As you may have heard, Chase is currently offering a signup bonus of 70,000 Ultimate Rewards points to new applicants for the Ink Plus business credit card, which is as high as I recall ever seeing it go. The offer appears to only be available in-branch, which has the added benefit of meaning not a single affiliate blogger will receive a dime for any applications made under this offer.
I applied for the card yesterday afternoon, and my Chase banker promised to e-mail me by Saturday with the status of my application. I did call into a Chase application status number (I used 888-338-2586, but it seems there are many working numbers), but the frontline representative was only able to tell me that my application status was still "pending."
The Chase Ink Plus and Bold are cards I write about with some frequency as powerhouses for manufactured spend. But I'd never applied for one before.
The lie of urgency
If you started reading a range of travel hacking blogs on any given day, you would be bound to think that it was a stroke of luck that on that day only there were so many hyper-lucrative credit cards to apply for. Since there's no way offers that good can last, the blogger would naturally urge you to, in the Points Guy's famous words, "apply for both!"
Rick Ingersoll, a former blogger and occasional contributor over at Frugal Travel Guy, actually formalized this attitude in one of his screeds back in March. After a major devaluation of the American Express Platinum card, he urged readers to apply anyway:
"Decision time is upon us here with less than one month to go. Will you act in April of 2014 for either the Mercedes Benz version or straight out Platinum card? I will not be sending you Cheese to go with your Whine if pass on the opportunity."
The card has a $450 annual fee, by the way.
The truth of urgency
The reason I have never felt any urgency in signing up for an Ink Bold or Plus card, despite their lucrative bonus categories, is that those bonus categories are capped at $50,000 in spend per cardmember year, or a little over $4,000 per month on average. That means by delaying my signup, I'm not sacrificing all 250,000 Ultimate Rewards points earned in the office supply bonus category each year, I'm sacrificing just 20,000 points per month of delay.
On the other hand, I did know I would apply for an Ink Bold or Plus eventually since I want to get rid of one of my most expensive and least valuable cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, while retaining the ability to transfer Ultimate Rewards points.
Which brings me to the truth of urgency, which is that very, very occasionally, there are signup bonuses so good that you should consider timing an application while the bonus offer is in effect. The Chase British Airways offer of 100,000 Avios after $20,000 in spend, available late last year and early this year, was one such offer, which I took advantage of in January while signing up for an American Express Blue Cash.
Keep an eye on cards you know you want
Due to the lie of urgency, you're not going to be able to tell when a signup bonus is unusually high by reading most blogs. It's your responsibility as a travel hacker to investigate the cards you're interested in and keep an eye on their signup bonuses. That's the only way you'll know that a "higher-than-usual" 30,000 mile Bank of America Alaska Airlines card offer is 40% lower than the 50,000 mile offer available last December.
And be ready to apply when the time is right
Over at Hack My Trip, Scott is hosting a hysterical new guest series called Devil's Advocate, where they pierce conventional wisdom in the travel blogosphere. My favorite piece in the series so far is "App-O-Ramas Are Your Father’s Oldsmobile," where he demolishes the idea (which I've wrongheadedly spouted in the past) that you should apply for multiple cards on the same day to "hide" the applications from each other.
If so-called "app-o-ramas" are just an artfully concealed version of the lie of urgency ("quick, apply for another card!"), what's true is that unusually high signup bonuses can come along at any time. If there's a card you're interested in applying for, then to improve your chances of approval make sure that your credit score is always ready for a new application, for example by paying off your balances before they're reported to the credit bureaux (I use Credit Karma to see what dates my balances are reported).