When applying for a credit card, it’s always important to make sure that you are applying for an offer that is the best currently available offer. This isn’t as easy to do as it sounds since there can be a lot that goes into finding the best offer for different credit cards. I’ll walk you through some basic ways to ensure that you will be able to find the best credit card offers.
Update: Some offers are no longer available — click here for the latest deals!
1. Get familiar with the best offers
You can use this helpful Reddit spreadsheet here to help you monitor whether or not the current offers to credit cards are the best out there.
It might look like a mess of data when you first open it up but just concentrate on the column that shows whether the offer is the best publicly available offer or not. If there’s a red “N,” then you might be able to pull up a higher offer utilizing a method discussed below (like dummy booking).
There’s also another helpful spreadsheet found on Reddit here. This spreadsheet has not been updated in over a year but the historical data it holds can still be very helpful in seeing what the best credit card offers were in the past.
If you take a little bit of time to check out these offers, you’ll be able to get familiar enough with some of the best offers and be able to quickly recognize which offers are worth applying for.
2. Targeted offers
Sometimes targeted offers roll around that surpass the best offers shown in the spreadsheets above.
When it comes to targeted offers, sometimes there’s nothing you can do about receiving an offer since the offer might be targeting certain demographics that you just don’t belong to (age, region, etc.).
In that case, you just have to wait and pray that it comes your way. Other times, there are certain steps you can take to increase your chances of getting targeted for the best offers.
3. Make sure you have not opted out of pre-approved offers
Yes, it’s annoying to come home from a trip and see five Discover and Capital One envelopes containing offers you probably aren’t the least bit interested in. However, you never know what kind of great deal you might be missing if you’re not enrolled to receive pre-approved offers.
Furthermore, when you log into your accounts online you can often change your settings to allow the banks to send you promotional offers.
Tip: If you ever freeze your credit report or put a fraud alert on your report, make sure you opt back in since doing those things could opt you out.
4. Sign-up for loyalty programs
It can take a little bit of time but you should sign-up for all of the major loyalty programs for airlines and hotels. To make things easy on yourself, you can start with just signing up for the major US carriers like United, American, Delta, etc. and then some of the big hotel programs like Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott/SPG, etc.
This is important because it’s known that for some programs like United and American, they will often send you targeted offers with higher sign-up bonuses after you enroll.
Many times you need miles or points in your account after you create it to initiate an offer. This can be done my using dining and shopping portals or doing surveys. For example, it’s known that it helps to to use the MPX App or United Portal to get some miles in your account to receive the higher MileagePlus Explorer Card offer.
5. Dummy bookings
You can also access these offers sometimes by doing what’s called a “dummy booking.”
Basically, you go through all the steps for booking a flight online and just before you get to checkout you might see an ad for a targeted credit card offer. I’ve personally seen this work for the Bank of America Alaska Airlines card, Delta cards, Hilton cards, etc.
Be sure to turn off your ad blocker just in case it affects your offer coming up.
6. Establishing a points balance
Some hotel programs will send you targeted offers after you complete a stay at their hotel chain or have points in your account.
I wouldn’t necessarily go around booking hotel nights just to potentially receive a credit card offer, but using a shopping portal to get some points in your account might not be a waste, especially if you’re interested in that particular co-branded card.
To get you started here are some links to some major loyalty programs you might want to sign up for:
7. Check pre-qualified offers
Almost every bank allows you to check which cards you are pre-qualified for online.
By simply entering in your contact information and last four digits of your social security number you can pull up whatever cards you are pre-qualified for. This will not result in a hard pull on your credit. Also, keep in mind that “pre-qualified” doesn’t mean you’ll get pre-approved.
Below are links to some of the pages for different banks:
8. Try Card Match
You never know what you might get from the Card Match tool by creditcards.com.
Some people have been lucky enough to receive the elusive 100K Amex Platinum offer while others like myself get offers a slew of Capital One Quicksilver cards. Still, it’s worth giving this tool a try and seeing what may be offered.
9. Try Incognito
Sometimes it takes Google Incognito (or a similar private browser) to pull up a specific offer (this is very common for American Express). Simply find the credit card link and then cut and paste it into your Incognito browser and see what pops up.
You might have to even pull up an offer in Incognito and then hit the refresh button 8 or 9 times to get an offer to show up but I can attest that this has worked for me in the past.
I was able to pull up a leaked 100K Platinum offer by refreshing close to 10 times! I wouldn’t go trying this method 24/7 but for some Amex cards it often works year round, depending on certain factors like your location, IP address, etc.
The Amex cards that this method can work year round for include:
- Premier Rewards Gold Card
- Green Card
- Gold Card
- EveryDay Preferred
- Blue Cash
- Blue Cash Preferred
Tip: Sometimes you just need to change your location to get these offers to populate. For example, I can’t ever get these offers to pull up when I’m at home on my laptop but when I’m on my work computer in my office they show up almost every time. You can also utilize VPN techniques to pull up these offers.
10. Check in-branch offers
For banks like Chase, it’s never a bad idea to walk into your nearest branch and check to see if you’ve been pre-approved for any credit cards.
Sometimes these pre-approvals come with higher sign-up bonuses. Also, it’s well-known that the Chase Ink cards often offer higher sign-up bonuses in branch or offers with annual fees waived. Thus, if you can, always check with a bank in-branch about special offers.
11. Call up the bank
Sometimes you can just call the bank up and request if they can inform you about any special credit offers. This has worked in the past at places like American Express.
12. Register a domain
By registering a domain and providing your mailing address you can often receive targeted offers for business credit cards since they can pull your contact information from publicly available records. The Frequent Miler writes that this could take up to 6 to 9 months for an offer to be sent out to you (at least for Amex).
13. Don’t trash these offers!
Don’t trash targeted offers even if they aren’t the highest.
Now many banks like Citi and American Express have strict limitations on being approved for their credit bonuses (e.g., Citi limits some bonuses to one per 24 month period, Amex limits bonuses to once per lifetimes). It’s often the case that targeted mailings come with offers that exclude the limiting language.
Thus, if you receive an offer for a card you had in the past but it’s not necessarily the highest offer you think is available, it still might be worth applying for since you might be one of the chosen few who have gotten a second chance at a bonus!
14. Flyertalk is your friend
A lot of people don’t like Flyertalk because it’s “information overload” and it can be difficult to wade your way through a sea of thousands of expired threads and irrelevant posts to find what you’re looking for. I tend to agree with that sentiment, but there are definitely a few things that Flyertalk is great for and one of those things is finding links and information for the best credit card offers.
I’ll use an example to illustrate.
Let’s say you’re looking to apply for a Chase Southwest card.
All you have to do is google something like “Chase Southwest Card Flyertalk” then find a thread with updated information stickied at the top and you’ll probably see links to all of the known public offers. I have found countless offers this way and it’s probably the easiest way to find the best current offers.
If you want to make matters even easier for yourself you can subscribe to this Flyertalk thread that’s a master thread for all special credit card offers.
15. Put off American Express applications
This strategy won’t apply to everyone.
However, if you’re following my recommended strategy for credit card applications, you’ll be applying for Chase cards your first few months and then applying for different banks. This is a smart strategy because it’s known that once you begin opening American Express credit cards, it can be difficult to receive targeted offers in the mail.
Thus, I suggest you consider holding off on American Express cards and give yourself some time to receive targeted offers.
This is especially true if you’ve just opted-in for credit card offers. Give the system a few months to kick in and see if anything comes your way. If you hit the targeted offer jackpot and end up receiving a 100K offer for the Platinum Card (as some do), you’ll be thankful you did.
16. Wait around
Another way to make sure you get the best credit card offers is to sit around and wait (strategically). There are many offers that regularly come around now (Chase Southwest 50K offers, Amex Hilton 75K or higher offers, etc.).
If you can get a sense of how often these offers roll around then you can hold off on them until the time is right and ensure that you get the best offer. There’s always the risk that things could change, however, so make sure you know what you’re doing if you go this route.
17. Stay plugged in
You should do your best to follow all of the bloggers on social media (even if you don’t personally care for them) and regularly check on different internet forums. If you stay tapped into these sources, you’ll rarely ever miss a great credit card offer.
Remember, some credit card offers leak and when they do they can incite a feeding frenzy. Unfortunately, that frenzy usually leads to the banks discovering the leak pretty quickly and then the offer disappears. For that reason, you want to make sure that you’re one of the first people to find out about a leaked offer when they happen.
18. Follow up with secure messaging ASAP
If you happen to miss out on a targeted offer there might still be hope.
If you were approved for a credit card and then shortly thereafter (within 90 days) received a targeted mailer for a better offer, then send a secure message to the bank requesting to be matched as soon as you can. Chase and Citi are pretty good about matching but Amex can be a stickler.
Sometimes the banks will match you on the spot but other times you might be asked to send in screen shots or fax in a copy of promotional offer.
If you never received a targeted offer but you know that others did it can still be worth it to give it a shot and ask for a match. Sometimes they’ll deny you on the basis that their records don’t reflect that you ever received the offer but other times they won’t even ask any questions and grant you the bonus! YMMV.
19. The mail flood gates will open; stay organized
If you follow all of these steps your life will change in a way you never expected because you’ll start receiving more email and mailings than you probably have ever experienced.
Do your best to stay organized during this process so that you don’t lose or throw away important mailings and lose track of dates for applying for cards. The need to be organized cannot be stressed enough and when it comes to targeted offers you need to try to keep all the records you can. I’ve had reps on the phone tell me that the offer I received from them didn’t even exist!
Following these tips will help you to seek out the very best credit offers. And more importantly, it will help you to pass up on subpar offers that the “old you” would probably jump on.
I’ve been able to double up on my points in the past by simply waiting for the right offer and I was only able to do that because I knew what offers would be rolling around based on these spreadsheets and trends.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.