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Current Airline Card Bonuses vs Past Highest Bonuses: When to Apply, When to Wait



Timing when to apply for a new credit card for a lucrative signup bonus is always a gamble–you always want the best offers. Period. It can even get more complicated when applying for multiple credit cards at a time, at which point you just have to choose which top current offers you want to go after.

Truth be told I don’t always stick to a strict time period when launching a new round of credit card applications. Instead, after the typical 91 days application period cycle is over, I wait for an amazing targeted offer or a new bonus to pull the trigger. With this strategy I figure I am at least getting one or more of the best offers.

Almost all other airline card offers seem to fluctuate from a best offer to a lowest offer. Most of these cards tend to bounce back and forth from the best and lowest offer, however the timing between the bonus increases is unknown–and in some cases have only hit the best bonus once in the past.

Put a value on your miles

You are likely to value miles and points different than myself or someone else. Some things to consider is how you use your miles:

do you want to maximize the number of roundtrip economy flights or would you rather have fewer business class flights and travel in luxury?

Where do you plan traveling to? How is the award availability?

Between Star Alliance and One World, I find that they cover pretty much every place I would like to book it to, but there are better uses for each program. For example, Star Alliance has many more destinations with their partners with flights to Southern South America (Patagonia region). Having miles that are easy to book and can take you to destinations high on your list make them much more valuable.

Get the best offer

The real question is, what is the best credit card offer and how do I get it? As I mentioned before, credit card bonus offers tend to fluctuate–so timing is essential, yet unpredictable. As you can see, some of these offers differ by as much as a 100%, so it could be well worth the wait to double your bonus if you’re confident that the best offer will be back. With that said, in a perfect world the current offer would always increase back to the best offer level, but in some cases it never does.


Credit Card                                                                     Current Bonus           Best Normal/All-time

Chase Sapphire Preferred                                                         40,000                          50,000

Ink Bold Business Card                                                             50,000                          50,000

Ink Plus Business Card                                                             50,000                          50,000

United MileagePlus Explorer Card                                             35,000                          55,000

British Airways Visa Signature Card                                           50,000                          100,000

Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard                                        40,000                          40,000

Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World Mastercard                    35,000                          50,000

US Airways Premier World MasterCard                                      40,000                          40,000

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier/Plus                        50,000                          50,000

Citi AAdvantage Visa Signature                                                 30,000                     50,000/75,000

AMEX Gold Delta SkyMiles                                                        30,000                          70,000

AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card                                            25,000                          75,000

AMEX Platinum Card                                                                25,000                    50,000/100,000

AMEX Business Gold Rewards Card                                           50,000                         75,000

AMEX Business Platinum Card                                                  25,000                         50,000

Capital One® VentureSM Rewards Credit Card                       1,000                   100,000 (mile match)

Chase Freedom® Visa                                                             10,000                         25,000

This chart shows the current offers for the major airline cards and the best normal bonus as well as an all-time high bonus. Most of the all-time bonus levels were only hit once a few years ago and haven’t appeared since. Although it is possible to see some ground shaking bonuses come back,  current top offers tend to be less than 100,000 points with exception to the British Airways and AMEX Personal Platinum cards. These are the types of offers that disappear fast so you have to jump on them. They’re also the  ones that I either would use to launch a round of credit card applications or would apply for individually because the offer is so good.

I have found that there is not much rhyme or reason of when the all-time best bonuses come up other than the card companies need to increase the number of applications coming in or they have a new card they are trying to promote. Most the all-time offers came out right after the low of the financial crisis and many card companies were looking to get more people signing up and spending. Both the Capital One up to 100,000 mile matching promo and the Citi Addvantage 75,000 mile bonus appeared over a couple years ago.

That doesn’t mean that we won’t see bonuses that high again, but it is my guess that we won’t likely see these amazing offers as abundant anytime soon. More than likely there will be a sprinkling of amazing offers around 100,000 points that pop up from time-to-time when a card company is looking to raises there numbers.

Hopefully you can use this list to gauge where the current offer stand compared to past best offers and decide whether or not to apply for a current bonus or wait it out and see whats around the corner.

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6 Comments

  • Great post. I’m closing in on 90 days since my last round of apps, which was my first to be honest. I’m trying to decide it I should wait longer or not this very minute before doing it again. Mostly I’m waiting because I don’t have my next goal in mind yet, but the recent 75K offer AMEX had out for about 3 days and then dissappeared has me thinking I might sit tight for a while in case any more like that pop up.

    • Oh I was going to say too, I wonder if you have dates on when those high rates were since you are probably on to something about the providers trying to prop up the numbers and I’m curious if it’s at the end of month or end of quarter when most happen. June is end of Q2 so I’ll cross my fingers.

    • @ Scott – You are in a good position to do another round or card applications as soon as an amazing offer comes out. Hopefully some more good offers come out soon, its been kind of slow! If you want American Airline miles check out new official offer of 40,000 miles (previously 30k). You might be on to something about the timing of good offers coming out at the end of Q2.

      • I’m considering the AA citi, I am in DFW near an AA hub so my travel plans might be on AA. To make matters worse I’m about to receive a job offer where I’ll be traveling between DFW and STL/DEN weekly and staying at a Hyatt. I have a choice of SWA or AA for airline loyalty and I’m kind of torn on what airline/cards to to choose in order to maximize this opportunity. I have no status on any. All the cards seem to come from Chase too so that’s makes it even more interesting, except for AA cards of course; well there’s always AMEX membership rewards cards or Chase URs (oh wait that’s Chase again.) 😀

  • I don’t have any business cards, how hard is it to get them for a side business? Thanks!

    • It is actually very easy to get a business card, on the application just use your social security number and list yourself as ‘sole proprietor’ of your ‘business’.