One of the most annoying things about credit card sign-up offers is that there are so many! And it’s not just about targeted vs. public offers. There can be a variety of different offers for the same card depending on where you look. Sometimes the bank will have one offer, the associated airline or hotel will have a second, and the marketing affiliates will have a third.
Trying to make sure you get the best offer is a chore — and it isn’t always the affiliates’ fault (we’re only told about our own offers and have to look for the better ones; sometimes we’re explicitly told not to link to the better offer).
This post is meant to alert you to a few card sign-up offers that are more often than not subject to this predicament. Even when the offer is good it may be worth waiting a couple months for it to be great because some offers seem to go through a regular cycle. If the British Airways Visa is only offering 25,000 points, for example, apply for the Hyatt Visa during your next round of applications and wait for the BA card to go back up. Also know that not all cards are offered through affiliate channels. When an affiliate offer is removed entirely — not just lowered — it doesn’t mean the public offer will change, too. In my experience, posts about the impending demise of this or that “limited-time offer” are accurate only half the time.
Here are five specific cards that I find are most vulnerable to a range of different offers, those that vary either over time or depending on the source of the application. Hopefully the next time you apply you’ll remember stop and check if that offer is really the best one available.
US Airways MasterCard
The affiliate offer is a measly 30K points and has been inferior for most of my recent memory. The public offers change often but you can usually rely on FlyerTalk to tell you the best one available. Usually there is a 35K offer with no annual fee the first year. More recently a 40K offer that does have an annual fee has come and gone and is back again.
American Express Platinum Card
Don’t apply for the 25K offer. Like the US Airways card above, 25K is a pretty typical offer for the consumer version of the Platinum Card, but there has long been an alternative in the Mercedes-Benz version of this card. For a slightly higher annual fee ($475 vs. $450) you get 50K points. I think most of us would pay $25 for an extra 25K Membership Rewards points.
Citi AAdvantage MasterCard
Citi has offered only 30K points on this card (and previously the Visa alternative) through affiliate channels for as long as I can remember. You would be better off applying for one of the many 50K offers I have seen in the past year. Occasionally some die and new ones reappear. But like the US Airways card there is an active forum on FlyerTalk dedicated to finding superior offers for AA cards.
British Airways Visa
This card tends to vary between 25K, 50K, and 100K offers. Even the 100K offer provides only 50K points after the initial bonus and an additional 50K points after spending $20,000 in the first year — a high hurdle for some. The 100K offer was available as recently as this week but seems to have been dropped to only 50K since I started drafting this post. But during that time I could only find it on the British Airways website.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa
This card tends to vary between 25K and 50K offers and is complicated by the fact it comes in four flavors: a Plus and Premier card for both consumer and business needs. Sometimes the offer will go up or down for all cards, and other times only certain cards will be affected. Like the British Airways Visa above, I have often been able to find active links on the airline’s website even if they go dead now and then when the page is moved.