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If you’re like me, you try to time your big purchases around the best credit card offers. What may be surprising to learn is that signup/welcome bonuses have a seasonality factor. You can earn bigger offers during certain times of the year. Here is a closer look at when you might apply for a new credit card.
October to December
The 4th quarter is the best time of year for many rewards credit cards as the bonus offers are at or near historic highs. Most issuers start rolling out the enhanced bonuses in October and early November, providing enough time to receive the physical card before the Black Friday deals, holiday gift buying spree, and end-of-year travel season start.
For example, some of my favorite brands only offer their best deals over Black Friday weekend. So, I wait and buy annual subscriptions or as much as possible of certain products to avoid paying full price the rest of the year.
These enhanced offers are typically available through December. Additionally, certain cards offer bonus rewards with select merchants and purchase categories that customers frequent more often during the closing months of the calendar year.
You may also choose to open a new account during this time to qualify for 0% APR introductory offers on purchases and balance transfers.
WalletHub states, “The best time of year to apply for a credit card is October through December, judging by the higher rate of new accounts being opened then. The busy holiday shopping season and the attractive bonus offers that credit card companies have been known to roll out around then have a lot to do with Q4 being a good time to apply.”
February to May
The late winter and spring season is the second best time of year to apply. Credit card issuers usually offer a higher number of limited-time offers from February until May. Consumers now have more funds after the holiday season and are starting to book summer travel.
While banks don’t announce when the most valuable offers are coming out, the spring can be an excellent time to apply for the some of the top cards. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Cards have offered between 80,000 and 100,000 bonus points in previous February through May periods, versus the standard offer of 60,000 to 70,000 points.
However, it may make sense to apply for one of these cards sooner if you’re ready to start spending money. While you might miss out on a few hundred dollars in extra credit card rewards, you get the best card for long-term use which can be more beneficial. Plus, you may be able to participate in exclusive programs, such as the Amex Member Week 2023 events.
Additionally, certain co-brand credit cards like the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards typically offer different benefits in the spring than in the fall. For reference, the standard offer tends to be 40,000-50,000 Rapid Rewards and anything more is usually a limited-time bonus. Sometimes, new cardholders can get a limited-time Companion Pass® for several months.
When You Have a Big Purchase
Sometimes, you can’t wait months to spend a lot of money, and you need the best offer now. Choosing from today’s best credit card offers is the best option in this situation as banks are always offering some type of limited-time deal.
The elevated signup bonuses may not be for your #1 credit card, but there are plenty of flexible rewards and co-branded products you can benefit from.
Research Signup Bonus Trends
Each credit card product and card issuer has different signup bonus offer transfer trends. Researching the bonus history can indicate when a particular bonus will appear again.
Keep in mind that the past doesn’t guarantee the future and issuers may adjust the offer details or timing to respond to the current credit card landscape. For example, the institution may already have too many applicants, or they want to attract attention to a different product.
Several outlets, including Reddit, let users input data points about recent offers. You may spot a trend that can help you time your application.
Wait for Targeted Offers
You may receive targeted offers directly from the card issuer if you are an existing customer or by using their online prequalification tool. Sometimes, it’s possible to get exclusive offers by mail.
Another option is using CardMatch™ which tends to provide exclusive offers for participating American Express credit cards. You can also estimate your approval odds and compare the best credit cards without hurting your credit score.
New Credit Card Launches
Typically, credit cards tend to have their most valuable offers when launching to establish a user base quickly. These first-time offers are usually $100 to $300 more than the standard offer that appears after the first few months.
This is true for the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card which was offering 100,000 bonus miles to early adopters. The standard bonus is only 75,000 miles (after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months). That’s a difference of $250 in award travel redemptions. It pays to get the card when it first comes out if you can satisfy the spending requirements and application guidelines.
Further, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offered 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards® and that offer hasn’t come back since 2017. The best offer since then is 80,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months). It’s still not too shabby. But, earning 20,000 fewer points is a difference of $300 in additional rewards.
Wait Six Months Between Applications
It’s also a good idea to wait at least six months between card applications. Waiting provides time for your credit score to rebound from the hard inquiry. You get half a year to establish a positive payment history. This can motivate card issuers to have more confidence in approving your application. Plus, they may even issue a higher spending limit.
The waiting period can also be pivotal in strengthening your finances so you can afford the spending requirements for the most valuable credit card offers. You may need to spend anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 within a short timeframe to earn the bonus.
In conclusion, the fall and spring tend to be the best time of year for credit card offers. You may find that your preferred credit card tends to have a pattern when limited-time promotions go active. Whether you’re timing your application or not, the best cards for travelers to use are an excellent starting point.