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While most people are focused on enjoying the fall season, I’d like to note that now is an ideal time to sign up for a new credit card with an eye toward holiday travel. Yes, Christmas is still two months away, but it can take time to earn a sign-up bonus. You’ll also want to build in some advance booking time. If anything, it’s actually a little late in the game.
The best credit card bonuses typically require new cardholders to spend a few thousand dollars in their first few months with the new card. The rewards generally appear shortly after the customer hits that threshold, often on the next statement date.
It’s very important, of course, to avoid overspending. The best way to hit a credit card sign-up bonus spending threshold is with money you would have spent anyway. And make sure to pay in full and on time to avoid interest and protect your credit score.
Despite conflicting economic signals, credit card sign-ups are still booming. Originations hit a record high this year, according to TransUnion. It’s a competitive market; you can use that to your advantage.
Here are some of my favorite travel card offers that are available right now:
The Citi Premier® Card is offering 60,000 ThankYou points to new customers who spend $4,000 within three months of opening the card. Those points are worth $600 in travel booked through Citi and potentially much more if you utilize transfer partners such as Avianca, Emirates, Flying Blue (Air France/KLM), JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and many others. Bankrate values Citi ThankYou points at 1.6 cents apiece, meaning this welcome bonus could be worth up to $960. You might even be able to exceed that with some creativity and flexibility.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points to new cardholders who spend $4,000 in the first three months, worth $750 in travel booked through Chase. If you go down the transfer partner path, your points could be worth 2.0 cents apiece, thanks to lucrative partnerships with brands such as Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and others.
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is dangling 75,000 miles in front of new cardholders who spend $4,000 in their first three months with the card. These can offset $750 in travel or potentially stretch even further via transfer partners that include Aeroplan (Air Canada), British Airways, Etihad, Qantas, Turkish Airlines and more. Bankrate values Capital One miles at up to 1.7 cents each.
Other aspects to consider
Each of these cards charges an annual fee of $95. There are plenty of other compelling travel cards on the market, some with higher annual fees and some with no fees. Don’t forget about cash back, either. Even though our focus right now is on holiday travel, cash back is a very popular credit card reward. Who couldn’t use more cash, right?
Another key consideration is your ongoing spending. While a sign-up bonus is great, you should also seek a new card that emphasizes areas in which you spend a lot of money (for instance, travel, dining and so on).
Finally, consider the card’s other perks as well. For example, the Venture card comes with an up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, and the Sapphire Preferred offers an up to $50 annual hotel credit for eligible stays booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
The bottom line
As long as you’re spending money you would have spent anyway, and paying in full to avoid interest, signing up for a new credit card can provide you with a substantial sign-up bonus — plus better rewards on your ongoing spending.
Travel costs remain high this year, along with prices on just about everything else. Earning rewards from a new credit card could be another useful inflation-busting strategy as we head toward the always-expensive holiday season.