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You can earn up to $1,000 with a credit card welcome bonus—here's how to know if you qualify

Credit card welcome bonus offers are a great way to earn extra cash, but there are limitations on who can qualify. Here's how to check if you're eligible.

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Earning a welcome bonus on your new credit card can be an easy way to offset your everyday expenses. But even after you get approved for a card, there’s no guarantee you’ll be allowed to earn the bonus.

Many card issuers set limitations on who's considered a new card member and can therefore qualify for a welcome bonus. It can be frustrating to learn that you’re not eligible to earn a generous welcome bonus, so it's important to review the bonus eligibility terms prior to applying for a credit card.

To make the process easier, CNBC Select explains how to read a credit card's eligibility terms so you can take the guesswork out of wondering if you’re eligible for a welcome bonus.

Who’s eligible for a welcome bonus?

It can be tricky to understand all the terms of your credit card, and the welcome bonus offer terms are no exception. The simplest way to know if you’re eligible for a welcome bonus is by breaking down all the terms into bullet points. Then you can go through each point one-by-one and see if you qualify.

Chase and American Express are two major card issuers that commonly set strict eligibility requirements for welcome bonuses. Ahead, we break down the terms for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and American Express® Gold Card welcome bonuses so you can understand if you'll qualify for their new offers.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Currently, new Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. This bonus is worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. If you want to take advantage of this offer, you'll need to meet the long list of eligibility requirements.

Here's what the Chase Sapphire Preferred terms say:

The product is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of any Sapphire credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of any Sapphire credit card who received a new cardmember bonus within the last 48 months. If you are an existing Sapphire customer and would like this product, please call the number on the back of your card to see if you are eligible for a product change. You will not receive the new cardmember bonus if you change products.

The language is a little tricky, so we've broken it down a bit so it's easier to understand if you qualify:

  1. If you've never had a Chase Sapphire card: Eligible
  2. If you currently have a Chase Sapphire card, regardless of whether you previously received the bonus: Not eligible
  3. If you previously had a Chase Sapphire card and received the bonus within the past 48 months: Not eligible
  4. If you previously had a Chase Sapphire card and received the bonus, but it's been more than 48 months: Eligible
  5. If you previously had a Chase Sapphire card and never received the bonus: Eligible
  6. If you’re an existing Chase Sapphire customer and want to request a product change: Not eligible

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

Chase Sapphire Preferred®
On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 2X points on travel and dining worldwide, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 22.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

 

American Express Gold Card

The Amex Gold card is also offering a record-high welcome bonus to new cardmembers: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months from account opening. New applicants have to meet several requirements.

Here's what the Amex Gold card terms say:

Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this card or the Premier Rewards Gold Card. We may also consider the number of American Express cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.

To simplify the language, just consider if you fit into two of these categories:

  1. If you've never had the Amex Gold card: Eligible
  2. If you've never had the Premier Rewards Gold Card: Eligible
  3. If you currently have the Amex Gold card: Not eligible
  4. If you currently have the Premier Rewards Gold Card: Not eligible

While the Amex Gold terms seem fairly simple, take note that there's also the disclaimer that Amex considers how many American Express cards you have opened and closed, plus other factors, which implies they consider bonus eligibility on a case-by-case basis.

American Express® Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card
On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide and shop at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $250

  • Intro APR

    Not applicable

  • Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    See rates and fees

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

 

Bottom line

Before you open a new credit card with the hopes of earning a welcome bonus, make sure you review the eligibility requirements. Taking a quick look at the terms can help you understand if you qualify for the bonus.

Right now, there are a lot of really enticing credit card offers out there, so if you're not eligible for one, do your research to find a different card that allows you to earn the welcome bonus.

But you shouldn't open a card just to get the bonus. Make sure you're able to meet the spend requirements without blowing your budget. And when opening a new card, also take time to consider all the other factors, like annual fee, rewards rates and APR, to make sure you're getting a card you feel good about.

Don't miss:

For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.