How I Amassed 145,000 Credit Card Bonus Points

Credit card signup bonuses often change at a moment’s notice. Find out how you can get the most points from these bonus offers.

You don’t need to be a math whiz to see that credit card signup bonuses are the fastest way to earn points. It would take the average consumer well over a year to accumulate 50,000 points through normal spending, but you can earn that much in months with a single bonus.

Most consumers view signup bonuses as a nice extra and take whatever’s currently offered when they want a new card. But if you follow this approach, you could be leaving points on the table.

It doesn’t take much extra effort to maximize your signup bonuses, as I’ve had success with just two key concepts.

The two keys to earning the biggest credit card signup bonuses

Here’s the simplest way to get the largest-possible signup bonuses -- apply for cards with offers you want as soon as possible, and always look for targeted offers before you apply.

The best signup bonuses don’t last forever. A card issuer may release a credit card with an offer for 75,000 bonus points, and then drop that to 50,000 points after the card has been out a few months.

Once a card issuer decreases a bonus, you probably won’t have much luck asking them to honor the previous amount. On the other hand, if you apply for a card and they increase the bonus within the next 90 days, you can usually contact them and get them to match the new amount. It’s better to apply too early than too late.

Card issuers also sometimes target specific groups of consumers with special credit card offers. For example, they could send out mailers with a link to apply for a card and receive a larger bonus than normal. In many cases, you can apply through a targeted offer even if you weren’t one of the people being targeted in the first place.

It was timing and targeted offers that helped me earn 145,000 more points than I would’ve otherwise. Here’s how that worked:

50,000 more points on the Chase Sapphire Reserve®

To say the release of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® generated a lot of hype would be a massive understatement. Everyone who was interested in travel rewards credit cards wanted to add it to their wallets.

One of the card’s many perks at the time was a 100,000-point signup bonus for spending $4,000 within the first three months. I actually hadn’t been too interested in earning travel rewards back then, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve® changed my mind, and I got it in September of 2016.

Chase cut the bonus to 50,000 points in March 2017. In all fairness, it confirmed this would be happening in January of that year, so it’s not like the change came out of left field.

Signup bonuses can go away at any time, and with 100,000-point bonuses, it’s usually not a matter of if, but when. Since that initial decrease the bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has held steady at 50,000 points, which is still among the best on the market.

20,000 more points on the Chase Ink Business Preferred®

The Chase Ink Business Preferred® is Chase’s premier business credit card. It has several broad bonus categories, an annual fee of $95, and an 80,000-point signup bonus when you spend $5,000 within the first three months.

I was already planning on applying for this card last year, and then I read that it was possible to get an increased offer of 100,000 points (thanks, Reddit!). The trick is that it requires applying in a Chase branch through one of the company’s business relationship managers. I did that, and by going the extra mile, I earned an extra 20,000 points.

The good news is that if you want to take advantage of this offer, you can do exactly what I did, because Chase has been running it since 2017. Since it isn’t public, there’s no word on when it will end or if Chase will keep it going indefinitely.

50,000 points on the Chase Sapphire Preferred®

In August of 2017, I applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, the only remaining card that would earn me a signup bonus with Ultimate Rewards points. It had the same offer then that it does now - - 50,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first three months.

Why would this example make the list? At the end of that month, Chase added a new rule to its Sapphire® cards.

This product is available to you if you do not have any Sapphire card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for any Sapphire card in the past 24 months.

If I waited a few more weeks, I would have been ineligible for another Chase Sapphire® card. Again, the moral of the story is don’t wait. That’s especially true with Chase setting the eligibility time frame at 24 months. By getting one Chase Sapphire® card, you’ll start the clock, so to speak. Two years down the road, you’ll be eligible for another bonus, although it will require canceling or downgrading your current Sapphire® card of choice.

25,000 more points on the Premier Rewards Gold® Card from American Express

Most recently, I applied for the Premier Rewards Gold® Card from American Express. The current offer on that is 25,000 points for spending $2,000 in the first three months. Not terrible, especially since American Express Membership Rewards points are so versatile, but a 25,000-point offer wouldn’t be my top choice.

With a little searching, I saw that American Express was also running a targeted offer for 50,000 bonus points on the same card. The challenge was getting that offer to show up for me online so I could apply for it.

As you’ve likely noticed by now, the public offers available online aren’t always as good as it gets. There are a few ways to make targeted offers appear, if they’re available. Here are the most effective methods:

  • Use the card issuer’s prequalification tool, which will often give you better bonus offers on the cards you qualify for
  • Clear your browser cookies, and then go back to the card issuer’s website to look for the card again
  • Open the card issuer’s website in a private browser window

When this strategy doesn’t make sense

Although hunting down the biggest signup bonuses can help you earn a lot of points, it’s not for everyone. You should avoid it if any of the following are true:

You’re paying off credit card debt or are prone to running up balances

Focus on paying off your debt first, because getting more credit cards will only compound the problem. Since credit card interest is costlier than any rewards you’ll earn, it’s better to look for a balance transfer credit card and save yourself money in this situation. If credit card debt has been a common problem for you, then you should avoid the risk entirely.

You’re working on your credit score

Every credit card application puts a hard inquiry on your credit report, which decreases your credit score by a small amount. It takes a few months for your score to recover from this. If your score is already excellent (720 or higher), then this isn’t a big deal. Those trying to improve their score should keep their applications to a minimum.

You’re not comfortable managing multiple credit cards

Keeping track of the balances and due dates on more than one credit card can be a pain. One missed payment could result in a late fee, so it’s not worth getting multiple cards if you think you’ll lose track of what you need to pay.

Redeeming 145,000 points

I prefer to use my travel rewards for flights, and 145,000 extra points is more than enough for business-class tickets to and from Europe. With my 120,000 extra Chase Ultimate Rewards points, I could do a transfer to United Airlines and book one-way business-class tickets between the United States and Europe at 60,000 points, or travel business-class between the United States and Latin America for 35,000 points each way.

If you wanted to put points towards a luxurious hotel stay, you could transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt. Standard rooms at the hotel’s resorts cost between 20,000 to 25,000 points per night, so 120,000 points would be more than enough for four to five nights.

What about those 25,000 American Express Membership Rewards points? Fortunately, American Express and Chase have some of the same transfer partners, so in many cases, it’s possible to pool points. 25,000 points would also be enough to book a flight on most of the 16 airlines in the Membership Rewards program, or you could transfer them to Hilton, where rooms start at 5,000 points per night.

Maximizing Your Travel Rewards

Not all these opportunities are still available, but that’s how credit card offers work. I got bonuses that aren’t around anymore, and I also missed out on plenty of offers that were gone before I applied for any cards.

If you’ve been thinking of getting a new credit card, there’s no time like the present. Compare your options, look for targeted offers, and act fast to get the most bonus points.