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All you need to know about credit card introductory offers
How do credit card introductory offers work?
Most introductory offers are only available to new customers who apply and are approved for a specific credit card during the promotional period.
The benefits of introductory offers only last for a limited time. For example, any promotional interest rates or fee discounts may revert to standard features after the promotional period. Bonus points, on the other hand, can last until you use them or they expire.
How to qualify for a credit card promotional offer
You usually have to meet specific requirements to be eligible for an introductory offer. These conditions vary but usually include:
- New customers. You must be a new credit card customer, with no existing credit cards issued by the company you’re applying with. For example, if you have a credit card issued by American Express, you likely won’t be eligible for Amex introductory offers.
- Credit card approval. You must apply and be approved for the credit card by a certain date in order to take advantage of the introductory offer.
- Application dates. Some promotional offers may only be available to applicants who apply and are approved by a set date.
- Spend requirements. When there is a bonus point offer available, often you’ll be required to meet a spend requirement by a set date to receive the points.
Before you apply for a card with an introductory offer, make sure you fully understand these terms and conditions to ensure you can get the full value from the offer.
What types of introductory credit card offers can I get?
There is a wide range of different introductory offers available depending on what you want from a credit card. Some of the most popular options include:
0% balance transfer offers
A 0% balance transfer credit card can be a useful tool to consolidate and repay debt without the cost of interest. Balance transfer credit cards often come with a low or 0% interest rate for a promotional period of 6 months or more. This means you can clear your credit card balance faster without accruing any additional interest. Once the promotional offer ends, a standard revert rate applies and any remaining debts will begin to collect interest, often at the higher cash advance rate.
Interest-free balance transfers are only available for a limited time, so you’ll be required to apply and receive approval before the offer end date to take advantage of the promotional 0% interest rate. You can usually request the balance transfer and provide the details of your existing account when you apply.
Low purchase rate promotions
Purchase rate offers to help you save on your spending by giving you a low or 0% introductory interest rate during the honeymoon period. At the end of the introductory period, the promotional rate reverts to a standard interest rate that applies to any balance carried from these purchases.
Purchase rate offers can be useful if you have a lot of planned expenses coming up and want a flexible and affordable way to pay them off over time. To get the most out of low or 0% purchase rate deals, you should aim to pay off the new charges before the end of the introductory period.
No annual fee offers
This type of introductory offer waives the annual fee of the credit card for a promotional period (usually the first 12 months). Depending on the credit card, no annual fee promotions can save you tens, hundreds or thousands of dollars. You usually need to apply before a specific date to enjoy a no annual fee introductory offer.
After the introductory period, the standard annual fee will be applied to the account. So, if you plan to use your credit card beyond the promotional period, you should pay attention to the standard annual fee when comparing credit cards.
Bonus reward points promotions
Many rewards credit cards include bonus points when you apply and are approved for the card. Bonus points offers are usually only available when you apply by a certain date and meet the spend criteria. This means you may need to spend a certain amount within a specific period to collect the bonus points. As long as the spend requirement fits within your budget and don’t outweigh the value of your bonus points, it can be an easy way to boost your points balance as soon as you apply for the card. Remember that not all points are created equal and be sure to consider the value of the points before you apply.
Bonus frequent flyer points promotions
Similar to bonus reward point promotions, many frequent flyer credit cards offer bonus points on sign up. Again, you’re usually required to spend a minimum amount within a set period to qualify for the bonus points offer.
Make sure you know what these terms and conditions are before you apply so that you can decide if the offer is worth it. It’s also important to look at how many points you’ll usually earn for your spending, as well as any rates, fees and extra features that come with the card.
Cashback credit card offers
This type of introductory offer gives you cash back when you get a new credit card. Like bonus point promotions, you usually need to spend a specific amount of money on the card before you can enjoy the cashback offer. For example, an offer might give you $200 cash back if you spend $500 in the first 3 months you have the card.
Some cashback offers also require you to spend the minimum amount in a specific way, such as by making contactless payments. This type of offer can give you extra value if you have planned purchases you want to make on your credit card, but may not be worth it otherwise.
Other introductory credit card offers
As well as the major introductory offers outlined above, some credit card companies may offer other more unique deals for new customers. For example, you might find:
- Gift cards. Similar to cashback deals, some credit cards might run a promotion to offer complimentary gift cards to new customers, usually for an affiliated store or brand. To be eligible, you usually have to apply during the promotional period and may need to enter a promotional code online.
- Discounted purchases. Some credit cards may offer you a discount on specific transactions. For example, a frequent flyer credit card could offer 10% off flight bookings made with the affiliated airline during the promotional period.
Depending on the credit card, you may be able to take advantage of more than one of these offers at a time. For example, a card that offers a 0% balance transfer rate could also have a discounted annual fee for the first year, while a card with bonus points may also offer 0% interest on purchases during the honeymoon period.
How to compare credit card introductory offers
While introductory offers can sweeten the deal when you sign up for a credit card, you should also look at the ongoing features of the card. Thinking about the following factors will help you find an introductory offer that suits your needs in the short-term and a credit card that fits your circumstances in the long-term.
- The promotional interest rate. Depending on the card, the promotional offer may have a low or 0% interest rate. Usually, the lower the interest rate, the more savings you’ll make. However, you should also weigh up the promotional interest rate with the annual fee and the length of the promotional offer to determine which card offers the most savings.
- The length of the introductory period. With low purchase rate or balance transfer rate offers, it’s important that you calculate how much you’ll need to pay each month to repay the entire balance before the promotional period ends. Otherwise, any remaining balance will collect the standard interest and begin to counteract your savings.
- The promotional offer end date. These offers are only available for a limited time, so you will need to apply before the end date to take advantage of them. Check the terms and conditions to make sure any offers you want are still available before you apply.
- The standard interest rates. If you have a card with a low or 0% purchase or balance transfer deal, the standard interest rates will apply to any balances remaining at the end of the introductory period. These rates are generally much higher than those of the introductory offer, so considering them before you apply will help you avoid any nasty surprises when the promotion ends.
- Standard annual fees. If you get a reduced or waived annual fee offer, make sure you check the standard annual fee so that you know how much you will have to pay after the first 12 months. If you only intend to use the card while the waived annual fee is in place, make sure you know when the standard annual fee will apply and close your card before then to avoid paying extra.
- Other fees and charges. As well as the annual fee, the card may come with other rates and fees such as balance transfer fees, cash advance fees, foreign transaction fees, and late payment costs.
- Interest charges. If you have to meet a minimum spend to earn bonus points or redeem your introductory offer, remember that these purchases will typically collect interest. This is why it’s important to ensure that the spend requirement fits within your budget, otherwise the interest costs could easily outweigh the value of the points or bonus offer.
Rewards and extras
- Spending requirements. Some cashback and bonus point offers to require you to spend a minimum amount in an introductory period of a few months. It’s important to check before you apply to make sure you can afford to take advantage of the offer.
- Standard rewards points. As well as the bonus points, make sure the regular rewards program (including the earn rate and how you can redeem your rewards) suits your spending behaviors and rewards goals.
- Complimentary extras. Additional, ongoing perks such as international travel insurance, extended warranties, and concierge services can bring more value to the card that you choose. However they can also attribute to higher annual fees, so check whether you can take advantage of features before you apply.
Mistakes to avoid with credit card offers
While credit card introductory offers can help you get more value from your card, there are some mistakes to avoid to ensure the card costs don’t outweigh the benefits of the offer. Here are some of the common mistakes cardholders make and how you can avoid them:
- Ignoring the offer terms and conditions. Introductory offers have specific eligibility requirements you have to meet, so make sure you understand the fine print before you apply.
- Wasting the promotional offer time period. To avoid wasting a valuable offer it can be a good idea to take advantage as soon as possible. For example, paying off your debt as soon as possible with a 0% balance transfer offer.
- Not looking at the ongoing features of the card. While introductory offers can give you short-term benefits, the standard features of a credit card determine its ongoing value. Always check these features before you apply for a credit card to decide if it’s worth it for you.
- Not checking the end date of the offer. To get a specific credit card offer, you must apply before the end of the promotional period. Regularly comparing credit cards can help you stay up-to-date with all the offers available when you’re considering a new card.
- Not using the card after the introductory period. If you decide you don’t want the card you applied for after getting an introductory offer, you could end up paying more credit card fees on a card you’re not using. Make sure you consider this before you apply, choose an appropriate card, or cancel the account if you no longer want to use it.
Introductory offers have the potential to provide you with more value when you get a new credit card. While almost anyone can benefit from these deals, the value they provide really depends on your individual circumstances.
It’s also important to remember that these benefits only last for a set amount of time before reverting to the standard features of the card. So being aware of how credit card offers work and considering both the introductory offer and the ongoing card features means you can choose a card that offers you value now and in the future.
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