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Earn 20,000 Continental miles for new debit cards

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.

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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.

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