Do This 1 Thing to Avoid Missing Out on a Credit Card Bonus

by Lyle Daly | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on May 16, 2021

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A man sitting at a table in a casual restaurant and tapping his credit card on the payment reader being held by the waiter.

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By following one piece of advice, you'll never have a credit card bonus slip through your fingers.

When you shop for rewards credit cards, you'll find quite a few with sign-up bonus offers. These are popular incentives credit card companies offer to new cardholders, and they're usually some of the most valuable benefits available.

The typical sign-up bonus includes a bonus amount and a spending requirement you need to reach to earn that bonus. A cash back card might reward you with $300 after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. A travel rewards card could offer 60,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first three months.

Certain cards give you the opportunity to earn multiple bonuses. For example, a card may give you 50,000 airline miles for spending $3,000 in the first three months, plus 50,000 more for spending $20,000 in the first year. It's a bit more complicated, but it still follows the same basic pattern. Hit the spending requirement and you'll receive a bonus.

Because of how valuable these sign-up bonuses can be, the last thing you want is to miss out on one. This is why you need to track your spending as you work toward the bonus. There are a couple ways to do this.

How to track your progress toward a credit card bonus

Some credit card companies offer a bonus tracker tool online. This is typically found on your credit card's rewards page. Bonus trackers include how much you've spent, how much more you need to spend for your bonus, and the deadline to reach that spending requirement.

If this type of tool is available for your credit card, then it's the best way to track your spending. You can find out if there's one available by either checking your online credit card account or calling the card issuer to ask.

Not all credit cards have a bonus tracker. If yours doesn't, then you can track your spending the old-fashioned way: Record how much you spend on your credit card each month, then add the totals together to monitor how close you are to the bonus.

The drawback to manually tracking your spending is that it's not always as accurate. With a bonus tracker, you can be confident that you're seeing the correct bonus deadline and how much you've spent according to the card issuer. If you keep track of everything on your own, you could make an error with the spending figures or the deadline.

To avoid any costly mistakes, it's a good idea to double check with the card issuer during the bonus timeframe. Calling is one option, and some card issuers also let you email them or send a secured message. You can contact your card issuer at any time and ask about your progress toward your bonus.

Potential problems that keep you from getting a bonus

By tracking your spending, you can make sure that you spend enough for a bonus within the required timeframe. But there are still potential problems that you should know about.

Some types of spending don't count toward the requirement on a sign-up bonus. Rules vary by card issuer, but annual fees, balance transfers, and cash advances all generally won't qualify. Many card issuers also won't count transactions that they consider cash equivalents, such as buying prepaid debit cards or sending money through payment apps.

If you're using the card issuer's own bonus tracker, then this shouldn't be an issue; it will only count eligible purchases. But you'll need to be more careful if you're manually tracking your spending.

Another way you can lose a bonus is because of a refund. A refunded purchase will lower your spending. This can be a disaster if it happens after the bonus deadline. If a refund pushes you below the spending requirement, then you won't get the bonus. Or, if you've already received the bonus, the card issuer would likely take it back.

Personally, I try to overshoot spending requirements on credit card bonuses just in case any purchases end up getting refunded. This is especially important if any purchases are for orders that haven't been fulfilled yet. You could also aim to hit the spending requirement early so you'll have time to spare if any refunds occur later.

Credit card bonuses aren't hard to get, but you'd hate to lose one because of carelessness. Make sure to track your spending as you work your way toward the bonus. If you do that, you should have no trouble getting those extra rewards.

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