It’s no secret that credit card sign-up bonuses are a quick way to rack up miles and reward points. It’s no secret that rewards-chasers have become adept at cashing in on these bonuses multiple times by strategically opening, closing and re-applying for cards. It’s also no secret that banks don’t want to lose too much money to this practice.
Banks make money when you pay the annual fee and make purchases with the card (via interchange fees). If you get the bonus and then cancel the card in quick succession, the issuer comes out behind.
Therefore, banks have put various checks and balances in place that limit the number of times you can get a sign-up bonus and even the number of cards you’re allowed to get.
We’ll get to issuers’ specific policies in a moment, as they vary widely. In general, though, you can expect to see the following patterns:
- Some issuers give a temporary time-out: You might be able to get a bonus on the same card more than once – but you won’t necessarily be able to get it multiple times a year. Some issuers put a waiting period in place, meaning you can’t get a bonus on the same card more than once every two years, for example.
- Some issuer bonuses are once in a lifetime: Some issuers are willing to give you a bonus on a card once – and that’s it. If you cancel card and then apply for the same card years down the line, you may get the card, but no sign-up bonus.
- Some issuers won’t even give you the card under certain circumstances: If an issuer suspects you are bonus-chasing, it might not even give you the card for fear that you’ll just take the bonus and run. Even if your credit makes you an excellent candidate, you might get rejected if the bank sees you’ve opened up more than a certain number of cards recently.
- Your mileage may vary: You might get approved for a bonus or card, despite the bank’s usual policies. You might be able to talk your way into approval for a card or bonus by escalating your call, applying at a branch or having a lot of assets with a bank. On the other hand, you might see a blog post or forum thread about someone else’s success in side-stepping an issuer’s policies, replicate their techniques and still get turned down.
Here’s a run-down of policies by bank – both official (with documenting screen shots) and rumored. These policies are subject to change, and, remember, your mileage may vary.
Bank of America
No posted restrictions
The 5/24 rule: This rule hasn’t been officially confirmed by Chase, but it’s gotten lots of attention from the rewards community. If you’ve opened five cards (from any bank) in the past 24 months, Chase may reject you, no matter how good your credit is. No card, no bonus. This is not an official rule, but plenty of applicants have documented their experiences with it. Even cards you’re an authorized user on supposedly count toward the five-card quota.
Run afoul of — or sidestepped — the infamous 5/24 rule? Chime in on our forums.
Other officially posted rules: Assuming you don’t run afoul of the 5/24 rule, Chase has this official restriction that it includes in the application fine print for various cards (including but not limited to the IHG card, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom Unlimited, United MileagePlus, Hyatt Credit Card, Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card):
American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner)
American Express doesn’t necessarily limit the number of cards you can open, but it does limit the number of bonuses you can get to one per card in a lifetime. It includes the disclaimer below in its “offer details” fine print for many of its cards, including, but not limited to, the Premier Rewards Gold, the EveryDay cards, the Platinum card, the Blue Cash cards and the Starwood Preferred Guest card. The same language started appearing on its business cards in early 2016.
Capital One just has a general disclaimer for all its cards that indicates bonuses are up to its discretion and that it’s possible you’re eligible only for one bonus per card per lifetime:
Citi restricts bonuses on cards in the same “family.” For example, if you get a sign-up bonus for a card rewarding ThankYou points, you’re eligible for only one ThankYou-point bonus every two years. If you get a sign-up bonus for a card rewarding American Airlines miles, you’re eligible for only one AAdvantage card bonus every two years.
Check out these screen shots of the fine print:
AAdvantage Platinum Select:
CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select:
Citi Hilton HHonors:
Discover’s sign-up bonuses right now come in the form of a Cashback match – Discover will double all the points you earn your first year. The only limitation it publishes is that it’s only for new cardmembers.
When it comes to U.S. Bank’s FlexPerks cards, bonuses are available only to new applicants, no surprise there. You’re also limited to one bonus per account type. So, if you apply for its Gold American Express FlexPerks card and get a bonus, you’re not getting another bonus on that card in the future. If you apply for one of its Visa FlexPerks cards and get a bonus, you won’t get another bonus if you close it and apply for another down the road:
Club Carlson card
This card technically allows you to earn the bonus more than once, although you must wait 12 months. However, if you close your account within the first six months of opening, prepare to have your new-account bonus revoked:
This card’s terms don’t explicitly limit how many times you can get a sign-up bonus. But you must currently apply online and have another qualifying U.S. bank product: