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No SUB? No Problem! Why To Pursue Cards Without a Welcome Offer

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Card Signup Bonus

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire, Surpass, and Business, and Schwab American Express Platinum cards has been collected independently by Miles to Memories.

Credit Card Signup Bonus

A credit card signup bonus attracts attention.  Much online content, including a bit from MtM, grabs eyeballs when it includes high digits, commas, and zeros.  Most aren’t near as intrigued in a credit card sans signup bonus, but I’ll still check it out.  More specifically, I’m captivated by cards which are worth picking up without a welcome offer.  Whether you’re ineligible for a signup bonus or the card just simply doesn’t come with one, picking up a new card in these cases can make sense.  Today, I’m going over just a few examples how.

Buying Elite Status or Lounge Access

Some enjoy the chase to elite status, but others may opt to simply buy it.  At different times of my life, I’ve been both of those people.  Many cards come with elite status which unlock a new level of benefits.  Individuals who can’t organically achieve or aren’t interested in the headache have attractive options.  For a $550 annual fee, the Hilton Amex Aspire offers top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status.  For a mere $95, individuals can buy into what I consider the best mid-tier hotel status, Hilton Honors Gold, via the Hilton Amex Business card (the Surpass gets the same with a $150 AF).  Marriott fans can purchase Platinum status at $650 with the Bonvoy Brilliant Amex.

And of course, United, Delta, and American flyers interested in club access could justify certain cards without a signup bonus.

Card Signup Bonus

Targeted Spend Offers

Some opt for the delayed gratification of targeted spend offers on certain credit cards.  Two options immediately come to mind – the Banana Republic Mastercard (or other Gap Family cards) from Barclays and the Shop Your Way card from Citi.  These two cards periodically offer noteworthy signup bonuses, but sometimes offer minimal to nothing up front.  Regardless, hobbyists are often targeted for lucrative bonus spend offers not long after picking up the cards.  Since the Synchrony days, the wife and I have routinely been offered Banana Republic bonus spend offers of 5x and 10x in generous categories like grocery stores, gas, and dining.  Shop Your Way woo prospective cardholders with killer offers for straight cash.

Double- Or Triple-Dipping Card Benefits

Some cards offer a variety of calendar year-based card benefits that can be double- or triple-dipped during a cardmember year.  A variety of issuers do so, but Amex may be the most generous for people who pay attention and don’t mind a bit of extra effort.  These can turn a high annual fee card into a rewards machine.

Card Signup Bonus

Big Spend Bonuses

Many who have a need to spend more are looking for new alternatives when they’re out of signup bonus options.  Why bother with just earning hotel points, airline miles, or cash back when one can earn those same things plus extra free night certificates, milestone rewards, or elite perks?  Indeed, thanks to the genius of American Airlines’ Loyalty Points scheme and enough spending, one could argue any cobranded AA card is worth picking up without a welcome offer.  Plenty of options for other air and hotel currencies are out there, as well.

The Longer Plays

Sometimes, picking up a credit card is the only, or more optimal, path to reaching the overall goal.  For instance, the Ritz-Carlton card is only available via product change with Chase, and many pick up the Boundless in order to do so.  While you may not be eligible for a new signup bonus for a particular Amex card, the bank could target you for an upgrade bonus (sometimes just as strong as a traditional welcome offer) within the same family of cards.

Card Signup Bonus
The Citi Double Cash doesn’t always offer a signup bonus but can be worth picking up, anyway.

Back To Cash

Many cash back credit cards don’t always come with a signup bonus, but they’re worth holding.  For what it’s worth, I can never have too many 2% cash back cards.  You can sometimes product change to such cards from one where you received a signup bonus, but you may not be in that position.  Elsewhere, applying for a Schwab Amex Platinum to cash out Membership Rewards at 1.1 cents per point is enough for some to opt back into the card even if they aren’t eligible for another signup bonus.  We prefer to permanently hold our two Schwab Platinums, but I know some others like to cash out every several years without paying the annual fee each year in between.

Credit Card Signup Bonus – Conclusion

Primarily the best way to quickly earn points at a high volume, I’ll never stray too far from the new card signup bonus concept.  But the nuance of earning rewards with other cards in a more boring fashion will always be a part of my strategy.  And in a period of new card offer ineligibility, those alternatives can keep the hobby lucrative.  I’ll keep enjoying it all and encouraging you to do the same.

What cards have you picked up without a signup bonus and why?

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. AMEX Marriott Business card – ineligible for the welcome offer after picking up the Chase Boundless 5 FNC offer the year prior. But picking up the card gave the 15 additional elite nights to earn Marriott Platinum status for the rest of that year and the next one, plus it gave P2 a referral bonus and +5X Grocery earning on their AMEX card for three months. The free breakfasts, suite upgrades, extra Marriott points earning, and grocery points were easily worth more than $1000.

  2. I was not eligible for the delta gold sign up bonus because I had previously had the card. I signed up anyway because there is no annual fee the first year and I wanted to get 15% off SkyMile redemptions and no charge for bringing a suitcase.


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