releases a better sign-up bonus the very next day.

That happened to me recently, when I applied for the IHG card from Chase. The day I was approved, the card was offering 60,000 points (after $1,000 in spending in the first three months). Two days later it was offering 70,000 (after $2,000 in spending in the first three months). That extra 10,000 points was significant to me, as 70K points would be enough for two completely free rewards nights for my card rewards

Instead of lamenting my bad luck, I reached out to a couple rewards experts to gauge my chances of getting Chase to match the better bonus. Read on for their advice – and to find out if I got the bigger bonus.

Good timing can help

Asking for a higher sign-up bonus the moment you discover it may not get you anywhere. So try to meet the spending requirement for the bonus you were approved for first, suggests Jared Kamrowski, founder of rewards-maximization site ThriftyTraveler.

“You have a much better chance of being matched,” Kamrowski says. “Most of the time they won’t match unless you have met the higher spend requirement already.”

Just don’t wait too long – you’re probably not going to be given a better sign-up bonus on a card you signed up for more than several months ago.

“Usually banks want you to be within 90 days of applying if they are going to honor a bonus match request,” says Jesse Smith, founder of rewards-travel consulting service Loophole Travel.

Higher bonuses may mean higher spending

Look at the fine print of the “better” sign-up bonus. It may offer more points, but it may also have a higher spending requirement.

Say a card offers 25,000 points for $1,000 in spending in the first three months. If the issuer then publishes a 50,000-point offer, it might require $3,000 in spending in the first three months. So, if the issuer does grant your wish for the higher offer, you’ll have to find a way to spend an extra $2,000, Smith says. Note that the issuer probably won’t give you extra time to do so (your deadline will still be three months from opening the card).

Your mileage will vary

Some issuers are more accommodating than others. Some issuers are more accommodating with certain applicants than others.

In fact, “most of the time, banks will not match higher offers,” Smith says. “I have heard things like, ‘Offers change all the time, and we only honor the offer you applied for. You wouldn’t want us to take away points if a lower offer came out, would you?’”

Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Kamrowski says American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) has consistently denied his bonus-matching request (but once gave him a 5,000-point goodwill offering for the Starwood Preferred Guest card). Chase, meanwhile, has been the most generous bonus-matcher in Kamrowski’s experience, with Citi a “close second,” he says.

Smith, meanwhile, has had multiple bonuses matched by Citi, including bonuses that were targeted only at specific applicants. He’s had some luck with the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card, too (and even got an extra 1,000 points above what American Express promised to match). But he’s also failed with the Starwood Preferred Guest card in other instances – and hasn’t had any luck with Chase.

If the answer is “no,” try again

Called and been told “no”?

“In the points game, we have an acronym, HUCA — Hang Up, Call Again,” Smith says. “If I don’t get the answer I want, I’ll hang up and try again, or close the chat and try again. Different agents in different call centers may have different instructions. Also, one agent may be having a bad day.”

If you’re still hearing “no” after multiple calls, Smith suggests asking for a supervisor. Only after the supervisor turns him down does Smith throw in the towel.

Look for higher unadvertised, unofficial bonuses

Don’t assume the new bonus you found is actually the best. Do an Internet search for the card you want + “highest sign-up bonus.” This will tell you what limited-time offers, expired bonuses and targeted bonuses have been offered on the card over time. You may even find some of these alternative higher bonuses buried within the issuer’s website.

Then ask the issuer if it will match those. The answer might be, “no,” but Kamrowski got approved for a technically-expired 80k offer on the IHG card.

Did I get Chase to match the higher bonus?

I did, although I made a couple beginner’s mistakes along the way.

First, I called about the 70k offer. I hadn’t hit the $1,000 spending requirement yet (first mistake), so Chase asked me to call back after reaching it. I did, and I was told they’d “recommend” me for the higher 70,000-point bonus – and that I’d find out by mail in seven to 10 business days. I didn’t even ask about the 80k offer (which required just $1,000 in spending) floating around the Internet, because I assumed I’d never get an expired bonus (second mistake).

That was when I reached out to Kamrowski.

“Definitely match to the 80k offer,” he urged. “I was just matched last week.”

So, I sent a polite message via Chase’s secure messaging system asking if I could be considered for the 80k offer. I received a quick approval message, stating that 80k points would be deposited into my rewards account.

That will get me two free nights in our desired honeymoon hotel plus 10,000 points left over to work my way towards another free night or a discounted cash-and-points stay. In cash-money terms, that’s just under $700 off the cost of my honeymoon.

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