Getting ahead with travel credit cards and points and miles is all about timing. You want to get the right card when it's offering a big bonus, sure … but more importantly, you want to time it so that you can easily and responsibly spend the money necessary to earn all those points or miles.
With Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the holiday shopping season around the corner, the timing is ripe to open a new credit card before the onslaught of holiday shopping or booking trips for 2023.
Let's be clear, though: Credit cards are serious business. Consumer debt is a serious problem in this country, so this isn't an excuse to rack up charges for holiday spending you can't afford just to earn points and miles. If you can't afford to pay off the card immediately, don't do it.
But if you can be financially responsible with a new line of credit, here's why now may be the best time to open a new travel card.
Get Your Card Soon & Spend Responsibly
Applying for a new travel rewards card soon should give you ample time to get the card in your hands for Black Friday on Nov. 25.
Most new cards take about five to seven business days to arrive. And that timing is crucial: The easiest way to earn a boatload of points and miles is by earning an initial welcome bonus. The spending requirements vary wildly from card to card, from just $500 in spending over the first three months to as much as $15,000 or more in a three to six-month span.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is out with a limited-time welcome offer bonus that nets you 80,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months. This is a limited-time offer, up from the standard offer of 60,000 points for the same spending requirement.
Then there is the Chase Freedom Flex℠ which requires spending just $500 over a three-month span to earn $200 in cashback (or 20,000 points). But if you apply directly with Chase, you can also get 5% back (or 5x Chase points) at the grocery store on up to $12,000 spent in your first year of card membership (this excludes big box stores like Target and wholesale clubs like Costco).
And then there's The Platinum Card® from American Express, on which you need to spend $6,000 over six months to earn 80,000 points. But you can do much better: Whether you use a targeted referral link or try using CardMatch, you can earn 150,000 points for the same spending requirement.
Finally, one of our favorite options is the American Express® Gold Card. That's doubly so because you may be able to earn earn 90,000 points with a referral offer after spending $4,000 in the first six months of card membership. That's the biggest offer we have ever seen on the card – much better than the standard offer of 60,000 points for the same spending requirement.
If you are planning on spending the money regardless, spending towards a sign-up bonus offer will help soften the blow.
Holiday shopping is a great time to lean into online shopping portals to earn some additional cashback or points on each purchase. You can use a site like cashbackmonitor.com to find the best deal wherever you are about to make a purchase. And if you’ve got a card that earns American Express Membership Rewards points, you can even earn Amex points instead of cashback by shopping via Rakuten.
The best part: This goes beyond just Black Friday and Christmas spending. With a three to six-month window, you'd have until at least early February 2022 to meet the spending requirement to earn the bonus. Have six months? That gets you all the way until early May 2022.
Just remember that timer starts from the day you're approved, not the day you get your card.
But it's not just about timing your application right. It comes down to which card you pick, too. The key to getting ahead with points and miles is opening the right credit card when it's offering a bigger bonus. These bonuses are constantly changing, and that can make it hard to ensure you're striking when the iron is hot. That's why we track the best credit card bonuses available each month.
Earn Points and Miles for a 2023 Getaway
The arrival of Thanksgiving means one thing in the north: Winter is on its way. If you live where it snows, you need a winter getaway to keep your sanity and get through long and cold winter. By putting your plan together now for what points and miles you might need to make a trip a reality, it will be easier to book when the time comes.
Follow this method: Set your goal for where you want to go, then work backward. Not all points and miles will be a great option for the destination you have in mind.
For example, if Europe is on your list, earning Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points won't do you much good. Despite some massive bonuses on Southwest's co-branded credit cards, Southwest doesn't fly to Europe. Figure out the points and miles you might need, find the right card to earn them, then use your holiday spending on a card to help you get there.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are nearly unbeatable as they offer a ton of flexibility when it comes time to book your travels. Not only can you use the points to book flight deals through the Chase travel portal, but you can also send them directly to Chase transfer partners to really maximize their value.
Now is the time to open a new card for your upcoming holiday shopping. But be strategic about it. Just know that this isn't a hall pass to spend money in the name of earning travel rewards points and miles. If you can't afford to pay off the card immediately, don't do it.
But if you can be responsible and earn some additional points and miles for spending you will be doing anyhow, that's a win. The holiday shopping season makes that a bit easier to pull off – and a slew of huge points and miles bonuses available today makes that case even stronger.