It’s important to be strategic when applying for a new travel credit card. You want to look for the best sign-up bonus and lowest interest rate, but you also want to apply at the right time.
According to a 2016 study from NerdWallet, 83% of consumers apply for credit cards at the wrong time, forfeiting massive amounts of points and up to $177 in rewards. To remedy this, the personal finance site suggests that consumers apply for credits cards five months before they plan to take a trip. This ensures that you can meet the minimum spending requirement needed to qualify for the sign-up bonus – which is typically $2,000 to $4,000 in the first three or four months.
Many credit card companies have flashy promotions in the fall, so you may not see those super enticing deals this time of year. With that said, many cards still offer great rewards with travel perks that can help you save big money on airfare, baggage fees and foreign transaction fees. Since a lot people take trips in the summer, now is the perfect time to sign up for a new travel credit card so you can redeem the perks in June or July.
Here are some of the best sign-up bonuses currently available.
Note: It’s important to only open a credit card if you can take on the financial responsibility. If you are paying down other debts or can’t pass a credit check, wait on the credit card and use these tips to save money for your travel fund.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Fees: Free the first year. $95 annually. No foreign transaction fees.
As you research travel credit cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card will probably keep showing up, and for good reason — it’s pretty amazing. New users can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. That equals about $625 toward travel when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The best part about this card is that it’s not tied to a specific airline or hotel, so you can use your rewards to book flights, rooms, and even cruises on your preferred carrier. You can even transfer points to popular loyalty programs like United MileagePlus, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, and Marriott Rewards at a 1-to-1 value.
When it comes to earning points, card users will get 2x points on all travel purchases, including taxis and trains. You can also earn bonus points when you shop through Chase.com at major retailers like Best Buy, Macy’s and Apple.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
Fees: Free for the first year. $89 annually. No foreign transaction fees.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard doesn’t mess around when it comes to travel rewards. After spending $3,000 in the first 90 days, card users will earn 50,000 bonus miles, which can be redeemed for flights, hotels, trains, cruises and rental cars. In addition to earning two miles for every dollar spent, card users will get 5% back in miles every time they redeem miles. For example, if you redeem 40,000 miles, you will receive 2,000 miles as a bonus to use toward your next redemption. Even better, your miles don’t expire, so as long as your account is open and active, you’ll have access to your rewards.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards
Fees: No annual fee. No foreign transaction fees.
If you’re looking for a card with a lower minimum spend and no annual fee, consider the Bank Americard Travel Rewards card. After spending a minimum of $1,000 in the first 90 days, card users earn 20,000 bonus points, which can be redeemed for a $200 statement credit. Consumers can use that statement credit for anything from flights and hotels to rental cars and baggage fees.
Earning points is also incredibly easy. Card users get 1.5 points for every dollar spent, and those with a Bank of America checking or savings account get an additional 10% in bonus points on every purchase. So, for instance, if you make a $100 purchase – and you have a BofA account, you get 150 points (because you get 1.5 points for every dollar spent) and another 10% – 165 points total.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
Fees: $69 annually. No foreign transaction fees.
If you want to become loyal to one airline, Southwest wouldn’t be a bad choice. Known for their affordable flights and non-existent baggage fees and change fees, the airline’s cost transparency is refreshing at a time when many airlines are nickel-and-diming customers.
Ranked as the third-best airline rewards program by US News & World Report (behind Alaska Airlines and JetBlue), Southwest’s Rapid Rewards loyalty members earn points for every dollar they spend on flights. One easy way to accrue points faster is by applying for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card. New users can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months. In addition, you’ll get 3,000 bonus points every year for your card anniversary.
When using the card, flyers will earn two points for every dollar spent on Southwest and Rapid Rewards travel purchases. Cardholders will also earn one point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
Fees: $85 annually. No foreign transaction fees.
In September 2016, Marriott International (MAR) acquired Starwood hotels, making it the largest lodging company in the world. For loyalty members of either company, this means rewards and benefits can now be redeemed at more than 5,700 hotels in 110 countries. Get the most out of your hotel loyalty by signing up for the Marriott Rewards credit card, which comes with 80,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Points can be redeemed for airline miles, rental cars and hotel stays. In the Marriott rewards program, free-night stays start at 7,500 points.
It’s also really easy to acquire new points, with card users earning five points per every $1 spent at more than 4,000 Marriott locations. Outside of the hotel, customers will earn two points for $1 spent on airline tickets and restaurants. Additional benefits include a free night stay at a category 1-5 hotel every year after your account anniversary.
Brittany is a writer and reporter at Yahoo Finance.