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3 credit cards I want to apply for right now, but won't—here's why

Right now I want to take advantage of three lucrative credit card bonuses, but I haven't applied for any of them. Here's why.

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Editor's Note: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card's 80,000-point welcome bonus mentioned below is no longer available. The current offer is worth 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months. Learn more in our Chase Sapphire Preferred review.

It's no secret that I like to optimize my credit cards — after all, I currently have 10 cards that I use for all my spending. That may seem like a lot if you have four cards like the average American, but it pales in comparison to credit card aficionados who have 35.

Lately card issuers like American Express, Capital One and Chase have been releasing record-setting welcome bonuses, which has me wanting to apply for several cards, but I won't.

My reason for not submitting applications isn't because juggling 10 cards is too hard — in fact, I've created some hacks to help me manage multiple cards. And it's not due to a dip in my credit score either; it's fortunately very good at 783 (even after taking out a recent car loan).

I'm not applying for credit cards right now since I plan to start the home-buying process next year. Too many hard inquiries can lower your credit score a couple of points each, which isn't ideal prior to taking out a mortgage.

A hard inquiry is when a lender pulls your credit report, and they count for 10% of your FICO credit score. Every time you get a hard inquiry your score can drop a few points.

Hard inquiries remain on your credit report for two years, but they become less influential over time. Lenders look at a wide range of factors, like your income and amount of debt, when determining your eligibility for new financial products, like a mortgage. Prospective home buyers should aim to have credit scores of 760 or greater to qualify for the best interest rates on mortgages.

I have two hard inquiries on my credit report — from my recent auto loan and from a credit card application before that. To make sure my mortgage application is as good as possible, I'm going to pass on signing up for new cards until I close on a house.

While I won't be applying for any new credit cards in the near future, here are three cards I would apply for today, if I wasn't planning to buy a house soon.

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  2. Chase Freedom Flex℠
  3. Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Why I want to apply: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card caught my attention when Chase announced its highest ever welcome bonus: 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening (offer ends November 8). This bonus is 20,000 points more than the typical 60,000 offer and can be worth up to $1,000.

When you redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® or for grocery store, dining, home improvement store and eligible charity statement credits with Pay Yourself Back, points are worth 25% more.

This bonus offer outmatches the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which is particularly noteworthy since the Reserve's annual fee is over five times more than Preferred ($550 vs. $95, respectively).

Future home purchase aside, I can't even open this card or earn the bonus since I currently have the Reserve. Chase sets strict eligibility requirements on who qualifies and existing Sapphire cardholders can't apply.

Learn more: Is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card worth the $95 annual fee?

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex℠
On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%), 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on dining and at drug stores, 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    14.99% to 23.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Why I want to apply: The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is one of the newest cash-back cards to hit the market and make waves with its lucrative rewards structure. Flex is meant to replace the Freedom card, which is no longer open to new applicants, and builds on the Freedom's 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%).

In addition, you earn 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, 3% cash back on dining and at drug stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases. These competitive cash-back rates are even more enticing thanks to a two-tier welcome bonus, intro 0% APR period and no annual fee.

The welcome bonus provides 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year and $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.

Pair that with the 15-month 0% APR on new purchases, and your savings can add up (after 14.99% to 23.74% variable APR). While I'm in the clear to apply for this card despite already having the Freedom (Chase lets you have all three Freedom cards), I'm hoping this card stays competitive through 2021 so I can apply once I close on a home.

Learn more: If you have the Chase Freedom card, should you apply for Freedom Flex?

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 on eligible purchases on your new card within the first six months

  • Annual fee

    $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95 (offer expires 12/10/2020)

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 months on purchases, N/A for balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    13.99% to 23.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

 

Why I want to apply: The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express gets an honorable mention since I already have this card and there's no way I could reapply right now.

I wish I had waited to apply until now since new card members who apply by December 10 can benefit from a $0 introductory annual fee (then $95), plus a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 on eligible purchases on your new card within the first six months (see rates and fees).

That said, I'm grateful to have the Blue Cash Preferred Card at all since it's one of my most used cards. The card's industry-leading 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions have really come in handy amid the coronavirus.

And the intro 0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases was helpful when I financed education courses (13.99% to 23.99% variable APR).

Learn more about how to maximize cash back on groceries and streaming services with the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express review.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.