Many Americans are Missing the Chance to Travel for Free

If you’re a frequent flyer and you have a rewards credit card, you know the joys of racking up bonus miles and then using them for free airfare or hotel stays. These are usually the only reasons travelers apply for these cards. And once travelers receive their cards, most master the game of earning bonus points.

But, earning free travel isn’t necessarily about getting the right card and spending with it. It’s actually about the timing – when you apply for them. Lots of people are missing out on thousands of bonus points worth hundreds of dollars in hotel stays and airline tickets all because their timing is off.

Financial information website NerdWallet found that 83 percent of consumers opened credit cards at the wrong time and missed out on an average of 15,338 points. That’s because the best time to apply for airline rewards credit cards is during limited-time offers in November, but most people apply in July and January. For hotel credit cards, the best time to apply is August, yet most consumers open accounts in April.

If you want to take a free trip using bonus miles on a new card, NerdWallet suggests applying for the card at least five months before your travel date. It says this provides enough leeway for people to take advantage of that coveted sign-up bonus.