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Cashback Signup Bonuses vs Ongoing Rates

Cashback Signup Bonuses vs Ongoing Rates

Cashback Signup Bonuses vs Ongoing Rates
Cashback Signup Bonuses vs Ongoing Rates

Cashback Signup Bonuses vs Ongoing Rates

When applying for a new cashback credit card, issuers often offer lucrative signup bonuses for meeting initial spending requirements. But you also want to consider the card’s ongoing cashback rates for long-term usage. Weighing the signup bonus value against ongoing earning potential allows picking the best card.

How Cashback Signup Bonuses Work

Many cashback cards provide large new applicant signup bonuses like:

  • Spend $500 in the first 3 months, get $200 cashback
  • Spend $3,000 in 6 months, earn $500 cashback

These require reaching a minimum spending threshold within a set timeframe to earn the bonus cash rewards.

Value of Cashback Signup Bonuses

The main benefits provided by cashback signup bonuses include:

  • Provides a large cash reward upfront
  • Incremental value on top of normal earning rates
  • Opportunity to earn over 10% back or more when meeting requirements
  • Motivation to use new card from day one
  • Allows maximizing initial spend for purchases already planned
  • Draws attention to card from applicants focused on signup incentives

Assessing the Ongoing Base Rates

While initially enticing, ignore the ongoing base cashback rates at your peril:

  • Base rates apply to all long-term future spending
  • The 1-5% back continues paying rewards over months and years
  • Consistent base rewards often outearn one-time bonuses in the long run
  • Flexible rewards on all purchases compared to targeted bonus categories

Don’t sacrifice longevity for short-term signup allure.

Importance of Long-Term Earning Projections

When modeling overall cashback earned, consider:

  • How much you typically spend monthly on all purchases
  • Which ongoing cashback rate that matches (1%, 1.5%, 2% etc)
  • The annual rewards you’d earn from base spending at that rate
  • Whether annual rewards exceed the one-time signup bonus value
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Choose cards with higher ongoing rates aligned to your spending profile for maximum lifetime rewards.

Sample Calculations on Earning Projections

Here is a basic example comparison for two cashback cards over one year:

Card 1:

  • $250 bonus for spending $1,000 in 3 months
  • 1% base cashback rate

Card 2:

  • $100 bonus for spending $500 in 3 months
  • 2% base cashback rate

Yearly Spending Projection

  • $1,500 monthly on all purchases
  • $18,000 total spending for the year

Card 1 Year 1 Earnings

  • Signup bonus: $250
  • Base rate rewards: $18,000 x 1% = $180
  • Total Year 1 Rewards: $250 + $180 = $430

Card 2 Year 1 Earnings

  • Signup bonus: $100
  • Base rate rewards: $18,000 x 2% = $360
  • Total Year 1 Rewards: $100 + $360 = $460

Despite the lower bonus, the higher ongoing rate of Card 2 earns more cashback for this projected spend profile.

Maximizing Signup Bonus Value

Tips to maximize the value earned from cashback signup bonuses:

  • Choose cards with bonuses aligned to your predicted or planned spending
  • Time applications around anticipated big purchases like vacations or appliance needs
  • Pay bills early to prepay expenses if permissible and it helps meet requirements
  • Don’t overspend just to hit the bonus requirements
  • Avoid opening too many cards in a short period diluting your spending ability on each

Sustainability Considerations

To assess lifetime value beyond the first year:

  • Project your expected spending pattern for the next 3-5 years
  • Calculate cashback at advertised rates on projected spending
  • Weigh ongoing annual rewards against a larger one-time bonus

Sustainable long-term earn rates offer greater value than short-term incentives alone.

Cashback Earning Optimization Strategies

To maximize earnings with a new cashback card:

  • Put routine spending on the card immediately to work towards the bonus
  • Use for higher cost incidentals like grocery and gas to hit thresholds faster
  • Make quarterly tax payments with the card to quickly build spend
  • Temporarily reduce usage on other cards to focus on new card bonus
  • After hitting the bonus, evaluate realigned card optimizations for long-term usage
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Maximizing new card bonuses jump starts cashback earnings.

Alternatives to Cashback Cards

Compare cashback cards to alternatives like:

  • Travel rewards cards providing points/miles instead of cash
  • Hotel and airline co-branded cards with perks for brand loyalty
  • General rewards points you can redeem flexibly
  • Intro 0% APR and balance transfer card offers

Some alternatives may better match your habits and offer higher lifetime value depending on your spending profile.

Key Takeaways on Cashback Bonuses and Rates

  • Consider long-term earning projections, not just short-term bonuses
  • Model bonus requirements against planned and estimated expenses
  • Choose cards with higher ongoing earn rates aligned to your spending
  • Monitor new card habits needed to continue optimizing rewards post-bonus
  • Weigh alternatives like travel cards that may offer higher lifetime rewards

With prudent planning and diligent continued usage, large cashback signup bonuses provide a rewarding way to quickly maximize value from new credit card applications.

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