Travel rewards credit cards are great for earning big sign-up bonuses that can be used for travel. Simply meet a spending requirement, and you’ll have enough points for that bucket list vacation you’ve been saving up for. But the thrill doesn’t have to end there. Many travel rewards cards offer annual bonuses for meeting specific spending requirements.
From airline miles to elite status and everything in between, here are the annual credit card spending bonuses you should know about.
Airline bonus miles
Want to earn airline miles without flying? One of the best ways to do that is with airline credit cards. Not only can you earn miles on everyday purchases, but you can earn bonus miles for hitting annual spending thresholds.
Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Business Mastercard
The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Business Mastercard® offers big spenders up to 40,000 miles per year. Cardholders earn 20,000 bonus miles for spending at least $50,000 annually, or 40,000 miles for spending $100,000. This bonus is in addition to the miles you normally earn from making purchases with this card.
This card currently offers a substantial welcome bonus of up to 70,000 miles: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days and 10,000 miles after a purchase is made on an employee card.
Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard
The *Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® offers cardholders an annual 15,000 bonus points after spending $25,000 within 12 months. This bonus is pretty substantial, considering 15,000 points is enough for a one-way economy class ticket between the West Coast and London.
Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards
You’ll receive 1,500 Tier qualifying points (TQPs) for every $10,000 you spend per year, with no limit. Eligible cards include: the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, or Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card.
In addition, there’s an anniversary bonus for the following Southwest cards:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: 3000 points
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: 6,000 points
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: 6,000 points
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: 7,500 points
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card: 9,000 points
Hotel bonus points
Earning rewards beyond the welcome bonus is key to justifying annual fees. Nowhere is that more relevant than hotel credit cards. After all, you’re channeling spending to a card that earns points with limited use. You want to make sure there’s a benefit beyond the welcome bonus. Here are credit cards with reasonable annual fees that offer annual bonus points for meeting spending requirements:
Best Western Rewards Premium Mastercard
The *Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® has a pretty generous annual spending bonus. Charge at least $5,000 in your credit card every 12 billing cycles and receive 40,000 bonus points. Considering free nights start at just 12,000 points, that’s a solid offer in exchange for a reasonable spending requirement.
Choice Privileges Visa Signature Card
The *Choice Privileges® Visa Signature® Card offers 8,000 bonus points when you spend $10,000 or more every year. With free nights starting at 8,000 points, this is a pretty good offer if you’re looking for a budget hotel loyalty program.
Free hotel nights
Earning hotel points can be limiting, especially when you can channel your spending to a transferable rewards card that offers more redemption options. Knowing this, credit card issuers provide additional incentives so cardholders will continue spending on their hotel credit cards. Free hotel nights are probably the best incentive, and several hotel cards let you earn at least one every year by charging a certain amount of spend on your card:
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass and Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
If you’re looking for free hotel nights at a reasonable cost, look no further than the *Hilton Honors American Express Surpass®. It offers a free weekend night when you spend $15,000 in a calendar year. Even if you put this free night award to use at a mid-tier hotel, you can easily offset the card’s $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year).
The business version of this card has the same annual fee and an identical $15,000 spending requirement for the annual free weekend night. The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card lets you earn a second free night reward when you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
The *Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card has a much higher annual fee than the Surpass card: $450 vs. the Surpass’ $95 ($0 intro annual fee for the first year). However, the Aspire card also comes with an annual free weekend night reward—no spending required.
If you want an additional free night on top of that, you can earn a second free night after spending $60,000 in a calendar year. That’s a large sum and will generate at least 180,000 Hilton points. Whether that’s worth it depends on your travel goals, but it’s worth exploring other options. For example, $60,000 worth of card spending will put you about halfway towards earning the Southwest Companion Pass.
IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card
The *IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card used to have one of the most generous annual free night award offers out there. While it used to be unrestricted, it’s now limited to hotels requiring 40,000 points per night or less.
Still, this remains a good value because you don’t actually have to spend anything to get this free night award. Simply renew your card every year, and you’ll be issued a free night award. Considering the card’s annual fee is just $99, it’s well worth the cost.
World of Hyatt Credit Card
The *World of Hyatt Credit Card comes with an annual free night when you renew your card. An additional $15,000 in spending will get you a second free night valid at a Category 1-4 hotel.
Airline elite status
Airline elite status used to be reserved for the most loyal flyers, but now airlines recognize a different kind of loyalty: big credit card spending. Gone are the days of mileage runs. Whether you’re a few miles short on elite status or want to earn all your elite qualifications through credit card spending, you can do so with the right credit card.
AAdvantage credit cards
In October 2021, American Airlines made a pretty significant change to its loyalty program. Starting in 2022, AAdvantage members could earn elite status purely through credit card spending. That means every dollar spent on an AAdvantage credit card gets you closer to your elite status goals. That hasn’t been the case since the program was revamped in 2011.
In addition to counting all AAdvantage card spending towards elite status, you can earn additional Loyalty Points with the *Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard. The card offers up to 15,000 bonus Loyalty Points for meeting the following spending requirements between Jan. 1, 2022, and Feb. 28, 2023.
- 5,000 bonus Loyalty Points for spending $20,000
- Plus 5,000 bonus Loyalty Points for spending $40,000
- 5,000 bonus Loyalty Points for spending $50,000
Delta SkyMiles credit cards
Delta’s elite qualification system requires earning a certain number of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and Medallion every year. With the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, you can earn 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 within a calendar year, up to four times per year.
Meanwhile, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card offers 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 in a calendar year, up to two times per year.
You can repeat this up to four times, earning upwards of 60,000 MQMs for Gold status and getting about halfway to top-tier Diamond. Remember that each status level also has an MQD requirement you need to meet. You can get the MQD requirement waived for Silver, Gold and Platinum status by spending $25,000 on the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex, Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business Amex or SkyMiles Reserve cards.
Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard
Virgin Atlantic is one of the few loyalty programs that makes it possible to earn elite status purely from credit card spending. The *Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® earns 25 tier points for every $2,500 spent. You can earn up to 50 tier points a month this way, which is enough to earn Silver elite status in a year or get halfway to Gold.
Between April 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023, Virgin Atlantic is lowering its tier requirements to 300 points for Silver elite status and 800 to Gold. This, combined with the Virgin Atlantic card’s earning rate, can help you achieve elite status much faster.
Hotel elite status
Hotel elite status comes with incredible benefits that can improve your stay and save you money. You don’t have to be a road warrior to earn hotel elite status—several credit cards either give it away or allow you to earn it through credit card spending.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass comes with instant mid-tier Gold elite status. But don’t let that mid-tier label fool you because Hilton Honors Gold comes with perks that rival other programs’ top-tier status levels: Complimentary breakfast, space-available room upgrades and more.
But you don’t have to stop there. You can upgrade to top-tier Diamond status by spending $40,000 in a calendar year on your Hilton Surpass Card. That’s a hefty amount of spending, but you’ll also earn at least 120,000 Hilton points. You can redeem these at a hotel like the Conrad Maldives, which regularly goes for over $1,000 per night. Alternatively, you can get a Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card, which comes with instant top-tier Diamond status (though the annual fee is a bit steep at $450).
Putting this much spending on your Hilton Surpass card might be worthwhile if you want Diamond status out of the gate and plan on getting your money’s worth on upcoming trips. Earning Hilton Diamond status requires completing 42 nights, 21 stays or earning 84,000 base points.
As someone who has had Hilton Diamond status for the past six years, thanks to credit cards like this one, I can personally attest to the value of having top-tier status. I’ve received incredible suite upgrades on multiple rooms. I’ve had complimentary breakfast and club lounge access extended to as many as eight people in my group. In addition, the 100 percent elite bonus always results in a nice stash of points, especially when combined with Hilton’s frequent double points promotions.
Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card offers the same elite status perks as the Hilton Surpass: instant Gold elite status and the ability to upgrade to Diamond by spending $40,000 in a calendar year. The elite status perks alone can make the $95 annual fee worthwhile.
IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card
IHG Platinum status usually requires 30 nights or 30,000 base points. However, you can skip over these requirements by having the IHG Rewards Premier credit card in your wallet.
IHG Platinum is the second-highest tier in IHG’s loyalty program, offering practical benefits like 50% bonus points, a welcome amenity, late check-out, priority check-in and waived point expiration. These are all valuable perks that can make your next IHG stay much more enjoyable.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless
*Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card cardholders receive automatic Silver status, plus 15 elite night credits every calendar year. Cardholders can earn an additional elite night credit for every $5,000 spent. This makes achieving top-tier status a slow and costly proposition. However, you can fast-track to Gold status by spending $35,000 in a calendar year.
World of Hyatt Credit Card
The World of Hyatt credit card is one of the few cards that allow you to spend your way to top-tier elite status. Cardholders get instant Discoverist status, plus five annual elite night credits every year, plus the ability to earn an additional two nights for every $5,000 spent. Hyatt’s top-tier Globalist status requires 60 nights, which you can earn through $140,000 worth of credit card spending.
That might not be worthwhile. However, if you’re a Hyatt loyalist, earning some elite nights through credit card spending every year will surely go a long way in reaching status faster.
World of Hyatt Business Credit Card
The World of Hyatt Business Credit Card makes earning top-tier status via credit card spending just a little easier than the World of Hyatt Credit Card. Cardholders get instant Discoverist status, plus 5 tier qualifying nights for every $10,000 spent.
The Southwest Companion Pass is perhaps the most well-known companion ticket out there, but it’s not the only one. Several airlines offer companion passes that can be used for international airfare, saving you potentially thousands of dollars on airfare. All you have to do is meet an annual spending requirement, and the pass is yours.
Aer Lingus Visa Signature Card
The Aer Lingus Visa Signature Card lets you earn an annual companion ticket after spending $30,000 in a calendar year. The companion ticket is good for economy class airfare and valid for 12 months. You’ll get the voucher within four to six weeks of qualification and will need to redeem it via email, which is a bit inconvenient. Still, booking two-for-one airfare on Aer Lingus is an excellent incentive for channeling spending onto the Aer Lingus Visa.
AAdvantage Aviator Red and Citi Business AAdvantage card
You can earn an annual companion certificate with both the Barclay *AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® and *CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®. The Aviator Red has a lower $20,000 yearly spending requirement, while the CitiBusiness AAdvantage card requires $30,000 in spending.
Both cards issue a companion certificate that’s valid for a $99 companion fare (plus taxes and fees). This can work out quite well if you’re booking a pricey fare during high season or taking a last-minute trip.
British Airways Visa Signature Card
British Airways imposes steep taxes and fees on its premium award flights, but the Travel Together Ticket can take the sting out of it. The Travel Together Ticket is valid on economy, business and first-class fares. You can earn it by spending $30,000 on the *British Airways Visa Signature® Card in a year.
It’s a great perk that can save you thousands of dollars, especially considering the card’s reasonable $95 annual fee.
The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most popular companion tickets. All you need is 125,000 points to qualify for the Companion Pass and the welcome bonus and all credit card spending from the Southwest credit cards count toward that requirement:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
While companion passes are great, they require traveling with a companion. Some credit cards offer airline discount vouchers in exchange for hitting a particular spending requirement every year. Here’s a look at some of these discount vouchers and the credit cards issuing them:
Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
The *Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® offers an annual $125 flight discount after you spend $20,000 and renew your card. The voucher comes with a discount code that you can conveniently redeem online. I’ve consistently earned the flight discount over the four years I’ve had this card, and it easily justifies the $99 annual fee.
Iberia Visa Signature Card
At $1,000, the Iberia Visa Signature Card offers one of the most valuable discount vouchers. You can earn the voucher after spending $30,000 in a calendar year. The catch is that the voucher must be applied to two tickets booked on the same flight. It’s essentially a companion ticket, though it can still go a long way.
Iberia frequently offers round-trip economy fares to Spain as low as $500 per person, so the $1,000 discount voucher would easily cover two tickets.
*The information about Iberia Visa Signature Card, Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, British Airways Visa Signature® Card, CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®, AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card, Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard, Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard, IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, Choice Privileges® Visa Signature® Card, Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®, Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® and Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Business Mastercard® has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.