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 – and time it so that you can 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 for those presents or winter trips. And while the arms race between banks to offer eye-popping credit card bonuses may be coming to a close, there are still plenty of great options out there.
But let's be clear: 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.
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. 26.
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 $15,000 or more in a six-month span.
For example, the popular Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card nets you a 60,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 within three months. On the Chase Freedom Flex, it's just $500 in spending over a three-month span to earn $200 in cashback (or 20,000 points). And then there's the Platinum Card® from American Express, on which you need to spend $6,000 over six months to earn 100,000 points – or 150,000 points if you're targeted by CardMatch!
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-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.
Pick the Right Card with a Big Bonus
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.
Fortunately, it's not too hard to find a great travel card with a big bonus, as some of our favorite cards on the market are out with record-tying (or record-setting) bonuses. Here's a quick rundown of some top cards with considering:
- The brand new Capital One Venture X Card is set to open for applications tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 9. It's Capital One's first foray into premium travel credit cards with an eye-popping bonus to match: 100,000 points. While you need to spend $10,000 to earn that bonus, you've got a full 6 months to do so. Plus you'd even earn a $200 statement credit for Airbnb and VRBO, too.
- The days of the enormous 100,000-point bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card may be over, but it's still one of the best travel cards, period. You'll still get 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within the first three months.
- With 4x points at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 spent (then 1x) for every dollar, perhaps no card is better for your everyday spending than the American Express Gold® Card. But the points go far beyond buying groceries or picking up the dinner tab: You'll earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within six months – or 75,000 points if you're targeted for this best-ever offer through CardMatch.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express currently gets you a whopping 100,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first six months – or a best-ever 150,000-point bonus via CardMatch, if you're targeted!
- Even Delta is out with huge offers on its SkyMiles suite of cards, with up to 90,000 SkyMiles available … but only through this Wednesday, Nov. 10.
Earn Points and Miles for a Winter 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 your getaway when the time comes.
Follow this method: Set your goal for where you want to go and 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.
See our guide on the best ways to use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points!
Now is the time to open a new card for your upcoming holiday shopping. But be strategic about it.
If you can 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.