What Is a Credit Card Welcome Offer—and How Can You Earn One Quickly?
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A welcome bonus, also called a welcome offer, is one of the most exciting things about opening a new credit card. Banks and credit card companies offer tens of thousands of points to get you to open a new card. But, you have to meet the criteria to earn it first.
When used strategically, the points you earn from a credit card’s welcome bonus could get you closer to a flight on your next trip.
What is a welcome bonus?
Welcome bonuses are a great way to get started on your points and miles journey. To earn the bonus, credit card companies require you to spend a certain amount on the new card—called the “minimum spend”—within a set period of time. It’s fairly common to see between $4,000 and $6,000 for a minimum spending requirement.
Business credit cards tend to offer higher welcome bonuses, but they usually have higher minimum spending requirements than personal credit cards. Also, luxury credit cards with higher annual fees tend to offer higher welcome offers.
The window of time to reach a minimum spending requirement is usually three months, but some cards can go up to six months. You’ll want to double-check the specific requirements and timeframe of any welcome bonus before applying.
What you can redeem with a welcome offer
The best part of a welcome offer is redeeming the treasure trove of points and miles you earned. Welcome bonuses can give you enough points to make your travel dreams a reality or bring them close enough in reach.
Since most welcome bonuses are hovering around the range of 60,000 to 80,000 points, here are some ideas of what you could redeem them for:
- Want to visit Paris? Convert your credit card points to FlyingBlue, the frequent flier program of AirFrance and KLM. You could get a roundtrip economy class ticket for 50,000 points, plus taxes.
- What about traveling to Southeast Asia? You could fly to Singapore by transferring your points to Air Canada Aeroplan. In the past, we sent Elite members a Going with Points deal for a premium economy ticket for 52,000 miles.
- Looking for a European city where you can practice your Spanish? Consider Madrid! Convert your miles to Iberia Avios, and you could fly from Chicago to Madrid roundtrip in business class for as low as 68,000 miles. Or snag an economy seat on the same flight for 34,000.
- Want to visit Grandma in Florida? Because American Airlines is a partner with British Airways, you could transfer your points to British Airways to redeem for domestic flights on American. For example, you could fly from Houston to Miami on a roundtrip economy ticket on American Airlines for 18,000 points, plus tax.
Of course, these are hypotheticals, but they're based on actual Going with Points deals we’ve sent to our members.
Tips to earn your welcome bonus
When I open a new travel credit card, here’s what I do so I don’t miss out on earning the welcome offer.
Know your due date.
Like babies, credit card welcome offers have due dates. But the incubation time is a lot shorter—usually three to six months.
The important thing to remember is that the clock typically starts after approval. Even if you don’t receive your physical card for another week or so after your approval, the timer is already running.
I’m a nerd, so one of the first things I do after I get a new credit card is schedule a reminder in my calendar for when I want to complete the spending requirement. For a welcome offer due within three months, I look at the date I was approved and scroll three months ahead.
Then, because sometimes charges take a little bit to post and I like to plan for a little wiggle room, I usually set the calendar reminder for about 7-10 days before the actual 90-day mark.
Shift your existing spending to the new card.
The goal here is to try to use your existing bills to help meet the welcome offer spending requirements so that you’re only spending what you would have anyway—and not going into debt to earn the bonus. I take stock of all my recurring fixed expenses that I can pay with a credit card—like utilities, subscriptions, my Peloton addiction membership—and pay for them with the new card.
You can also use your new credit card for other recurring expenses that vary a bit more from month to month: For me, this includes my cats’ food. (They’re bougie.) This could also include gas and groceries, though this suggestion may be somewhat controversial. Let’s say you have a separate, existing card that earns bonus points on groceries or gas. Some argue you shouldn’t use your new card for that expense because it means turning down an opportunity to earn a higher rate.
My opinion? It’s worth it to temporarily use your new card to help reach your minimum spending threshold in time. It’s not a forever choice; it’s just something you’ll do until you reach your goal.
Track your progress.
Some banks make it a little easier by showing a green bar that monitors your progress toward your goal. Other card issuers don’t show any visible markers in the app. If there’s any doubt about your progress, it never hurts to ask. When I’m working toward an American Express welcome offer, every once in a while, I use the chat function in the app to ask them how far I am toward it.
Plan big purchases to align with earning a welcome offer.
Let’s say you’re planning to buy a computer or even pay for a flight. You’re already planning this purchase, so using your new credit card for this expense can be a quick way to reach your welcome bonus.
Or, you could time a welcome offer to match up with a particular time of year when you anticipate spending more. As we enter the holiday season, this is especially timely. You could open a new card and use that card to do most of your holiday shopping for gifts, decor, and food. Depending on your budget, that could get you a good part of the way toward your welcome bonus.
Earning a welcome bonus can give a whole new meaning to “most wonderful time of the year.”
Extra credit: Use your new card for reimbursable expenses.
This one is a little bit more advanced. Let’s say your company reimburses you for a monthly gym membership. Why not put it on your new credit card, have it count towards your minimum spending requirement, and then your company pays you back?
This same strategy could possibly work with some healthcare bills, too. Maybe you have a flex spending account (FSA) that you need to spend before the end of the year. Use your new credit card to buy a pair of glasses, and then submit that expense for reimbursement. Those dollars count towards reaching your welcome offer and towards maximizing your healthcare benefits.
Two birds, one credit card.
Frequently asked questions about credit card welcome offers
Are there any restrictions on welcome offers?
When do you receive your welcome bonus?
Are any purchases excluded from counting towards a welcome bonus?
Are credit card welcome offers taxable income?
Published December 7, 2023
Last updated December 21, 2023
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