Welcome Bonus 101: Do You Know What a Different “Card Product” Is?

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The single best way to earn miles & points is welcome bonuses and spending on rewards-earning credit cards.  So it’s important to know when you can and can NOT earn those valuable welcome offers!

There are several factors that determine whether or not you’re eligible for a welcome bonus.  Understanding which cards are “different products” is a tremendous help for getting you Big Travel with Small Money!

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I’ll explain what this means, so you know which credit cards you should (and should NOT) apply for!

What’s a Different Credit Card Product?

Most banks have rules impacting whether or not you can earn a card’s welcome bonus if you’ve had it in the past.  For example, American Express allows you to earn the bonus on each card just ONCE per lifetime.

However, you CAN usually earn a bonus on cards that are “different products“.  That definition has changed slightly over the years.  But I’ll give you some guidelines to help you decide if the card you’re applying for is a different product than a card you’ve already opened.

Even cards that look practically identical can be completely different cards.  In general, 2 cards are treated as different products if:

1.   They Are Issued by Different Banks

If 2 cards are issued by different banks, they are definitely different products.  Even if they are co-branded with the same company, you are eligible for the bonus on both.

For example, the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard are both American Airlines credit cards.  But because one is issued by Barclaycard and the other is issued by Citi, they are different products.

2.   They Are for Different Airlines or Hotels

Cards that are issued by the same bank but co-branded with different companies are different products.  If you open the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card, you’re still eligible to receive the bonus for the Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.

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3.   They Are Personal and Small Business Versions of the Same Card

Two cards can have practically the exact same name, look, bonus, and co-branded travel partner, and still be different products!  Banks offer a personal and a small business version of several cards.  And if you qualify for small business cards, you can potentially earn the bonus for both.

For example, AMEX issues the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.  These are considered completely different products.

4.   One Is an Entry-Level Card and One Is a Premium Card

Even if 2 cards are co-branded with the same company, they are considered different products if they have different features and benefits.  One card may be marketed toward a casual traveler, and one may be designed for someone who travels all the time.

The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card are both Delta cards issued by American Express.  But one is a premium card and one is more entry level, so they are considered different products.

5.   They Earn Different Rewards

If 2 credit cards earn different rewards, they are different products.  If you just opened a card that earns AMEX Membership Rewards points, and want to open a card that earns Delta miles, you’re eligible to earn the bonus.

But even if a card earns rewards at a different rate, the cards are usually considered different products.  For example, the Ink Business Cash and Ink Business Preferred are different card products.

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6.   One Card Is Issued By Visa and the Other By MasterCard

If cards are issued by different payment network operators (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, etc.), they are different card products.

Two Important Exceptions

Banks have added application rules on top of these bonus restrictions.  Here’s a quick reminder of these rules!

1.   Chase

If you’ve opened 5+ cards from any bank (NOT counting Chase small business cards and these other business cards) in the past 24 months, it’s unlikely you’ll be approved for many of their cards.  And you are NOT eligible for the bonus on the same card until 24 months after you’ve earned it.

And now, Chase will NOT allow you to hold more than 1 Sapphire card at a time.

For example, folks who already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred will no longer be approved for a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, or vice versa.  So you’ll have to close your current Sapphire card to get another.  And you won’t be eligible for another bonus on a Sapphire card until 24 months after you’ve earned the previous one.

Chase Sapphire cards used to be considered different products.  But this new rule effectively makes them 1 product.

2.   Citi

Citi used to allow you to earn the bonus on a card if you hadn’t opened or closed that specific card in the past 24 months.  But now, you can NOT receive the bonus if you’ve opened or closed a card under the same family of cards in that time frame.

So, for example, if you’ve opened or closed the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard in the past 24 months, you will NOT be approved for a Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, which also earns American Airlines miles.  If it’s been over 24 months, you’re eligible for other American Airlines cards.

The exception to this rule is the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard.  The Citi AAdvantage personal credit card terms say:

American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi®/AAdvantage® card (other than a CitiBusiness®/AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.

So you can still receive bonus American Airlines miles on personal cards even if you’ve opened or closed the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select within 24 months!

Bottom Line

Banks have pretty similar rules about what is considered a “different card product“.  For example, you can know that cards are different products if:

  • They are issued by different banks
  • They are co-branded with different airlines or hotels
  • One card is for small business owners and one card is NOT
  • They earn different rewards

But there are exceptions, most notably from Chase and Citi.  It’s vitally important to know these rules before you apply!  Or you could miss out on valuable welcome offers.