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Why now is a great time to get a new travel credit card

Dec. 11, 2020
6 min read
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During a normal year, this would the time for shopping for holiday gifts and traveling to visit (or escape) family members. But of course, nothing about 2020 has been "normal." But even though travel may not be on your end-of-year to-do list, the end of the year is still a great time to shop for a new travel rewards credit card to capitalize on credit card welcome offers that will boost your 2021 travel plans.

When you apply for a new travel credit card, you typically have three months to hit the spending requirement in order to earn the welcome bonus. There are a few exceptions: Some cards with larger spend requirements may extend the time frame to four or six months and some with smaller requirements may shorten it to two months. But three months is standard across the vast majority of cards.

If you're planning summer travel in 2021, applying for a new credit card in June or July is too late. Most people book travel at least three to four weeks before departure, so you'll want to have those points or miles in your account well in advance of your trip.

You could score a free trip to Hawaii when you take advantage of Brex's newest transfer partner. (M.M. Sweet / Getty Images)
Apply for a new travel card now so you can have the points from its welcome bonus before summer 2020. (M.M. Sweet / Getty Images)

If you apply for a new card early in the year, you'll have time to earn the welcome bonus and wait for the points or miles to deposit before booking your summer vacations.

Related: How fast each bank issues points and miles to your account

If you're in the market for certain cobranded cards, there is even more reason to apply at the beginning of the year. Many cobranded hotel and airline cards offer certain perks during a calendar year after hitting certain spending thresholds. By applying now, you're giving yourself more time to hit those thresholds.

For example, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, with its $450 annual fee (see rates and fees), offers an additional weekend night reward after you spend $60,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year. If you waited until summer or fall to apply for the card, you'd have less than six months to spend $60,000 in order to get that second weekend night. Getting the card in January gives you the full year to earn the perk. The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Let's take a look at a few of the cards you should consider getting early in the year rather than waiting.

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Hilton Amex Cards

All of Hilton's cobranded credit cards with Amex offer additional perks when you hit certain spending requirements within a calendar year, whether it's a free weekend night or an increased level of status.

There is a Hilton card for almost any kind of traveler. Beginners and casual travelers can utilize the no-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card (see rates and fees). The mid-tier Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card comes with an annual fee of $95 (see rates & fees); automatic Gold status and a welcome bonus of 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Business owners have a similar option with the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.

Frequent travelers who always stay with Hilton can get a lot of value out of the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express.

Related: How to choose the best Hilton credit card for you

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

The CSP has a current 60,000-point bonus (after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening) that is the perfect jump-start to any planning for a 2021 trip on points. The annual fee is a doable $95 and you'll earn 5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out, 3x points on select streaming services, 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs), 2x points on all other travel, 1x point on all other purchases. Plus, this card gives you access to the valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards program, where you can transfer your points to a number of travel partners or redeem your points for 1.25 cents each through the Chase travel portal or through Chase's Pay Yourself Back program.

In fact, I used an old 50,000-point bonus (no longer available) on the Chase Sapphire Preferred to take my very first points trip to Croatia this past summer. Imagine where you could go in 2021 with the current bonus.

Bottom line

I've been itching to start planning future travel, and the end of the year is the perfect time to start shopping for the right cards to get you there. By applying for a travel credit card in the next couple of months, you're setting yourself up for some amazing redemption opportunities for the summer (and even fall and winter) of 2021.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Surpass Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Business Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Aspire Amex, click here.

Featured image by (Photo by Madison Blancaflor/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.

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Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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