The relationship between banks and their customers is a complicated one. The banks need customers to sign up and preferably use credit cards for them to make money. It makes no difference to them if the income is from paying the annual fee, carrying a balance and paying interest, or forgetting a payment by a day and being charged a late fee (or get it waived by using this trick).
We also need the banks to earn points which we can use to travel more or travel better. The more sign-up bonuses and spending multipliers the better. That’s what keeps us using the cards and paying the fees to the banks and this is the circle of life.
There are tons of little hacks customers use to maximize the rewards they get from banks. The banks also have a few tricks they use to pay out less in bonuses than they might have paid otherwise. The one that’s becoming more common is the calendar trick.
For example, Chase is currently offering bonus points on many of its co-brand credit cards. I learned about the offer by reading other websites that mentioned it. What’s interesting is that the offer started on April 1st. It seemed strange that Chase would keep a big promotional offer like this a secret.
Today, I received two emails from Chase. One for my IHG card and one for the Marriott Bonvoy card.
So they’re telling me on April 8th about the promotion that started on April 1st. Does that make any sense? Obviously, the bank knew about the offer and when it would start. Why couldn’t they have sent out this email at the end of March so we could start using it right away? Could it be because they’d want to reduce the time the offer lasts?
At least the terms of the offer allow you to sign up right until the end of the promotional period and receive the bonus miles for all of your charges during the time frame. The more deceptive offers only count charges made after you register.
What they did was reduce the time you’d have to use the card with the offer. What if you had a $500 bill due on the 2nd of each month and you paid it with your 2% cashback card in April. If you had known about the 5X points offer earlier, you would have paid that bill with that card instead.
The other time that banks use the calendar trick is when you sign up for a new card. Most sign-up bonuses require spending a certain amount within a time frame. Like this offer from American Express.
To qualify for the 15,000 Membership Rewards points, you must make eligible purchases with your Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card that total $1,000 or more (the “Threshold Amount”) within your first 3 months of Card Membership starting from the date your account is approved.
Note that they say you have three months starting the date your account is approved. Unless you’re signing up for an ultra-premium card, it will take days to over a week for you to receive your new card. That’s time you don’t get back to use the card and meet the spending requirement. AMEX does issue temporary card numbers to some accounts upon approval so you can buy things online before receiving the card, but that doesn’t help if you have to make a large purchase at a store.
Not to leave out Citi; they’ve also pulled this trick before. Last year they leaked the news that cardholders could use the Citi Prestige travel benefit for dining and supermarkets but it took two weeks after the benefit went live before sending emails to cardholders informing them of the change.
This is happening more often and I don’t believe it’s due to a lack of coordination at the major banks. Whenever they want to announce a change to cardholder benefits, they have no trouble sending out those messages on time. But when it comes to changes or bonuses that will benefit cardholders, there’s no rush to let people know.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary