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The best time to apply for these 11 popular travel credit cards — based on offer history

Dec. 08, 2022
22 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 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 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.

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 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 to October 2021.Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$2,000.
March 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 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.

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More information: 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 80,000 points in October-November 2022.

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

Approximate dateOfferValue*
December 2022 to now.Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,200.
October to November 2022.Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.$1,600.
June to October 2022.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 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, 80,000 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.


More information: 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 undergo many changes. Most recently in July 2021, the annual fee increased from $550 to $695 (see rates and fees).

Approximate dateOfferValue*
November 2022 to now.Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership.$1,600.
January 2022 to November 2022.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 worth checking to see if you qualify for a higher bonus. Note that offers are subject to change at any time.


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 a huge payout of Membership Rewards points but requires a high amount of spending ($15,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership).

Approximate date OfferValue*
December 2022 to now.Earn 120,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card in the first three months of card membership.$2,400.
October 2022 to December 2022.TPG exclusive offer: Earn 150,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card in the first three months of card membership.$3,000.
October 2021 to October 2022.Earn 120,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card in the first three months of card membership.$2,400.
August to October 2021.Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card in the first three months of card membership.$2,000.
April to August 2021.Earn 125,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card in the first three months of card membership.$2,500.
January to April 2021.Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card in the first three months of card membership.$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 card membership.$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 card membership.$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 card membership.$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 sometimes sends targeted offers for 150,000 points and possibly 200,000 points.


American Express® Gold Card

WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

In October 2018, Amex rebranded the American Express Gold Card to what we know it today. 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 card membership.$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 card membership.$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 card membership.$700.
October 2018 to March 2019.Earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of card membership.$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 great 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 spending the same amount.


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.


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 now.75,000 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 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 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 is one to take advantage of.


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 rebounded 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 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

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

Approximate dateOfferValue*
October 2022 to now.Earn three free night awards (each worth up to 50,000 points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from your account opening.$1,260
September to October 2022.Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.$840
July 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 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 one to jump on.


Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

As the top credit card in the Delta SkyMiles credit card family, 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*
November 2022 to now.Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first six months of account opening.$705.
September to November 2022.Earn 95,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first six months of account opening.$1,339.50.
August 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 card membership.$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 card membership.$1,410.
April 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 card membership.$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 card membership.$1,410.
November 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 card membership.$705.
June 2021 to November 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.


Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

We haven't seen much change in the welcome bonuses for the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. Both its original offer and its current offer bring a lot of value to cardholders since we value Chase Ultimate Rewards at 2 cents per point.

Approximate dateOfferValue*
March 2020 to now.Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 in the first three months from account opening.$2,000.
November 2016 to March 2020.Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months from account opening.$1,600.

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

When to apply for this card: Any time this card offers over 80,000 bonus points is a great time to apply.


Should you wait for a better welcome offer?

After reviewing some of the welcome offers from the past, you may be tempted to wait until something better comes around. There are many 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 it will return.

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 you can cross-reference offers the next time you’re applying for a new card and see an offer that interests you.

For more information on credit card bonus offers over time, see the following:

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.