This article is Part 1 in our 3-part series on Middle Age Miles about our credit card applications in mid-March 2019. This mini App-O-Rama resulted in 2 denials and 1 approval. Our 3 articles in this series are:
* Article 1: Experiment Foiled! Denied for the Ebates Visa Card
I’ve hit a new all-time low in my credit card application career. I was denied for a card that has a $10 sign-up bonus.
Recently, Ebates and Amex teamed up to allow you to earn Membership Rewards (MR) points when you use Ebates. Basically, instead of earning cash back through Ebates as we’ve done for years, we could earn MR points at the same rate. For example, if an Ebates deal was for 6% cash back, it would earn 6x MR points instead if your account was an Ebates MR-earning account. The Ebates-Amex program requires a separate account from the regular Ebates cashback accounts, and you had to set up a new Ebates account to participate in the Ebates-Amex program.
We were fascinated by the Ebates-Amex program, and we wrote about it in detail a few weeks ago here:
We set up a new Ebates MR-earning account. We’ve successfully earned the 1,500 MR point sign-up bonus, and we’ve made a handful of purchases in the program over the past few weeks, all of which have tracked correctly and promptly. We’ve been quite happy with the Ebates-Amex program so far.
In our earlier article, we identified a very interesting potential stacking opportunity to earn extra MR points through the Ebates-Amex program. The Ebates Visa card, issued by Synchrony, is a no-annual-fee card that includes a 3% bonus category for online purchases made through the Ebates portal, and it also earns 3% on purchases that qualify for Ebates In-Store Cash Back.
We took a close look at how the Ebates Visa card’s rewards work, and we believe that an Ebates Visa card that is associated with a MR-earning Ebates account will earn 3x MR points per dollar (instead of 3% cash back). We have also read one data point that seems to confirm this.
Assuming that we’re correct, this would be absolutely excellent. Stacking 3x MR earning with the card with Ebates portal and in-store deals would create a new combination that would provide outstanding best-in-class returns on a wide array of purchases. In addition, we suspect that there would also be some “inorganic spend” opportunities using this method that could prove valuable.
Thus, we decided to set up an experiment – we would apply for the Ebates Visa card in connection with our new Ebates-Amex MR-earning account. (Note: We have a lot of caveats and “be carefuls” about this application process in our earlier article – be sure to read it and follow them if you apply.) Then, we’d test the Ebates Visa by using it to make purchases through the Ebates shopping portal. We’d also register the card for Ebates In-Store Cash Back, link it to some offers, and make purchases at those stores.
If everything worked, we’d have a great new MR-earning avenue to earn more points to pay for fun travel!
Application and Denial
On Monday, March 18, I applied for the Ebates Visa card through my Ebates MR-earning account. The card had a sign-up bonus of a whopping $10, which certainly would have been an all-time low!
This application was the third application in a 3-card mini App-O-Rama I did on that day. The reason that I placed it third was that the other applications had bigger sign-up bonuses and I wanted to prioritize them.
At the time of application, my “new accounts” status on my personal credit report was 13/24, 9/12, and 6/6 (I actually had a spree of applications last fall that was very valuable – see A Case Study and Success Story of Strategic Card Applications – Approved for Chase World of Hyatt & Citi AA Platinum Cards). My Experian credit score (which Synchrony pulled) was 786. (It’s well over 800 on TransUnion and Equifax.) My Average Age of Accounts on Experian was over 5 years.
My credit score will qualify me for virtually anything. However, with these new-account stats, I knew that I was at some risk of denial for new cards. Frankly, though, I still thought I was a shoo-in for approval for the Ebates Visa.
When I applied for the Ebates Visa card, my application went pending. I was informed that I’d receive a decision by mail within 7-10 days.
5 days later, I received an email from Synchrony with a secure link to a letter. (The letter is dated March 22 but I first received it on Saturday, March 23.) Unfortunately, the letter was a *denial* of my Ebates Visa application:
WTH??? This was a shocker.
The sole reason that Synchrony gave for its denial was “Number of recent credit requests.”
My number of inquiries was indeed high, although not awful – 14/24, 8/12, and 3/6 going into the App-O-Rama. One of my other March 18 applications also pulled Experian, so technically I was probably 15/24, 9/12 and 4/6 at the time of the Experian pull.
Attempted Recon Call
I decided to go ahead and attempt a reconsideration call with Synchrony even though I wasn’t optimistic. At a minimum, I’d learn something that I could report back to Middle Age Miles readers.
The denial letter didn’t contain any invitation to call back for further information, and it didn’t even include a telephone number for Synchrony. I looked up the customer service number for the Synchrony Ebates Visa card, which is 855-697-4555, and I called that number.
My call was on Monday, March 25, the first business day after I received the denial letter. It was difficult to get through the automated system given that I didn’t have an account number, but I finally reached an agent.
The front-line agent didn’t provide any useful information. After speaking with him for a few minutes, I asked to speak with a manager. He transferred me, and to my surprise the manager picked up quickly. She was much more knowledgeable – ultimately not helpful, but at least she seemed to have a better idea what she was talking about.
The manager told me that Synchrony does not do manual reconsideration reviews. She says that all approval/denial decisions are made through their computer system. She says that this helps them comply with the Fair Credit Act (possibly just making this up; there are certainly plenty of card issuers that do manual recon). I talked to her about my good credit score, my perfect payment history, our income, and the fact that I’ve been a long-time good customer of Synchrony through a JCPenney store card that I got many years ago. I also told her that I recently became aware of Ebates and was very interested in it, and I wanted the card so that I could use the Ebates program more. I also offered to explain any questions they had about the number of inquiries. She listened to me patiently, but none of this mattered.
No manual recon – still denied.
After the call, I went ahead and submitted a Complaint form online, basically saying the same things I’d told the manager on the phone. That was just 1½ days ago, and I haven’t yet received any response. I don’t expect anything useful to come out of it. But I’ll update this article if I learn anything useful from that process.
UPDATE, 3/30/2019, 11:30 am Central time – Yesterday, I received a call from a Synchrony Bank top-level agent in response to my online complaint. The agent was quite professional; however, she couldn’t do a thing to change the denial decision or initiate any further review. C’est la vie.
So, I was denied for the Ebates Visa card by Synchrony based on “Number of recent credit requests” – presumably 15/24, 9/12 and 4/6.
I was denied despite a 786 Experian credit score, a perfect payment history, good income, and the fact that I’m a long-time good customer of Synchrony. None of that was sufficient to overcome the problem with inquiries.
So, yes, I was denied a card with a sign-up bonus of 10 bucks, and I have a hard pull on my Experian report to show for it.
And just to add insult to injury, on my regular Ebates cash-back account, I receive emails just about every week begging me to apply for the Ebates Visa card and telling me that I’m pre-approved. I actually had one of these offers that was active at the time I was denied! I received a pre-approval email on March 12 asking me to accept their pre-approval and apply by March 29. Here’s what it said:
How ironic is that? I was pre-approved on my “regular” Ebates account at the same time Synchrony denied me on my MR-earning account. Ouch.
By the way, I made a conscious decision to *not* mention my “regular” Ebates account or this pre-approval email during my call with Synchrony. I didn’t want to call attention to the fact that I have two Ebates accounts, as that’s not technically allowed. Going forward, I expect to only use the MR-earning account, but right now there’s some cash-back pending in the “regular” account that I didn’t want to jeopardize.
At this point, there’s nothing else to do besides wait. Perhaps I’ll start to receive pre-approval offers for the Ebates Visa card on my MR-earning account. If so, I can re-apply then. If not, perhaps I’ll apply again in a few months after some inquiries fall off. This will depend on my credit card priorities. As fun as it would be to experiment with the Ebates Visa card, it’s certainly not worth designing my application strategy around trying to get this card!
So, Middle Age Miles readers, I tried. Experiment foiled! Blame it on Synchrony.
Do you have an Ebates Visa card attached to a MR-earning Ebates account? Is it earning 3x MR points? Please share any relevant data points with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!
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