Can you "churn" credit cards and get repeat signup bonuses?

Yes! Most of the credit cards in Canada can be "churned" – that is to say, you can cancel the card after receiving the bonus, reapply after a while, and get the bonus again.

Opening and closing credit cards repeatedly in order to rack up the signup bonuses is a common way to earn enough points for round-the-world travel. Virtually all Canadian-issued credit cards can be “churned” for their signup bonuses in this way.

Some credit cards have terms and conditions stating that the bonuses are intended to be once-in-a-lifetime; however, in practice these terms are rarely enforced. For example, the American Express Gold Rewards Card has fine print that states:

This offer is only available to new American Express® Gold Rewards Cardmembers. For current or former American Express® Gold Rewards Cardmembers, we may approve your application, but you will not be eligible for the welcome bonus.
— American Express Gold Rewards Card

Meanwhile, the CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite has wording that states:

You are eligible for the annual fee rebate if you are not a current CIBC cardholder. If you are a current CIBC cardholder, we may approve your application but you will not be eligible for the annual fee rebate.
— CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite

And yet, the vast majority people who reapply for these cards a second or third time have gotten the bonuses successfully. The same is true for the other Amex and CIBC cards out there that have similar wording.

Note that as of mid-2019, it seems that there are a few data points of repeat signup bonuses being denied on the American Express Gold Rewards Card and the American Express Marriott Bonvoy Card. While many people still receive repeat signup bonuses on these cards, others have reported their bonuses no longer being granted, so these cards seem to be more of a gamble than before. For more information, see this blog post.

More on Repeat Signup Bonuses

Why is this the case? Well, think about it from the banks' perspective. Updating a handful of terms and conditions is a few minutes' work, but actually implementing the change into their IT backend, so as to filter for repeat applicants and withhold the signup bonuses? That takes a real concerted effort.

My guess is that many of these T&Cs were introduced primarily as a deterrent to stop people from attempting to get the signup bonus over and over again, rather than actually being enforced.

Having said this, if you are indeed ineligible for a bonus by the letter of the law (for example if you are indeed a previous cardholder of the American Express personal cards), do not give anyone a reason to look into your case! 

There have been anecdotes of Amex call centre agents manually denying bonuses when "repeat applicants" called in to clarify. This means that if you are applying for these cards a second time and your welcome bonus doesn't post immediately after meeting the spending requirement, just wait patiently and they WILL post – don't call!

And as a best practice, if you are eligible for a bonus by the letter of the law, it’s always good to take screenshots of the T&Cs so you can argue your case if the bonus doesn't arrive as expected.

Last updated 29 April 2019. Any questions?
Contact me.