Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
2016 is coming to a close and I know many of y’all are thinking of applying for new cards before the New Year.
Lots of folks in the miles & points hobby like to open credit card accounts late in the year, for many reasons. For example, you can earn annual credit card perks more than once in a short period of time!
I’ll show you which cards are good to consider if you’re applying this month. And which are NOT.
Why Is December the Best Time to Apply for Certain Credit Cards?
1. Easily Meet Minimum Spending Requirements
Many of us spend a significant amount of money in December, on holiday gifts, travel, special events, and dining out.
I’ve shown you 40+ ways to complete minimum spending requirements, like paying your rent with Plastiq, or putting your car insurance on your card. Even still, minimum spending requirements can seem intimidating!
Using your credit card for holiday shopping you would do anyway is one of the easiest ways to complete minimum spending. So if you’re concerned about meeting a big minimum spend requirement, you’ll likely have an easier time this holiday season!
Or, if you want to apply for a credit card with a higher spending requirement than you’d normally apply for, like The Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, now might be your best bet! The AMEX Business Platinum comes with 50,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 within 3 months. And ANOTHER 50,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after spending an additional $10,000 within 3 months.
Note: Remember, you don’t need a million dollar business to qualify for a small business card. If you have a for-profit venture, like coaching, tutoring, or selling on eBay, you have a small business! Just fill out the card application as a sole proprietor and use your Social Security Number as your EIN (Employer Identification Number)!
2. Earn Annual Benefits Twice Before Paying an Annual Fee Twice
Link: Chase Ritz-Carlton
Several credit cards come with excellent ongoing benefits that renew each calendar year. For example, many have statement credits you can earn twice in the first year you have the card, before you pay the annual fee a second time.
For example, the Chase Ritz-Carlton comes with a $300 annual travel credit for qualifying airline purchases, like baggage fees and lounge passes, seat upgrades, etc. And the credit re-sets each calendar year.
And the AMEX Business Platinum, AMEX Platinum, AMEX Mercedes-Benz Platinum, and AMEX Premier Rewards Gold cards include up to $200 in statement credits ($100 for Premier Rewards Gold) per calendar year on a selected airline for incidentals such as baggage fees, lounge day passes, in-flight food and drink, etc.
Be aware! You must USE the annual travel credits in 2016, or you’ll lose them.
By applying for these cards now and using the annual travel credit before the end of 2016, and again in 2017, you’ll get 2X the travel credit for one annual fee. That’s a great deal!
Note: Other cards with yearly travel credits, like the Citi Prestige Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve, consider the end of a year as “the close of the December statement.” So these are NOT good cards to apply for now, because it’s too late to get the travel credit for 2016 and earn it again in 2017 before the next annual fee comes due.
3. Perfect Time to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass!
Link: Southwest Companion Pass
To get the Companion Pass, you need to earn 110,000 Southwest points in a calendar year. The Companion Pass will be valid for the remainder of the year you earn it, as well as the entire following year! So to maximize the time you can use the Companion Pass, you should try to earn it as early in the year as possible.
The sign-up bonus you earn with the Chase Southwest cards counts towards the 110,000 Southwest points you need to earn the Companion Pass. The best way to earn the Companion Pass is to apply for these cards now because it’s late in the year, and complete the minimum spending in 2017. That way the points post to your account in early 2017 – which will get you the Companion Pass for close to 2 years!
Note: Chase is unlikely to approve most folks for 2 personal cards at the same time. So it’s better to sign-up for 1 personal card and 1 small business card.
And remember, Chase has tightened their application rules. So if you’ve opened 5+ credit cards (from any bank) in the past 24 months (excluding certain business cards, like the The Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN), it’s unlikely you’ll be approved for most Chase cards.
4. Open a New Card With Better Purchase Protection
Credit card companies have been improving their benefits. This holiday shopping season, make sure the card you shop with comes with solid purchase protection!
For example, when you use the Ink Business Preferred, you’ll get up to $10,000 of insurance for items that are stolen or damaged within 120 days of purchase. Plus, if the item you buy has a warranty of 3 years or less, you can extend the warranty by 1 year!
The Ink Business Preferred will also refund you the difference in price if you find a better deal later (excluding personal seller sites like eBay). You can get up to $500 per item, and no more than $2,500 per calendar year.
If you use the card to buy something the store refuses to refund, you can receive up to $500 per item, up to $1,000 per year. You must attempt to return the item within 90 days of your purchase.
A few other credit cards with excellent purchase protection are:
- Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express – Up to $50,000 per year for 90 days after your purchase
- The Platinum Card® from American Express – Up to $50,000 per year for 90 days after your purchase
- Chase United Explorer – $10,000 in purchase protection per item for 120 days after your purchase
Applying for credit cards late in the year is a fantastic strategy for 4 main reasons:
- The holiday season makes it easier to reach minimum spending requirements
- You can earn annual credit card perks twice in a short period of time (like the $300 airline travel credit you get each calendar year with the Chase Ritz-Carlton card)
- Now is the perfect time to begin earning the Southwest Companion Pass to get nearly 2 years worth out of it!
- Some cards, like the Ink Business Preferred, have excellent purchase protection benefits
Will you be applying for new credit cards this month as part of your strategy for earning Big Travel with Small Money?