On my mind: Is now a good time to apply for credit cards? Really?


a group of credit cards

I’ve written a fair bit recently about applying for rewards credit cards.  The general idea has been that while this is a bad time for traveling, it’s a great time for earning points, miles, and cash back from home.  But, is that really true?

Arguments for applying now…

A number of blogs have argued “yes” — now is the time to apply.  One Mile at a Time wrote:

If you’re going to apply for credit cards soon, personally I think it makes sense to act sooner rather than later in applying for cards. I don’t have any inside knowledge here, though in general my expectations would be that we’ll see at least one of the following with one or more card issuers as we approach Q2:

  • We might see less generous welcome bonuses on some cards
  • We might see some card issuers stop accepting applications for some cards altogether

Then View from the Wing followed up with this:

…it’s not just that we could see less attractive bonuses – that’s not a foregone conclusion, but there may be a pause in big bonuses for travel companies while travel is so limited – but we may see tightened approval standards. In other words it may become more difficult to get approved for cards.

So, the arguments for applying right away are that for the next few months we may see reduced welcome offers, fewer cards available, and tougher approvals.

The idea is to grab what you can now before it’s too late.

Arguments against applying now…

Last week I published an easy way to earn $1,100 by signing up for two credit cards.  I even included an easy way to meet minimum spend requirements from home.  See: Build your own $1,100 bank-funded stimulus check.

In response to that post, a few readers correctly pointed out that this kind of advice could hurt the same people it was meant to help.  The only way to win the credit card game is to pay your balance in full every month in order to avoid fees.  But those who are out of work may find it difficult or impossible to do so.  And when that happens, they risk spiraling into unending debt.  That’s obviously really, really bad.

Another argument against applying now is that you might get locked out of even better offers later.  Many banks have time limits on how often you can apply for the same card or same family of cards.  For example, with Chase, you have to wait 48 months from the date that you received a welcome bonus on either the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve in order to sign up for either card again.  So, if you sign up now for the Sapphire Preferred 60K offer, you’ll be out of luck if Chase later reintroduces their 100K offer for the Sapphire Reserve (the current offer is only 50K).

View from the Wing thinks that better offers may indeed be coming… eventually.  He says: “Remember that it was during the Great Recession that we saw the first 100,000 mile initial card bonus.”

So, the arguments against applying right now are twofold:

  1. Applying for cards during financially unstable times may encourage you to spiral into debt
  2. Applying now may mean missing out on future better offers

My take: Apply for some now, most later

The question of whether you can responsibly handle new credit is a personal one. If you’re unsure of your ability to do so, then applying for credit cards is a bad idea at any time.  So, the rest of this discussion is for those who can confidently answer that they have both the resources and discipline to pay off their credit card bills in full every month…

It’s a gamble

I agree 100% with One Mile at a Time that we’re likely to see worse offers in the short run.  Over the next couple of months I think that banks would be very unlikely to roll out big new promotions and some may stop offering their travel cards altogether (for now).  Everyone is waiting to see what happens with the Coronavirus.  Will we be trapped in our homes for weeks or for months?  If the answer is “months”, I’d bet that only a few credit cards have a chance of gaining traction.  Cards that offer better rewards for online purchases, food delivery, internet, etc. may do well.  Travel cards obviously stand little chance.

The real question, I think, is what happens after the next few months?  Will card issuers radically increase their offers in a desperate attempt to acquire new customers?  Or will they be in cost cutting mode?  If the latter, we’ll be lucky if offers stay where they are now.  In a cost-cutting scenario, credit card offers will get worse, not better.

My guess is that banks will be in cost cutting mode for quite a while.  That would likely lead to lower offers.  On the other hand, travel providers will be anxious to reclaim our business and so some travel cards may offer unprecedented welcome bonuses.

In other words, I don’t know what will happen and neither does anyone else.

One solution is to apply now for some offers, but wait for others.

Apply for some now…

a close up of a credit card

Chase Ink business cards have fantastic welcome offers: 50K for the fee-free cards (Ink Business Cash and Ink Business Unlimited) and 80K or 100K for the $95 Ink Business Preferred.  Here are the reasons I think it makes sense to apply for one or more of these cards now:

  1. The standard offer for the Ink Business Preferred is now 100K points after $15K spend.  That’s a huge spend requirement.  Many would prefer the old 80K after $5K spend offer.  And fortunately, the 80K offer is still available via referral (we link to the referral offer as an alternate offer on our card page).  That said, I think the alternate offer is very unlikely to stick around for long.  So, if you want the 80K after $5K spend offer, go for it now.
  2. Points earned from Ink cards can be cashed out for a penny each.  That’s far from the best use of points, but even at a penny per point the Ink welcome offers are huge: $500 for the fee free cards and $800 or $1000 for the Ink Business Preferred.
  3. Chase Ink Cards do not have time limits for applying again.  Unlike Chase Sapphire consumer cards, Chase Ink Business cards do not have rules barring you from getting the bonus if you’ve had this or another Ink card in the past 48 months.  So, in the unlikely case that Chase introduces better offers for these cards, applying now won’t necessarily lock you out of those offers.
  4. Chase Ink cards don’t add to your 5/24 count.  Chase has the infamous 5/24 rule in which they won’t approve your application if you’ve signed up for 5 or more cards, from any bank, within the past 24 months.  Fortunately most business cards, including Chase business cards, don’t get counted towards this.  To be clear, you still must be under 5/24 to get approved for an Ink card, but once approved, that card won’t increase your 5/24 count.

Others cards to consider now:  If you need cash in the short term, the Chase Ink cards are good choices, but you can find many more options here: Best cash back credit card offers.  Also see this post for ideas for how to meet minimum spend requirements: 7 ways to increase credit card spend from home.

Wait for the others…

While it makes sense today to apply for cards that earn cash back or points that are easily converted to cash, I don’t think now is the time to apply for travel credit cards, especially those co-branded with airlines, hotels, or other travel providers (Amtrak, cruise lines, etc.).  Most of the benefits of such cards would be unusable until we can travel again.  Plus, once we can travel again, travel providers will be desperate for our business.  At that point we may very well see incredible new welcome bonuses.

What do you think?

Seriously, your guess is as good as mine here.  Will we see incredible new credit card welcome offers?  Or will the credit card game go into hiatus for months or even years?  Comment below to let us know what you think.

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I’m burning no miles and redeeming no points. But I do sometimes mull my rough-draft travel plans At the moment, only a great card offer that would suit one of more of my plans could lure me back into the fray.


There is a HUGE risk that a bunch of apps now could get someone flagged for shutdown. Same with increasing balances. I’d be very, very cautious about doing anything that could look like your were credit seeking/in new financial trouble.


Here’s argument 3 against applying for offers now:

3. Who the hell knows what redemptions will be like when you’re finally in a position to use them? And when will you actually be able to use them?

Points and miles get devalued all the time. Plenty of stressors are acting on lots of travel entities right now- what’s to say these points will be worth close to what you think by the time you can use them?

A hotel or airline might devalue miles to square up their balance sheets. Or they might get acquired or just go bankrupt before you’re traveling again. Getting a whole bunch of points and then sitting in them for months and months with no sense of what redemptions will be like when we emerge from this seems risky.

[…] Is Now A Good Time To Apply For Cards?:  Since travel is currently out of the question, is now a good time to apply for cards and earn loads of points and miles?  Well, the answer isn’t so clear. Here are some arguments for both sides. […]


When to apply for a card is easy for me. I’m perpetually over 5/24 so if it’s a good offer just grab it. Good for me means $300 for minimal work, or up. I think this is a great time to be focusing on bank bonuses actually.


For those over 5/24 (not me, I don’t think), this is a good time to pause all applications and let time go by. It isn’t as if anyone is going to be flying anywhere for awhile and most already have a decent stock pile of points. And it is likely that when flying is allowed, you are going to see a lot of cheap airfares which means points won’t be worth much.

Except for hard core travelers and business people (although I’d expect that demand to be lessened as well), flying is not going to return to normal for quite some time. Unless some treatment is found quicker than expected, you could have spots of the virus popping up almost anywhere and that will scare many, especially older or vulnerable folks from taking a risk. And many who’ve been burned during this crisis (stuck somewhere, trouble getting refunds, etc.) will stay away for a while. Others who have lost some/all of their income aren’t going to be spending on travel until they recover from that.

Unfortunately this isn’t a month or two. The peak in the US is likely, still months away. Look at the numbers in Italy and the southern part hasn’t been hit, yet.

stewart bakalchuck

this is a little off topic but here goes. wells fargo has a great offer for opening a checking account but has a very high direct deposit stipulation. do you know what wells considers a direct deposit that counts toward the the 4K direct deposit stipulation? thanks

Jan W

As the owner of an LLC, I have two Chase business cards in my name: Chase Ink Business Plus (no longer available) and the Chsae Ink Business. Both are at least a decade old and both have my husband as an AU (obviously, applied before I stated this hobby). Can my husband (who owns 3% of my business) apply for the Ink Business Preferred or any of the others? Or could I apply for the Preferred since I don’t have that? Or perhaps another strategy would work better? Thanks!


You can go ahead and get the Ink Business preferred. I also have an LLC with 3 chase ink cards and just was approved for the preferred.


I typically use Kiva loans to help meet minimum spend, and am now wary of getting repaid as COVID19 may devastate developing economies.


GONE !!!!!


I applied for one the of the Chase Southwest personal cards with the 75k miles offer in early February, with the intent to apply for the Southwest Business card to get the Companion Pass. I will probably still apply for the business card at some point this year, but that companion pass is worthless for me for now…


Right now SW is losing money on every flt. maybe they will extend it . Maybe buy their stock Boeing was 100% up in a day Hmmmm.


I speculate Chase is going to lift the 5/24 as CC business decline due to recession. This is pretty typical for downturn in economic cycle.


Maybe Yes maybe NO !!!! I think they will hold tight lot’s of people out there trying to scam the banks . I know bankers their always trying to Scam them . Remember to Cash is King !!!


I think the banks are going to notice soon that the promise of travel points no longer drives behavior the way it used to in an era where the average person is terrified to travel for the foreseeable future. In particular, airline cards offering airline miles will struggle as consumers wrestle with the risk that the airline goes bankrupt or cuts capacity so deeply as to make the miles much harder to use. So while that implies offers might go up as they see signups slowing, it could also mean offers switch to cash bonuses.


I’ve been also thinking about this recently, and my situation adds a small layer of complexity. Greg/Nick (and others), I’d be interested to get your opinion on my situation. I’ve been on Amex pop-up probation for several months, … and have been putting a significant amount of spend on some of my dormant Amex cards over the past few months (think Bonvoy-flavored cards). If my spend has temporarily released me from probation (not sure, b/c I haven’t tested it yet), … I’m leaning towards going ahead and applying for a couple of Amex cards while I can (one charge and one credit), recognizing that I may return to probation if/when my elevated spend stops.


Isn’t a bigger issue the fact that you really aren’t going to be hitting that target spend if you’re stuck at home with your only weekly outgoings being the grocery bill?


Don’t forget you can pay bills that don’t allow credit card payment using Plastiq. When trying to meet a spend requirement I also pay home and car insurance as a lump sum for 6 months.


Just the usual reminder to folks who may be refinancing due to favorable rates.

Hold off from applying for ANY lines of credit until you have closed.

Whatever signup bonus isn’t worth the potential issues it may cause.


Wiseman also remember a HELOC can be Called In @ anytime .So let’s play with the banks for a Dumb-ass trip we may never take so Play It Safe No Games .