Why right now is the most rewarding time to apply for a new rewards credit card

Jun 18, 2021

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We are at an interesting moment in time. Travel is on the rebound, we can (hopefully) see the 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 2020 when everything was so uncertain, it may be time to pull your wallet out of hibernation.

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Right now, credit card welcome bonuses are reaching insane heights. In fact, multiple offers are at all-time highs, such as the  Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. And with so many in the U.S. getting back to leisure travel, the timing for opening a rewards credit card is actually great.

Here are a few reasons why it’s an insanely 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. And that’s actually an easy goal to achieve right now.

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

The first is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card that’s offering a  bonus of 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Depending on how you use these miles, they are worth $1,020 toward travel (the latter is based on TPG valuations and not the issuer) with just a $95 annual fee. I love having points I can use toward home rentals and other more flexible redemption types, so I know I will put these miles now that I’ve unlocked the full 60,000-mile bonus. But, I can also choose to redeem these miles by transferring to partners if I want.

Then there is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and its new best-ever offer of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. This bonus is valued at $2,000 based on TPG valuations if you leverage the 13 hotel and airline partners such as  SouthwestUnited, 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 $1,250 in travel via the Chase Travel site with those 100,000 points. This is, by far, my most recommend card to those new to points and miles.

Related: How to maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards points 

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. For example, 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 for you 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 and current offer of 90,000 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. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

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 Boundless Credit Card.

This card just introduced a welcome bonus that awards 125,000 bonus points + 1 free night (valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 in the first three months from account opening (total of up to 175,000 bonus points).

While not every Marriott property is available for booking with a 50,000 point per night certificate, you do have your pick of several solid 50k choices.

Cloudveil prices for 50,000 per night on off-peak nights (Photo by Summer Hull/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 has really been 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 than was true last year.

After not traveling through the winter months, my family is fresh off a successful spring ski trip, a return to Disney World and a trek through Glacier National Park.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

And after a lean 2020 travel year, that’s just the beginning of what we have planned for the coming months.

Getting back out there means we can again use airline credits and lounge access from cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express (enrollment required).

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 card membership. 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 eligible purchases during the first six months of card membership. The card has an annual fee of $550 (see rates and fees).

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 (targeted offer; subject to change at anytime).

Bottom line

While not everything is 100% back to normal, it’s now a great time to consider getting a new rewards credit card — especially if you’ve laid low on applying for new cards this year. While we were busy waiting, the welcome bonuses have shot up to some truly historical levels.

And, with the summer travel here, 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.

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

Featured image by author

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