Advanced Strategies for Collecting Signup Bonuses

From Travel Strategies
Jump to: navigation, search

  Easily Earn Points for Free TravelCredit Card Reference


The fastest way to earn large quantities of reward points is to take advantage of credit card signup offers. We strongly recommend everyone collect signup bonuses—it is the easiest way to earn free airplane tickets and hotel rooms.

Our basic approach to collecting signup bonuses is simple. Sign up for one credit card at a time. Until you've met the initial spending requirement, use your new card for all your spending. Then move onto another card. Start with Chase and Bank of America cards, move onto the cards you want for your core credit card collection, and continue with the remaining cards that have the best signup bonuses.

Our basic strategy lets almost everyone earn massive quantities of reward points with very little time and effort. However, if you want to dive in deeper, you can use more advanced techniques to maximize your signup bonus points.

Strategy 0: Take advantage of business cards

As we discussed in our introductory guide, signing up for both personal and business cards is probably the most effective single thing you can do to increase the number of points you earn from credit card bonuses. With many cards you'll be able to double-up on your bonuses and you'll have access to a much larger number of high-value signup offers.

Strategy 1: Shift as much of your spending to your new credit cards as you can

The amount of money you spend on your credit cards determines the number of signup bonuses you can earn each year.

If you can increase your credit card usage, without affecting the amount of your income that you are actually spending, you can more frequently earn valuable bonuses.

  • Use your credit cards whenever possible. Many companies, such as utilities, cell phone providers, and insurance companies, accept credit cards. Use your card, instead of paying with a check or an automatic bank payment. Take the time to go through your bank account and figure out everyone you are paying on a regular basis and whether they will accept a credit card payment. You can usually uncover thousands of dollars of payments you can shift to your credit cards.
  • Also, use your card, instead of cash, whenever you can. You should find yourself hardly ever taking money out of the ATM.

  • Use a 3rd party billing service to pay people and businesses that don’t usually accept credit cards. Some businesses just won’t accept credit cards. Fortunately, a few 3rd party billing services allow you to use your credit card to pay almost anyone. For example, you can pay your rent or mortgage, pay off your loans, or pay a housekeeper or gardening service. Taken to its limit, you can shift almost all your annual spending to your credit cards.
  • Plastiq.png

    Using these bill payment services comes at a cost. Typical service fees are around 3%—necessary for the service to offset the credit card fees that they need to pay to process your payments. However, if you are using this spending to qualify for extra signup offers, paying these fees can be worthwhile. For example, it would cost $90 to use a bill paying service to qualify for a typical $3,000 initial spending requirement. The resulting signup bonus is likely to be much more valuable. The main service is called Plastiq. Pay Any Bill with a Credit Card (To Increase Your Credit Card Spending).

  • Pay your taxes with your credit card. A few special services specialize in allowing you to pay your taxes with a credit card. Current rates are cheaper than the general-purpose bill paying services.  If you want to get more aggressive, you may be able to reduce your withholding rate, so that your employer withholds less taxes from your paycheck, requiring you to pay more money directly to the IRS. However, to avoid penalties, this may require you to shift to quarterly estimated payments. Or you could simply overpay your taxes using these services and get a refund after you file.
  • TaxPayment21.jpg
  • Don’t use your existing credit cards unless you absolutely need to. Every dollar you spend on an existing credit card is a dollar less that you can spend qualifying for a signup bonus. Sometimes, you need to use a card to get an important credit card benefit (like the 4th night free benefit of the Citi Prestige card) or free bags on United). However, don’t put any charges on a card just to earn bonus points. The amount of extra reward points you will be leaving on the table is dwarfed by the value of potential signup bonuses.
  • On the other hand, if the amount of spending you can generate each year is larger than the amount you need to qualify for signup bonuses, the truly optimal strategy is to take advantage of good bonus category rewards when you can and direct your everyday spending to your new cards—even if this requires you to pay some convenience fees (see Strategy 7 below).

  • Be proactive about signing up for new cards. Make sure to sign up often enough that you always have a new card to use as soon as you finish meeting the initial spending requirement on your previous card(s). You don’t want any gaps where you aren’t working towards qualifying for a new signup bonus. 
  • Consider taking advantage of “manufactured spending”. This term refers to techniques that generate credit card charges, without really buying anything. For example, you might use your credit card to purchase a Visa gift card, use the Visa gift card to purchase a money order, deposit the money order in a bank account, and use the bank account to pay off your credit card bill. While these approaches aren’t for everyone, they can let you generate far more money in credit card charges than you can generate from your actual spending. Earn More Credit Card Points with Manufactured Spending.

Paying extra fees to increase the percentage of your total spending that goes onto credit cards so that you can qualify for additional signup bonuses is worthwhile, but only if you really wind up qualifying for more signup bonuses than you would otherwise. If you are not making a sustained effort to qualify for as many signup bonuses as possible, try to avoid paying fees to generate extra credit card spending. You are better off spreading your applications out and avoiding paying extra fees. In other words, don't pay convenience fees to go through a spurt of signups and then waste your natural spending on your existing cards later in the year.

Maximum Velocity

Each credit card company has rules that limit how quickly you can sign up for their cards. You will need to spread out your applications with any given bank. Depending on your volume, that may mean you need to be spread your applications across different banks, rather than just working your way down a list of the most valuable bonuses. Note that these rules only apply to the bank's own cards, unlike the Chase 5/24 and Bank of America 3/12 or 7/12 rules, which apply to cards you get from every bank.


Amex has a mix of “credit cards” and “charge cards”, and the rules for each are different. Their charge cards are the Platinum, Gold, and Green cards. Their other cards are credit cards.

You can only get one personal and one business credit card every five days and two cards every ninety days.

You can only have a maximum of four to six (typically four) credit cards at any one time. This counts both personal cards and business cards. Since you need to keep your Amex cards for a full year and you may want to hold onto to several American Express cards for the long run, this significantly limits the number of new Amex signup bonuses you can get each year. You can separately have up to 10 charge cards.


You can only get two credit cards every month. And you can’t get many of their cards, if you’ve gotten 5 new credit cards in the last 24 months (from all banks combined). But, Chase can get nervous if you sign up for cards too fast. We'd limit ourselves to a maximum of one new card every month or two.


You can only get one credit card every eight days, two credit cards every sixty-five days, and one business card every ninety-five days.


You can only get two personal cards every two months, three cards every twelve months, and four cards every twenty-four months. This is sometimes called the Bank of America “2/3/4” rule. However, these rules don't apply to their small business cards.

In practice, Bank of America's rules limiting you to either 3 or 7 total new cards (from any bank) in the last 12 months is likely to block you from getting new Bank of America cards for some time. You might want to try though as many people are having success signing up for new cards even when they are over this limit.


You can only get one card every six months.


You can only have a maximum of two Discover cards at one time and you need to wait a year before applying for your second account.


You can only receive one new card every six months and have a total of two accounts.


You can only receive one Wells Fargo signup bonus every 15 months.

When you apply for multiple cards during a brief period of time, you often won’t be automatically approved for any cards beyond the first (with any given bank). That doesn’t mean that you’ll be denied. But it might mean that you need to talk to someone and have a story about why you need multiple new cards. If you want to reduce the need to have these calls, you should space out your applications.

Strategy 2: Earning the same bonus multiple times

The signup bonuses available from different credit cards vary widely in value.

Rather than gradually moving on to less and less valuable signup bonuses, you can go back and earn some of the best signup bonuses a second or third time.

The rules for re-qualifying for a signup bonus depend on the credit card company:


You can usually receive the signup bonus for a Chase card once every two years. All the personal versions of the Southwest Airlines cards are considered part of the same family and you can only earn a single signup bonus every two years. All the Sapphire cards are considered part of the same family and have a four year waiting period. The Chase Marriott card is part of a family with the Amex Marriott cards. You can't earn its bonus if you've received one from any of these Marriott cards in the past two years.

In practice, reapplying for the signup bonus every two years doesn't work that well with Chase. While it's technically possible, if you're collecting signup bonuses, two years from now you are likely to be blocked by the Chase 5/24 rule. Dealing with the Chase 5/24 Rule.


You usually can’t receive the signup bonus for any American Express card that you’ve had before—even if you never actually received the bonus in the past. You can't even earn the signup bonus for a business card if you previously had it for a different business. However, the once-per-lifetime rule only applies if it is the exact same card. For example, each different co-branded version of the Amex Platinum card counts as a different card for the purposes of getting a signup bonus. Because you can only get each signup bonus once, try to wait until you get a better-than-normal signup offer (if you can).

Targeted offers sometimes become available which don't include the “once per lifetime” limitation. If you are targeted, you can reapply and earn the signup bonus for a card you've had before. You can even have multiple copies of the same card at the same time.


Citibank bonus eligibility rules differ for different cards.

For the core ThankYou cards (Prestige, Premier, Reward+), you can only earn a signup bonus if you haven't opened or closed any of these cards in the last 24 months. In other words, if you cancel a card, it resets the clock. As a result, convert a card to the Reward+ card at the end of the first year and don't cancel or convert any extra Reward+ cards until you've used up any ThankYou points attached to the card and until you've already just reset the clock by applying for a new Prestige or Premier card.

For the American Airlines cards, you can only a earn a signup bonus every 48 months. However, each variety has its own independent clock, so you can earn one bonus from each of these cards every four years. Targeted offers can avoid this restriction. Printed American Airlines mailers (that come in the postal mail) almost always bypass the normal 48-month restriction.

For its other cards (including cards like the AT&T card that earn ThankYou points), the 24 months since opening or closing the card rule applies, but the rule works independently for each card.


Different restrictions apply to different Bank of America cards. You aren't eligible to get the Premium Rewards or (personal) Alaska Airlines cards if you've had the card in the last 24 months. These cards are restricted in a way that is similar to Citibank—your 2 year clock starts when you cancel the card. You aren't eligible to get the Travel Rewards or Cash Rewards card if you still have the card unless you've had it for at least 24 months. For these cards, the clock starts as soon as you apply, and you are eventually allowed to have multiple copies of the same card. Alternatively, you can cancel and then reapply to earn an additional bonus. For all the other cards, there are no specific restrictions and you are free to have multiple copies simultaneously.

However, all BOA cards are also subject to an additional limitation of the total number of (personal) credit cards you can get. You are limited to only four new (personal) Bank of America cards every two years, of which you can get a maximum of three new cards every year and a maximum of two cards every two months.

More importantly, you usually won't be approved for one of their personal cards if you've gotten 3 cards (from any bank) in the last 12 months. If you have a bank account with them, this limit rises to 7 cards.


There are no limitations on the number of times you can receive a signup bonus for a Discover card. It is even possible to have more than one of the same Discover card at the same time. However, you can only ever have two cards simultaneously and you can only get one new one per year.


There are no limitations on the number of times you can receive a signup bonus for a Barclays card. However, you'll need to wait 24 months after closing an account to qualify for it again and you can't reapply for a card that you've had in the last six months. With Barclays, it helps to be using your existing cards, when you apply for a new card.


There is no limitation on the number of times you can receive a signup bonus for a U.S. Bank card. However, if you've been actively opening credit card accounts, it can be difficult to get approved for new cards. It helps if you are one of their banking customers.


You can only get one new Wells Fargo every 15 months. But there are no limitations on earning a signup bonus a second time. To get approved, it helps to be a Wells Fargo customer.

Strategy 3: Timing your signups for higher bonus offers

Instead of immediately signing up for a card, it can make sense for you to wait until a better signup offer becomes available.

  • The first question is whether the card is likely to have a higher promotional offer later. Looking at the card’s offer history on the US Credit Card Guide can help you get an idea of what to expect. We provide a link to the offer history graph from every one of our credit card guides.
  • Some cards will show a pattern of having “spikes” where they periodically offer a higher-than-normal bonus.


    Other cards may show no history of promotional offers. Finally, a card may have had a higher signup offer in the past but moved on to a lower level for the foreseeable future.

  • The other question is how much urgency you have to get the card. Waiting for a better offer means delaying the benefits, higher earning rate, or signup bonus you are interested in. If you need the points or benefits for an upcoming trip or want to start taking advantage of the higher earning rates, you don’t want to wait around too long. On the other hand, if you are just working your way through the most attractive signup bonuses, you can often skip the card and come back to it later.
  • If you follow "Points and Miles blogs" you're likely to hear about any particular good offer. The best sources are the US Credit Card Guide and Doctor of Credit. If the offer is particularly good, try to jump on it.

Strategy 4: Managing your credit report so that you're more likely to be approved

To collect signup bonuses with finesse, you can control some aspects of the interplay between your credit card applications and your credit report.

  • To increase your odds of getting approved, you can pay off your existing credit cards before the end of the statement period. When your billing cycle ends, the credit card company reports your balance to the credit bureaus. Even if you are going to pay the card in full before the due date, your credit report will still show the balance you owed for that month. However, if you pay off your bill just before the end of the billing period, they will report a zero balance. Your credit utilization will look very low and your credit score will be higher—making it more likely you’ll get approved for a new card. If this seems like a bunch of extra effort, it is; and we don’t usually bother. But it can increase your chance of approval, especially if your credit rating is on the lower side.
  • If you don't have a home or auto loan, consider signing up for a line of credit. One of the factors for your credit rating considers the different types of credit you have. If you don't have an "installment" loan, your credit rating will suffer. Simply making payments for a low value line-of-credit will boost your credit score.
  • Most credit card companies are “inquiry sensitive”. All other things being equal, if you have a bunch of recent signup attempts, you are more likely to be denied. The bank is not reacting to the small drop in your credit score (which resulted from the recent credit inquiries), they are reacting to the fact that you have recently expanded (or tried to expand) the total amount of your credit. A bunch of recent inquiries is viewed as a warning sign that you are about to get into credit trouble.
  • Anything that you can do to reduce the number of “hard” credit inquiries is helpful. In addition, if you are going to apply for several cards around the same time, make sure to apply for the higher priority cards first.

  • You can reduce the number of credit inquiries by applying for more than one card, from the same credit card company, on the same day. Most of the time, the different credit card applications will be combined into a single inquiry. Either the bank will choose to only make a single inquiry itself or the credit bureau will treat the different inquires as “duplicates” and combine them for you. While both credit card accounts will eventually show up on all your credit reports, fewer credit inquiries will be listed.
  • It can take a couple of days before credit inquiries are combined by the credit bureau. Therefore, the benefit of the combined inquiry doesn’t kick-in right away. If you want your next applications to see only the single combined inquiry, you’ll need to wait a few days before applying for additional cards.  

    Citibank, Discover, and Capital One won’t allow multiple applications on the same day, so this trick doesn’t apply. The other major credit card companies should combine inquiries. However, business and personal cards are usually handled separately. Doctor of Credit provides some more details about what works or you need to check the information on FlyerTalk. As with most of this stuff, there is no guarantee of what will happen on a case-by-case basis.

  • You can sometimes avoid “wasting” a credit inquiry if you already have an existing credit card from the same bank. Normally, there is a cost associated with getting rejected for a credit card application. Even though you don’t get the card, you still wind up with an additional credit inquiry on your credit report. However, if you already have one of their credit cards, banks will sometimes use their existing information to evaluate your application. This reduces the risk of trying to apply for a new card.  Remember that you need to be an existing customer for this to work. If you don’t have a card, they will always wind up doing a hard pull.  This works pretty reliably with American Express and some of the time with Barclays and Bank of America.
  • You should spread your applications around. When you apply for a credit card, the credit inquiry will usually only be reported to a single credit bureau. Then, when you are approved for the card, the new account will be reported to all the credit bureaus. The credit inquiry itself will not show up on the other reports.
  • By spreading out your inquires across banks, you can lower the number of inquiries with any one credit bureau and increase your chances of future approvals. Unfortunately, banks use different credit bureaus for different products and different regions, and change this often, so you’ll need to go online and do some additional research, if you want to have more control over the process. We don't usually bother, and just follow the rule-of-thumb of trying to spread our applications across multiple credit card companies.

    It is also possible that you have a problem with your credit report that only shows up on one credit bureau's report. If so, you could limit your credit card applications to those that are likely to use a different bureau’s report.

    Finally, if you are highly motivated to reduce the number of credit inquiries on your account, consider how many different credit bureaus a bank normally accesses. Some credit card companies grab your information from only a single bureau, others will grab your information from two different bureaus. Capital One is infamous for making an inquiry at all three of the credit bureaus. The smaller the number, the smaller the “cost” for applying for the card.

  • As an extreme move, you can “freeze” one of your credit bureau accounts to try to force a bank to use a different credit bureau. If a bank can’t access your report from their first choice, they may contact a different credit bureau instead. By freezing the agency you don’t want them to use, you can have the inquiry land on a different report. If you want to take advantage of this strategy, you’ll need to do some of your own web research.

Strategy 5: Getting targeted offers

Some banks, particularly American Express use “targeted” signup offers that are personalized for each customer. The best offers aren’t publicly available to everyone.

  • Register for loyalty programs first. If you are interested in a card that is associated with an airline or hotel reward program, such as the Alaska Airlines card, register for the reward program first. Members of the reward program will sometimes get a better offer on the card than the one that is available to the general public.
  • For Amex cards, check their website using the "private mode" of your browser. They sometimes show better offers to people who don't have any of their cookies on your device. You might want to check a few different times to see if a better offer shows up.
  • CardMatch is the most popular tool for checking for targeted offers across multiple credit card companies. You simply enter a little bit of personal information and they will show you a bunch of offers that you qualify for. Most of the time, these offers are the same as the public offer that is available for each card. However, they sometimes provide better non-public offers. For example, some people have gotten offers for up to 100,000 Membership Rewards points for the American Express Platinum card. Using the tool will have no impact on your credit score.
  • CardMatch.png

    After you enter your information and get your list of credit card offers, make sure to click on the "CardMatch Special Offers" link on the left-hand side of the screen. The best offers will not necessarily show up as part of the initially displayed results.

  • Check for pre-qualified offers directly with the credit card company. Most of the credit card companies have a way for you to check for “pre-qualified” offers. Like CardMatch, they generally just return the standard signup offer, but they will occasionally provide better "targeted" signup offers and checking won’t affect your credit score. More of the credit card company's signup offers will show up on their own site than through CardMatch.
  • The “Reservation Trick”. Frequently, the best airline and hotel credit card signup bonuses are offered to customers who are in the middle of making a reservation for that airline or hotel. To check, you can take advantage of the ‘reservation trick'. Go to the airline or hotel that is associated with the card you want to get and start making a reservation. You aren’t planning to complete the reservation, so any reservation will do.
  • As you go through the checkout process, a credit card offer is likely to pop-up or otherwise be displayed. Sometimes, the offer will feature a better than normal signup bonus. Typically, it will consist of a $50 or $100 statement credit on top of the normal signup points. Just make sure to stop before you get to the final reservation step, so you don’t wind up making a reservation you don’t really want.

  • Call in and ask. If you are willing to put in a little extra time, call into a customer service representative and ask to see if there is a better offer available. This sometimes works. If you know about a better signup offer, call in and see if they will match it.
  • You might get a better signup offer at one of the bank's brick & mortar locations, especially if you already have a banking account with that bank. Before applying online, it can be worth swinging by your local branch and seeing what is available.

Strategy 6: Earning extra points with referral bonuses

You can often earn a “referral bonus” by getting someone to sign up for a credit card. This is especially useful for couples. If you are both interested in signing up for the same card, one person can apply first. Then they can refer the other person for the card. Along with the normal signup bonus, you’ll receive some extra points or cash.


To activate a referral bonus, you need to go online and generate a unique application link. The person you refer needs to use that link, rather than simply applying directly for the card. When they get accepted, you’ll receive the extra bonus.

  • Be careful, the signup bonus from using a referral may not be the best one available. In some cases, there is a better signup bonus than the one that is associated with the referral link. Always check to see what the best regular offer is, before using a referral link to apply.
  • Referral offers aren’t always available for any given card. However, with some credit card companies, there is an easy way to check.
    • American Express. When you login from this page, you can see all your currently available referral offers. You'll need to click the arrows to navigate between each offer.
    • With American Express, you can earn a referral bonus even if your friend wants a different card than the one you have. The amount of your referral bonus depends on the card that you generated the referral from, not the card that your friend winds up getting. For example, you can earn a referral bonus of typically 15,000 Membership Rewards points on your Amex Platinum card, if you refer a friend to one of the Hilton cards (in this scenario, your friend will get the normal Hilton signup offer). In other words, you can pretty much always earn a referral bonus, whenever a friend is interested in ANY of the Amex credit cards. You should start by referring from the card that earns you the most valuable referral and once you've hit the maximum referral bonus amount for that card, move on to the next one.

      Amex's Membership Rewards and cashback cards can earn referrals from almost every Amex card, including airline and hotel cards, as well as other Membership Rewards and cashback cards. However, their co-branded airline and hotel cards can only refer friends to other cards within the same family. You can earn a referral from co-branded Membership Rewards cards (such as the Morgan Stanley cards) when your friend gets a different card, but these co-branded cards are not an option for your friend to get through a referral.

      When you generate a referral, your friend will be taken to the signup offer for the exact same card. However, if they scroll down the page, there is an "Explore Other Cards" section that provides access to the other available options. If you want to make things easier, you can use the referral link yourself to navigate to the offer page, find the card you want to refer to, and then send that page's link to your friend.

      While you might technically be able to refer yourself to a new card, don't do it. Amex has come back later and taken back the referral points from people who have done this. Always refer between spouses, or even better, friends.

    • Chase. Chase tends to offer referral bonuses for their cards, but your friend will typically need to get a card in the same family. Chase can take a week to send an email to the person you referred, so use the link they provide yourself. If the main link doesn't work, try Referrals can also be generated for most cards through the Chase Mobile app.
    • Citibank. Citibank has recently been more forthcoming with referral bonuses on a limited set of cards, which may include useful options like Double Cash, ThankYou Premier, and American Airlines Platinum Select. You'll see offers when you log in to your account.
    • U.S. Bank. You’ll need to visit a specific webpage for each card. It is best to do a web search with the card name and the word “referral”.
    • Discover. You both get an extra $50.
    • Barclays. If you are targeted to make referrals, you’ll need to do it through your online account.
    • Capital One. Referral bonuses are usually $100 and the are limited to people getting the same card.
    • Bank of America and Wells Fargo don’t currently offer referral bonuses.
  • Usually, there is a limit to the number of referral points you can earn each year. This "cap" is different for different credit card companies.
  • To earn extra points, you can try to post referral links online. If someone clicks your links, you’ll earn a bonus. The FlyerTalk credit card forums are a good place to start. Another good option is to do a search to find blog posts about referrals—these may let you share your links in the comments section.
  • What goes around, comes around. When you are applying for a card, you should click on someone’s referral link, if you can. You’ll get your points and they’ll get some too.
  • You are likely to receive a 1099 for any rewards you earn through referrals. Starting in the 2018 tax year, banks have been reporting any referral bonuses as income to the IRS. They send you and the IRS a 1099 form which has a stated value for the points you've earned. For example, for income tax purposes, American Express values Membership Rewards points at 1 cent each and Hilton points at .675 cents each. You're responsible for paying income taxes on the value of these referral rewards (you are NOT responsible for paying taxes on the rewards you earn from signup bonuses and ongoing spending, because they are treated by the IRS as rebates).

Strategy 7: Earning bonus category rewards with other cards during the initial spending period

Our "standard" approach for collecting signup bonuses is to use your new credit card for all your purchases, regardless of whether you can earn bonus rewards from one of your existing cards. This helps ensure that you will meet the initial spending requirement of your new card and keeps things as simple as possible.

However, if you truly want to maximize the rewards you earn, you should take a more opportunistic approach.

  • Typically, you can increase your overall credit card spending by paying fees to use your credit card to make payments which otherwise couldn't be made with your card. For example, you could pay your rent, mortgage, childcare, auto loan, or student loan using a service like Plastiq, pay your taxes with one of several different programs, or even send money to one of your friends with Venmo or ApplePay. The typical fee is 2 - 3%. Pay Any Bill with a Credit Card (To Increase Your Credit Card Spending).
  • If taking advantage of a bonus category on one of your existing cards lets you earn considerably more than these fees, you are better off earning the extra reward points, and paying a fee to increase the total amount of your credit card spending (if necessary). If you aren't already maximizing your credit card spending through fee-based programs and you avoid taking advantage of good bonus category reward opportunities, you are leaving some reward points on the table.
  • For example, if you have the Blue Preferred card, you'd earn $6 of rewards on a $100 of grocery purchases. Even if you need to make up for that $100 of spending by using a money transfer service or paying a bill through Plastiq, you'd only wind up paying $2-3 in fees. If you pass up the opportunity to earn the bonus rewards, when you could have easily generated extra spending, you are missing out on $3-4 of rewards.

    If you are engaged in "Manufactured Spending", your cost for generating additional spend is likely even lower and your capacity to replace any missed organic spending is even higher. Earn More Credit Card Points with Manufactured Spending.

  • Of course, the hard-core signup bonus collector can still maximize the points they earn in the first couple of years by fully taking advantage of fee-based payment services, while still focusing all their spending on qualifying for signup bonuses. Any dollar not spent on meeting minimum bonus requirements represents a drop in the total rewards you would earn, regardless of your bonus category reward rate. But most people want to go a little slower, opportunistically take advantage of ongoing bonus category rewards, and minimizing the use of fee-based payment services.

Strategy 8: Earning bonuses with multiple businesses

If you have multiple businesses, you can sign up for separate credit cards for each one. In some cases, this allows you to bypass the normal rules for earning signup bonuses. For example, if you aren't blocked by the Chase 5/24 rule, you could earn multiple signup bonuses from the Ink Preferred card (during the same two-year period).

Sometimes, it matters whether you apply with your SSN or with an EIN (IRS business identification number). If you plan to head down this route, you can get a free EIN even for a sole proprietorship and regardless of whether you have employees.


Regardless of the number of businesses you have, you can only earn the signup bonus once per lifetime.


You can earn signup bonuses separately for each business, as long as you use separate EIN numbers. However, it doesn't work reliably for co-branded credit cards, if you have them linked to the same loyalty program number. For example, if you apply for two Marriott Business cards with different EIN numbers, but with the same Marriott Reward number, you may be limited to one signup bonus during any 24 month period.

Many people have been successful at getting multiple Ink Preferred, Ink Cash, or Ink Unlimited cards even for the same business.


Regardless of the number of businesses you have, you can only earn the signup bonus if you haven't opened or closed an account in the same family during the last 24 months. Note that business cards and personal cards are treated separately.


As long as you get approved, everyone can earn signup bonuses on all of their business card, multiple times, without any restrictions.


As long as you get approved, everyone can earn signup bonuses on the all of their card, multiple times, without any restrictions.


You can earn signup bonuses separately for each business, as long as you use separate EINs.

Other optimizations

  • If you want a card with a less valuable signup bonus, sign up for a sibling card and convert to the card you want later. Sometimes, you may want to add a card with a low signup bonus to your core credit card collection. Instead of applying for the card directly, you can apply for another card with that bank that has a better signup bonus and eventually convert that card into the card you want for the long run. For example, if you want the Bank of America Travel Rewards card, you can apply for the Bank of America Premium Awards card, earn a much larger signup bonus, and then convert it to the Travel Rewards card at the end of the first year.
  • The rules for which cards can be converted to which cards are specific for each bank, so check our guides or do a web search before you had down this path.

    Superficially, it may seem that you are better off just applying for both cards and eventually cancelling the card you don’t want However, if you are going to apply for two cards, you are better off using your second application for an altogether different card that has a better signup bonus.

  • Take advantage of retention offers. When you call to cancel a card, you will almost always be offered one or more retention offers to encourage you to hold onto it. In general, most retention offers require you to use the card for additional spending and aren’t usually worth it until you start running out of cards to apply for—you are better off putting your spending on a new card.
  • If you need to use your points in a hurry, you can sometimes call the bank after you’ve met the initial spending requirement and have them expedite the award points, rather than waiting the usual time for them to post. Doctor of Credit has a useful guide with information for each of the programs. 

Send comments or suggestions to or leave a comment below.

blog comments powered by Disqus