EDITOR’S NOTE: The feedback I’ve gotten for guest post Saturday has been resoundingly positive. I’ve got a few posts left to publish, but I’m running low. If you’re interested in a guest post, please reach out!

Perhaps the most basic level of credit card churning involves getting a new credit card with a sign-up bonus every time you hit the spend requirements on the last one, putting you into a state of perpetual 10%, 25%, or even 50% return on your spend. This is great until:

  • You’ve gotten all the cards you can reasonably get
  • Your monthly spend exceeds 3 to 4 times the average sign-up bonus minimum spend

When you hit the above, sign-up bonuses are interesting but they’re a small blip on a profit or return chart. As you spend even more, the percentage of your profits that consist of sign-up bonuses gets proportionally smaller.

To illustrate, let’s assume that you signed up for the recent 200,000 Membership Rewards bonus American Express Business Platinum card with $15,000 in spend, and all of your spend after that goes on a 2.625% cash back everywhere card, and we’ll look at how much of the money you earn comes from the bonus. For simplicity, we’ll assume American Express points are worth 1.1 cents because that’s a generally available cash out price.

Monthly Spend
AmEx Bonus
(1.1 cents per point)
Other Card’s Rebate
(2.625% back)
$15,000Bonus: $2,200 (14.6%)
Regular: $165 (1.1%)
Regular: $0 (0%)
$100,000Bonus: $2,200 (2.2%)
Regular: $165 (0.165%)
Regular: $2.231 (2.23%)
$500,000Bonus: $2,200 (0.44%)
Regular: $165 (0.03%)
Regular: $12,731 (2.57%)
$5,000,000Bonus: $2,200 (0.04%)
Regular $165 (0.003%)
Regular: $130,856 (2.62%)
Dollar (Percentage) return on various levels of spend

Put succinctly, that sign-up bonus is nice, but after you hit $5M in monthly spend, even the large American Express Business Platinum bonus makes up a very small portion of overall return on monthly spend at just 0.043%; meanwhile one of our favorite Unsung Hero cards returns 2.62%, or more than 98% of the total rebate on your spend.

The takeaway? As you advance your manufactured spend career, worry a little less about those sign-up bonuses.

Have a nice Wednesday!

Next up on Wednesday Interlude with MEAB: Does the second law of thermodynamics apply to spend?