Bankrate-Icons-Final Choose your 3% category

Best for choice of cash back category

Apply now
On Bank of America's secure site
Intro offer
$200 $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Rewards rate
1%–3%
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
See Terms
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Biggest travel sign-up bonus

Apply now
On Chase's secure site
Intro offer
60,000 points 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®.
Rewards rate
2x–5x
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
16.74% - 23.74% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for rotating cash back categories

Apply now
On Chase's secure site
Intro offer
$200 Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Rewards rate
1%–5%
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
15.74% - 24.49% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

BEST FOR ROUNDING UP REWARDS

Apply now
On Citi's secure site
Intro offer
20,000 points Earn 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $200 in gift cards at thankyou.com
Rewards rate
1X–5X
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best business sign-up bonus

Apply now
On Chase's secure site
Intro offer
$750 Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Rewards rate
1.5%
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
13.99% - 19.99% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
Apply now
On Chase's secure site
Intro offer
Earn 75,000 points Limited-time offer: Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Rewards rate
1X–2X
Annual fee
$69
Regular APR
16.74% - 23.74% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

 


Compare Bankrate’s top sign-up bonus credit cards

Card Sign-up bonus Spending requirement Bankrate review score
Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card $200 online cash rewards bonus $1,000 within first 90 days 4.1 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 60,000 points (worth $750 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards) $4,000 within first 3 months 4.6 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Freedom Flex $200 cash bonus $500 within first 3 months 4.3 / 5
(Read full card review)
Citi Rewards+ Card 20,000 points $1,500 within first 3 months 3.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card $750 bonus cash back $7,500 within first 3 months 4.2 / 5
(Read full card review)
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card 75,000 bonus points $5,000 within first 3 months 3.9 / 5
(Read full card review)

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

Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card

Best for choice of cash back category

  • This card is a good fit for: Flexibility seekers. Credit card users who value a customizable rewards structure will find this card offers them a lot of options.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Big spenders. If your budgeted spending takes you beyond the $2,500 combined spending cap per quarter on the 2 percent and 3 percent bonus categories, you’ll see your rewards rate drop. Cardholders who reach this limit receive just 1 percent until the next quarter.
  • What makes this card unique? Cardholders can select where they earn elevated rewards from six bonus categories and change their selection up to once per month. What’s more, the categories have uniquely broad merchant coverage. For example, the online shopping category is one of the most comprehensive available.
  • Is the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card worth it? Yes. The sign-up bonus is notable, but cardholders may find even more value in the elevated cash back rate earned at grocery stores and wholesale clubs.

Read our Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Best for biggest travel sign-up bonus

  • This card is a good fit for: Budget travelers. If you’re seeking great travel rewards value that can help keep your travel costs in check and a relatively low annual fee, this card is a great choice.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Luxury-seeking travelers. You should look elsewhere for high-end perks like airport lounge access.
  • What makes this card unique? This card provides travelers with flexibility that’s unique among travel cards. You can transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio to Chase’s impressive list of airline and hotel partners.
  • Is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card worth it? Yes. If you earn the sign-up bonus, you recoup the cost of the annual fee, plus you’ll see a 25 percent boosted rewards value from points redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

Read our Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Chase Freedom Flex

Best for rotating cash back categories

  • This card is a good fit for: Variety seekers. People who like to earn boosted cash back in multiple categories will find this card offers the opportunity to earn rewards in many areas.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Simplicity seekers. Cardholders have to remember to activate the new bonus categories each quarter, or they’ll see much less value from the card. The rotating bonus categories are announced quarterly rather than farther ahead of time, and some cardholders may also prefer a more reliable category roster since they’ll have to pay close attention to the cash back calendar in addition to their purchase tracking.
  • What makes this card unique? The Chase Freedom Flex comes with bonus categories that rotate quarterly. Cardholders will have the opportunity to earn elevated rewards in a number of categories.
  • Is the Chase Freedom Flex card worth it? Yes. The sign-up bonus is solid despite the relatively low spending requirement—cardholders earn a $200 bonus after spending just $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. However, the cash back value is standard for a no annual fee cash back card.

Read our Chase Freedom Flex review.
Jump back to offer details.

Citi Rewards+ Card

Best for rounding up rewards

  • This card is a good fit for: Everyday shoppers. Cardholders can earn respectable travel rewards with everyday spending.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Travel rewards seekers. This card only earns “basic” ThankYou points, which can’t be transferred to travel partners.
  • What makes this card unique? The round-up feature. Cardholders will see points rounded up for every purchase to the nearest 10 points. So, a $3 coffee earns 10 ThankYou points.
  • Is the Citi Rewards+ Card worth it? Yes. The card has a doable spend requirement—$1,500 within the first three months of account ownership—for 20,000 points. And with no annual fee, plus an intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (then 14.99 percent to 24.99 percent variable; transfers must be within the first four months and pose a 3 percent balance transfer fee, $5 minimum), you’ll get a lot of value from this card.

Read our Citi Rewards+ Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card

Best for business sign-up bonus

  • This card is a good fit for: New small-business owners looking for an easy-to-use flat-rate credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Business owners looking to earn high rewards in specific bonus categories. A card with a tiered rewards structure—like the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card—would serve you better.
  • What makes this card unique? A sign-up bonus as high as the Ink Business Unlimited is usually reserved for credit cards with an annual fee. It also comes with an introductory 0 percent APR offer on purchases for 12 months (then a variable rate of 13.99 percent to 19.99 percent applies).
  • Is the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card worth it? It depends. The card has a simple rewards structure and valuable perks, but the spending requirement might be high for some business owners.

Read our Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Best for airline sign-up bonus

  • This card is a good fit for: Frequent Southwest flyers. This card offers a fair rewards rate on Southwest purchases and the lowest annual fee among Southwest credit cards.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Someone who might not always fly with Southwest Airlines. You won’t see as much value from the card, as rewards redeemed for outside of Southwest travel aren’t as lucrative.
  • What makes this card unique? As a frequent Southwest flyer, you’ll see a ton of benefits like lost luggage being reimbursed up to $3,000 per passenger and delayed luggage being insured up to $100 per day for three days automatically. Plus, you can check your bag for free (size and weight limit apply).
  • Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card worth it? Yes. For frequent Southwest flyers looking for an inexpensive, no-hassle card, the low annual fee (only $69) and its lucrative rewards structure pack this card with a lot of value.

Read our Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.


What is a sign-up bonus?

A sign-up bonus—also known as a welcome bonus, intro bonus or welcome offer—is an incentive offered by a credit card issuer to sign up for a credit card. A sign-up bonus can come in the form of cash back, points, travel miles or another perk offered by the credit card issuer. To receive a sign-up bonus, a cardholder will usually have to spend a certain dollar amount on purchases within a specified time period (usually three months, but six months or even a year isn’t unusual).

Types of welcome offers

Although sign-up bonuses are most often distributed as additional cash back, points or miles, there are a few other types of welcome offers to watch for that can be just as valuable—if not more so.

Pros and cons of sign-up bonus credit cards

There’s a good side and a bad side to using a credit card with a sign-up bonus. Before you apply take a look at the pros and cons:

Pros

  • New cardholder incentive: The credit card market is highly competitive. This works in the consumer’s favor, as card issuers are willing to offer sign-up bonuses as incentive to make their credit card more attractive to applicants.
  • Versatile redemptions: Depending on the card, a sign-up bonus can be a lump sum of cash back, points or miles. That means the right card for you can help pay down balances or reduce the costs of future flights or hotel stays.
  • Added value: When used responsibly, a credit card works for you, helping you build or maintain your all-important credit score and credit history. A sign-up bonus takes the value of a credit card even further by rewarding cash back, points or miles that can be worth hundreds of dollars.

Cons

  • Spending requirements: To earn the sign-up bonus, you’ll have to use the credit card and spend a certain amount in a limited amount of time. Make sure the spending requirement fits your budget before applying for a card.
  • Higher interest rates: Rewards credit cards typically carry higher interest rates. If you carry a balance over from month to month, the interest you pay will diminish the value of the rewards and sign-up bonuses you earn.
  • Requires good credit: Most credit cards that have sign-up bonuses require good or excellent credit. Not there yet? Making on-time payments and keeping your account balances low are two of the most important ways to build credit fast.

When should you apply for a card and its sign-up bonus?

If you’re already in the market for a credit card, it may be tempting to apply immediately if its welcome offer catches your eye. But it’s better to scope out competing cards’ offers and research whether the current sign-up bonus is the best the card has offered (or when the best offer may return). Rewards cards that generally keep the same terms and features may not cycle out welcome offers much (especially those with no annual fee), but premium cards known for a teeming list of perks tend to increase their sign-up bonuses more often.

For instance, it’s a pretty safe bet that the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card will cling to its $200 cash bonus (after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months), but a premier travel, airline or hotel card is more likely to increase its welcome bonus around peak travel periods or the holiday season. This observation may hold when it comes to store cards as well. Case in point, the Amazon Prime Visa Signature card’s gift card approval bonus usually increases around Amazon Prime Day and the winter holidays each year.

Other than trying to catch the biggest bonus you can, there are a few other times it may be wise to wait to apply so you can maximize your sign-up bonus. Waiting until you have large expenses or bills on the horizon can help you reach the spending requirement without straying from your usual planned spending. That way, you can also take advantage of the card’s intro APR periods to avoid accruing interest if you need more time to pay off your balance.

Similarly, applying for a travel card a few months ahead of a trip you have planned allows you to put your sign-up bonus toward your travel costs—which is especially helpful if you aren’t a frequent traveler. But just be ready to pounce (responsibly, of course) in case your ideal card tacks on a limited-time offer!

How to calculate the value of a sign-up bonus

How to choose the best sign-up bonus

When you consider a credit card with a sign-up bonus, be especially mindful of the spending requirement and how it will impact your budget. If you’re looking to snag a welcome offer, there are some questions you should keep top of mind:

  • Can you meet the spending requirement? If a sign-up bonus requires you to spend more than you usually would, it may be wise to think twice before applying. Overspending on a credit card to meet a welcome offer requirement could lead to debt and consequently make the card’s sign-up bonus far less valuable to you by incurring interest payments.
  • Does the card fit into your overall goals? Knowing what type of rewards you want to earn is essential when choosing a card for its sign-up bonus. If you want to earn free nights at a particular hotel or reduced prices on flights with a specific airline, then you should sign up for cards that align with those goals over a card that offers a generous sign-up bonus but only earns cash back rewards.
  • Is the bonus worth it? If you’re earning a cash back bonus, then what you get is fairly straightforward, but if you’re earning points, miles or some other type of offer (like a cash back match, airline companion certificate or limited-time bonus rewards category), it’s key to put them on the same playing field by calculating the likely value you’ll receive from each. For example, if two cards offer a 60,000-point sign-up bonus but Card A’s points are worth 1 cent each and Card B’s points are worth 1.5 cents—but only toward an airline transfer partner you’re not likely to use—then Card A’s bonus may be a better fit for you.

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

Bankrate uses a 5-star scoring system to evaluate the credit cards available from our partners. To select the cards featured on this page, we further refined the criteria to focus on factors we think make these the best credit card sign-up bonuses, including:

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

Two important factors to consider when deciding on a card with a sign-up bonus are the minimum required spend to earn the bonus and the timeframe in which you have to spend that amount of money. The spending requirement to qualify for the bonus should be proportional to its value.

Long-term value

Features outside of the bonus itself, such as annual fees, rewards rates and redemption options are also important to evaluate. Once the sign-up bonus requirements are met, you’ll need to gauge the ongoing value of the card and how it will best suit your lifestyle.

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 sign-up bonuses

about the author
As a staff writer for Bankrate.com, Sarah offers sound advice that will improve your financial life and help simplify topics like travel hacking and credit card rewards.
about the editor
Courtney Mihocik is an editor at Bankrate Credit Cards and CreditCards.com specializing in credit card news and personal finance advice. Previously, she led insurance content at Reviews.com and worked as the loans editor at The Simple Dollar.

* 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.