Timing when to apply for a new credit card for a lucrative welcome 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 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 (OFFER EXPIRED) 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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