Until a person truly becomes a miles and points enthusiast, they might be unaware that referral links exist or how valuable they can be. As we will discuss, referral links are an excellent way to boost points balances within a household and earn additional miles and points from colleagues and friends. Not all financial institutions offer the ability to refer to their credit products, but lucky for us, with referral links some of the most valuable points currencies are up for grabs.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about credit card referrals, including the best strategy to implement when it comes to getting the most from your referrals.
What Are Credit Card Referral Links?
Credit card referral links are a method used by certain financial institutions as a way to acquire customers while rewarding existing customers for bringing them new customers.
A few notable credit card issuers in Canada and the United States allow you to generate a referral link tied to a credit product. This referral link is a unique URL generated from your online credit card profile and ties any referrals to your account.
These links are designed to be easy to send to family or friends so they can become customers of the same bank, or apply for the same credit card, that you currently are a customer of. If someone uses your referral link and is approved for the credit card in question, you will be rewarded with miles or points in your account.
Credit Card Referral Links – Pros & Cons
Canadian Credit Card Referral Links
We’re pretty lucky in Canada, as there’s no downside to using a referral link. However, you need to be careful that you’re receiving the best offer.
In the last twelve months, American Express made a 50,000 Membership Rewards bonus offer available on the Cobalt card only through Credit Karma’s link. They also had a targeted email offer for the Marriott Bonvoy Card for 80,000 points. In both cases, your points total would have been 20,000-30,000 points lower if you had used a friend’s or family referral link.
Aside from double-checking to make sure you’re not getting shortchanged, there are many advantages to using a referral link. The main one is that if you have a willing significant other, you can earn bonus points on top of the signup bonus. I will touch on the best strategy for referrals later on in this article. I estimate my household has accumulated an additional 150,000 points in referral bonuses between the two of us. If I include friends and family, the total is closer to 300,000 points.
For banks that don’t offer referral links, be sure to use your favorite blogs’ links. While you may not see an impact on your points balance, at Frugal Flyer, we will always thank you for your support with a cash rebate paid to you via our FlyerFunds Rebate program when available.
Lastly, outside a couple of unique scenarios I mentioned earlier, the referral links offered by American Express Canada are usually the best offers available.
United States Credit Card Referral Links
The story is a bit different in the US, as the banks view your referral bonus as a source of income and will send you a 1099-Misc form to declare it on your taxes. While it does hurt a bit to pay additional taxes on the points, they will be worth more than the extra tax you pay when completing your US tax return.
The pros outweigh the cons, as more than one bank regularly offers a referral system. With Chase, Capital One, and American Express all offering points for bringing them customers, you should get a bonus at least once yearly, especially as more Canadians join the US credit card market. Learn more about how you can get started with US credit cards as a Canadian.
How Can I Send a Credit Card Referral Link?
Most banks make sending a credit card referral link seamless and straightforward, but I’ve included a step-by-step guide, with screenshots, of the process that you can expect to follow from each major financial institution that offers credit card referrals for maximum clarity.
American Express Canada
After you log in to your American Express Canada account, you’ll want to scroll to the bottom of the page.
You can click on either link that says refer a friend. As you can see, the link will display to earn up to 225,000 points or something similar. You won’t receive that many points for one referral, but we’ll get into those details later.
You’ll be taken to another screen that looks like this.
Here is where you’ll see all the details of your offer, complete with point totals for both parties and minimum spending requirements. Looking in the top right corner, you’ll see all the cards you can use to generate a referral link. I’ve included a section later in this article that will give tips on the best cards to refer from.
American Expres Canada is known for tending to offer slightly better offers through a referral link. As we can see below, the public offer at the time of writing is only 80,000 Membership Rewards points if you sign up for the American Express Platinum card directly through Amex’s website.
At this point, click the “Copy Link” button on the right side of the screen. You can use American Express’s system to send an email to the person you wish to refer, but I don’t see a need to use it. Provide this unique referral link to your family member, friend, or fellow miles and points enthusiast and they will be able to sign-up for the credit card and you will receive bonus points shortly after their approval.
American Express United States
The refer-a-friend process is nearly identical for American Express in the United States. After logging in to your account, you’ll head to the bottom of the page just above your Amex Offers.
As before, you can click either referral button I’ve highlighted here.
Rather than going to a separate page, the page you’re on will transform to look something like this, showing the card you are generating a referral link for, in addition to what you can expect to receive for a successful referral as well as the welcome bonus for the newly cardholder.
Continuing to scroll down, you can copy the unique referral link rather than using the automated system.
Similar to Amex Canada, provide this link to your family member, friend, or fellow miles and points enthusiast and they will be able to sign-up for the credit card and you will receive bonus points shortly after their approval.
The final bank we’ll cover on the United States side is Chase but note that the process for using the Capital One referral program is very similar.
As with the other credit card issuers, scroll down to the bottom of the page and look for the following after logging in to your Chase online banking account.
Clicking on either link will take you to the same page where you can choose which card to refer from.
After choosing the card that you wish to refer from, click the “Copy Link” and send it to the person you wish to refer via your preferred method of communication.
Similar to American Express, you will receive bonus points shortly after your referral is approved for their new credit card.
The Best Credit Cards to Refer From
With American Express, there are a few tricks on both sides of the border when it comes to maximizing the miles and points you can earn from credit card referrals. The reason why American Express referrals are so strong is that each American Express card can refer to many different credit products.
American Express Canada
Starting with the simpler version in Canada, understanding and utilizing business credit cards and their referral programs are the key to maximizing your miles and points earnings.
The American Express Business Platinum card and American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve card offer a minimum of 20,000 points (or more) per referral. With Aeroplan and Membership Reward points averaging $0.02 per point in value, that’s like a $400 reward per referral. While the annual fees on these cards are high at $499 and $599, two referrals per year can make the annual fee worth it, never mind the rest of the benefits and welcome bonus that come with the cards.
The American Express Business Platinum card earns Membership Rewards points and offers cardholders benefits including complimentary access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, a $100 NEXUS membership credit, an annual $200 travel credit, and more.
120,000 Membership Rewards
The main benefit of these two cards is that they can refer to products other than themselves. The Business Platinum can refer to the American Express Platinum card, American Express Business Gold card, and of course, the Business Platinum.
On the other hand, the Aeroplan Business Reserve is less versatile, with the only option to refer to itself or the personal American Express Aeroplan Reserve card. That said, I often refer friends and family to the Reserve, as the $200,000 income requirement is not applicable whereas it is with its Visa counterparts, such as the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege card or CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege card.
The Amex Aeroplan Business Reserve card earns Aeroplan points and offers cardholders various Air Canada benefits including priority boarding, free checked baggage, and Maple Leaf lounge access.
Holding any of the higher tier Aeroplan credit cards is a great play as a Canadian, as it’s a valuable card to have as the bonus is usually strong, and it’s an easy pathway to immediate Air Canada perks, including Maple Leaf Lounge access.
The Business Gold is slightly less powerful at 15,000 points per referral but unlocks the American Express Gold card and American Express Cobalt card as referral options. While this may not seem like the best deal compared to the Business Platinum, the alternative is to receive 7,500 points when referring from the Personal Gold or 5,000 points from the Cobalt.
If your referral wants to access the other cards available to them, they will need to follow the referral link and click “View our Other Cards” in the top left.
After that, you’ll see the plethora of cards available and a friendly reminder on the card you were referred from.
As you can see from the picture of my cards above, you can apply for Business cards as a sole proprietor. Put the business name as your own on the application and be prepared to answer questions about your business if American Express Canada needs to know more. If you are new to the idea of holding a business credit card, learn how you can access business credit cards as a sole proprietor.
American Express United States
Moving onto American Express in the United States, it gets more complex. Our friends south of the border use a “targeting” system that requires a bit of research before you apply for any card. While we aim to share the best and most up-to-date offers for American Express US credit cards on Frugal Flyer, it is also worth checking out our blogroll for a list of useful US-centric miles and points blogs.
For instance, at the time of writing, the best offer for the American Express Platinum card (US) comes from Amex’s restaurant reservation system, Resy.
Meanwhile, the referral link in my wife’s account shows an 80,000 Membership Rewards points offer.
While the point totals are the same when you add the referral bonus, the Resy offer includes a 10x bonus on dining for six months, making it superior.
There may even be variances between offers on a referral link to the same credit card. For example, you might be able to generate a better referral bonus or welcome bonus offer on the same card as your significant other. Ultimately, do your research and understand all available opportunities before applying for an American Express US credit card.
To add to the complexity, you can also refer from most cards to almost any other card, even business cards. Occasionally, you’ll see elevated referral offers on your account (like in the above screenshot), and they’re valid on any approved card. Earlier this year, my wife referred me to both the American Express Marriott Bonvoy Business card (US) and American Express Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card (US) when we had a 30,000-point bonus on her American Express Gold card (US).
We received a total of 225,000 Marriott Bonvoy points from hitting the sign-up bonus on these cards and 60,000 US Membership rewards points from the referrals. While the combined annual fees on these cards are $1,025 USD, the point value returned is an estimated $3,225 USD—the referral bonus accounting for $1,200 USD of value.
Much like Amex Canada, you’ll click “View all Cards with a Referral Offer” to access Amex US’s full lineup of cards.
From there, you can choose whichever card you are interested in applying for, and the cardholder who generated the referral link will receive their bonus.
Note that cobranded American Express credit cards such as Bonvoy, Hilton, or Delta cards can only refer to their card families. This means that a Marriott Bonvoy credit card can only refer to a Marriott Bonvoy card, a Hilton Honors credit card can only refer to a Hilton Honors card, and so on and so forth.
This is compared to any Membership Rewards earning cards such as the Platinum, Gold, or Green that can refer to any card that American Express issues, including the Marriot Bonvoyt, Hilton Honors, and Delta credit cards.
Chase Bank is much simpler, as there isn’t much of a strategy here as the personal cards only allow you to refer to the card you’re referring from. On the business side, any “Ink” card can refer to another one. If you’re curious about Chase Business credit cards, check out our guide to applying for Chase Business credit cards as a Canadian.
Occasionally Chase will put an in-branch offer on their Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which can be more lucrative than applying online through a referral link.
As always, look around for all available offers before applying for any card to ensure you get the highest welcome bonus possible.
The Best Strategy for Credit Card Referrals
As mentioned several times in the article, having another “player” in your household can supercharge your earnings. If you don’t have a significant other (or are still working on convincing your significant other to join the world of miles and points), consider extended family members who are also interested in utilizing miles and points to reduce their travel costs. If they are new to the world of miles and points and you need to show them the light, consider sending them a link to the miles and points beginner guide.
In my experience, if there’s no special offer happening and your potential referral is not in a rush to get a card, it’s best to wait for the best offer possible. For example, last October American Express Canada put on a “Double Refer-a-Friend” bonus, which was very lucrative. I took home 120,000 points from only three referrals, as I referred family members to their own Personal Platinum cards from my Business Platinum.
You can also get to know community members and trade referral links if you have someone you can trust. Attending an in-person event, such as those hosted by Frugal Flyer, is a great way to mingle and build mutually beneficial agreements to get your referral link used.
Referral links are one of the “hidden” gems in the game of miles and points and another tool that is worth understanding and taking advantage of. While you might not have someone in your life that you can refer right now, refer-a-friend programs are something to keep in your back pocket.
However, if you do have other miles and points enthusiasts in your life, for example in a household of 2, they can be extremely powerful. If your extended family is also interested in travel, it can equal hundreds of thousands of extra miles and points, potentially every calendar year.
Frequently Asked Questions
Technically, yes (as in the systems won’t physically stop it), but you shouldn’t. The consequences are severe for all issuers, and you will likely have your points taken away, your accounts closed, and the ability to get new credit cards restricted.
Depending on the issuer, it will vary. The limit may be increased during special promotions, generally between 50,000 and 225,000 per card account with American Express. Always double-check the terms and conditions of the referral program you are participating in.
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