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Practical Pointers: Make sure you don't miss that credit card welcome bonus

Sept. 25, 2022
6 min read
practical pointers
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There are many reasons to sign up for a travel credit card, whether it be the points you earn through your everyday spending or the other benefits you’ll enjoy through your membership. Of course, one of the biggest advantages of opening a card is the welcome bonus. Many travel cards will give you a large number of bonus points for signing up, as long as you spend a certain amount of money on the card in a certain amount of time.

Depending on the card and the offer, the points you earn through the one-time bonus may be more than the points you’ll earn in a whole year through spending alone. It’s often enough for multiple free flights or hotel nights (depending, of course, on the flight and property).

Because the points or miles are essentially free if you charge the minimum amount required to earn the bonus, it can be a big factor in your decision to apply for a card and pay an annual fee if the card has one.

At the same time, it's important to remember that the welcome offer — and the chance to accrue tens of thousands of bonus points — typically goes away after a given period of time, so it’s imperative to meet that spending requirement.

D3SIGN/MOMENT COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES

Adjust your spending habits

When evaluating whether a particular credit card is right for you, look at whether the spending requirement is realistic for you to meet in the allotted time. Once you’re approved for a card, you’ll want to sit down and formulate a plan to ensure you spend the required amount on time.

Here are some general things you can do to prepare for the first few months as a new cardholder so you can ensure you qualify for the bonus.

Now may be the time for large expenses

If you're already planning on large upcoming expenses, whether for flights, a home appliance or a new laptop you've been thinking about, the first few months with a new card may be a good time to make the purchase. Of course, you want to make sure you can afford to incur these expenses during that time period. However, if it’s money you're planning on spending in the near future, making the purchase at a time when it can help you meet a spending requirement can go a long way.

Unplanned expenses can ironically help too, as much as you hate to have them. An unfortunate example is that while I was working toward a spending requirement after adding The Platinum Card® from American Express to my wallet, my dog fell ill (he’s fine now). I was out of town, so my wife took him to the vet — and alerted me that the bill had come to $700. After cringing and asking for details about how he was doing, I told my wife, “Be sure to charge the visit to the Amex Platinum.”

As much as I hated having a sick pup, big expenses — planned and unplanned — can take away some of the anxiety around meeting the spending requirement.

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Focus your attention on that card

You’ll most likely want to charge your purchases on the new card, even if it’s not the ideal card for the type of spending you’re doing. For instance, say you already have a card that earns 3 points per dollar on dining and you just opened one that only earns 1 point per dollar at restaurants.

Just during the initial period, you may want to put the bill on the 1-point-per-dollar card, even though you technically wouldn't be maximizing your spending. At the end of the day, earning the welcome bonus is more important.

Now, if you’ve planned your expenses carefully enough to know that you’ll meet the requirement easily, you can be more strategic; as a general rule of thumb, though, it’s a good idea to focus on the card with a welcome bonus you’re pursuing.

Don't buy things you don’t need

As time goes on, if you find you’re just not getting close enough to the amount of money you need to charge, there are better options out there than buying an expensive product you otherwise wouldn’t purchase. After all, the whole goal here is to save money.

This is where you can get creative and think outside the box a bit. See if your employer will let you pay for expenses on your card and then reimburse you or ask to pay bills for a family member or friend with the same reimbursement plan. As long as you’re reimbursed in a timely manner, paying for others’ expenses with your card can be a great way to ensure you meet your goals.

There are many other tricks you can employ to ensure you meet this requirement.

YUGANOV KONSTANTIN/SHUTTERSHOCK

Be cautious when cutting it close

As you try to meet your spending requirement, it’s important to be cautious when counting on expenses to process too close to your deadline.

Whether the cost of an item you bought online doesn’t end up hitting your card until it ships (as opposed to when you clicked "purchase") or you get a refund for a shirt you returned four days before the deadline, little things can end up putting you back under the threshold and prove costly if you don't get the welcome bonus as a result.

Without racking up expenses you can’t handle, the further in advance you can reach the required minimum spend (and the more you can clear it by), the safer you’ll be.

Bottom line

While selecting the right credit card for your spending and travel habits can be crucial to your points-earning potential through bonus spending categories, it's hard to replicate the value you get in points, essentially for free, out of that welcome bonus.

For that reason, doing everything you can to qualify for that bonus (without spending money you don’t have or large sums of money you wouldn’t have otherwise spent) is a goal worth planning for and ensuring you meet.

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Featured image by MOMO PRODUCTIONS/GETTY IMAGES
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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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023