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

Disclosure: Well Traveled Mile has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Well Traveled Mile and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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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Advertiser Disclosure
Advertiser Disclosure: Well Traveled Mile has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Well Traveled Mile and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
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