Earn a big sign-up bonus without big spending—Credit cards that reward you for a single purchase

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Consumers who want to rack up a stash of points can easily do so with a multitude of popular credit card bonus offers. However, many of the best sign-up bonuses require hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars in spending over the span of just a few months.

Like it or not, this puts many people—including people with low living expenses or who are frugal—in a difficult position. If they choose to go after a credit card sign-up bonus that requires thousands in spending in a short period of time, they might wind up buying stuff they don’t even need or overextending themselves to meet the spending threshold in the nick of time.

Here’s the good news: Many travel credit cards offer an “instant sign-up bonus” of sorts. Cards in this niche offer sign-up bonuses in exchange for a single purchase—even if you only use them to buy a pack of gum. In the meantime, they often come with a handful of perks you can use the next time you travel.

If you’re interested in an instant credit card sign-up bonus, the cards we highlight below should be on your radar.

Best credit cards for an instant sign-up bonus

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Current sign-up bonus: You can earn 60,000 American AAdvantage miles when you make a single purchase and pay the $99 annual fee within 90 days of account opening

Earning rate: Earn 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1X miles on everything else you buy

Other card benefits: Enjoy perks like 25 percent off in-flight purchases, $25 in Wi-Fi credits on American flights each account anniversary year, a first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries, preferred boarding, an anniversary companion certificate, no foreign transaction fees and an introductory APR offer for balance transfers

Annual fee: $99

Why you should consider it: The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard gives you the chance to earn 60,000 American AAdvantage miles with a single purchase. That’s enough for two round-trip domestic flights or a round-trip economy flight to quite a few international destinations. Perks like a free checked bag can help you save money, and you won’t pay foreign transaction fees when you use your credit card for purchases outside the U.S.

Avianca Vuela Visa Card

Current sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus LifeMiles after your first purchase

Earning rate: Earn 3X LifeMiles on Avianca purchases, 2X LifeMiles at gas stations and grocery stores and 1X LifeMiles on all other purchases

Other card benefits: This airline credit card comes with no foreign transaction fees, a free piece of checked baggage between the U.S. and Central America, 50 percent off award tickets redeemed for travel to Central America or Colombia from the U.S. after $12,000 spent each year, secondary auto rental coverage, travel accident insurance and no foreign transaction fees.

Annual fee: $149

Why you should consider it: Consider applying for the Avianca Vuela Visa Card if you frequently fly to Central and South America, or even to Europe. The sign-up bonus is generous, and perks like a free checked bag and discounted award tickets can help you get more value over time.

Carnival World Mastercard

Current sign-up bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus FunPoints after your first purchase or balance transfer

Earning rate: Earn 2X FunPoints on Carnival purchases as well as purchases with the brands of the World’s Leading Cruise Lines and 1X FunPoints on other purchases

Other card benefits: Benefits include no foreign transaction fees, a 10 percent statement credit on Carnival shore excursions, an introductory APR offer for balance transfers and a promotional APR offer for Carnival Cruise bookings.

Annual fee: $0

Why you should consider it: While the sign-up bonus on the Carnival World Mastercard is only worth $200 toward your next cruise, this card’s lack of an annual fee makes it more enticing. Also, note that you can get six months with 0 percent APR on Carnival bookings (followed by a variable APR of 14.99 percent, 19.99 percent or 23.99 percent), so this card can help you book a vacation and pay it down interest-free for a limited time.

Holland America Line Rewards Visa Card

Current sign-up bonus: Earn 5,000 points (enough for a $50 onboard cruise credit) after your first purchase.

Earning rate: Earn 2X points on Holland America purchases and 1X points on everything else.

Other card benefits: No foreign transaction fees and concierge service

Annual fee: $0

Why you should consider it: If you’re planning to book a Holland America Line cruise anyway, signing up for the Holland America Line Rewards Visa Card could help you score a $50 onboard credit just for making a single purchase. Rewards earned with this card can be redeemed for discounts on airfare, onboard amenities and even discounts on your next cruise.

Princess Cruises Rewards Visa Card

Current sign-up bonus: Earn 10,000 bonus points (enough for a $100 credit toward your next cruise) after your first purchase.

Earning rate: Earn 2X points on all Princess Cruises purchases and 1X points on all other purchases.

Other card benefits: Concierge service, free FICO credit score and no foreign transaction fees

Annual fee: $0

Why you should consider it: If you’re planning an upcoming cruise with Princess Cruises, the Princess Cruises Rewards Visa Card is worth considering due to the statement credit you can earn with a single purchase. Earning $100 off your next cruise can help you keep costs down, and you can redeem all other points you earn for cruise rewards, onboard credits, special onboard amenities and discounted airfare.

The bottom line

If you want to earn an instant credit card sign-up bonus, the cards above can help you do just that. Even so, it never hurts to look at other lucrative credit card sign-up bonus offers, especially since some let you earn up to $200 in rewards for spending as little as $500 within three months of account opening.

Whatever you do, make sure to pick a rewards credit card that offers some features or perks you can use. With some research and planning, you can score a generous sign-up bonus and some new benefits with minimal spending and effort required on your part.

All information about the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson began her career working in the funeral industry, which may make you wonder why she works in personal finance now. Yet, the funeral industry taught the author everything she needs to know about the value of one's money and time. Johnson left the mortuary business a decade ago in order to explore her passion for personal finance and travel the world, and since then, she and her husband have built a debt-free lifestyle that has them on the path to retire very wealthy in their 40s. Holly's love of budgeting also led to the creation of her debt payoff book, “Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love."
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