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Miles and Points Newbies: Why November is a Great Month for a New Credit Card

This post is targeted to people who are new to miles and points and those who are still contemplating getting involved in this “hobby.”  For miles and points veterans, maybe you have friends and family who are curious how you travel for “free” using miles and points, but they haven’t made the leap into your world yet. This is for them!

Why Miles and Points Credit Cards?

Thanks to miles and points credit cards, I haven’t paid for an airline ticket in over three years. THREE YEARS! I have 5 people in my family, and in the past three years we have flown to Colorado and Florida multiple times, New York, Hawaii, California, Minnesota and Mexico. (Disclaimer: Technically, the tickets haven’t been completely free since award tickets have a 9/11 fee of $5.60 per ticket for domestic flights and higher fees for international destinations…but the tickets were almost free).

Hawaii trip thanks to miles and points

Hawaii trip thanks to miles and points

On most of our trips, we’ve also stayed at hotels for free using hotel points.

How? A few times a year, my husband and I apply for a new credit card that earns miles or points. We put our normal monthly spending on the credit card (groceries, gas, kids’ activities, restaurants, etc.) and pay off in full every month. We only apply for credit cards with great miles/points bonuses that we know we can use for future trips. After accumulating enough miles and points to cover airline tickets and hotels for our family vacations, we book our trips. (See this Beginner’s Guide for more information).

I’ll cut to the chase. November is a great month to apply for a new credit card for three reasons.

It’s easier to meet credit card minimum spending during November and December.

People spend more during November and December due to elevated holiday and end-of-year expenses. According to Bank of America, consumers spend 40% more on their credit cards in December than an average month.

Where is all that extra spending going?

  • Gifts for family, friends, teachers
  • Holiday travel
  • Big ticket electronics and appliances
  • Property tax payments

Most credit cards require that you spend $1000 – $5000 in the first three months in order to get a lucrative sign-up bonus of 40,000 – 100,000 points/miles. Opening a new card in November ensures that you can meet that minimum spending to trigger the bonus with your organic spending.

If you’re going to be spending that money anyway (and hopefully you have the money in savings to pay off your bills in full each month), why not earn a bunch of miles and points at the same time?

Since I live in Texas and we don’t have state income taxes, our property tax bill is higher than many other states. We choose not to participate in escrow with our mortgage company, and instead we save our money each month to pay our property tax bill at the end of the year. We can usually meet one credit card’s minimum spending with this payment alone. Although we pay a small fee to put our property tax on a credit card (check with your county—our county’s fee is ~2%), the miles and points bonus far outweighs the small charge.

Florida beach trip on miles and points

Florida beach trip on miles and points

You can take advantage of double travel credits.

Some credit cards offer yearly travel credits as a benefit per calendar year. Getting a new card in November allows you to reap that benefit in 2016 and 2017 while only paying one year’s worth of the annual fee.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $300 yearly travel credit. The travel credit is reimbursed for every calendar year. If you apply for the card now, you can get reimbursed for a $300 travel expense in November and then again in January. You only have to pay the card’s annual fee once to get $600 in benefits. Similarly, the American Express Platinum card has a $200 yearly airline credit that you could receive twice for one annual fee.

 

Mall of America on miles and points

Mall of America on miles and points

There are some great new credit card bonuses available right now.

Update: Credit card offers are constantly changing. See our Hot Deals page for more info.

Right now, there are some unprecedented credit card promotions going on in the miles and points world. The best card for you depends on your travel goals and spending habits. Two of the best bonuses currently available are:

Chase Sapphire Reserve: This is a relatively new card offering. Right now, the bonus is 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4000 in the first three months. The card also comes with a $300 per calendar year travel credit. It does have a hefty $450 annual fee, but the travel credit you will get this year and again in January ($600 total) more than covers the annual fee. UPDATE: the 100k bonus ends on 1/11/17. Starting 1/12/17, the sign-up bonus is 50k.

If you are not traveling before the end of this year, you can buy airline gift cards directly through the airlines to trigger the travel credit. Or, consider putting a deposit on a cruise for a future date!

Ultimate Rewards points are very valuable and flexible. You can convert them into Hyatt points, United miles and Southwest miles, to name a few. You can also use them in the Ultimate Rewards portal for $1500 worth of travel. See this post on the top uses for 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

The card earns 3X points on travel and dining, which can add up fast depending on your monthly spending habits.

Applications for the Chase Sapphire Reserve have skyrocketed, and some experts believe that Chase will eventually reduce the sign-up bonus. Banks are very unpredictable, so there really is no way to know how long this bonus will be offered. Be aware that this card can be difficult to get if you have applied for over five new cards in the last two years (see 5/24 rule).

Barclaycard Arrival Plus: This card currently has a bonus of 40,000 points after spending $3000 within the first 90 days. That’s worth $400 in free travel for any charge that is coded as travel! This is a great flexible point currency to have to pay for hotels that don’t have traditional reward point charts.

The card earns 2X points on all spending, and the $89 annual fee is waived for the first year.

We do receive a commission on both cards if you apply through the site, but these offers are so good that we would recommend them regardless. In fact, I got them myself! If these cards don’t fit your travel goals, check out the Resources at the top of the blog for other suggestions, or feel free to ask Leana or me about which card is right for you.

If you’ve been waiting to start accumulating miles and points for travel, there is no better time than now to get started with a new credit card!

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Author: Nancy

Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.

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11 thoughts on “Miles and Points Newbies: Why November is a Great Month for a New Credit Card

    • Woohoo! That’s great news! Pre-approval in branch? I may need to stop by a branch next week to see if I made the list (my husband currently has the card).

  1. Yep. I was pre approved for literally every personal card they offer in branch. I was at 5/24 with AU cards. It’s a no brained to check.

  2. Your reasoning seems to be flawed. You can get double travel credits no matter when you apply for cards like the Citi Prestige, Amex Plat and Chase Sapphire Reserve. End of the year is nothing special for that. In fact it’s counterproductive since you only have a month to use your travel credit and everyone may not be able to do that.

    The real reason to apply in Nov/Dec is triple dipping. For example, get the Amex Plat in early December. Get $200 airline credit for Dec 2016, then anytime in 2017 and finally Jan 2018, as long as you can time your cancellation to within 30 days of the annual fee posting which will be at the end of your December 2017 statement.

    Same logic applies to Prestige and Reserve but pay attention to when you can get the credit for Prestige because it is not strictly on calendar year but last statement of the year.

    • @Varun Thanks for stopping by! I’ll let Nancy comment since she is the one who wrote the post. But these are my two cents. I think the logic in the post is solid and here is why:
      1) As Nancy said, this time of the year many families spend more. This is certainly the case with us due to property taxes etc. This makes it easier to meet minimum spending requirements. Keep in mind, we don’t target MS crowd, but regular folks.
      2) CSR bonus will likely get reduced at some point. When? I have no idea. But applying for the card now gives you a good time cushion to double dip on travel credits. Wait a few months, and things will get more complicated, not to mention, Chase may reduce the offer.
      On to Arrival. Its marketed as a limited time offer, though of course, we don’t know for sure if it’s really the case. Regardless, getting $500 off travel (any travel) is nothing to sneeze at.
      Overall, I agree with Nancy’s advice that these are two overall strongest offers when it comes to regular family.
      You make a good point on triple dipping, and I definitely agree. But keep in mind, this post is meant for newbies. Triple dipping is too advanced of a concept, and would confuse a person who just discovered miles and points. The goal was to present information in a simple form that is easy to understand.
      Also, I would argue that with Citi Prestige, there is a compelling reason to apply close to the end of the year. That’s because Citi still prorates the annual fees. So if you apply right now, you can potentially get credit for this year, then 2017 and cancel the card few months later. It just depends on your goals and comfort level, I guess.
      Thanks for you input!

    • HI Varun! You have a great point about the timing of the credits and the potential for triple dipping. For newbies who have never done this, I agree with Leana that triple dipping is too complicated. I still think November is a great month to apply for cards with the travel credit. In the case of the CSR, getting the credit in Nov and then again in January means $600 in the span of 2-3 months. I think that’s more useful than signing up in January and having to wait until next January to get the additional $300. In my family’s case, we are trying to pay off a cruise to Alaska by mid February of 2017. Getting the CSR now lets us put all $600 worth of credit toward our cruise. Woohoo! 🙂

  3. I have never tried nor planned to try any triple dipping on a credit card especially when American Express is getting cranky recently.

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