5 Things To Do When You're Missing a Credit Card Sign Up Bonus

Most credit cards worth getting have a welcome offer that rewards you with bonus points once you complete a certain amount of spend on the card after 3 months of account opening.

What should you do when you complete the minimum spend requirement, but the welcome offer doesn’t post? Below are 5 actionable things to do if you’re missing a credit card intro bonus.

1. Be Patient and Wait for the Welcome Offer to Post

For most credit issuers, once you complete the minimum spend requirement, the welcome bonus does not post instantly. You’ll need to wait a few days for the transactions to process, and some bonuses will post after the statement closes.

I’ve had people signup for cards and complete the minimum spend requirement, and expect the bonus to post the same day. Be patient. Wait for the transactions to process or the statement to close completely.

With co-branded credit cards, most points post a few days after the statement closes.

Another issue I’ve seen is that if you make transactions close to the statement close date, it’ll post on the next statement because it didn’t have enough time to process. You’ll need to wait another 30 days for the next statement to see the bonus.

As long as you know you’ve met the minimum spend requirement within the 3-month time frame, you should be fine.

2. Make Sure You Actually Hit the Minimum Spend Requirement

It’s surprising how many people think they’ve met the minimum spend requirement when in reality, they haven’t.

A few common mistakes are confusing minimum spend amounts and refunds. For example, a friend recently opened an Amex Platinum card with the impression that it had a $4,000 min spend requirement, but it’s $5,000. They confused the Amex Platinum spend with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Outside of mixing up cards, it’s also common to miscount the spend on the card when you factor in refunds. Some people buy an item on the card, refund the item, and forget to factor the refund in their calculations.

I recommend copy/pasting your transactions from the billing statement to Google Sheets and calculating your spend.

3. Don’t Game the System

Credit card issuers are cracking down on manufactured spend methods that disqualify you from earning the welcome bonus.

If you employ one of the methods to manufacture spend or game the system, don’t act shocked if you don’t receive a bonus. In addition to not receiving a bonus, the credit issuer reserves the right to close your accounts.

Some methods that could disqualify you from getting the bonus:

  • Buying cash equivalents

  • Money orders

  • Visa gift cards

  • Amex gift cards

  • Peer-to-peer payments (PayPal and Venmo)

American Express clearly states these items in their terms of service:

“Eligible purchases are purchases for goods and services minus returns and other credits and do NOT include: fees or interest charges; purchases of travelers checks; purchases or reloading of prepaid cards; purchases of gift cards; person-to-person payments; or purchases of other cash equivalents.”

American Express also explicitly lists the consequences of “gaming the system” in their offer terms:

“If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with the welcome offer in any way or that you intend to do so (for example, if you applied for one or more cards to obtain a welcome offer(s) that we did not intend for you; if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it; or if you cancel or return purchases you made to meet the Threshold Amount), we may not credit the Membership Rewards points to, we may freeze the Membership Rewards points credited to, or we may take away the Membership Rewards points from your account. We may also cancel this Card account and other Card accounts you may have with us.

If you used any of the methods above in the past, it wouldn’t be surprising if you receive a pop up from American Express saying you aren’t eligible for more welcome offers. In this case, you will not receive a welcome bonus even if you complete the minimum spend requirements.

4. File a CFPB Complaint

A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) complaint is only for people who have followed all of the steps above: met the minimum spend requirement in the allocated time frame and didn’t game the system.

Before you file a CFPB complaint, see if the issue can be resolved by talking to the bank.

If talking to the bank fails, and you have good faith that you met the bonus requirements and followed the terms of service, file a CFPB complaint here: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/

You’ll need to have documentation of the welcome offer terms and submit billing statements as proof. It’s helpful to take screenshots of your credit card application and terms.

In my experience, CFPB complaints are the most effective way to get the welcome offer (assuming you’re in the right and didn’t break any rules).

5. Arbitration

Arbitration is the most aggressive method, and I don’t think it’s worth going down this path. Chase, American Express, and Chase all have forced arbitration in their updated terms of service.

The terms and conditions of your respective credit card will tell you who to contact and how.

The Arbitration Process:

  1. Send a claims notice to the party listed in the terms and conditions of your credit card

  2. Consumers must pay a $200 to file a claim

  3. Respondent (bank) has to pay a portion of the administrative fee which is $1,700, as well as compensation for the arbitrator, which starts at $1,500

  4. Have documentation and/or hire a lawyer to defend your case

Be cautious of counterclaims. If a claim is found to be frivolous, the consumer will be responsible for all of the arbitration costs.

Again, since most welcome offers are worth ~$500-$1,000, it might not be worth it to go down the arbitration route.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, vendors or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. 

UGC disclosure: These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.