Why you should open a new credit card before Christmas shopping


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US consumers expect to
spend an average of $819 each on holiday gifts — for people
making more than $100,000 a year, that rises up to $1,257
each.

American
Express


  • One of the best ways to get rewards points or
    frequent-flyer miles quickly is to periodically sign up for new
    credit cards to earn their sign-up or welcome bonuses.
  • However, these bonuses often require you to spend a
    specified amount of money within a certain time frame.
  • The holidays, when most people budget to spend more
    than they normally do throughout the year, present a great
    opportunity to earn those bonuses.
  • Here are the best bonuses with high minimum spending
    requirements that you can open in time for holiday shopping and
    travel. Our top pick is the Platinum Card®
    from American Express
    .

As summer turns to fall, the days get shorter, the nights get
cooler, and the Christmas decorations go up
even earlier than the year before
— I mean, come on, we
haven’t even hit Halloween yet!

But while the holidays may seem a ways off, we’re already a few
weeks into Q4, which means that right now, as we approach the
busy holiday period, is the best time of year to open a new
credit card.

That’s because a new credit card offers the opportunity to
maximize rewards during the Christmas shopping season, and to
take advantage of any large purchases you’ve been planning.

Many rewards and cash-back cards offer enticing sign-up
bonuses, but to earn those bonuses, you have to spend a certain
amount in the first few months of having the card — often three
or four months, although that can vary depending on the exact
card. Because of that minimum spending requirement for the bonus,
the best time to open one of these new cards is when you know
that you’ll be spending that amount within the time limit.

That makes right now — within a few months of the holidays,
but before the madness starts — the best time to open a new card.
A recent study
from ad tech firm OpenX found that US consumers expect to spend
an average of $819 each on Christmas gifts — for people making
more than $100,000 a year, that rises up to $1,257 each.

When you combine that with normal everyday spending, most
of which you can put on a credit card — plus any holiday travel
you haven’t booked yet — it should be easy to hit the minimum
spend requirement without spending money that you weren’t
planning to anyway.

Sign-up bonuses can be incredibly lucrative for the savvy
consumer, generally worth hundreds of dollars — in the case of
flexible rewards points, potentially more, depending on how you
use them.


Below, take a look at some of the best new member
bonuses available that have higher-than-average spending
requirements.

This time of year, right before planned and budgeted
holiday expenses, could be the opportunity to meet a bonus
requirement that you couldn’t otherwise.

Of course, there’s an important caveat: We’re focusing on
rewards here, so this only applies if you plan to pay off the
cards in full each month. Interest and late fees can far outweigh
the value of any rewards you earn.

When you’re working to earn credit card rewards, it’s
important to practice financial discipline, like paying your
balances off in full each month, making payments on time, and not
spending more than you can afford to pay back. Basically,
treat your credit card like a
debit card
.

1. Platinum Card® from American Express




41257811_10156017292682852_8823971238314508288_o
American Express


Welcome Offer: 60,000 points (after
spending $5,000 in the first three months).

The American Express
Platinum card
 is hands down one of the most
rewarding cards available, but its steep spending requirement for
the bonus can be a downer. That makes it our top pick for a card
to open before the holidays.

It also has one of the highest annual fees of any consumer credit
or charge card — $550 — but as AmEx’s flagship product, this
premium credit card offers a tremendous amount of value to offset
that fee. For example, I got more than $2,000 worth of
value in my first year
 with the card.

The card earns Membership
Rewards points, the currency in AmEx’s loyalty program, which can
be exchanged for statement credits or cash back, used to book
travel through AmEx’s travel website, or, to get the most value,
transferred to any of 17 airline and three hotel transfer
partners (transferable
points
 are among the best). Travel website
The Points Guy lists a valuation of 1.9¢ per Membership Rewards
point; based on that, the welcome offer is worth around $1,140.

Because $5,000 is one of the steepest spending requirements of
any consumer card, so if you’ve been debating whether or not to
open the Platinum
Card
, this is an ideal time; with holiday spending and travel
coming up, you can take advantage of those planned expenses to
meet a higher minimum required spend than you would normally be
able to.

The Platinum
Card
 earns an incredible 5x points on
airfare purchased directly from the airline, and offers a $200
airline fee credit each calendar year, and up to $200 in Uber
credits each card member year. It also grants the cardholder
access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world,
including Delta Sky Clubs and AmEx’s own Centurion Lounges. Other
benefits include automatic gold elite status at Starwood,
Marriott, and Hilton hotels, a statement credit to cover
enrollment in Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, concierge service, and
much more.

You can read our complete review of the
card here.


Click here to
learn more about the American Express Platinum from Insider
Picks’ partner: The Points Guy

2. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card




chase sapphire preferred review
The Points
Guy



Sign-up bonus: 50,000 points
(after spending $4,000 in the first three months).

The Sapphire
Preferred
 is one of the most popular
all-around rewards credit cards, and it’s easy to see why. This
card earns 2x points per dollar spent on just about all travel
and dining purchases, and 1x point on everything else. It also
comes with a ton of travel and purchase protections, such as
rental car insurance, trip delay coverage, and extended warranty.

The sign-up bonus — 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points — a
great haul, but the requirement to spend $4,000 within three
months can be a bit of a tall order, so it’s a good idea to wait
to open the card until you’re planning to spend that much anyway.

The bonus is worth, at the very least, $500 as cash back or gift
cards. However, if you book travel through the Chase Ultimate
Rewards portal and use points to pay, you’ll get a 25% bonus,
making points worth 1.25 cents each. That means that the sign-up
bonus would be worth $625.

Even more lucrative — the Chase Sapphire
Preferred
 lets you transfer your UR points
to a few different frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs.
This comes in handy because, in many cases, it costs fewer points
to book a trip if you go through one of those programs, as
opposed to using the points as cash. You can read more about why
transferring points to frequent flyer programs gets you more
value here.

This all comes for a fairly standard annual fee of $95, which is
waived the first year.


Click here to
learn more about the Sapphire Preferred from Insider Picks’
partner: The Points Guy

3. Chase Sapphire Reserve




Chase_Sapphire_Reserve_lifestyle 036
The Points Guy


Sign-up bonus: 50,000 points
(after spending $4,000 in the first three months).

The Sapphire
Reserve
 is basically a beefier version of
the Preferred. While the card comes with the same sign-up bonus —
and the same minimum spend requirement — it earns points on
everyday spending faster, nabbing a higher 3x points per dollar
spent on travel and dining purchases, and 1x on everything else.
It also offers similar, though in many cases, enhanced travel and
purchase protections.

Unlike the Preferred, the Sapphire
Reserve
 comes with a Priority Pass Select
membership, which gets you and any travel companions free access
to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world.

You can use points from the Reserve the
same ways as with the Preferred, except that you’ll get a 50%
bonus when booking travel through Chase, making your points worth
1.5¢ each.

The
card
 carries a higher annual fee than the
Preferred: $450. However, it also comes with a $300 travel credit
each card member year. Each year, you’ll get statement credits
for the first $300 in travel-related purchases you make,
including things like subway fare, taxis, parking, and tolls, as
well as airfare and hotels. When you subtract this credit from
the annual fee, the card is effectively only $150 each year.

If you’re not sure whether the Preferred
or Reserve is the better card
for you, take a look at this breakdown. Also keep in
mind that you can typically only earn the sign-up bonus for one
Sapphire-branded card every two years.


Click here to
learn more about the Sapphire Reserve from Insider Picks’
partner: The Points Guy

4. Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card




Screen Shot 2018 10 08 at 1.34.15 PM
The Points Guy


Sign-up Bonus: 80,000 points
(after spending $5,000 in the first three months).

The Ink
Preferred
 is an excellent rewards credit
card — the bad news is that it’s only available for small
business owners. The good news is that a lot of things you might
not expect actually count as small businesses, including
freelancing, side gigs, and even selling things on eBay.

The card
currently has the highest sign-up bonus within the Chase Ultimate
Rewards program, although with the $5,000 minimum spend
requirement, you’ll want to be sure to open the card when you
know you’ll actually spend that much anyway.

The Ink
Preferred
, which has a $95 annual fee, earns 3x points per
dollar on the first $150,000 you spend each card member year in a
few categories, including travel, shipping, internet/cable/phone,
and advertising on social media sites or with search engines,
such as Google Ads. Purchases after you reach $150,000, or in any
other category, earn 1x point per dollar. Unless you operate a
small business that’s on the larger side, chances are you won’t
hit that cap.

Like with the Sapphire Preferred, you’ll get a 25% bonus when
using points earned with the Ink
Preferred
 to book travel directly with
Chase. Of course, if you pool them on your Sapphire Reserve card,
that bonus will be 50% instead.

The card comes with a handful of other perks,
many of which overlap with the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve,
such as trip cancellation/interruption insurance, primary car
rental loss/damage coverage, and various purchase protections. It
also comes with cell phone insurance when you use the card to pay
your phone bill, offering up to $600 for each covered claim.


Click here to
learn more about the Ink Business Preferred from Insider Picks’
partner: The Points Guy

5. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card




Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
American Express


Welcome offer: 150,000 Hilton
Honors points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

The premium Hilton Honors
American Express Aspire card
has a hefty $450 annual fee, but
it comes with so many perks, benefits, and rebates that it’s more
than worth paying for Hilton loyalists.

The welcome offer — which just increased last month — requires
that you spend $4,000 in three months.

In addition to a $250 airline fee credit per calendar year and a
$250 Hilton resort statement credit each card member
year, the
Aspire
 also offers a $100 Hilton
on-property credit every time you book a stay of two nights or
longer at a Hilton property — you just need to book through
a specific website for cardholders.

The
card
 also offers a free weekend night
reward each year — regardless of how much you spend — and a
second if you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year. It
also comes with complimentary Diamond status.

The
Aspire
 earns a tremendous 14x points per
dollar spent with Hilton, 7x points on flights booked with the
airline, car rentals, and at US restaurants, and 3x points on
everything else.


Click here to
learn more about the Hilton Honors Aspire card from Insider
Picks’ partner The Points Guy.

6. The Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card




SPG Luxury Card
American
Express



Welcome offer: 100,000 Marriott/Starwood points
(after spending $5,000 in the first three
months). *Ends October 31.

In late August, AmEx introduced its first new product since the
merger of Starwood and Marriott, the SPG Luxury
card
. It’s also offering a limited-time new member bonus of
100,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months
when you open a card before October 31 — although if you opened a
Chase-issued Marriott card in the past two years, you won’t be
eligible for the new bonus.

Although the new
card
 has a $450 annual fee, it comes with a
decent set of perks and benefits to make up for that.

Each year, card members can get up to $300 in statement credits
for purchases at Starwood and Marriott hotels, which can apply to
room charges. That effectively brings the fee down to just $150.

Additionally, each year on your card member anniversary, you’ll
get a free night award that can be redeemed at any hotel that
costs 50,000 points a night or less —
that should
cover
 a wide selection of properties.

You’ll also get complimentary Gold elite status, and you can earn
Platinum status if you spend $75,000 or more
on the
card
 in a calendar year.

The
card
 will earn 6x points at Starwood and
Marriott hotels, 3x points at US restaurants and on flights
booked directly with the airline, and 2x points on everything
else.


Click
here to learn more about the SPG Luxury Card from Insider Picks’
partner: The Points Guy.


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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Picks team. We aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting, and if you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Want to get in touch? Email us at insiderpicks@businessinsider.com.

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