Why You Should Always Join A Loyalty Program Before Applying For A Credit Card

Filed Under: Advice, Credit Cards
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If you’re big into miles & points then this is probably obvious to you, though I feel like this is a reminder I should post, since it’s something that took up over two hours of my time this morning.

If you’re applying for a co-branded credit card you typically earn points in a non-bank currency. In other words, a co-brand card like the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card collects points with IHG Rewards Club directly rather than with Chase.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you have an AwardWallet account that tracks all your loyalty program numbers and account balances. Furthermore, when you apply for credit cards you enter your loyalty program number at that time. However, you’ll also notice in credit card applications you have the option of not entering your loyalty program number, in which case a number will be assigned to you.

Always sign-up for the loyalty program before applying for a co-branded credit card, as this will potentially save you a lot of hassle and headache.

I’ve realized that when I tell family and close friends which cards they should apply for, I forget to explicitly tell them to sign-up for a loyalty program account before applying for a credit card. Many of them would claim that’s too complicated, though it ends up costing me some frustration after the fact.

For example, Ford applied for a Hilton Amex Card a few weeks ago. He didn’t have an existing balance of Hilton Honors points, so didn’t sign up for an Honors account first. This morning it took us 30 minutes to get him logged into his account. For whatever reason his email wasn’t linked to the Hilton Honors account they created for him, so he had to call, verify his info, then be transferred to another department so they can manually add it, and then finally he could change his log in info online. A similar thing happened with the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, which he signed up for recently.

Similarly, last year my mom applied for what is now the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card. I was just helping her plan some travel, when I noticed she only had around 40,000 Marriott points in her account, despite the fact that she got the card and hadn’t redeemed any points yet. Then we realized that her points are actually in two different accounts.

Fortunately she’s not going for status, or else this could be a bigger issue. Each card offers two elite qualifying stays and five elite qualifying nights towards stats, and it would be tough to combine those if the two cards were linked to different accounts (even when you consolidate accounts, it doesn’t transfer that benefit).

The moral of the story is that I’ve spent over two hours this morning figuring out everyone’s loyalty program numbers, consolidating accounts, and adding them to my AwardWallet so this problem doesn’t happen again.

Always be sure you sign-up for a loyalty program, add it to your AwardWallet account, and then apply for a credit card. Make sure your friends and family who apply for cards do the same as well!

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  1. I had the same issue with the Amex Hilton card. Funny thing is that I had actually key in my membership number during the application, but they still go ahead and created a new one for me. Went through a lot of hassle to combine those card together.

  2. Oops…I guess I have 30+ mins of fun awaiting me w/ Hilton when it comes time to link my email with my new Hilton acct.

  3. Maybe it’s an Amex issue. I entered my SPG number on my SPG Amex application, but they still created a new account. It was a huge hassle to combine (or rather, the follow-ups after they first said it was completed were a hassle). I think it took four or five calls/emails over a 2-week period to finally get it done. Oh, and duplicate mailings didn’t stop for a month or so… -_-

  4. Had the same issue with Amex Hilton and Surpass even after providing my number in the apps. My wife had the same issue. I wish they would at least associate the emails so we could manage the new accounts online and avoid the painful Hilton CSR call.

  5. This happened when i opened a Chase BA card w/o avios accoutn for my wife. Chase managed to open an account with “M” as title instead of Mrs or Ms. I could create an online account but cannot book any tickets or redeem avios coz “M” is not a valid title.

    Shouldve called and gotten that fixed early on, but didnt – my bad. One day when I had to redeem, i called and was told that it would have to be done “manually” and someone will get to it in 3-4 days. Arg.

  6. Ben do you offset your carbon footprint in anyway given all the flying you do?
    Do you pay a few extra dollars to offset your carbon footprint offered by airlines at the point of ticket purchase?

  7. Amex did the same thing to me (assigned a new Hilton# after I entered my number on the application) – I just asked them to change it over chat, and they did it right there once I gave them the right number. It took all of two minutes, and the correct Hilton account showed up in my Amex online account a couple days later.

  8. From my experience, Amex seems to have a bad habit of losing the loyalty account number you entered on your card application (i.e. they create a new loyalty account) if your card was approved after reconsideration.

  9. I’ve never had that problem with Amex losing/dropping my program loyalty number. But, other than my charge cards, I only have Delta Amex credit cards. Maybe it’s an issue between Amex and Hilton/SPG? I don’t really care about hotel loyalty programs. I’m Marriott Gold for life and get status with Hilton and SPG from my cards, so ….. never bothered with hotel co-branded cards.

    But I notice everyone having a problem is a hotel card.

  10. Same thing here, signed up for a Honors account, applied for the Surpass card a month later, gave them the honors number on my application, and they still just went and created a separate account. Thankfully it only took a quick 5 minute call to Hilton and they linked up the accounts after verifying some basic info. Hilton rep told me it’s just a quirk within the Amex system.

  11. I’m with Tennan. I’ve had a SPG account for years and had the number saved everywhere. I signed up for the SPG card and they issued me a new number. So annoying as I got duplicate mailings and had to fix my booked trip.

  12. @tennen any advice. I’m having the same issue and have spoke to both Amex and SPG but can’t get a resolution.

  13. I signed up for the Hilton Surpass about a month ago. Hit the spend prior to the first statement being generated. I noticed on my Amex home page that he card had been tied to a new Homors number.

    I chatted with an Amex rep for hopeful resolution. My existing Honors number now appears with my Surpass card, however I’ve seen no credit (yet) for the spend or the bonus hitting my Honors account. Please tell me I don’t need to call Amex…

  14. So thanks to this article, after activating my new Surpass card online this evening, I went to the online chat to see if I could nip this issue in the bud. I was not an HHonors member before applying, so while on chat, I went to the Hilton website and set up my HHonors account. I then went back to the chat, and let them know that I joined the program, and fed them my new HHonors Member ID#.

    Within a few minutes, they claimed that my Amex Surpass Account was updated with my new HHonors Member ID#. I am hoping that they were truthful, and when my statement closes, my earned Hilton points will go to my new HHonors account.

    We shall see…

  15. “Always sign-up for the loyalty program before applying for a co-branded credit card, as this will potentially save you a lot of hassle and headache.”

    Yup could not agree more. With Hilton it was exasperating and took nearly 30 days just to get the stupid account number — Citi wouldn’t give it to me and Hilton kept telling me to ask Citi for it. Insane. And had I taken two minutes to sign up with Hilton prior to applying for the Citi Hilton card I could have saved all the hassle and headache.

  16. Thanks for the link to Award Wallet. I’m loading all my loyalty accounts in there now. What a great way to stay organized, especially when thinking about redemptions.

  17. Ditto with AMEX SPG. AMEX said there was something wrong with my SPG account . SPG said my account was fine. AMEX assigned me a new number anyway. Huge hassle spanning weeks.

  18. Just to add a comment to this, the further headache about not using your currently existing rewards number or creating one first is combining multiple accounts is often a daunting task.

    @Ben – With this said, as you mentioned Ford and your mother in this post, I notice that both Marriott/Ritz Carlton and SPG have flexible policies regarding transferring points to people in one’s immediate family. It seems that SPG does not have an annual limit, where as I think the Marriott/Ritz Carlton is 100,000 points in each year. Easily with these programs one could just transfer between your account and send them as SPG. I think this is quite convenient so we do not end up with some points in everyone’s account. Do you think that this could happen with other hotel and airline programs?

  19. @Marsh. After multiple attempts, I actually got SPG and AMEX on the same phone call and told them it seemed like a systems issue between the two of them and not me, and they needed to figure it out. I also did not have any activity in my SPG account for awhile so just for the heck of it, I moved 1000 Marriott points to SPG (at a 3-1 ratio). No idea if that mattered but those points transferred instantly. Eventually I started seeing AMEX credit card activity in my SPG account. AMEX originally told me my SPG account was too old since my number did not have enough digits. That really didn’t make sense to me. So sorry, not really sure how it got fixed but it did after a good bit of pain.

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