Should I Get Chase Freedom Now or Wait for a Larger Bonus?
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
TPG reader Hussain sent me a message on Facebook to ask about sign-up bonuses:
"I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and I'm interested in also getting the Chase Freedom card. Would you recommend applying for the current $150 promotion, or waiting to see if the $200 bonus returns?"
Credit card sign-up bonuses are a great way to boost your loyalty accounts, since you can collect large numbers of points or miles in a short time. Most cards limit how often you can apply or earn a bonus, so to maximize your rewards, it's important to be familiar with the top offers and jump on special or limited-time bonuses when they arise. That said, while I think waiting for a better offer is sometimes a good strategy, it can also be counterproductive.
Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) currently offers a bonus of $150 after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. That bonus comes in the form of 15,000 points, which can actually be worth much more than $150 when paired with a premium Ultimate Rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. That's a very respectable return for meeting the spending requirement, but you may be able to do even better, as we've seen the bonus reach 20,000 points (after spending $500).
That increased offer popped up both in 2015 and 2014, so it's plausible that we'll see a similar offer this year. You could hold off for the extra 5,000 points, but there are opportunity costs to waiting, and it's important to take those into account. For example, Chase Freedom is offering 5x points per dollar at restaurants on up to $1,500 in purchases through September 30. If you end up waiting until October to apply, then you'll miss out on some of those extra points, which could offset the higher sign-up bonus (assuming you eventually do get it).
It's also important to consider your plans for the points you earn. For example, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express typically comes with a sign-up bonus of 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. However, that bonus routinely jumps to 30,000 points each summer, and this year we saw an even higher 35,000-point offer. The larger bonus is obviously preferable, but if you need 25,000 points soon for upcoming travel, then it makes sense to apply now even though you're just getting the standard offer.
Ask yourself which is worth more: having the card sooner (along with all its benefits), or the prospect of a larger bonus. Once you answer that question, deciding whether to wait is easy.
Another consideration is that Chase is more likely to deny your application for certain cards (including Chase Freedom) if you've opened five or more credit card accounts in the previous 24 months. If you haven't already crossed that threshold and you're planning to apply for other cards in the near future, then there's more incentive to get the Freedom card first.
Finally, Chase is sometimes willing to bump you up to a better offer if it comes out after you recently applied. There's no guarantee this will work, but if you get the Freedom card today and then a public offer for 20,000 points comes out in the next month, you have a shot at getting your bonus upgraded.