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Author: Bankrate Staff | Last Updated: March 19, 2019
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In this article
Quick comparison: Bankrate’s top picks for the best sign up bonus cards
|Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
||$500 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 within 3 months
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
||70,000 miles when you spend $5,000 in the first 90 days of account opening
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
||75,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases within first 3 months
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
||60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 within first 3 months
|Capital One Quicksilver Card
||$150 cash bonus if you spend $500 in purchases within the first 3 months
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
||American Airlines loyalists
||50,000 AAdvantage bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months
|Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
||$150 online cash rewards bonus after you spend $500 in purchases in the first 90 days
|Citi Premier℠ Card
||50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 within first 3 months of account opening
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®
||Flat-rate cash rewards
||$150 Bonus after you spend $500 in purchases in your first 3 months of account opening
Why you can trust Bankrate
Any financial decision you make, from buying a home to making investments, to getting a credit card, no matter how big or small, Bankrate is here to offer guidance. With over a decade of experience our team is well versed in providing useful, actionable advice for every stage of your financial journey. A sign-up bonus can be a great way to help you make the most of your everyday spending and help you to afford something you have been saving for, whether that be a vacation, flights over the holidays, or a new purchase like furniture.
The card with the highest sign-up bonus value may not necessarily be the best card for you, a great sign-up bonus card should be one that suits your normal spending patterns – to avoid overspending to hit the target – and one that offers rewards that will continue to benefit you long after the initial bonus has been spent. The 100-point Bankrate scoring methodology factors in the value of the sign-up bonus but also the usability and value of the ongoing rewards.
- Sign-up bonus: We factor in the value of the welcome offer in conjunction with the spending target.
- Annual fee: A lot of high-end hotel rewards cards charge fees, they also include a lot of luxury benefits, we weigh the pros and cons.
- Extras and Discounts: Free room upgrades and trip insurance are useful benefits for travelers. High-rate cash back categories on things like gas and groceries can be a boon for commuters and families.
Recap of the top sign up bonus credit cards
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card – Best for foodies
The Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card got a face lift in 2018 and came back better than ever with serious dining rewards. The card offers foodies the chance to earn 4% back on dining and entertainment, if you consistently run up heavy restaurant bills you should consider this card. The sign-up bonus could fund your next culinary adventure.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® – Best for serious travelers
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is more than its 70,000-mile sign-up bonus – which you’ll receive after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days of account opening. The Arrival Plus offers 2 miles per dollar on all purchases, and each time you redeem, you’ll get 5% miles back to use towards your next redemption. Book travel wherever and however you want with no airline or hotel restrictions and enjoy a waived annual fee for your first year ($89 per year thereafter).
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card – Best for hotel spending
The Capital One Venture Rewards card is a great travel card that offers all the perks we’ve come to expect from higher-tier travel card (such as credit toward Global Entry and TSA PreCheck fee) but it offers a lot of flexibility: You can book travel on any website, through any airline, or hotel chain and using Venture’s “travel eraser” tool use your points to erase expenses from your statement. But, you can also transfer points to airline partners with some really favorable rewards rates. This card is great for any traveler but the reason we particularly mention frequent hotel stayers is because the card offers 10x points on hotel stays booked and paid for through Hotels.com.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – Best for travelers
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or CSP as it’s lovingly referred to by fans, has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best travel rewards cards on the market. The card is part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program and redeeming through the Chase portal boosts the redemption value of your rewards by 25%.
Capital One Quicksilver Card – Best for everyday spenders
For anyone looking for a straightforward rewards card with an easily achievable sign-up bonus, then the Quicksilver card is a good choice for you. If you travel often outside of the U.S., the card charges no foreign transaction fees which is a useful perk that could save you plenty. With 1.5% back on all spending, if you charge $2,500 to your card monthly, that would give you $450 in cash back annually – not bad for a no annual fee card.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® – Best for American Airlines loyalists
Paging all American Airline’s flyers. If you travel frequently with the airline you may want to consider giving your AAdvantage account a turbocharge with the Citi /AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite. The rewards rates on high-spend categories such as gas and dining add to the cards appeal. And, if you’re regularly booking flights, you could be earning double the number of miles with 2x AAdvantage miles on American Airline purchases.
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card – Best for grocery shoppers
For a very low spend target you can earn a solid sign-up bonus with this no annual fee card. The rewards structure is perfect for anyone who spends heavily on gas and groceries as it offers 3% cash back in your choice category (which can include gas), 2% on grocery stores and wholesale clubs up to a combined $2,500 per quarter, 1% on everything else after that.
Citi Premier℠ Card – Best for road-warriors
Your 50,000 bonus points will help you fly farther with the Citi Premier. Your sign-up bonus is redeemable for $625 on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center. With a host of travel-oriented benefits like great transfer partners and more, the Citi Premier is a great choice for a travel rewards card. Its offering is particularly valuable for road warriors as you can earn 3x rewards points on gas station spending. That could take the edge off your daily commute if you know you’re racking up points for your next vacation.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® – Best for flat-rate cash rewards
With a long introductory period with no interest and 1.5% back on all spending, this is a great card to charge a large purchase to and pay off over time. If you’re planning a big expense – say, you just moved to a new house and you need furniture – you can pay off the expense in installments making the purchase or purchases more manageable. You’ll also earn 1.5% cash back on that expense and $150 cash back introductory bonus (after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months), that makes this no annual fee card very rewarding.
How to choose the best sign up bonus card
It’s easy to be seduced by a high-value sign-up bonus but the best offer is the card that you works best with your existing spending patterns, your budget, and your credit score.
Know your spending patterns
The best combination will be a card that offers a generous welcome offer and great rewards on your spending. This shouldn’t be too difficult to find from the list above. Knowing your own spending habits well will aid you in choosing a great credit card, and stop you from being swayed by an offer that might sound great for the first few months, but will ultimately be left unused. For instance, if you don’t spend much on airline tickets then a co-branded airline card that offers a chunk of miles as a welcome offer and high rewards rates on spending with the airline, isn’t that valuable. You may make use of the introductory offer but after that, you’ll find it hard to accrue substantial points just through your everyday spending. If you still want to earn travel rewards on your regular monthly expenditures like gas and groceries, you might want to consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Don’t overspend – know your budget
This one is crucial. All cards that offer a welcome offer require you to spend a certain amount within a given time period. For instance, $2,000 in the first three months after you open the account. If this amount is more than you would normally spend in the same time window then you may feel pressured to overspend. If you end up carrying a balance on your card, the interest you accrue will entirely negate any benefit from the sign-up bonus. So, make sure that the spend amount is within your normal spending range or use the card to make a planned expenditure (that you have a plan or have saved to pay off) that will help you reach the goal.
Consider your credit score
It’s not worth applying for a card that you may not qualify for if your credit score is too low, as each application results in a “hard pull” on your credit score which will temporarily suppress your credit score. Some cards allow you to do prequalification, this does not necessarily guarantee that you will qualify for the card you want, it can avoid the unwanted “hard pull” if you’re not 100% sure.
How to maximize your sign-up bonus
When considering the best card for you it’s worth factoring in if you can boost the value of your sign-up bonus. Some credit card companies’ rewards are improved when you redeem through their shopping or travel portals, and some reward customers for loyalty if they use the company for other elements of their banking.
How to know if the annual fee is worth it?
Many of the cards in our list charge annual fees, some are waived for the first year. These range from the $95 a year range, to the high-end luxury card charge of $450. Usually it only requires some quick math to see how much your average monthly spending will accrue in rewards, and then if those rewards are significantly more valuable to you that the annual fee. When you do this calculation, make sure to add in the value of the extras and discounts offered by the card and your likelihood of making use of them, perks lie extended warranties and rental car insurances can be high-value additions, but only if you make use of them.
There’s a degree of sticker shock with high-end fees but it’s worth reading the card details to see if you would make use of the, often, luxury benefits that come with this type of card. Travel benefits such as longue access and Global Entry reimbursement will be valuable perks for some.
For most, however, these are nice-to-have but not necessary benefits. Once the first year has come and gone and you’ve used up the points from the lucrative sign-up bonus, you will still have to make that high annual fee payment each year. Although it may be tempting to close your account, this reduce the open account history and total available credit, two important factors for your credit score. So, take the decision to close an account very seriously and be aware of the implications on your credit. If you’re doubtful that you will get the most use out of the cards perks – for instance, if you don’t fly very often then longue access won’t be helpful for you – then be honest with yourself, and save yourself the headache of signing up with that high annual fee.
Need to do more research?
If you haven’t quite decided yet on which credit card is right for you, check out our latest reviews of every single major credit card with a sign-up bonus.