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Credit card issuers have a simple way to get customers to apply for their credit cards — pay them to do so. Nearly all reward credit cards offer some sort of sign-up bonus to new applicants in the form of points, miles or cash back. But when do cardholders receive those bonuses?

Eager reward card users want to know when they will receive the rewards they earn each month for spending, but the credit card issuers don’t make it easy for customers to know when this will happen. Instead of widely publicizing the formula they use for issuing rewards, they rely on vague statement ssuch as “Allow one to two billing cycles” to receive rewards.   Thankfully, their formula is not terribly complicated.

How to know when your bonus will be issued

Cardholders will typically receive their promised points, miles or cash back when their statement closes following their fulfillment of the terms of the specific credit card offer for which they applied. You can think of the statement closing date as a kind of “judgment day” when all the rewards and penalties accumulated in the previous month are applied to cardholders accounts, just before their statement is issued.

For example, imagine someone is approved Jan. 1 for a credit card that features a 50,000-point bonus after the cardholder uses spends $2,000 within 90 days. Then, the cardholder chooses to have his or her payment due each month on the 25th (otherwise the card issuer assigns a due date).

Under the CARD Act of 2009, consumer credit cards must have a grace period of at least 21 days, which means the cardholder’s statement closing date will likely occur on the fourth day of each month, with the cardholder receiving a statement online that day, or one in the mail a few days later. So if the new cardholder reaches the minimum spending requirements before Jan. 25, he or she should receive the 50,000 points on Feb. 4, or possibly the next day. In fact, the cardholder has until March 30, 90 days after the account was opened, to spend the necessary $2,000, and receive the sign-up bonus when the statement period closes on the fourth day of the next month.

When will spending rewards be credited?

Once you understand how sign-up bonuses are issued, the timing for receiving rewards for regular spending starts to make more sense. Cardholders must simply wait until their monthly statement closing date, typically 21 or 25 days before their payment due date. Because each month varies in length, and payment due dates always occur on the same day of the month, most cardholders will find that their statement closing date occurs on a different date each month.

Why you might not get your rewards on time

To make matters a little more confusing, it can take a day or two for a charge to be processed. The charge will still be dated when the transaction occurred (if only for the purpose of  meeting the minimum spending requirement in time), but it may fail to appear on the cardholder’s statement if it hasn’t been processed. That is why card issuers warn that it can sometimes take up to two statement closing dates in order to see the promised sign-up bonus.

Another reason you might not get your rewards when promised is that most card issuers require an account to be in good standing in order to receive rewards. So cardholders who miss a payment will likely find their rewards missing as well.

Finally, there are all manner of computer errors that can conspire to deny cardholders of their rewards. For example, applicants may have the wrong “offer code” applied to their account, which can prevent them from receiving the rewards promised by the particular offer they applied for. Although most card issuers will resolve these discrepancies in the customer’s favor, it can help to retain a copy of the offer.

Rewards credit card users can be anxious to receive the rewards they earned, but it shouldn’t be a mystery when they will arrive.

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