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What Size Bonus Would Convince You to Sign Up for a Credit Card?

This article was written by in Credit. 4 comments.


As a number of Consumerism Commentary visitors have mentioned over the past few months, it’s getting harder to find good credit card deals, including 0% APR no-fee balance transfer offers and worthwhile sign-up bonuses. Other commenters who have been successful milking credit card companies with balance arbitrage strategies have slowed down their pursuit with fewer deals and lower interest rates on savings.

Yet, there are still many credit cards, like the AmEx Platinum Business FreedomPass card, that offer sign-up bonuses in the form of cash back or “points,” though redeeming the reward may either be a hassle, require a waiting period, and/or take the form of a statement credit or retail gift card.

How effective are these bonuses, particularly when there are so many restrictions? What would it take to get you to sign up for a new credit card? You have to weigh the possibility of a temporary decrease in your credit score. You also have to keep in mind your predisposition towards credit use. With a new card, perhaps you would be tempted to spend more.

It’s important to note that $50 (for example) has a different “value” for different people. An extra $50 could be the difference between coming out ahead for the month and falling behind. Money received from a credit card bonus might be what enables someone to make their child support payment.

This isn’t lost on the credit card issuers. They know “low hanging fruit” will snag users more likely to become permanent and profitable customers. These customers pay for those who take advantage of credit card issuers by being smart and careful about rewards.

I have not seen any bonus available that would convince me to sign up for a new card at this time. For me, the threshold would be $300 or $400 in cash. I would meet the minimum requirements for receiving the bonus and then forget about the card unless it also offers cash back on purchases at a level higher than the cards I use currently (American Express Blue Cash for Business and Citi Dividend World MasterCard).

I would expect that some individuals will never be tempted to sign up for a credit card regardless of the amount of the sign-up bonus, while others have no qualms about gathering as many credit cards as possible to take advantage of the cash that is out there.

How much would it take for a credit card company to buy your patronage? Do you have a dollar minimum after which you’ll start to consider taking advantage? Or would a free flight be attractive to you?

Updated March 13, 2010 and originally published May 1, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar FR

0% APR for at least 12 months. I like free loans.

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avatar marylandterps

Last year we signed up for an American Airlines Card when they offered 25,000 Frequent Flyer miles. We then flew from FL to CA for free.

We recently signed up for a United Credit Card that also gave 25k miles. We combined this with 10,000 other miles and now are flying free on our honeymoon, from DC to Aruba, saving us $1300. It was worth the small ding to our credit score.

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avatar Eden

I was thinking like $500…$100 is definitely not enough, and considering that I don’t want any credit cards, it would probably need to be much closer to $500, but I’m sure I’m being more picky than most would be.

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avatar Adfecto

I’ve signed up for cards in the past for both 12 months no interest (with no balance transfer fee) and 10% off a purchase of > $500 with six months no interest. Overall it took about $250 of incentives to get me to bite. These days I think the bar would be closer to $500 because of my changing financial picture.

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