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Timing can be everything. When it comes to making some purchases, you will want to wait until an item goes on sale or at least act before its price jumps. And when you replace some things, you will want to wait until you’ve gotten as much useful life out of the product as you can before you have to pay for a new one. But credit cards are different. When you choose to apply for your next credit card will depend on several different factors.

Needing a New Card

One way to time a credit card application is to wait until you actually need to have another card. For example, if you find that you don’t have a large enough credit line to meet your monthly spending needs, then you may want to have another account to have an additional line of credit.

Another reason people may need a new credit card is to earn rewards and benefits that they anticipate using. For example, you may wish to apply for an airline credit card if you will be traveling more often and you can use benefits such as a free checked bag and priority boarding as well as additional frequent flyer miles for your airline purchases. For example, a family of four planning a vacation might anticipate paying $200 in fees for each of them to check a bag on a round-trip flight. But by signing up for a credit card like the Delta SkyMiles Gold card from American Express, all of these fees would be waived.

Finally, business owners may be interested in applying for a new card in order to separate their personal spending from their company expenses. Small business credit cards can also offer features specifically designed for tracking expenses as well as rewards that are focussed on common business purchases. In addition, small business cards offer rewards and benefits that are tailored for the needs and spending habits of business owners, rather than consumers.

Timing Application to Increase Chances for Approval

Another factor that can affect when you apply for a credit card is maximizing your chances for approval. The worst time to apply for a credit card is when you have large, outstanding balances on your existing cards. Instead, pay off as much of your balances first, and then wait for your monthly statement cycle to close. This way, you have a lower balance reported to the major consumer credit bureaus, improving your chances of being approved for a new card.

It’s also important not to apply for any new credit cards while applying for a home mortgage. Not only can new credit card applications cause a small, but temporary drop in your credit score, but applying for any new line of credit can disrupt the loan approval process, delaying or derailing your new mortgage or refinancing application. Furthermore, you should avoid applying for many new credit cards in a short period of time, as each new application will lessen your chances of being approved for subsequent cards.

Waiting for the Best Offers

When you are trying to apply for a credit card with the best possible rewards, it can help to wait until a special offer is available, much like waiting for a sale before buying merchandise. Reward credit cards frequently offer increased sign-up bonuses that are available for a limited time. When one of these offers is available, you can earn more rewards in the form of points, miles or cash back.

For example, the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier card from Chase has a standard sign-up bonus of 25,000 bonus points, but it frequently offers 50,000 bonus points for a limited time. By waiting until the larger offer is is available, you can earn twice as many bonus points.

Before applying for any new card, it’s a good idea to check your credit score to make sure there aren’t any surprises. You can keep track of your credit score and what areas of your credit you might be able to improve by viewing your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

At publishing time, the Delta SkyMiles Gold card and the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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