Why Is Chase Getting So Generous With Big New Card Offers?

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As we entered recession amidst heading towards a global pandemic, we started to see generous credit card offers dry up. People weren’t focused on travel, so they were less focused on travel rewards. The uncertain economy made it tough to approve new credit. Anecdotally small business cards especially became tougher to get, which is no surprise considering the challenges faced by small businesses.

That’s all familiar territory. But what’s new in the last several weeks is a clear shift in strategy from Chase for their travel rewards card portfolios.

First they came out with big new offers for the Marriott cards.

  • The initial bonus for the Marriott Bonvoy BoundlessTM Credit Card is 100,000 points after $3000 spend on purchases in the first 3 months of cardmembership. I’ve seen them offer 100,000 points before with a $5000 spend requirement. The card is worth keeping for the annual elite night credits and annual night certificate.

  • And the initial bonus for the no annual fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold(TM) Credit Card has an offer to earn 50,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. The card is worth keeping for the annual elite night credits without an annual fee.

Then they introduced big new offers for United cards.

  • UnitedSM Explorer Card has an offer to earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

    What’s great about this $0 the first year then $95 annual fee card is the travel benefits when flying United. You get first bag for free when you use your card to purchase your ticket. You’ll get 2 one-time United Club passes each year for your account anniversary as well.

  • United ClubSM Infinite Card has an offer to earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

    That’s the biggest offer they’ve ever made. And while the previous offer made the card available with a $0 annual fee the first year, there was actually no initial miles bonus. This is a huge improvement for the $525 annual fee product.

    The card comes with United Club membership, which normally costs $650 per year for a general member. Additional benefits with this Visa Infinite product include up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PrecheckTM fee credit and 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flight when you pay with your Club Card. You receive free first and second checked bags (a savings of up to $320 per roundtrip).

And now there’s a big offer for Southwest cards, too, and don’t forget that earning large numbers of Southwest points this year makes earning a Companion Pass easier than it did last year.

Each will let you earn 65,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. And this year a Companion Pass – valid through all of 2021 – takes just 100,000 qualifying points to earn. (Offers expired.)

In fairness, Chase hadn’t gone entirely dark with offers during the pandemic. The offer for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has remained constant.

And so did the offers to earn 100,000 Avios after qualifying spend with the Aer Lingus Visa Signature® Card, British Airways Visa Signature® Card, and Iberia Visa Signature® Card .

What’s going on here? I would posit a few potential explanations.

  1. The economy is likely to see relatively robust quarter-over-quarter growth in the third quarter, off the low second quarter base. This will still be disappointing levels of economic activity compared to the same quarter a year earlier, but it’ll be an improvement. Meanwhile unemployment has been falling and new unemployment claims have been falling. We still face deep economic challenges, but the first derivative is headed in the right direction.

  2. People are thinking about traveling again. While air passenger numbers in the U.S. are at nearly 10 times their lowest level on some days, that’s still off about 70% compared to a year earlier. Still, travel is thinkable again. People don’t have to be traveling today to think about travel rewards, they just need to be able to plan for it in the future.

  3. Competitive opportunity, Chase would like to grow its portfolios to amortize the high cost of airline and hotel partnerships – they’re going to be losing some cardmembers as annual renewals come due, so if they can be more aggressive in the marketplace than competitors they may be able to gain share shift.

I’d love to know the extent to which Chase versus travel partners are funding increased offers right now. These were certainly in the budget and chute to do, but the interesting question is why so many across partners and why now. I take this as an overall encouraging sign.

Is your behavior shifting, are you looking at rewards cards and travel again?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. So, Gary, what’s your estimate of percentage of your readers that are within the 24/5 limits for chase cards? Am I the only one, or have I missed the secret work around? 😉

    I did get an offer on the United card for 60,000 bonus miles a few months ago and got it! 🙂

    I’d like to get the Bonvoyed card since I didn’t renew all Starwood/Marriott cards after bad experience on 2018 Hawaii retirement trip 🙁

    Last night I was dreaming of a Round the World 2X. DCA JFK HND SYD JNB GIG SANTIAGO SYD HKG FRA IAD 46,000 miles. Although two longest segments on Biz offered, but still First in JAL, CX, & LH A couple of the Southern Hemisphere legs could be on Latam so maybe I should get the Delta AmEx cards which I’ve never tapped 🙂

  2. Pretty simple math if I was the Chase points buyer.
    I’ll pay you 50% less than I paid you last year and I’ll raise the bonus 50% for a 25% increase in margin for Chase. You the partner can raise you award prices and we will not complain as we are now making 25% more margin. If the partner goes belly up too bad too sad- no skin. If the customer walks we’ll offer them our Freedom plus card with an added benefit and continue on with the customer you found without you.
    Such is life in the business world. A sucker is born every minute and a bank is ready to *&) them the minute after.
    If you are going to run with scissors know the consequences.

  3. For a nice half cash, half mile deal on the Chase United Exploder card consider signing into your account (sorry Gary) and they will offer you: 35k miles, no fee 1st year, $250 cash statement credit after 1 purchase, $100 toward Global entry/TSA, 2 club passes with only a 2k spend requirement.

    It might be better to take the cash vs the 25k in additional miles especially if you have more miles than they might be able to redeem.

  4. Sure they have all these great offers, but are they approving applications for anybody but the people with the best credit and highest income? I had applied for the Chase UA infinite card in March but was denied. I called to be reconsidered and although I have great credit and all that, they were just unwilling to extend anymore credit and I didn’t have 10k to move around from other cards. In recent years, other than Barclays, Chase is the toughest to get approved for a credit card if you already have one or more of their cards. I love your blog anyway, Gary, keep up the great work!

  5. I think the primary reason is that miles have lost substantially all of their value in the short term, and will likely have lost much of their value in the medium and perhaps the long term. I can’t spend the miles I’ve already accumulated on the things I’ve long collected them for, so the marginal value of each additional mile necessarily has to go down. Any miles offer to incentivize me to take any action will necessarily have to go up.

  6. Yeah, currently miles are worthless for many people. Whether it is due to travel restrictions (imposed by countries or your personal feelings about travel safety) or due to limited flights or due to the (at times) heavily discounted flights that means points are worth a lot less.

    For the vast majority of people, collecting points right now is low on their list of things to do. I probably have around 1M points total (Chase, Amex, AA, BA making up most of that). I don’t see a good use of them now. And sadly I’m not getting any younger.

    Overall I’ve gotten rid of several cards and downgraded a few others. I’ve kept some that maybe I should have gotten rid of, and may do so shortly.

    Even for those that don’t care about the risks, what are they getting for their points in many cases? No hotel room cleaning, resort features closed, airport lounges closed/reduced services, premium classes in flights with limited/no food and reduced benefits for flying them, etc. etc., etc.

    Like many, even though I’m not a FF (have had status in the past but nothing like people here) and don’t like to be on the road with all of the hassles, I’ve been grounded since December and would love to have a near risk free trip. My next trip is likely a job relocation to be closer to family. But even if I went to visit family I need to be careful since the last thing I want to do is to get my 80+ yr old father sick, that would be horrible. So that means close to 2 weeks of waiting to see him.

    Keep pushing the cards but I doubt many are interested.

  7. More likely Chase is sitting on piles of cash from payments and PPP deposits and has no other viable means of loaning it out. They will already be taking a huge hit from lower rates so they are doing anything to prop up their ROA.

  8. I miss the points game, but I’m effectively out of it and likely not to return, even post-covid. I love this blog and I love for what it opened me up to. In the here and now, I just don’t feel comfortable traveling. And with that, the excitement about earning points through air travel and hotel stays has decreased substantially (though I’ll always check-in on Gary’s great blog). I’m sure there’s an iteration of the points game where I’d get excited if I could redeem at a better value for say gift cards and the like, but right now that 2% to 4% cash back is the best deal. I don’t like it — I’d rather be traveling and by extension collecting…but there it is. My worst fear is that as I’m sitting on all my pre-covid collected points and when/if there is a vaccine or a post-covid time, the airlines & hotels will realize it, cut their redemption options to nearly nil, and effectively continue to make sure the miles have little to no value. I’d love to hear industry leaders address how they’re going to handle the redemption game post-covid, because it would be nice to have it down in writing (not that it hasn’t stopped them from going back on their word in the past!). It’s a bit of a Catch 22…and I’m just going to opt out. I think a lot of the airlines and hotels did this to themselves by making changes at the last minute, including award increases without notices, eliminating the possibility of anyone reaching a truly aspirational award and even during good times cutting reward capacity way down. Tell me I’m wrong, as I’d love an “I told you so” at any point!

  9. Wow seems everyone here is pretty pessimistic. I personally am taking 2020 as a great chance to accumulate quite a few SUB for myself and P2 including the 60K United offer. In addition, with the flexible cancellation policy that most airlines have on award travel now, I am doing some speculative booking to Europe next June/July and as soon as it schedules populate, for a trip to Asia next Fall. Do you guys really think we aren’t going to have the situation under control in less than a year (with a vaccine hopefully widely administered by then)?

  10. Ha I have to agree the tone of the comments seems pretty pessimistic.

    But since we’ve gone down that road I’m curious what happens if we stay relatively shut down (travel-wise) for another 6 months, and let’s say in March there’s a vaccine and a treatment and overnight the travel world is wide open again. We have all these banks and programs out there (understandably) leaning into their biggest revenue source – selling points, but nobody is using the points. Opening the floodgates with all those balances busting at the seams feels like a recipe for disaster across the board.

    Hotels have to be fully staffed for high occupancy, but they’re flooded with non-revenue (or extremely low-revenue) guests cashing in all these points – and the guests are climbing over each other trying to get their bookings in before rooms (or “allocated award inventory”) are used up, hotels are under-staffed trying to keep costs low. There’s almost no choice but massive devaluation to deal with the flood of points moving from people’s “rainy day” accounts into “let’s do this mode” all at once…right?

    Feels like a good blog post for someone with better perspective. I’m just the family guy who LOVES this blog and this hobby as a means of traveling with my family but I know my perspective is limited as a “small player”. Would love to read a more in-depth analysis from one of the pros.

  11. @Derek Serrano I’m not worried about control of the virus as its already under control in most places so that the risk of travel seems perfectly acceptable to me and Covid is not a materially greater risk than other risks I’ve already accepted in travel. While I’m not worried about the virus, I’m extremely worried about governments’ overreaction to the virus all over the world, which have led to the widespread destruction of the culture in places I travel to experience, and the institution of arbitrary rules and restrictions that make travel much less enjoyable, comfortable and convenient, and add an additional element of uncertainty into travel plans. I know that the city that I live in his been utterly ruined by the lockdowns and continued isolation and I wouldn’t want to travel here as a tourist any longer. Right now there are precious few places to go, and no way to get there even if they would let me in — and if they let me in whether I’ll let back home without an pointless but onerous quarantine.

    I’ve traveled very happily during and after Bird Flu, SARS, 9/11, the Bali Bombing, and extended hospital stays around the world from various mishaps, because those things didn’t really change the underlying travel experience or the satisfaction I derived from it. The insane reaction to Covid though has assured that the world will now be materially different for the worse, life will be less interesting and less pleasant everywhere, and poor and miserable in many more places.. I don’t think for a second that it was worth it, or that anything was accomplished by it, but reality is quickly coming into stark view. I have a few million miles that I’ll do my level best to burn through when I’m able to if airlines begin flying overseas again and borders reopen, but I don’t see going out of my way to accumulate more, and certainly won’t incur any extra costs to do so.

  12. I am always a optimist. I have booked for 9 business class to Europe next June – July return and hoping we can go (at least with a close in Covid test). Going to Aruba winter vacation (present rules require 72 hour pre departure nasal/oral covid test and $15/day insurance. I did cancel our June trip to Quebec and July to Europe this year… (LAX home airport)

  13. @Mak, I respectfully disagree with the term “overreaction” to Covid given the aggressive nature of the contagion. While we all know someone affected, I point out two instances of close family friends that took recent driving vacations. Having felt “pent-up” they decided to get away for a short holiday. In one instance, despite taking every precaution while traveling to/from Dallas and San Antonio, the parents and two adult children became infected. No one required hospitalization, although one parent became very ill. In another instance the young man, a former pro baseball player, had to remain on a ventilator for 2 weeks despite being young and in-shape. I think every caution is warranted. Consequently, I have no desire to fly in the foreseeable future. I’ve traveled nearly 7 million butt-in-seat miles to safe and risky jurisdictions worldwide.

  14. @DFESteve Anecdotes about Covid being horrible aren’t a valid argument against the Covid lockdowns being a gross and harmful overreaction. That Covid is harmful and bad and actually kills people isn’t in dispute. What is in dispute is that the lockdowns 1) were a worthwhile exercise against Covid, and for that you need to prove that they actually saved more lives than they cost in more suicides, overdoses, and undiagnosed and untreated illnesses; and 2) that the trade off against the loss of personal liberty, prosperity, education, employment, cultural institutions, etc., and the long term misery and poverty that they have imposed around the world for the massive majority of humanity that is at minimal risk of this virus, have been a good bargain on balance.

    There is simply no data to suggest that lockdowns saved any lives from Covid, and much evidence to suggest that even if they did, the number of people saved has been dwarfed by those killed by the lockdowns, and further overwhelmed by those rendered miserable as a result of them. I have no quarrel whatsoever with the proposition that Covid is tragic. But the question is whether the measure taken against it were worth it. Once the PPP and unemployment checks stop and people get around and look around at the damage the lockdowns have wrought, I think the answer will be very obvious to all, as it already is to me.

  15. C’mon Mak, ” the number of people saved has been dwarfed by those killed by the lockdowns” ?? Where did you dig up that garbage? Don’t you see how many people are dying daily from Covid? I’m not in favor of full lockdowns either, but crowded bars & pools, and people not wearing masks means that this could go on for the rest of your life, whether that is a long or short time.

  16. My experiences with Chase have been very negative, as of late. I applied for 2 different cards in the last 18 months. Turned down for both even after reconsideration. I have 810 credit score and very low debt. I applied for a Costco Visa because of 4% gas rebate and received instant approval. I’m done with Chase. I have banked with them for 43 years. I was going to give them my 401K, but after this treatment, it is going to Charles Schwab. My local Schwab office will open for me just by calling.

    Chase is desperate and it shows!

  17. 12 referral links in one post. Strangely the Chase biz cards aren’t even mentioned… Can’t imagine why…. Also,I feel like you could’ve crammed in some Amex/Citi/Synchrony/Credit One links at the end for those who can’t get Chase cards. Step the game up.

  18. I’m not tempted by Chase’s new offers because they all assume that I will travel again soon. The annual fees on my Sapphire Reserve and United Explorer will both hit on September 1. I’m planning to downgrade both (the CSR to the CFU and the Explorer to the No-Fee MileagePlus). I don’t want to accumulate points or miles during the next year because I positively won’t be traveling. The only way I would keep the CSR is if Chase announces (soon) a plan to reward grocery purchases in the fourth quarter like it did in May and June and to extend the Pay Yourself Back program from September 30 until December 31.

  19. @Juan We know lots of people are dying about covid. No explain to me how you know that the lockdowns have saved any lives. I’ve never seen any statistical correlation between lockdown and the infection curve — in fact there have been many statistical analyses drawing the conclusion that there is no correlation. Sweden, which didn’t lockdown, had fewer deaths than France, UK, Italy, Spain, Belgium, which had strict lockdowns. Arizona, Texas, and Florida have had fewer — not more — deaths than NY, NJ, or CT, despite the much stricter lockdowns in those places. Curitiba had fewer deaths than Sao Paulo or Rio, despite the fact that the later places had much stricter lockdowns. New Zealand, Melbourne, and Danang demonstrate that you can lockdown tight, but at best you are delaying the inevitable, while destroying your economy.

    If its so obvious to you that lockdowns altered the curve, it should be easy to find a study supporting that. But alas, there are none.

  20. Increased headline awards to grab the attention of more customers in a market where the most creditworthy customers are fewer and farther than before and where marketing to travelers isn’t what it used to be because of changed habits reducing exposure to traditional print marketing of the cards. If you’re going to lose customers or try to avoid customers with questionable credit worthiness at this time, then you have to replace them somehow while trying to avoid increased credit risk from card accounts.

  21. Sweden which didn’t lock down had way more deaths per capita than its Scandinavian neighbors and Finland. And despite Sweden not locking down while its neighbors did, Sweden’s economy did worse in the 2nd quarter than its most integrated neighbor, namely, Denmark. The lockdowns in Sweden’s neighbors saved lives and minimized domestic retail damage while Sweden’s “openness” and mixed messages cost Sweden a much higher death rate per capita, no better domestic retail picture, a worse unemployment situation and worse GDP outcome in the second quarter than Denmark.

    The attempt to hold up Sweden as some kind of model of pandemic response that serves the public well is a joke when you look at how Sweden has done relative to its closest neighbors: way worse with deaths and about the same or substantially worse economically than its locked down neighbors.

  22. @GUWonder lack of lock down seems to be only one of many factors that explains difference in outcomes with Sweden’s Scandinavian neighbors https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3674138

    “We give evidence for these other 15 possible factors. It is plausible that Sweden’s lighter lockdown accounts for but a small part of Sweden’s higher Covid death rate.”

    I’m not arguing Sweden is a model, they certainly screwed things up in nursing homes. Their outcomes are better than Italy, UK, and Spain and the Netherlands really isn’t *that* much better. I’m simply suggesting that the story is complicated and moralizing about Sweden probably doesn’t make sense (especially as we see new outbreaks elsewhere).

  23. @Mak,

    It was clearly a gross under-reaction, not over-reaction. It’s the countries like China, that did a hard lock down and made everyone wear masks that have the smallest economic impact from Covid. My buddies who live there have resumed normal life already. While I have to wear a mask here, my kids are back in school, restaurants and other entertainment is operating normally.

    But in the US, where cavalier attitudes towards infection have ensured the virus is now deeply entrenched, the impact of Covid is massive and on-going.

  24. @George How hard of a lockdown do you think China really had? The reality is heavily infected by popular myth. Putting to one side that China announced the Wuhan lockdown sufficiently in advance to let a significant part of the population leave (and bring some herd immunity elsewhere), and Chinese New Year holidays were extended by a week across the country, most of the rest of China was fully open and at work by the second week of February. Even Wuhan returned to complete normalcy (putting aside the floods) months ago. China has had some outbreaks in various places, but is far more normal than it is elsewhere in the world including where I live.

    Most of the USA on the other hand, is still locked down to one extent or another, people haven’t returned to work, children are not going to school, people are not eating in restaurants or bars, and we have large steady increases in suicides and drug overdoses — whilst the hospitals are mostly empty of covid patients. Europe ex-Sweden is quite similar to most of the USA. Australia and New Zealand are locked down even harder — what you envision Chinese style to be — with no definite end in sight, and the infection following its nature all the same.

    So I’m ready to follow the Chinese and open back up and return to normal life, and quarantine the ill instead of those who are well.

  25. Gary,

    Compare Sweden to its closest neighbors that are the most similar to Sweden: its Scandinavian neighbors. And do so in economic terms and virus death counts per capita. Sweden failed big time on both measures when compared to at least Denmark.

    Sweden’s virus response approach also involved a lot of deaths from people who weren’t in nursing homes. The pro-state Swedish propaganda machine is all about other-izing Swedish deaths and it does so by trying to downplay virus deaths from beyond nursing homes while trying to overplay deaths from poorer, immigrant-heavy neighborhoods at the same time.

    The most eager defenders of Sweden’s “laissez-faire” fairytale approach don’t want to compare Sweden to its immediate neighbors; instead they cherry pick by going for European countries that are nowhere close to Sweden and are more different from Sweden than Sweden’s neighboring Scandinavian countries and Finland.

  26. Gary,

    You’re linking to a paper by what seems to be a bunch of speculative types who make their money and travel expenses on trying to sell so-called laissez-faire approaches under the color of academia and intellectualism.

    Every factor they mention as a “may” is nothing new to me. It’s been part of the pro-state propaganda in Sweden for the entire time I’ve been here during this pandemic.

  27. I recently got a credit card offer I turned down quietly. It mentioned in the ballpark of so many words that I could get up to or 20% on mazon purchases. From the way Amazon has been treatig their affiliates, I saw this as a backdoor opp’y for Amazon to rebound from their temporary sales declines. In today’s era , I’m concerned with spending less and getting that scor to 850. No more credit cards for me. L 😛 L

  28. It’s pretty simple, most people assume (probably correctly) that the world will start the process of getting back to normal in Spring of 2021. Getting some bonuses now will help for travel next year.

  29. I seriously doubt that the world will be back to normal in the spring of 2021. Even under the most optimistic schedules, a vaccine won’t be available until January 2021, and then it will take nearly a year to get enough people vaccinated to make a difference. I’m thinking spring 2022 for my next flight, but I refuse to stockpile points or miles in programs that could be devalued by then.

  30. Charlie – I said “start the process of getting back to normal” not be “back to normal.” Nevertheless, many will be taking flights in spring and summer of 2021, some paid for by points. Many are taking such flights today.

  31. I have a Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Renewal ($550) comes due at the end of the year. I’m probably not flying anywhere until next summer or fall at the earliest and even then not very much. I don’t understand why I should keep it. I know– I can cash in the points for the time being, but there is no guarantee that Chase will continue this feature. The only “feature” they’ll continue is the $550 fee!

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