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Best credit card sign-up bonuses

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If you’re willing to spend a few thousand, you can qualify for hundreds of dollars in travel bonuses (Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card), or, if you want some quick cash for not a lot of spending, there are options for you as well (Chase Freedom Unlimited®).

Credit cards are an important lending and credit-building tool, but they are perhaps most popular for one thing: rewards. Savvy consumers have used credit card sign up bonuses for years to stockpile rewards and get free travel.

Others have relied on cash back rewards to cover bills during difficult economic times or even invest. Regardless of how you spend a credit card welcome offer, there is a lot of value to be had.

If you’re in the market for a new credit card, here are the best offers:

Best credit card sign up bonuses

  • Best for transferable rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card
  • Best for premium travelers: Capital One® Venture® X Rewards Credit Card
  • Best mid-tier card: Capital One® Venture®  Card
  • Best for everyday purchases: Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card
  • Best for low annual fee: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Best for business: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Credit Card: Best for transferable rewards

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
  • Member FDIC
Annual Fee Intro APR Regular APR Credit Needed
$550 N/A 22.49% - 29.49% Variable Excellent

Pros

  • Earns valuable points at a high rate on travel and dining
  • The $300 travel credit is flexible
  • Priority Pass membership is eligible for restaurant credits
  • Offers a suite of useful travel and purchase protections
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Category bonuses are restrictive
  • Card is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule, which impacts eligibility
  • The $550 annual fee and $75 authorized user fee are high
  • The welcome bonus isn’t the highest we’ve seen for this card

You’ll get a sign-up bonus of 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card is one of the most popular premium credit cards on the market. You can see this reflected in the high annual fee.

The Sapphire Reserve® signup bonus is worth more when you redeem it through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal. That’s because points are worth 1.5 cents each.

You can get even more value out of your welcome bonus by transferring your points to one of 14 airline and hotel partners for premium travel.

The credit card is targeted towards travel enthusiasts and offers up to 10X points on travel and dining, along with a $300 annual travel credit. You also get a $100 statement credit every four years for either Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS.

You can earn more points with your regular spending. Once you’ve spent $300 on travel annually, this card earns 5X on fights and 10X on hotels and rental cars booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You’ll also earn 3X on other travel (after the first $300).

You can also earn 10X on Chase Dining purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

When not booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards® you earn 3X on dining and restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Capital One® Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Best for premium travelers

Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

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See Rates & Fees.

  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive a $300 annual credit for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Elevate every hotel stay from the Premier or Lifestyle Collections with a suite of cardholder benefits, like an experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
Annual Fee Intro APR, Purchases Intro APR, Balance Transfers Regular APR Credit Needed
$395 N/A N/A 21.99% - 28.99% (Variable)
  • Excellent

Pros

  • Annual bonuses make up for the annual fee
  • Lots of useful travel perks
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Must use the Capital One Travel portal to get the most value
  • $395 annual fee

With the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card you will get 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. This is worth $750 in free travel!

This card has a high annual fee, but it is offset considerably with an annual $300 travel credit for travel booked through Capital One Travel. You’ll also get 10,000 bonus miles on your account anniversary which is worth $100 in travel if booked through Capital One Travel. Plus, you get a statement credit for up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®.

Those benefits alone more than make up for the annual fee, assuming you are able to take advantage of them.

The Venture X card gives you and two guests unlimited complimentary access to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network. This credit card also comes with some travel and purchase protections.

When it comes to earning miles on your everyday spending, the Venture X has a pretty straightforward program. If you book through Capital One Travel, you’ll get 10X miles per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars and 5X miles per dollar spent on flights.

All other purchases will earn 2X miles per dollar spent.

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best mid-tier card

Earn 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

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See Rates & Fees.

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Enjoy two complimentary visits per year to Capital One Lounges or to 100+ Plaza Premium Lounges through the Partner Lounge Network
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Enrich every hotel stay from our Lifestyle Collection with a suite of cardholder benefits, like a $50 experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
Annual Fee Intro APR, Purchases Intro APR, Balance Transfers Regular APR Credit Needed
$95 N/A N/A 20.99% - 28.99% (Variable)
  • Excellent
  • Good

Pros

  • Generous welcome bonus with flexible redemption options.
  • $95 annual fee for a card with lounge access and Global Entry/TSA PreCheck® perks.
  • 2 miles earned for $1 spent on all purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Capital One pulls your credit from all three credit bureaus.

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has been one of our top picks for international travel for years, thanks to no foreign transaction fees and worldwide acceptance. The card will give you a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. This bonus is valid for up to $750 in travel credits. Alternatively, you can get more for your miles by transferring your rewards to one of Capital One’s airline or hotel partners.

Despite the annual fee, the card comes with benefits often reserved for premium credit cards: Two free lounge visits per year, Hertz* Five Star® status, and up to $100 statement credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck® credit.

Upon enrollment, accessible through the Capital One website or mobile app, eligible cardholders will remain at upgraded status level through December 31, 2024. Please note, enrolling through the normal Hertz Gold Plus Rewards enrollment process (e.g. at Hertz.com) will not automatically detect a cardholder as being eligible for the program and cardholders will not be automatically upgraded to the applicable status tier. Additional terms apply.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for everyday purchases

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

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  • Intro Offer: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!
  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
  • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% - 29.24%.
  • No annual fee - You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card
  • Keep tabs on your credit health, Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, real-time alerts, and more.
  • Member FDIC
Annual Fee Intro APR, Purchases Intro APR, Balance Transfers Regular APR Credit Needed
$0 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months 20.49% - 29.24% Variable Excellent/Good

Pros

  • $0 annual fee
  • High earning potential on everyday spending categories
  • If you have a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, you can convert your cash back to points

Cons

  • Welcome bonus isn’t as high as a rewards credit card
  • Foreign transaction fee applies when used abroad

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® Credit Card has a relatively low welcome bonus, an additional 1.5% on all purchases (up to $20,000 spent in the first year), but one that is standard for a no-annual-fee cash back card. This isn’t a card you get for the sign-up bonus but rather its long-term earning potential. With no annual fee, it’s easy to justify keeping long-term, and you can convert your cash back to Chase Ultimate Rewards® if you have another card that earns them.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases but also offers several category bonuses to help you supercharge your earnings on everyday spending:

  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3% on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% on drugstore purchases

On top of the great earn rate, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is offering 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months & 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months (followed by the regular APR rate of 20.49% - 29.24% Variable). This card is a great supplement to your wallet if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card in your wallet.

You can combine the category bonuses from all these cards with the Chase Freedom Unlimited®’s 1.5% base earn rate to really maximize your earnings. That alone can make up for the low welcome bonus on this card.

Citi Premier®: Best for dining and groceries

Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. These points are redeemable for $600 in gift cards at thankyou.com. 

Citi Premier® Credit Card

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  • Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Other Hotels
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 60,000 ThankYou® Points are redeemable for $600 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchase
Annual Fee Intro APR, Purchases Intro APR, Balance Transfers Regular APR Credit Needed
$95 N/A N/A 21.24% - 29.24% (Variable)
  • Excellent
  • Good

Pros

  • Increased limited-time welcome bonus
  • 3X points on common spending categories, including gas stations, supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, and air travel
  • $95 annual fee
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • No travel or purchase protection
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit applies after taxes, reducing savings potential
  • The Citi ThankYou® program has mostly foreign transfer partners

The Citi Premier® Card kicks off with a limited-time 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. These points are redeemable for $600 in gift cards at thankyou.com. The everyday rewards program offers 3 points per dollar spent in various categories and has no foreign transaction fees. The points can go a long way when redeemed with transfer partners like Turkish Airlines, which offers round-trip award tickets to Hawaii for just 15,000 miles.

The Citi Premier® Card is the rare travel rewards card that offers highly generous points back on travel-related expenses like airline tickets, restaurants, and hotels, but also everyday essentials like gas station and supermarket purchases. You’ll get 3 points per dollar spent on all the aforementioned categories and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

The annual fee is reasonable, taking the various benefits into account. The only significant drawback to the Citi Premier® Card is that Citi no longer offers travel and purchase protection. So the card isn’t the best to use for expensive purchases or travel bookings.

Card info has been independently collected by MoneyUnder30 to help consumers better compare cards. The financial institution did not provide or approve card details.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Credit Card: Best for low annual fee

60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®..

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, and 2x on all other travel purchases, and $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC
Annual Fee Intro APR Regular APR Credit Needed
$95 N/A 21.49% - 28.49% Variable Excellent/Good

Pros

  • $95 annual fee
  • Earns Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Transfer points to travel partners without losing value
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The beauty here is that you don’t have to book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal, you just get 25% more value if you do.

You’ll also receive a $50 annual statement credit on a hotel stay purchased through the portal at Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus, on your account anniversary, you will get a 10% bonus on the points you earned through making purchases that year.

For example, if you earned 10,000 points on purchases, you’ll get a 100-point bonus on your account anniversary.

When it comes to earning points on your everyday spending you will earn 5X points per dollar spent on all travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal. You’ll also earn 3X points per dollar spent on dining, online grocery purchases, and select streaming services.

You’ll earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

As for other travel perks, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® has Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Baggage Delay Insurance, Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance and more.

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card: Best for business

100,000 bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. That's $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel rewards when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

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  • Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • Round-the-clock monitoring for unusual credit card purchases
  • With Zero Liability you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information.
  • Redeem points for cash back, gift cards, travel and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Purchase Protection covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.
  • Member FDIC
Annual Fee Intro APR, Purchases Intro APR, Balance Transfers Regular APR Credit Needed
$95 N/A N/A 21.24% - 26.24% Variable Good, Excellent

Pros

  • Solid category bonuses
  • $95 annual fee
  • Free employee cards
  • Not subject to 5/24
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • High spending requirement to earn the sign-up bonus.

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Cards starts with a sign up bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. That's $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel rewards when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

This can be a hindrance to some business owners, while others will be able to complete it by charging all of their business expenses to the card. The sign-up bonus is valid for up to $1,250 worth of travel bookings – or more, if you transfer them to partner airlines and hotels.

Aside from the welcome bonus, the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card offers 3X points on the first $150,000 in combined purchases on shipping, advertising on social media sites, internet, cable, phone service, and travel. These are pretty broad categories that many small and large businesses can take advantage of for maximum rewards.

The card charges no foreign transaction fees, so you can use it abroad without penalty. That will come in handy for travel purchases, which are eligible for the 3X category bonus. Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance will give you peace of mind when traveling abroad, since you’ll get up to $5,000 per person and $10,000 per trip. Cardholders also enjoy the Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, which means you won’t have to file a claim through your own car insurance company in case of an accident.

For daily use, the card offers cell phone protection that can come in handy. Cardholders get up to $1,000 per claim in coverage against damage or theft, which extends to employees as well. You can file up to three claims per 12 months and there’s a $100 deductible.

The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for luxury perks

Image of the American Express Platinum Card80,000 points after you spend $6,000 in eligible purchases in the first six months of account opening

Pros

  • Over $1,500 in statement credits for travel and entertainment
  • High earnings on travel bookings
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck® statement credit every four years
  • Generous travel protections
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • $695 annual fee
  • Most statement credits are limited in their use
  • Limited bonus categories

The Platinum Card® from American Express currently offers 80,000 points after you spend $6,000 in eligible purchases in the first six months from account opening. We recommend getting this credit card when the sign-up bonus is over 100,000 points. The reason this is important is because of Amex’s once-per-lifetime rule, which limits the number of times you can earn a welcome bonus. Even though there are exceptions to the rule, when the offer is low you should consider holding out for a higher offer if you don’t need the points right away.

The annual fee is mitigated with a variety of statement credits. For example, you can get an annual $200 statement credit on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resort or The Hotel Collection bookings through American Express Travel.

You can also get reimbursement of $189 per year for CLEAR® and up to $200 in Uber Cash per year to save on rides or Uber Eats.

You can get a statement credit of $20 per month when you make eligible purchases at one or more of the following: Disney+, the Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, or The New York Times. You must pay for the service with your Amex Platinum Card® and enrolment is required.

The Amex Platinum Card® is an exceptional choice if you want a card with a high welcome bonus and plenty of recurring travel perks. Between the various statement credits and travel protections, this is a great card to keep in your wallet during your travels. What it’s not great for is rewarding you for your everyday purchases.

Members of Equinox+, the digital fitness app, can get a $300 statement credit per year. You must pay for the service with your Amex Platinum Card® and enrolment is required.

The card earns 5X points on flights booked direct and through Amex Travel, 5X on prepaid hotels through Amex Travel, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. This may not be the most rewarding card long-term if you want to be rewarded for everyday spending categories like gas stations, groceries, and dining. Still, the high welcome bonus provides a nice boost to your Membership Rewards account.

American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card: Best cash back card

$250 cash back after you make $3,000 in eligible purchases in the first six months from account opening

Pros

  • High earnings in common spending categories
  • The card is eligible for Amex Offers
  • $0 first year, then $95 annual fee is waived in the first year

Cons

  • Capped earnings on some of the cash back categories
  • Not everyone will take advantage of the annual Equinox and Disney+ statement credits
  • 2.7% foreign transaction fee

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card’s welcome bonus is slightly higher than most other cash back cards. The card offers a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 within the first six months of card membership – most cash back cards only offer $200. But outside of the welcome bonus, this card offers generous category bonuses and opportunities to offset the $0 first year, then $95 annual fee (which is waived the first year). Overall, this is an excellent card to keep long-term. The welcome bonus is just the icing on the cake.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card offers practicality above all else. Cardmembers earn high earnings in daily spending categories that can add up substantially. Even if you don’t consider the card’s welcome bonus to be high, these lucrative bonus categories can make it worthwhile:

  • 6% cash back with select U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • 3% cash back on transit (including taxis, rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses, and more)
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

The card also offers a $7 monthly credit towards a Disney subscription bundle and $120 annual Equinox credit. This can be a very rewarding credit card that can help you generate rewards well beyond the already competitive welcome bonus.

Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Best with a low spending requirement

50,000 AAdvantage bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the annual fee within 90 days from account opening.

Pros

  • Earning the welcome bonus doesn’t have a big spending requirement
  • Substantial benefits when flying American Airlines
  • Anniversary Companion Certificate can be valuable

Cons

  • $99 annual fee is not waived the first year like it is on the Citi AAdvantage card
  • No category bonuses outside of American Airlines purchases

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is one of the best credit card sign-up bonuses for many reasons. To start, the 50,000 Aadvantage bonus miles are incredibly easy to earn. All you have to do is pay the annual fee and make one purchase on the card within the first 90 days.

Compare that to a single purchase you have to make (and pay the $99 annual fee) within 90 days to trigger the welcome bonus on the Aviator Red card. This is by far the easiest credit card sign-up bonus you’ll ever earn, not to mention you’ll have a stash of valuable AAdvantage miles and valuable travel perks when flying American.

Aside from a high sign-up bonus, the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® has generous travel perks that can offset the $99 annual fee.

Cardholders get a free checked bag for themselves and up to four companions on the same American Airlines itinerary. They also receive preferred boarding and up to $25 in in-flight Wi-Fi credits every year. The $99 Companion Certificate sweetens the deal further, helping to offset the annual fee every year you put it to good use.

However, the card falls short when it comes to earn rate. Outside of the 2X American Airlines bonus, the card offers no category bonuses. This takes away some of the card’s luster and makes earning miles beyond the sign-up bonus more challenging.

United Club Infinite Card: Best for airline miles

80,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on eligible purchases within three months of account opening

Pros

  • United Club membership value can offset the annual fee
  • Valuable United benefits, including checked bags, Premier Access, discounted awards and upgrade eligibility on award tickets
  • Earn up to 8,000 Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) towards United elite status
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • $525 annual fee
  • Subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule
  • Card is not useful if you don’t live in a United hub

The United Club Infinite Card currently offers one of the biggest airline credit card sign-up bonuses: Earn 80,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 within three months of account opening. The bonus can get you far, whether you want to travel domestically or save up for a fancy international first-class seat.

Once you’ve spent the sign-up bonus, you can earn additional miles through credit card spending. The card earns 4 miles on United and 2 miles on travel purchases and dining. All other spending earns 1 mile per dollar spent.

Beyond points, the card’s $525 annual fee provides lots of value to frequent and occasional travelers alike. Cardholders receive two free checked bags on United flights, Premier Access®, 25% back on in-flight purchases, and upgrade eligibility on award tickets. A 10% discount on economy saver awards within the U.S. and Canada can also add up to substantial savings.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Best for hotel points

150,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases the first three months of account opening

Pros

  • Automatic top-tier Hilton Honors diamond elite status
  • Generous category bonuses on dining, travel and everyday spending
  • Annual free night reward
  • $250 airline fee credit and $250 Hilton resort credit can offset the annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • $450 annual fee
  • Hilton Honors points are limited in their use

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is by far one of the best hotel credit cards. The card offers 150,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Hilton free nights range from 3,000-150,000 points per night, so this bonus can go a long way if you maximize it. The generous category bonuses let you earn up to 14X points per dollar spent on purchases, meaning you can easily replenish your points balance.

The Hilton Honors Aspire Card offers tons of value for the $450 annual fee. Cardmembers get top-tier Hilton Diamond status, which comes with perks like complimentary breakfast or food and beverage credit, lounge access, 100% bonus points and space-available room upgrades.

The card also comes with an annual free night award valid at most Hilton properties. Depending on where you use it, you can get way more than the $450 annual fee. The $250 airline credit stacked with the $250 resort credit provides even more opportunities to save on travel.

What to look for in a sign-up bonus

Now that you know how lucrative sign-up bonus credit cards can be, it’s time to learn how to determine which ones are worth applying for. There are hundreds of credit cards out there and they all claim to have to best offer for you. So, how do you know what to watch out for?

Here are the most important features when shopping around for the best sign-up bonus credit cards:

Sign-up bonus

Obviously, this is the most important aspect of a sign-up bonus card. A “good” sign-up bonus is somewhat subjective. For most points credit cards, 50,000 points or higher is considered good. Hotel cards often have bonuses of 100,000 points or higher, so aim for one around that number. Cash back bonuses are usually around $200, so anything above that is considered good.

Flexible rewards

Flexibility is key to a great sign-up bonus. Are the points you’re earning easy to redeem? Can you convert them into cash back if you want? Not all rewards are flexible, and this shouldn’t be your only criteria for a sign-up bonus, but it’s worth considering.

Other travel perks

As mentioned, great travel credit cards come with great travel rewards. For those who travel frequently, these types of rewards are a godsend, and a sign-up bonus credit card that bundles travel rewards into its package is truly top-notch.

Some of the best travel rewards include no foreign transaction fee, extra earn rates for travel purchases, travel insurance, airport lounge access, statement credits, and more.

APR

How much interest you pay on your credit card balance is a major consideration for most people. A high APR can totally cancel out any savings or bonuses you receive, even a hefty sign-up bonus.

Of course, you can negate this factor altogether by paying off your balance in full each month. This is the most responsible way to spend, but if it’s not financially feasible for you, only consider credit cards with competitive APRs.

Annual fees

Annual fees vary dramatically in this category. You can find cards charging anywhere from $0 to $695. Sometimes, the annual fee is a reflection of what you are getting from the credit card, but not always.

Sign-up bonus value

After analyzing the various offers from the many sign-up bonus credit cards available, the real question becomes how to determine whether or not the sign-up bonus is worthwhile for you.

In fact, you can do the math pretty simply by calculating how much you generally spend per month/year and factoring in the various bonuses.

Of course, the various benefits received can get a little tricky to quantify. For example, you can’t put a dollar amount on the convenience of having express check-in or the comfort of upgrading your hotel room to a suite.

In general, you can determine how valuable a sign-up bonus is by asking yourself these questions before you sign up:

Spending requirements

If the required amount is within the range that you generally spend each month anyway then you’re essentially getting a free sign-up bonus. All you’ll need to do is transfer your monthly bills onto the card.

On the other hand, the minimum spend requirement for the card is significantly more than the amount you normally spend then the sign-up bonus card might not be right for you unless you have some planned spending coming up.

Credit score requirements

To take advantage of the best credit card sign-up bonuses, you need to have very good credit. Remember, each time you apply for a new credit card, the issuer will make a hard pull on your credit score, which will cause it to dip. You want to make sure you’re being approved for whichever card you’re applying for so that you don’t cause this dip more than once.

Sign-up bonus credit cards are some of the best on the market, and the ones on our list, therefore, require credit scores of 700 or higher.

If you don’t know your score, check out our free credit score estimator tool.

Fees

When making your calculations, be sure to include whatever fees come along with the credit card. For example, if you earn a $150 cash bonus but have to pay a $99 annual fee, then you’re really only earning $51 as a cash bonus. This seriously reduces the value of the sign-up bonus.

Look at fees like annual, foreign transactions, and late payment fees before signing up. It’s also a good idea to review the APR offered. The sign-up bonus might not be worthwhile if your interest payments are exceedingly higher than on other cards.

That said, at Money Under 30 we always recommend paying off your balance in full and on time, and if you’re responsibly following our advice, then even a high APR won’t matter much because you won’t ever be paying it!

How do credit card sign-up bonuses work?

Credit card sign up bonuses are typically earned by spending a certain amount of money in a set number of months from account opening. For example, you might have to make $1,000 in eligible purchases in the first three months.

Once earned, the sign-up bonus will be credited to your rewards account. This can often take several weeks to a few months to arrive. So plan ahead if you are planning to use the welcome bonus for something specific.

What are eligible purchases?

Most credit cards require a certain amount of “eligible purchases” within a set time frame to qualify for the sign-up bonus. But exactly are eligible purchases?

Each credit card issuer will have its own rules. However, the vast majority of your everyday purchases will be considered eligible purchases. Where you get into trouble is when you are trying to scam the system.

Some examples of “non-eligible purchases” would be:

  • Gift cards
  • Gambling
  • Cash advances
  • Refunded transactions

So you can’t earn a sign-up bonus by meeting the spending requirements by buying gift cards.

Can I be matched to a higher sign-up bonus if a new one comes out soon after I sign up?

Sometimes. It never hurts to call and ask. Sometimes the credit card issuer will accommodate this request and others will not. But there is certainly no harm in asking.

Can I get a sign-up bonus more than once?

Probably. Most banks will allow you to earn a new credit card sign up bonus if it’s been several years since you last had the card. That means you’ve closed the card and it’s been 2-4 years depending on the credit card issuer. American Express states their sign-up bonus can only be earned once in a lifetime, but there are reports of people getting a second one after seven years.

Should you get a credit card for the sign-up bonus?

Credit cards with high sign-up bonuses provide a quick way to boost your rewards balance and meet your travel goals faster. The only downside to these cards is that some carry high annual fees and require excellent credit scores. If you meet the criteria and can gain value from the card’s other benefits, then applying for one of these cards is well worth it.