In recent years, banks have deluged consumers with over-the-top offers to apply for credit cards linked to hotel and airline loyalty programs. It's now commonplace to earn nearly enough bonus miles for a free ticket when establishing a new credit card account.
But sign-up bonuses for debit cards? Not so much. And there's good reason for that: debit cards aren't nearly as profitable as credit cards, so card issuers can't justify the high customer acquisition cost represented by rewarding new cardholders with 20,000 or 25,000 airline miles.
As a result, the enrollment bonuses for debit cards are much less extravagant. The basic check card linked to American's program, for example, comes with a modest 2,000-mile sign-up bonus. And the sign-up bonus for a United-branded debit card is 2,500 miles.
So a Continental-affiliated debit card offer potentially worth 20,000 miles is an attention-getter.
The offer, in place through May 31, has two parts, one for a debit card, the other for the checking account linked to the card.
First, Continental OnePass members can earn 10,000 bonus miles the first time they use a new Chase Continental Airlines Preferred Banking Card or Chase Continental Airlines Banking Card. The former earns one mile per dollar in purchases and has a $65 annual fee; the latter earns only one mile per $2 in purchases but has a lower $25 annual fee.
Second, Continental OnePass members can earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles by opening a new Chase Free Checking account with Direct Deposit. To earn the miles, the account must be funded with a minimum of $100.
Recognizing that most checking accounts come bundled with a debit card with no annual fee, it follows that opting for a Chase Continental check card amounts to paying extra to earn miles. Still, even $65 would be a small price to pay for 20,000 airline miles.