Biggest travel sign-up bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now On Chase's secure website
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Welcome Offer: Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Regular APR: 15.99%-22.99% Variable
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for rounding up rewards

Citi Rewards+® Card

Apply Now On Citi's secure website
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.
  • Welcome Offer: Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
  • Regular APR: 13.49% - 23.49% (Variable)
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for cash back in multiple categories

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Apply Now On Chase's secure website
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®. Earn 3% on dining and drugstores. Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Welcome Offer: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Regular APR: 14.99 - 23.74% Variable
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for choice of cash back category

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card

Apply Now On Bank of America's secure website
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases). Earn automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases). Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
  • Welcome Offer: $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Regular APR: 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for rotating cash back categories

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Apply Now On Chase's secure website
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter! Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®. Earn 3% on dining and drugstores. Earn 1% on all other purchases.
  • Welcome Offer: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Regular APR: 14.99 - 23.74% Variable
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best business sign-up bonus

Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card

Apply Now On Chase's secure website
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
  • Welcome Offer: Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Regular APR: 13.24% - 19.24% Variable
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best airline sign-up bonus

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Apply Now On Chase's secure website
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: Earn 3X points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year. Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Welcome Offer: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Regular APR: 15.99% - 22.99% Variable
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Terms and Restrictions Apply

>The information about the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed by the card issuer.

Bankrate’s guide to credit card sign-up bonuses

If getting a great sign-up bonus from a new credit card is your goal, the personal finance experts at Bankrate can help you do it the right way.

The best credit card bonus offers for new cardholders can deliver hundreds of dollars in cash back, thousands of travel miles and more. Each offer has real value, but which ones are the most valuable for you? Do they match up with your spending habits and the goals you want to accomplish with your new credit card? Is there an overall best credit card bonus offer for new cardholders?

In this guide:


Our picks for top sign-up bonus credit cards

Card Sign-up Bonus Spending Requirement Bankrate Review Score
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 100,000 points (worth $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®) $4,000 within first 3 months 4.1 / 5
(Read full card review)
Citi Rewards+® Card 15,000 ThankYou Points $1,000 within first 3 months 3.2 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Freedom Unlimited® $200 cash bonus $500 within first 3 months 4.6 / 5
(Read full card review)
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card $200 online cash rewards bonus $1,000 within first 90 days 4.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Freedom Flex℠ $200 cash bonus $500 within first 3 months 4.5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card $750 $7,500 within first 3 months 4.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card 40,000 points $1,000 within first 3 months 3.7 / 5
(Read full card review)

A closer look at the best sign-up bonus credit cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Best for biggest travel sign-up bonus

  • This card is a good fit for: Travelers seeking great rewards value and a relatively low annual fee.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Luxury-seeking travelers looking for perks like airport lounge access.
  • What makes this card unique? One of the top selling points of this card is the fact that you can transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio to Chase’s impressive list of airline and hotel partners. You don’t see that kind of flexibility and value among many travel credit cards.
  • Is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card worth it? Even on a basic level, this card’s rewards structure is clearly valuable. But you can get 25 percent more value from your points by redeeming them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The option to transfer points to Chase’s travel partners is pretty valuable, too, giving you more chances to find the best deal. Even with a $95 annual fee, Chase makes it easy to get your money’s worth. The sign-up bonus, for example, is worth $1,250 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening)— that’s worth the cost of ten years of annual fees.

Read our Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review.

Citi Rewards+® Card

Best for rounding up rewards

  • This card is a good fit for: Everyday shoppers looking to earn travel rewards.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Cash back seekers. While you can redeem your rewards for cash back or statement credits, you’ll get half the value you would get if redeeming for travel or gift cards, according to Bankrate’s evaluation.
  • What makes this card unique? The rewards structure seems pretty standard, but there’s an interesting and valuable detail: The rewards you earn from every purchase will be rounded up to the nearest ten points. So, a $3 coffee earns 10 ThankYou points.
  • Is the Citi Rewards+® Card worth it? You’ll get a 15,000-point sign-up bonus when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months, worth $150 when redeemed for gift cards at thankyou.com. And with no annual fee and the round-up feature, you can get a lot of value out of this card beyond the sign-up bonus.

Read our Citi Rewards Card review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Best for cash back in multiple categories

  • This card is a good fit for: Those who want the option to redeem for travel and cash back.
  • This card is not a great choice for: International travelers who want to use the card abroad. A 3 percent foreign transaction fee will apply to purchases made outside of the U.S.
  • What makes this card unique? If you already have a premium Ultimate Rewards card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can transfer your rewards to that account and redeem them for greater value. That way, you earn rewards in more categories while maintaining maximum redemption value.
  • Is the Chase Freedom Unlimited® worth it? With boosted rewards rates on travel (purchased through Chase), as well as everyday categories like drugstore and restaurant purchases, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a well-rounded, valuable card. Plus, there’s no annual fee and the sign-up bonus is hearty for such a small required spend.

Read our Chase Freedom Unlimited review.

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card

Best for choice of cash back category

  • This card is a good fit for: Those who value a customizable rewards structure.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Big spenders. There’s a $2,500 combined spending cap per quarter on the 2 percent and 3 percent bonus categories. Once you reach that threshold, your bonus rate for those categories drops to just 1 percent until the next quarter.
  • What makes this card unique? Other cash back cards offer rotating bonus categories, but this card is pretty unique for offering cardholders the power to choose from six categories and change your selection up to once per month.
  • Is the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card worth it? The fact that you earn an automatic 2 percent back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on top of the rewards you earn in your choice category adds a ton of practical value ($2,500 combined spending cap per quarter on the 2 percent and 3 percent bonus categories, then 1%). The sign-up bonus is fair and easy enough to attain with regular card use.

Read our Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card review.

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Best for rotating cash back categories

  • This card is a good fit for: Those looking to earn boosted cash back in multiple categories.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Those who don’t like having to remember to activate the new bonus categories each quarter.
  • What makes this card unique? Rather than fixed bonus categories, as most rewards cards offer, the Chase Freedom Flex comes with bonus categories that rotate quarterly. The Discover it® Cash Back is one of the only cards to offer a similar structure. Read our full comparison of the Discover it Cash Back and the Chase Freedom Flex to determine which is a better fit for you.
  • Is the Chase Freedom Flex℠ card worth it? The sign-up bonus offers a good payout for such a low spending requirement, likely not requiring much strategizing to achieve it. Beyond the first 3 months, the rotating bonus categories and high rewards rates in other categories have tremendous cash back potential. If you maxed out the $1,500 combined limit on the 5 percent cash back categories each quarter (activation required, 1% after quarterly maximum is met), you would earn $75 in cash back per quarter (1,500 x .05 = 75), $300 for the year.

Read our Chase Freedom Flex review.

Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card

Best for business sign-up bonus

  • This card is a good fit for: Small-business owners seeking a first rewards card.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Owners looking to earn rewards in specific bonus categories. If you’re interested in a tiered rewards structure more than flat-rate, consider this card’s sister card, the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card. It rewards at a higher rate on office supply stores, internet, cable and phone services (5 percent cash back in combined purchases of the first $25,000 spent each account anniversary year, then 1%), as well as gas stations and restaurants (2 percent cash back in combined purchases of the first $25,000 spent each account anniversary year, then 1%).
  • What makes this card unique? Employee cards come at no additional cost, a feature that business cards often charge for. Plus, you can set custom spending limits on employee cards for added security.
  • Is the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card worth it? This card’s steady rewards structure, value-boosting perks and lack of an annual fee make it a valuable asset for both larger operations looking to keep costs low and budding businesses. The sign-up bonus requires a hefty minimum spend, but the payout is proportionally large.

Read our Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card review.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Best for airline sign-up bonus

  • This card is a good fit for: Frequent Southwest Airlines flyers looking for a low annual fee.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Someone who might not always fly with Southwest Airlines.
  • What makes this card unique? As a reward for your brand loyalty, Southwest offers several perks that can take the headache out of traveling. Lost luggage is reimbursed up to $3,000 per passenger, and delayed luggage is insured up to $100 per day for three days. Plus, your first two bags fly free (size and weight limits apply), and there are no fees for flight changes.
  • Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card worth it? The $69 annual fee is comparatively modest — If you’re looking for a Southwest credit card, this is the lowest annual fee you’ll find. Since Bankrate values Southwest points at 1.3-1.4 cents apiece when used for Southwest flights, the 40,000-point sign-up bonus (after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months) is worth approximately $520, which can cover a flight or two, depending on your destination. Overall, it’s a great starter card for frequent Southwest flyers.

Read our Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card review.


What is a credit card sign-up bonus?

A credit card sign-up bonus is a one-time reward that you earn by spending a certain amount of money on a new card within a specific amount of time, usually three months from the day you open your account. Once you meet the spending requirement, you’ll typically receive the bonus in two to three billing cycles.

Also called welcome offers, these bonuses can come in the form of cash back, points or miles. In general, premium rewards cards that charge annual fees offer the largest sign-up bonuses. That said, plenty of no-annual-fee cards offer valuable sign-up bonuses worth several hundred dollars.

Bankrate insight
Most cards keep the same bonuses or welcome offers for long periods of time, but occasionally they change it up. Browse our list of credit card limited-time offers to compare the most up-to-date sign-up bonuses and more.

Types of sign-up bonuses

There’s no clear-cut best credit card bonus offer for everyone, but taking a look at the three most common sign-up categories can help you find your ideal choice:

Rewards points

With a sign-up bonus offering points, you’ll usually see a range as low as 10,000 and as high as 100,000 points after meeting the spending requirement.

Travel miles

Sign-up bonuses involving miles usually run between 10,000 and 100,000 miles and may require $500 to $3,000 or more in purchases within the first three months of account opening. With most cards, you’re able to redeem your miles for cash back, gift cards, merchandise and more, but the best value usually comes from using them for travel purchases.

Cash back

Cash back sign-up bonuses tend to vary between $100 and $500, depending on the card. To qualify for the cash back bonus, you usually have to spend between $500 and $3,000 within three months.

Comparing the best sign-up bonuses

A generous sign-up bonus, sometimes called a welcome offer, is one of the marks of a high-quality credit card. Sometimes, though, the biggest bonuses might require the most spending to earn and a smaller bonus could turn out to be more economical.

Finding the best credit card bonus offers for new cardholders can require a little research. We’ve compared several cards highlighted on this page to see how much “bang for the buck” each one offers. The spending/bonus ratio measures the estimated maximum value* of the sign-up bonus (which may vary depending on which redemption option you choose) versus the spending requirement. By this calculation, the higher the ratio, the better.

Card Category Bonus Spending Requirement Bonus/Spending Ratio
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Travel 100,000 bonus points $4,000 in first 3 months .25
Chase Freedom Flex℠ Cash back $200 cash bonus $500 in first 3 months .40
Chase Freedom Unlimited Cash back $200 cash bonus $500 in first 3 months .40
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® Airline 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles $2,500 within first 3 months .28

*Estimated mile/point values are from The Points Guy monthly valuations.

However, don’t make a decision on a credit card based solely on the sign-up bonus. Other factors to consider include:

  • The size of the annual fee and whether it’s waived for the first year
  • The card’s overall perks and benefits
  • The rewards program associated with the card
  • The card’s variable APR

How to maximize your sign-up bonus

Once you’ve decided which sign-up bonus offer suits you best, there are a few steps you can take to make the most of the opportunity. Knowing your card’s rewards structure, staying current on additional special offers and understanding your redemption options can turbo-charge your sign-up bonus.

Take advantage of other special offers

Keep track of any additional special offers while looking for the best credit card sign-up bonus. Some of these limited-time offers and extras can sweeten the pot quite a bit, like:

  • Introductory 0% APR: Zero interest intro offers can help you temporarily avoid interest on purchases and give you the opportunity to manage debt with a balance transfer.
  • Limited-time special rewards rates: In addition to a sign-up bonus, some issuers offer cardholders extra categories and/or boosted rates on certain purchases for a limited time.
  • Referral bonus: Issuers may provide a bonus if you steer someone else toward a card application. For example, Chase awards $100-$500 or 15,000-75,000 points for referrals, depending on the card.
  • Anniversary bonus: Several cards, especially airline or hotel credit cards, reward your loyalty each year with a bonus. Select Marriott Bonvoy cards will give you a Free Night Award every year on your account anniversary, for example.
Bankrate insight
Many travel credit card issuers added a wealth of special perks in 2020 and 2021 to make up for the absence of travel during the pandemic. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one example, offering a one-year DashPass membership to those who activate their card by December 31, 2021.

Know your redemption options

Redeeming your sign-up bonus for something valuable is every bit as important as the size of the bonus itself. It’s important to know the ways your credit card’s rewards program allows your sign-up bonus to be redeemed, such as:

  • Cash back (statement credit, direct deposit, check)
  • Travel
  • Conversion to cash back, points or miles
  • Partner loyalty program transfer
  • Online shopping checkout with rewards (PayPal, Amazon, etc.)
  • Credit toward qualifying bills or loans with the issuing bank
  • Gift cards
  • Merchandise
  • Charitable donation

Redeem your rewards for boosted value

When you’re exploring your card’s redemption options, pay close attention to the fine print since your bonus might gain value when redeemed through certain channels. You might see this boost for redeeming toward travel especially.

Bankrate insight
Chase offers a 25 percent value increase when you redeem points for travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards with the Sapphire Preferred Card and a 50 percent value increase with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Who should get a sign-up bonus credit card?

A sign-up bonus or welcome offer can be an alluring incentive to get a new credit card. How do you know if it’s the right decision for you? Remember that a sign-up bonus is just that — a bonus. It’s icing on the cake, not a sole reason to open a new account.

Before you apply for a card with a killer sign-up bonus, be sure these things are true:

  • You’re ready to manage a new account — In general, it’s best to avoid opening too many credit card accounts. If you’re not able to keep up with all of your accounts, you might end up with missed payments and late fees.
  • You can use the card responsibly — Like any credit card, spending within your means is key. If you’re not able to pay your bill in full each month, prioritize finding a credit card with a low interest rate over a sign-up bonus.
  • You can meet the spending requirement without overspending — Buying something you don’t need in order to achieve a sign-up bonus is counterproductive. If a bonus requires you to spend well beyond your typical budget, consider a card with a more achievable bonus.
  • You like the ongoing benefits — Remember that sign-up bonuses are a short-term benefit. Be sure that you would still find the card’s rewards and perks valuable without the bonus.
  • You can afford the annual fee — Some of the best sign-up bonuses are offered by credit cards with annual fees. Sometimes, the bonus can pay for several years of annual fees, but what about after that? Will you be able to make up the cost of the annual fee in rewards and perks?

Pros and cons of credit cards with sign-up bonuses

Sometimes, a sign-up bonus can seem too good to be true. Some of the best sign-up bonuses available are worth $1,000 or more. While these offers are truly valuable, it’s important to consider your situation before going after a sign-up bonus.

Pros

  • Often worth hundreds of dollars in cash back or travel purchases
  • Quick gratification — Earn a hearty sum of rewards shortly after opening your account
  • Limited-time offers can yield even more rewards

Cons

  • Usually not offered by credit cards with low credit requirements
  • A fantastic sign-up bonus may distract from so-so ongoing benefits
  • Sign-up bonuses require you to spend a certain amount within a specific timeframe, which may encourage overspending

How to choose the best sign-up bonus

In some ways, judging the best sign-up bonus involves the Goldilocks strategy — finding the one that’s just right. To that end, don’t impulsively apply for a credit card based solely on an attractive bonus. Make sure it’s worth your while before deciding.

Here’s a list of steps on how to choose the right card with the right bonus for you.

1. Know your financial goals

Do you use credit cards to earn cash back, travel miles or another kind of reward? Answer that question and choose a sign-up bonus accordingly. If you don’t travel much, it doesn’t make sense to get a travel rewards card that offers extra miles as a sign-up bonus.

2. Stay within your spending habits

Is your normal spending routine in line with what you would have to spend to earn the bonus? Here’s a quick illustration: If you usually spend $500 a month with your card, look for a sign-up bonus with a 3-month spending requirement of $1,500 or less. If you can’t realistically meet the spending requirement without overextending your budget, it’s best to avoid the temptation.

3. Be selective about applying

Every credit card application involves a hard credit check that temporarily lowers your credit score, so don’t go overboard in your quest for a juicy sign-up bonus. Make sure to take advantage of any pre-qualification checks a credit card issuer may offer. This preliminary “soft” credit inquiry doesn’t guarantee eligibility, but it doesn’t hurt your credit score.

An easy way to find pre-qualified credit card offers is through tools like CardMatch™. The CardMatch feature searches for pre-qualified offers from Bankrate’s credit card partners quickly and securely, with no effect on your credit score.

How we chose our list of top sign-up bonus credit cards

Our criteria for including a card on this list include:

Bonus value

The bonus, whether cash back, travel rewards or multi-purpose points, should be well worth the time and effort of applying for the card. The bonus value should also compare favorably with the card’s cost of ownership (annual fees, etc.).

Ease of acquiring the bonus

The spending requirement to qualify for the bonus should be proportional to its value.

Overall quality

The card should have a Bankrate Score that puts it in the upper tier of credit cards available from our partners.

Learn more about credit cards with sign-up bonuses

For more information, read our expert reviews for individual cards and check out more resources from Bankrate.com:


Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate

Frequently Asked Questions

about the author
Mariah Ackary is a personal finance writer who specializes in credit card rewards and small business credit. Mariah is a lifelong writer, but she began writing about finance in 2018. She joined the Bankrate team in 2019, excited by the opportunity to directly help people make good financial decisions. Send your questions to mackary@bankrate.com ...
about the editor
Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, personal loans, mortgages and other personal finance products since 2017. Before joining Bankrate, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina. Send your questions about credit cards (and fantasy baseball) to bbridges@bankrate.com. ...

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.