Q: I signed up for a new credit card that featured a $200 sign-on bonus. When can I expect to see those dollars?
A: It depends on the terms set by the issuer. Typically, large cash-back bonuses require cardholders to put a certain amount of money on their cards in a specified amount of time to qualify for the extra funds, so you might not even be eligible for a bonus until you hit the spending threshold.
And even if you do run up a big bill (and hit the spending threshold) immediately, you shouldn’t expect those points, dollars or frequent-flier miles to be available when it comes time to make your first monthly payment.
“It varies, but generally it can take up to two to three billing cycles,” says Curtis Arnold, founder of CardRatings.com.
The lag time is meant to prevent consumers from opening up a card only to close it right away.
“[The issuer] is asking you to keep the card open for a month or two, which is pretty reasonable when it comes to more generous bonus offers,” Arnold explains.
Smaller promotions, on the other hand, may be applied to your billing statement immediately. Amazon (Stock Quote: AMZN), for example, will instantly load a $40 gift card into a person’s Amazon.com account if they open up its Rewards Visa Card from Chase.
As such, consumers will want to review the fine print of any sign-on bonus or offer before running up a bill they are expecting to put it toward. You can find more terms you should be on the lookout for when scanning through the fine print in this MainStreet roundup.
Jeanine Skowronski is staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach her by email at skowronski.jeanine [at] thestreet.com, or follow her on Twitter at @JeanineSko.