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The best time to apply for these 10 popular travel credit cards — based on offer history

Sept. 01, 2022
20 min read
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Nothing is more disappointing than applying for a card, only to learn that you could have held out a bit longer to get a better welcome offer — especially since many banks won't match you to that better bonus after you've already applied.

It happens to the best of us. Of course, we all want to ensure we’re finding the best offers possible — and the name of this game is timing. While it’s impossible to predict if or when issuers will bring back these higher offers, it helps to know the context to make the best possible educated guess.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at 10 popular travel credit cards, archiving their offers from the past several years. We’ll also compare those offers to the current bonuses and provide insight into how you can consistently find the best welcome offers.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

THE POINTS GUY

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one of the most popular travel rewards cards for three main reasons: affordability, flexibility and value.

Last summer, the issuer launched an unprecedented 100,000-point sign-up bonus lasting four months. Since then, the Sapphire Preferred has reverted to a 60,000-point offer worth $1,200, according to TPG’s latest valuations.

Approximate dateOfferValue*
June 2022 to now.Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,200.
April 2022 to May 2022.Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.$1,600
October 2021 to April 2022.Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,200.
June 2021 to October 2021.Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$2,000.
March 2021 to June 2021.Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. Plus, earn a $50 statement credit on grocery store purchases.$1,650.
November 2020 to March 2021.Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,200.
September 2020 to November 2020.Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,600.
March 2019 to September 2020.Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,200.
2017 to March 2019.Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,000.

*Bonus offer value is based on TPG's valuations and not provided by the credit card issuer.

When to apply for this card: If you see an offer of 80,000 points on the Sapphire Preferred, you should jump on it. 60,000 points appears to be the standard offer these days.


Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred.


Chase Sapphire Reserve

WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

While the Chase Sapphire Preferred tends to come with varying offers throughout the calendar year, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has remained much more stable over the years.

This premium travel card first launched in August 2016 with a valuable 100,000-point welcome offer. Since then, the best offer we’ve seen has been 60,000 points.

It’s worth noting that Chase increased the annual fee on the Sapphire Reserve from $450 to $550 in early 2020.

Approximate dateOfferValue*
June 2022 to now.Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,200.
October 2021 to June 2022.Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,000.
June 2021 to October 2021.Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,200.
March 2017 to June 2021.Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,000.
August 2016 to March 2017.Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$2,000.

*Bonus offer value is based on TPG's valuations and not provided by the credit card issuer.

When to apply for this card: In terms of bonuses, 60,000 points might be the best you can hope for on the Sapphire Reserve these days, while an offer of 50,000 points is more common.


Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve.


The Platinum Card® from American Express

ISABELLE RAPHAEL/THE POINTS GUY

One of the most emblematic symbols of luxury is The Platinum Card from American Express, which has dominated the premium travel card market for quite some time.

But, over the years, we’ve seen the Amex Platinum go through many changes. Most recently in July 2021, the annual fee increased from $550 to $695 (see rates and fees). Even so, the welcome offers have been in the six-figure range ever since these changes occurred last year.

Approximate dateOfferValue*
January 2022 to now.Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership.$2,000.
July 2021 to January 2022.Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Plus, earn 10 points per dollar on “Shop Small” purchases in the U.S. and at restaurants worldwide, on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, also in the first six months of card membership.$2,000 (but up to $5,000 in additional value with the small-business and restaurant spending offer).
November 2020 to July 2021.Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Plus, earn 10 points per dollar on U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, also in the first six months of card membership.$1,500 (but up to $3,000 in additional value with the gas stations and supermarkets spending offer).
2017 to November 2020.Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months of card membership.$1,200.

*Bonus offer value is based on TPG's valuations and not provided by the credit card issuer.

When to apply for this card: In general, aim to apply for this card only if its welcome offer tops 75,000 bonus points, and it should be a no-brainer at the 100,000-point mark, depending on the spending requirements.

Although the chart above shows the publicly-available welcome offers, note that you may be targeted for a higher offer by using the CardMatch tool. Applicants have seen 125,000-point and 150,000-point offers for the same amount of spending, so it’s absolutely worth checking to see if you qualify for a higher bonus. Note that offers are subject to change at any time.


Official application link: The Platinum Card® from American Express.


The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

ISABELLE RAPHAEL/THE POINTS GUY

Business owners should look at the Amex Platinum’s business counterpart: The Business Platinum Card from American Express.

This card also has an increased $695 annual fee (see rates and fees) but a slew of business-friendly perks and statement credits that will help justify this ongoing cost.

Note that the Business Platinum usually offers huge payout of Membership Rewards points but requires a high amount of spending ($15,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months of cardmembership).

Approximate date OfferValue*
October 2021 to now.Earn 120,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card in the first three months of cardmembership.$2,400.
August 2021 to October 2021.Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card in the first three months of cardmembership.$2,000.
April 2021 to August 2021.Earn 125,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card in the first three months of cardmembership.$2,500.
January 2021 to April 2021.Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card in the first three months of cardmembership.$1,700.
March 2020 to January 2021.Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card in the first three months of cardmembership.$1,500.
September 2019 to March 2020.Earn up to 100,000 bonus points. Earn 50,000 points after spending $10,000 in the first three months of card membership and an extra 50,000 points after spending an additional $15,000 also within the first months of cardmembership.$2,000.
2018 to September 2019.Earn up to 75,000 bonus points: 50,000 points after spending $10,000 in the first three months of card membership and an extra 15,000 points after spending an additional $10,000 also within the first months of cardmembership.$1,500.
July 2017.Earn up to 150,000 bonus points: 100,000 points after spending $5,000 on eligible purchases with the card in the first three months of card membership and another 50,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 total in the first three months. Offer available by calling Amex.$3,000.

*Bonus offer value is based on TPG's valuations and not provided by the credit card issuer.

When to apply for this card: The standard offer you should aim for these days is at least 120,000 points. However, American Express also sometimes sends out targeted offers for 150,000 points and possibly 200,000 points.


Official application link: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.


American Express® Gold Card

WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

In October 2018, Amex rebranded the American Express Gold Card to what we know it as today. Now, the Amex Gold is one of the most popular everyday cards, thanks to its large payout on U.S. supermarket purchases and restaurants worldwide.

Approximate dateOfferValue*
June 2022 to now.Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first six months of cardmembership.$1,200.
June 2022 (Just for a few days).Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first six months of card membership$2,000.
October 2020 to June 2022.Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first six months of cardmembership.$1,200.
March 2019 to October 2020.Earn 35,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first six months of cardmembership.$700.
October 2018 to March 2019.Earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of cardmembership.$500.

*Bonus offer value is based on TPG's valuations and not provided by the credit card issuer.

When to apply for this card: If you aren't targeted for a higher welcome offer, the current 60,000 welcome offer is a great one for the Amex Gold. But like with the Amex Platinum, you may be targeted for a higher 75,000-point offer or as many as 90,000 points through the CardMatch tool — and for the same amount of spending.


Official application link: American Express® Gold Card.


Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

JOHN GRIBBEN/THE POINTS GUY

Say hello to the newest premium travel card. The Venture X has been a huge hit since its launch in November 2021 — and the $395 annual fee is much easier on the wallet than some other cards on this list.

Approximate dateOfferValue*
March 2022 to now.Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.$1,387.50.
November 2021 to March 2022.Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first six months from account opening.$1,850.

*Bonus offer value is based on TPG's valuations and not provided by the credit card issuer.

When to apply for this card: As the Venture X is a newer card, predicting the long-term "standard offer" is difficult. However, 75,000 bonus miles is the offer you can receive right now, down from the elevated offer from the card's initial launch.


Official application link: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.


Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a classic fixed-rate rewards card, earning 2 miles per dollar on all eligible purchases (and 5 miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel).

The $95-annual-fee card has offered a couple of opportunities to earn up to 100,000 bonus miles, though that $20,000 spending requirement in the first year of account opening may be out of reach for some.

Approximate dateOfferValue*
May 2022 to now75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.$1,387.50.
July 2021 to May 2022.Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.$1,110.
March 2021 to July 2021.Earn up to 100,000 bonus miles: 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, and an additional 50,000 miles after spending $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months of account opening.$1,850.
December 2020 to March 2021.Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.$1,110.
September 2020 to December 2020.Earn up to 100,000 bonus miles: 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, and an additional 50,000 miles after spending $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months of account opening.$1,850.
2018 to September 2020.Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.$925.

*Bonus offer value is based on TPG's valuations and not provided by the credit card issuer.

When to apply for this card: 60,000 bonus miles was the standard offer for quite a while, so any offer above that is one to take advantage of.


Official application link: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.


Citi Premier® Card

JOHN GRIBBEN/THE POINTS GUY

Citi unveiled its best-ever welcome offer of 80,000 points for the Citi Premier in mid-2021. This tracks with the 2021 trend of issuers offering large welcome bonuses as travel and the overall economy started to rebound in the second year of the pandemic.

The Citi Premier has improved over the years, from no sign-up bonus in 2017 to a solid 80,000-point offer available for current applicants.

Approximate dateOfferValue*
June 2022 to now.Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,440.
February 2022 to June 2022.Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,080.
July 2021 to January 2022.Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,360.
June 2019 to July 2021.Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,020.
October 2018 to June 2019.Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$850.
August 2018 to October 2018.Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,020.
February 2018 to August 2018.Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$850.
January 2018 to February 2018.Earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening.$510.
2017 to January 2018.None.N/A

*Bonus offer value is based on TPG's valuations and not provided by the credit card issuer.

When to apply for this card: The current 80,000 point bonus is the highest the Citi Premier has offered, so now is the perfect time to get this card.


Official application link: Citi Premier® Card.


Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card

ISABELLE RAPHAEL/THE POINTS GUY

Similar to when the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card first launched, it currently offers points in its sign-up bonus.

Approximate dateOfferValue*
September 2022 to now.Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.$840
July 2022 to September 2022.Earn three free night awards (each worth up to 50,000 points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.$1,260.
July 2022.Earn five free night awards (each worth up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.$2,100.
May 2019 to July 2022Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months from account opening.$630
February 2019 to May 2019.Earn 100,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months from account opening.$840

*Bonus offer value is based on TPG's valuations and not provided by the credit card issuer.

When to apply for this card: Three free night certificates seems like the new standard offer, so anything above that would be the offer to jump on.


Official application link: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card.


Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

As the premium credit card in the Delta SkyMiles family of credit cards, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card typically offers more than just miles in its welcome offer; applicants also can look forward to bonus Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help them toward elite status with Delta.

Approximate dateOfferValue*
September 2022 to nowEarn 95,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first six months of account opening. Offer ends 11/9/22.$1,339.50
August 2022 to September 2022.Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of cardmembership.$705.
June to August 2022.Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of cardmembership.$1,410.
April 2022 to June 2022.Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of cardmembership.$705.
March to April 2022.Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of cardmembership.$1,410.
Nov. 2021 to March 2022.Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of cardmembership.$705.
June 2021 to Nov. 2021.Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership$880.

*Bonus offer value is based on TPG's valuations and not provided by the credit card issuer.

When to apply for this card: Aim for a welcome offer of 80,000 or above. When you see that number, it's a good time to get the Delta SkyMiles Reserve.


Official application link: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.


Should you wait for a better welcome offer?

After reviewing some of the welcome offers from the past, you may be tempted to wait around until something better comes around. There are a lot of good reasons to wait for a better welcome offer, but it's not always worth the wait.

Here are some reasons why you might want to go ahead and get the card you're thinking about:

A better bonus may not come back

Some bonuses just never come back. The Chase Sapphire Reserve hasn’t repeated the 100,000-point sign-up bonus since its launch in 2016 — and we don’t anticipate that it will come back.

You’re missing out on points from everyday spending

If you wait to apply for a card, you’re missing out on thousands of points from your everyday credit card spending. That difference alone might make up for the better bonus you’re holding out for.

You’re planning an award trip now

If you have your sights set on traveling later this year or into next, you’ll want to start accruing those points and miles now. After you hit a spending minimum, it could take up to a couple of billing cycles for those points to hit your balance.

Related: Cards currently offering sign-up bonuses of 100,000 points or more

Bottom line

Only time will tell what new offers we’ll see in the pipeline. For now, bookmark this ongoing guide so that you can cross-reference offers the next time you’re applying for a new card and see an offer that interests you.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum, click here.

Additional reporting by Emily Thompson and Ryan Smith.

Featured image by JOHN GRIBBEN FOR THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.