What Is a Credit Card Promo Code?

What Is a Credit Card Promo Code?
Image of a credit card application and glasses.

Identification

A credit card promo code is a numerical code -- although letters and dashes may also be included – used by major credit card brands such as VISA, MasterCard, Discover and American Express. Credit card promo codes are typically printed directly on a hard copy or online credit card application. Each credit card product uses its own promo codes.

Function

Credit card promo codes function similarly to coupons. When an applicant fills out a new credit card application, he must enter the promo code, which guarantees -- upon approval -- all card benefits are applied as claimed. For example, without a promo code, an applicant may not be eligible to apply for cash-back rewards or a zero percent introductory rate.

Considerations

Like coupons, credit card promo codes are subject to expiration. Look for a statement such as “Enter promo code #00778. Offer expires January 1, 2012.” A credit card company may opt to renew a promo code, but the new promotion may feature fewer card benefits than the original. To avoid losing an attractive credit card promotion, always apply prior to the expiration date.

Misconceptions

Promo codes can be enticing to a consumer looking to establish or rebuild credit history. From cash back to points and zero annual fees, promo codes promise attractive card benefits to new applicants. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of the credit card, because some card benefits may only be applicable during an introductory or probationary period. This can be particularly true for rates and fees.

Warning

While promo codes are generally offered to consumers who pre-qualify for a credit card, changes in payment history or a significant loss in income can disqualify you from a promotion or credit card product. Think of a promo code as a coupon for a specific set of card benefits, not a guarantee for credit.