3 reasons now is the right time to apply for a new rewards credit card

Apr 5, 2021

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We are at an interesting moment in time. Travel is on the rebound, we can (hopefully) see light at the other end of the pandemic tunnel and credit card welcome bonuses are hitting all-time highs.

If you are like me and pulled back on applying for new credit cards in the last year, it may be time to come out of hibernation.

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Right now, credit card welcome bonuses are reaching heights we haven’t seen in a long time. In fact, some offers are at all-time highs. And with the vaccine rollout progressing and travel restrictions lessening, the timing for getting a rewards card is actually great.

Here are a few reasons why it’s a good time to apply for a new rewards credit card.

Bora Bora bungalows. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Big bonuses

I want a big welcome bonus from whatever credit card I get next. Preferably, I want a bonus worth $1,000 or more.

For me, there are two prime candidates I’d recommend others to apply for right now, both with the highest bonuses we’ve seen yet.

The first is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card that’s offering a limited-time increased bonus of 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months of account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Depending on how you use these miles, they are worth $1,000 to $1,400 toward travel (the latter is based on TPG valuations and not the issuer) with just a $95 annual fee. I’m kind of loving having points I can use toward home rentals and other more flexible redemption types, so I know I could put those to great use. But, I can also choose to redeem these miles by transferring to partners if I want.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy)

Then there is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and its best-ever offer of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points awarded after $4,000 in spending in the first three months and a $50 statement credit toward a grocery purchase. This is valued at $1,650 based on TPG valuations if you leverage the 13 hotel and airline partners such as Southwest, United, Hyatt and more.

But — even if you want to keep things super simple and not transfer your Chase points to any partner, you can still book $1,000 in travel via the Chase Travel site with those 80,000 points. This is, by far, my most recommend card to those new to points and miles.

Related: How to maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards points 

A third card high on my personal radar, even though the bonus isn’t worth quite as much, is the Citi Prestige® Card. This card is offering 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within the first three months. TPG values this bonus at $850.

The information for the Citi Prestige 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.

What’s cool about this card for me, is that you can use the points to book Disney World tickets and hotel stays.

In fact, Citi ThankYou points are the best type of points for that type of trip. With the Citi Prestige card, you can also get the fourth night free on paid hotel stays up to twice per year. In our new reality, we are actually staying at hotels longer than before when we travel, so I think we could put this perk to use.

The card’s annual $250 travel credit per calendar year can also be used toward supermarket and restaurant purchases in 2021.

Here are many more rewards credit cards currently offering welcome bonuses that TPG values at $1,000 or more as well as the ones with welcome bonuses at or above 100,000 points.

New travel patterns

Not only are credit card welcome bonuses really good right now, but it is a great time to evaluate your current travel patterns. Or rather, think about what your travel patterns are most likely to be in the coming months

A lot has changed this year in the world of travel while many of us were staying home. For example, multiple airline route networks got a shake-up to some leisure destinations and even to new airports. Southwest Airlines added lots of dots to their route map, including Colorado ski country destinations, which catches my attention.

Other airlines similarly expanded service in some areas while contracting in others. The best airline for your 2021 and 2022 flights may not be the one that was best in prior years. Additionally, more airlines moved to fee-free change policies that will outlive the pandemic.

If Delta has become your airline of choice, the line-up of Delta credit cards is currently offering bonuses of up to 90,000 Delta SkyMiles. I have and love the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card thanks to its annual awarding of a companion airline ticket. The timing to get this card is currently exceptional as it is offering 90,000 miles after $3,000 in spending in the first three months of account opening.

Delta 757
(Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

If you expect to stay at Marriott properties in 2021 or 2022, another increased card offer to consider is from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.

Until May 12, 2021, this card awards up to 125,000 bonus Marriott points after $5,000 in spending in the first three months of account opening. On top of that, the card is also offering $200 statement credits against spending at U.S. restaurants in the first six months.

St. Regis Aspen (Photo by Becca Manheimer/The Points Guy)

You can start making plans

It felt impossible to plan for much of 2020. As soon as you thought maybe things were getting better, they’d get worse all over again. And while that is still true to some extent in 2021, the vaccine rollout really is a gamechanger for life — and travel.

While we all know anything can happen, it’s now possible to make tentative travel plans for the upcoming months and feel more secure that they are likely to happen.

After not traveling through the winter months, my family is fresh off of a successful spring break ski trip.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Next up is a family trip to Disney World, a kid-free trip to the beach and then a multi-generation trip to Glacier National Park. And while we may have to tweak or delay something if circumstances change, the adults in our traveling group are all vaccinated and ready to safely get back out there.

That means I have the ability to make educated guesses on which points and perks will be most useful for us in the coming months.

Getting back out there also means we are again able to use airline credits and lounge access from cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Denver Amex Centurion Lounge (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

This card currently has a public welcome bonus of 75,000-points after you spend $5,000 in the first six months of account opening. It’s also offering new cardholders a whopping 10x points per dollar spent on eligible purchases made at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets. This bonus applies to up to $15,000 in combined spending during the first six months of card membership.

But some lucky folks are eligible for a bonus of up to 125,000 points via the CardMatch tool, so check there first before applying.

Bottom line

Despite everything that is still going on, it’s actually a great time to consider getting a new rewards credit card — especially if you’ve laid low on applying for new cards this year as we have. While we were busy waiting, the welcome bonuses have shot up to some historic levels.

And, with the summer travel right around the corner, you may be able to line-up some solid uses of those points, miles and perks whether you are booking a cabin nearby on the river or getting back up in the sky once again.

Featured image by author

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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