Best Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses for 2020

Credit card sign-up bonuses can help you earn thousands of travel miles, hundreds of dollars in cash back and more. Check out the best bonuses available from our credit card partners and get Bankrate’s expert advice on making the most of sign-up offers.

Best sign-up bonus offers for 2020:

Need more information?

Skip down to read our card profiles and expert advice.

Biggest travel sign-up bonus

Chase Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Chase's secure website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel. 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out. 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Annual Fee:
$95
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
15.99%-22.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for flat-rate cash rewards

Chase Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Chase's secure website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

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 travel purchased through Chase. Earn 3% on dining at restaurants 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.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
14.99 - 23.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 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 unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for rewards on small purchases

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

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
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro for 15 months on Purchases
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro for 15 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
13.49% - 23.49% (Variable)

Card Details

  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap.
  • 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
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfer fee — either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Some of the offers on this page may have expired.

The information about the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, the Chase Freedom®, Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed by the card issuer.

This page includes information about Discover products that are not currently available on Bankrate.com and may be out of date.

 


Bankrate’s guide to credit card sign-up bonuses

If getting a great sign-up bonus from a new credit card is your goal, our experts at Bankrate are here to help you do it the right way.

When it comes to sign-up bonuses, credit cards can offer anything from hundreds of dollars in cash back to several thousand travel miles. Each offer has real value, but which ones are the most valuable for you, your spending habits and the goals you want to accomplish with your new credit card?

Here’s what you need to know about the best credit card sign-up bonuses for 2020:

Our picks for top sign-up bonus credit cards

Card Best for Sign-up Bonus Rewards highlights Bankrate Score
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Biggest travel sign-up bonus Amount: 80,000 points (estimated value $800 or $1000, depending on redemption)1

Spending requirement: $4,000 within first 3 months

2X points on travel and dining at restaurants, 1X points per $1 on all other purchases 4.8 / 5
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Flat-rate cash rewards Amount: $200 cash bonus

Spending requirement: $500 within first 3 months

Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases. 4.6 / 5
Citi Rewards+℠ Card  Rewards on small purchases Amount: 15,000 points (estimated value a $150 gift card or $255 depending on redemption)2

Spending requirement: $1,000 within first 3 months

2X ThankYou Points at supermarkets and gas stations (on up to $6,000 per year, then 1X points), 1X points on all other purchases 4.6 / 5
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Grocery shoppers Amount: $200 online cash rewards bonus

Spending requirement: $1,000 within first 90 days

3% cash back on choice category and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined 3% and 2% categories per quarter, then 1%) 4.4 / 5
Chase Freedom® Rotating cash back categories Amount: $200 cash bonus

Spending requirement: $500 within first 3 months

5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories (up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1%) 4.5 / 5
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® Best for American Airlines loyalists Amount: 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles (estimated value $700)

Spending requirement: $2,500 within first 3 months

2X AAdvantage miles for every $1 on eligible American Airlines, restaurant and gas station purchases, 1X AAdvantage miles on all other purchases 4.2 / 5
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card No annual fee Amount: 20,000 points (estimated value $200 or $300, depending on redemption)3</sup

Spending requirement: $1,000 within first 3 months

3X rewards points on dining, travel, rideshare, transit, gas station purchases, popular streaming services and 1X points for other purchases 4.5 / 5

1The bonus is worth $800 if redeemed as a statement credit or $1000 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

2You can redeem 15,000 basic points for a $150 gift card, or move the points to your Citi Premier or Citi Prestige card and transfer them to airline partners for an estimated value of $255.

3You can redeem 20,000 Go Far Rewards points for a $200 cash value, or move the points to your Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card and redeem them toward airfare for an estimated value of $300.

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

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

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – Best for biggest travel sign-up bonus

What we love: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best travel cards available with 2X points on travel and dining worldwide and 1X points on everything else, plus no foreign transaction fees. Receive a 80,000-point bonus offer when you spend $4,000 in 3 months, equal to $1000 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

What we wish were different: If you don’t travel often, this may not be the card for you. Cash back and gift card redemption rates are less than stellar.

Bottom line: Frequent travelers will gain significant rewards with the Sapphire Preferred.

Read the full review and apply on Chase’s secure website.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® – Best for flat-rate cash back

What we love: Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases. Redeeming your rewards is very easy.

What we wish were different: The 3% foreign transaction fee diminishes its usefulness for overseas travel.

Bottom line: The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a strong choice for a no annual fee rewards card, especially if you’re into simplicity.

Read the full review and apply on Chase’s secure website.

Citi Rewards+℠ Card – Best for rewards on small purchases

What we love: The Citi Rewards+ Card offers 2x ThankYou Points at supermarkets and gas stations (up to $6,000 in combined purchases each year) and 1x ThankYou Points on everything else. You won’t be charged an annual fee, and Citi rounds up your rewards to the nearest 10 points on each purchase (making your $2 coffee worth 10 points). Plus, get a 15,000-point sign-up bonus when you spend $1,000 in three months.

What we wish were different: ThankYou Points earned with the Citi Rewards+ Card are considered basic. That means you’ll have less flexibility in terms of point redemption or transferring.

Bottom line: The no annual fee aspect of this card is where its value lies. To get the most out of the card, you could pair it with the Citi Prestige® Card.

Read the full review and apply on Citi’s secure website.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card – Best for grocery shoppers

What we love: Get 3% cash back in your category of choice (there are 6 to choose from), 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined 3% and 2% category spending per quarter) and unlimited 1% back on every other purchase. Even more, this is a no annual fee card and you’ll get a $200 cash bonus after spending just $1,000 in your first 90 days.

What we wish were different: A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers.

Bottom line: If your dream is to be in control of where you earn your rewards, the Bank of America Cash Rewards card is a great choice.

Read the full review and apply on Bank of America’s secure website.

The information about the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card  has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Chase Freedom® – Best for rotating cash back categories

What we love: You’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, plus a $200 cash back bonus when you spend at least $500 within the first three months of card ownership.

What we wish were different: If you forget to activate your 5% bonus category, you’ll earn 1% cash back for the quarter.

Bottom line: For a no annual fee rewards card, the Chase Freedom is a great pick. There’s a lot of redemption flexibility, too – redeem for cash-back deposit, statement credit or transfer your rewards to an eligible Chase card.

Read the full review and apply on Chase’s secure website.

The information about the Chase Freedom® credit card  has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® – Best for American Airlines loyalists

What we love: The signup bonus is a good place to start: spend $2,500 in your first three months to earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage Miles. Apart from the bonus, the card earns 2 AAdvantage Miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and at gas stations and restaurants, plus 1 mile per dollar on everything else.

What we wish were different: Using your Miles might come with a few strings attached, including blackout dates on some rewards flights. There is also a $99 annual fee that eats into your rewards, but it’s fortunately waived for your first 12 months.

Bottom line: Frequent American Airlines flyers looking for a card to help them maximize their travel purchases should find a lot to like about this card, starting with the generous sign-up bonus.

Read the full review and apply on Citi’s secure website.

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 or approved by the card issuer.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card — Best for no annual fee

What we love: At first glance, the 20,000-point bonus after spending $1,000 in your first three months is worth a solid $200 when redeemed for cash back. However, no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and other travel benefits make this card a great future companion if you pool your Go Far® Rewards with other cards. For example, the Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Card’s 50-percent point value boost bumps your sign-up bonus to $300 if you redeem for airfare.

What we wish were different: You can only book flights with your rewards through Go Far Rewards. Plus, the 12-month 0% intro APR on purchases and on qualifying balance transfers (14.49% to 24.99% variable APR thereafter) in your first 120 days is a bit shorter than competitors’ zero-interest offers.

Bottom line: On top of the quality sign-up bonus and travel benefits for no annual fee, Propel cardholders can enjoy unlimited 3X points on a variety of valuable categories such as dining, gas stations, popular streaming services, select travel and 1X points on other purchases. Wells Fargo’s unique cell phone protection benefit is also hard to turn down — up to $600 (after a $25 deductible) covering damage and theft when you pay your cellphone bill with your card.

Read the full review and apply on Wells Fargo’s secure website.

 

Learn the basics of the credit card sign-up bonus

What is a credit card sign-up bonus?

A sign-up bonus is a one-time credit card rewards bonus earned from hitting a certain spending threshold within an allotted amount of time. Most sign-up bonuses have spending thresholds that need to be met within 3 months of account opening. Then, the bonus is received 2 to 3 billing cycles after the threshold is met.

Here are the three categories that sign-up bonuses typically fall into:

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 qualifying spend.

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 several months of account opening.

With most cards, you’re able to redeem your miles for cash back, gift cards, merchandise and more, but it is typically more advantageous to use for travel rewards.

Cash back

Cash back sign-up bonuses tend to vary between $100 and $500, depending on the card, and are great in terms of convenience. In order to receive your cash back bonus, you usually have to spend between $500 and $3,000 within 3 months.

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 have the same effect on your credit score as a hard inquiry.

Measuring sign-up bonuses by ‘bang for the buck’

A generous sign-up bonus, sometimes called a welcome offer, is one of the marks of a high-quality rewards 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.

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.

Category/card Bonus Spending requirement Bonus/spending ratio
TRAVEL
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 80,000 bonus points $4,000 in first 3 months .18
CASH BACK
Chase Freedom $200 cash bonus $500 in first 3 months .40
Chase Freedom Unlimited $200 cash bonus $500 in first 3 months .40
AIRLINE
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard 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 most, there are a few steps you can take to make the most of your new cardmember status. Knowing your card’s reward structure, staying current on additional special offers and understanding your redemption options can turbo-charge your sign-up bonus.

Qualify for your bonus with reward-earning purchases

Try to earn your welcome bonus with your card’s highest-earning rewards category for a great headstart on rewards. For instance, spending $1,000 on groceries in your first three months with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express will net you $60 alongside the $250 intro bonus, thanks to its six percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year, then one percent). That’s close to recouping the $95 annual fee ( Limited Time Offer: $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95. Offer Expires 12/10/2020).

Timing your application alongside a large upcoming purchase can also be an easy way to qualify for your welcome bonus. If you have a $3,000 vacation on the horizon, booking it in your first three months with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card will earn the welcome offer of 50,000 bonus miles or earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening.

Take advantage of other special offers

Keep track of any additional special offers while you’re browsing sign-up bonuses. Some of these limited-time offers and extra bonuses can sweeten the pot quite a bit, like:

  • Referral bonus: Issuers may provide a bonus if someone else references you as a referral in their 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.
  • Alternative welcome bonuses: A different style of bonus, like the Discover it® Cash Back card’s Cash Back Match at the end of your first year, may provide a better reward value depending on your spending habits.

The information about the Discover it® Cash Back has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Know your redemption options

Redeeming your sign-up bonus for something meaningful to your budget is every bit as important as the size of your sign-up bonus. After all, a large bonus mile offer is worth much less if you don’t redeem it for travel. It’s important to know the ways your 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. Notably, 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® card.

FAQs about credit card sign-up bonuses

Here’s a list of frequently asked questions, and answers, about sign-up bonuses on new credit cards.

Should you get a sign-up bonus credit card?

A sign-up bonus or welcome offer can provide an alluring incentive to get a new credit card. How do you know if it’s the right decision for you? Consider some of the possible advantages and disadvantages before you apply.

Pros:

The bonus itself is an obvious financial incentive. Depending on the card and the offer, you could be in line to earn a generous cash back bonus, a bundle of travel miles or whatever specific reward the offer entails. These things have real monetary value.

Getting a sign-up bonus credit card can also be an opportunity to upgrade from the card you’re currently using. In addition to the bonus, the newer card might offer a better rewards program, more perks and so on.

Cons:

On the other hand, opening a new credit account is a big commitment. A hard-inquiry credit check that accompanies a card application can temporarily reduce your credit score. If the new card has an annual fee in addition to a bonus, you’ll need to factor in that cost as you consider applying for it.

The overriding goal of having credit is to use it responsibly. Sign-up bonuses can be lucrative, but always be sure to weigh any short-term gains against your overall credit health.

What’s the value of my sign-up bonus?

Not all bonuses are created equal, and sometimes you need to dig deeper into the numbers to figure out how much they’re worth. Follow these tips to get a clearer picture:

  • Calculate the value of points/miles — When the value of a bonus isn’t spelled out, resources like The Points Guy’s monthly valuations can come in handy. As The Points Guy explains: “These valuations are based on a combination of what I would pay to buy points if given the opportunity and the overall value I could get from redeeming them, factoring in variables like award availability, fees and change/cancellation policies.”
  • Look at the proportions — An overly large spending requirement could reduce the value of a bonus. For example, a $300 bonus after spending $2,000 in 3 months could make more sense economically than a $500 bonus that requires spending twice as much in the same amount of time.
  • Avoid getting overextended — Spending more than you normally would just to meet the bonus requirement could come back to haunt you. If your bonus quest results in carrying a big balance, APR charges could negate the benefits of the welcome offer.
  • Compare the bonus with the long-term value — A sign-up bonus is meant to be the cherry on top, not one of the card’s main features. After you earn the one-time bonus, it’s important that aspects like the ongoing APR, rewards and annual fee match your long-term spending habits for lasting value. A card with a hefty sign-up bonus might not be the best option if the annual fee and interest rates prove to be problematic later on.

How do you know when you’ve earned the sign-up bonus?

Depending on your card issuer, you might receive emails notifying you of your progress. In other cases, the issuer might provide a “tracker” feature with the online customer portal for your account. However, if your issuer doesn’t provide email notifications or trackers, you’ll have to find out for yourself.

Fortunately, the information you need should be available through the customer portal. Your “dashboard” will probably include a running tally of how many rewards points, miles or cash back you’ve earned, plus the dates when they expire.

If all else fails, contact the issuer’s customer service department and ask a representative.

All in all, expect some amount of lag time between earning the bonus and seeing it show up in (or “post to”) your account. It could be as short as a few business days or a matter of several weeks, depending on the issuer and the specific bonus offer. Look for those details when you read the terms and conditions before applying.

Which purchases don’t count toward the spending requirement?

Most kinds of everyday purchases should bring you closer to meeting the spending requirement for a sign-up bonus. On the other hand, credit card issuers make exceptions for certain transactions that don’t qualify. Ineligible purchases and payments typically include:

  • Cash advances
  • Balance transfers
  • Lottery tickets
  • Wire transfers
  • Fees, including annual fees

In many cases, these purchases don’t earn rewards either.

Check the terms and conditions of any credit card you’re interested in to get a better understanding of what counts as an eligible purchase in relation to a sign-up bonus, as well as other important information about using the card.

Should you keep the card after earning the bonus?

Once they’ve snagged the sign-up bonus, some cardholders might question the value of hanging on to the card. Unfortunately, canceling a card out of hand can be problematic.

First, keeping multiple credit accounts open for extended periods of time tends to have a positive effect on your credit score. Canceling a credit card could reduce your credit utilization ratio, the relationship between how much credit you have and how much of it you’re using. Credit bureaus take notice of credit utilization and other factors in calculating your score, and your score carries a lot of weight with lenders.

A 2019 Bankrate.com survey found several reasons why people cancel credit cards, including lack of use and concern about fees. However, if you cancel a card after earning the bonus just to pursue a bonus with a new card, that strategy might not prove to be profitable.

Can you open multiple cards at once to get more sign-up bonuses?

The short answer is: You could try, but it’s not advisable.

In recent years, credit card issuers have taken steps to prevent cardholders from racking up multiple bonuses over a short period of time. Those who try to start a cycle of apply-bonus-cancel could run into stricter eligibility rules — meanwhile, damaging their credit score with each application.

Think twice before ditching a credit card just because you’ve achieved the goal of the sign-up bonus. The potential damage to your credit score might not be worth the fresh start. Make sure to check issuer guidelines in order to determine how long you should wait between credit card applications so you can shield your score.

Can you get a sign-up bonus for upgrading or downgrading cards?

The short answer is that you should check with your issuer first. The main reason for upgrading or downgrading your card versus applying for a new one is that you might be able to avoid a hard credit inquiry.

Rather than applying for any new card and more credit, switching cards means sticking to the same credit line and credit card family — such as downgrading from the premium Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card to the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card in order to save money on an annual fee.

Because you’re not a new cardmember or opening a new account, issuers will often keep your same account number on the new card. This, unfortunately, means that you’re usually not eligible for a sign-up bonus.

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:


Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, loans, mortgages and other personal finance products for Bankrate since 2018. His work has also appeared on websites including Nasdaq.com, Zillow.com and The Simple Dollar. He was previously an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina. Send your questions about credit cards (and fantasy baseball) to bbridges@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.

* 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.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.