Best Cards Summary
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Why this is one of the best credit cards with a sign-up bonus: The bonus is worth as much as $750, or 60,000 bonus points, when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. You’ll need to spend $4,000 on the card within three months of opening it to earn the bonus. Although you will pay a $95 annual card fee, the bonus is worth more than seven times that amount.
Hilton Honors American Express Card
Why this is one of the best credit cards with a sign-up bonus: The Hilton Honors American Express Card stands out for its strong bonus and status-chasing potential. You can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on the card during the first three months. You’ll also get automatic Hilton Honors silver status, which can be upgraded to gold if you spend $20,000 for the year.
United℠ Explorer Card
Why this is one of the best credit cards with a sign-up bonus: United travelers love this card for its free first checked bag – up to $140 round trip – and the bonus miles boost you can get when you sign up. The card offers 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. You’ll earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after making $6,000 in purchases within the first six months
IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card
Why this is one of the best credit cards with a sign-up bonus: This card is most rewarding when you use it to book IHG hotel stays. Purchases at IHG earn up to 15 points per dollar, while you earn two points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants. All other purchases earn one point per dollar. Cardholders are eligible to get a fourth night free, and there’s a 100,000-point bonus available when you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Why this is one of the best credit cards with a sign-up bonus: Those who prefer to fly on Southwest will appreciate the card’s sign-up-bonus. You’ll receive 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening an account. You’ll earn an additional 30,000 points after spending $10,000 in the first nine months. You’ll pay a $99 annual fee but receive a 6,000-point boost each card anniversary.
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
Why this is one of the best credit cards with a welcome offer: New cardholders earn 130,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 within three months of opening the account. This card offers 12 Hilton Honors points per dollar for eligible Hilton purchases. Complimentary Gold status in the Hilton Honors program is a card perk, and you can earn a weekend night award after charging $15,000 on your card in a calendar year. The card’s annual fee is $95.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Why this is one of the best credit cards with a sign-up bonus: The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card earns 12 points per dollar on Hilton purchases, six points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, and three points per dollar on all other purchases. You’ll earn 130,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000 within three months of opening the account.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
Why this is one of the best credit cards with a sign-up bonus: If Delta is your preferred airline, this card can help you earn free award flights faster. Delta purchases and purchases at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets earn 2 miles per dollar, and you’ll earn 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. You’ll also get your first checked bag free on Delta flights, priority boarding on Delta flights and 20% savings as a statement credit when you charge Delta in-flight purchases.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
Why this is one of the best credit cards with a sign-up bonus: New cardholders will receive 75,000 bonus points after making $3,000 in card purchases in the first three months. Each year after your account anniversary, you will also earn a free one-night stay at a qualifying hotel.
What Can You Expect From Credit Cards With the Best Sign-Up Bonuses?
Here’s what you should know about credit cards with the best sign-up bonuses:
Sign-up bonus offers: All of the cards surveyed have a sign-up bonus worth $300 or more. Most (about 74%) have a sign-up bonus worth at least $500.
Annual fee: A large sign-up bonus could be offset by an annual fee. You’ll pay an annual fee for all but one of the credit cards in this category. However, 26% waive the annual fee for the first year.
Ongoing rewards: Cards with a large sign-up bonus tend to have good ongoing rewards. All of the cards surveyed in this category earn at least two points or miles per dollar or 2% cash back on purchases in bonus categories.
How Do Sign-up Bonuses Work?
Most sign-up bonuses require you to spend a certain amount of money on your card within a specified time period to receive the bonus. There are occasional exceptions or variations on earning bonuses.
Sign-up bonuses are awarded as points, miles, cash back or statement credits, depending on the card. Points or miles may be redeemed for cash back, travel, gift cards, merchandise or other rewards.
Some cards offer a bonus that can be redeemed for a variety of things, but there’s usually an option that has the most value. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are valued at 1 cent per point for most redemption options, so this sign-up bonus is worth $600. However, points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, so this sign-up bonus is worth up to $750 if used for travel.
How Can You Choose a Card With a Sign-Up Bonus?
Sign-up bonuses usually range from $100 to $1,000, depending on the offer. A sign-up bonus can make a big difference in how much you can earn from your credit card in the first year, but it’s not the only factor you should consider when choosing a credit card.
Determine what type of credit card you want
There are many types of credit cards with sign-up bonuses. Try not to choose a card based only on the amount of the sign-up bonus. First, think about what type of rewards credit card you want. Then select one based on a sign-up bonus you want to earn and can attain without overspending.
Understand the sign-up bonus factors
What is the spending requirement? Usually, larger sign-up bonuses require a higher spending threshold.
How long do you have to meet the spending requirement? Most sign-up bonuses must be earned within the first three months of opening the card, but it’s always a good idea to check each card’s details.
How is the bonus offered? Some cards offer cash back bonuses, while others offer points or miles that can be redeemed for travel, cash back, gift cards or merchandise.
How much is the bonus worth? While cash back bonus amounts are easy to value, other options are more challenging to calculate. To make it easy for you to understand the value of each sign-up bonus, read the U.S. News guide: What Are My Points Worth?
How Can You Maximize Sign-up Bonuses?
Choose a card with a sign-up bonus you can earn. Consider your spending habits and how much you expect to spend during the first few months of using a credit card. Choose a card with a sign-up bonus that matches your spending so you won’t be tempted to overspend just to meet the bonus.
Watch out for fees. Your sign-up bonus may be worth $100 or more, but that can quickly be offset if you have to pay annual fees, interest on balances, late fees, balance transfer fees and/or foreign transaction fees. Always pay off your balance on time each month to avoid interest charges and late fees.
Compare credit cards regularly. Each year, you should reevaluate credit card offers to see how yours stacks up. With a new and better card, you will have the opportunity to earn a sign-up bonus that may be equivalent to years of rewards with your current card.
Plus, a new card increases your available credit, which helps you keep a low credit utilization ratio. This, in turn, can improve your credit score.
However, a new card isn’t without its drawbacks. The hard inquiry from a new card application may temporarily ding your credit score a few points. And because it can be a bad idea to close an account, you could end up with another card with an annual fee.
On the other hand, if you choose carefully, you could end up with a new card that complements your current credit cards. Used strategically, you can make a tidy profit from your rewards credit cards.