Add a limited time bonus to your holiday shopping list

Holiday sign-up bonuses

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This holiday season, card issuers have a few gifts to give out – in the form of limited time increased introductory offers. Credit cards including the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®, United℠ Explorer Card and all three Southwest Rapid Rewards® cards are offering even more points or miles.

If you’ve been thinking about getting a new travel card, you couldn’t ask for a better time of year to sign up. With higher spending months ahead, it is that much easier to earn a little extra toward next year’s travels.

Why sign up for a new travel card now?

Over the next few weeks, as you pick the perfect gifts and book travel to visit friends and family, it is likely that you are going to spend a bit more money than you would in a typical month. To give yourself a gift as well, use a new rewards card to earn points or miles on these purchases.

Each of the limited time sign-up bonuses include a minimum spend requirement in the first few months of account opening. Since you’ll be spending more in the coming months anyway, it will be much easier to hit thresholds a bit higher than you normally would.

Plus, these increased bonus offers are only available for a limited time. If you sign up before January, you could earn anywhere from 60,000 to 70,000 extra points or miles.

Limited time sign-up bonuses

If you are willing to do a little hunting, there are plenty of limited time sign-up offers available right now. For a quick example, here are a few travel cards currently offering some of the most valuable bonuses you’ll find. 

  Sign-up bonus Expiration date
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
70,000 miles if you spend $5,000 in first 90 days
Not specified
United℠ Explorer Card
  • 40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
  • 25,000 additional miles if you spend $10,000 in first 6 months
Jan. 8, 2019
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
  • 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
  • 20,000 additional points if you spend $12,000 in first year
Jan. 9, 2019
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
  • 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
  • 20,000 additional points if you spend $12,000 in first year
Jan. 9, 2019
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
  • 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
  • 20,000 additional points if you spend $12,000 in first year
Jan. 9, 2019

All of these bonuses can get you at least a couple round trip flights, making it a great time of year to take advantage of one of them. But keep in mind that you’ll still be holding on to the card after the holidays are over. Consider all of the things you want out of a travel card before signing up for the highest offer you find.  

Which card is right for you?

While it can be tempting to sign up for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus because it has the largest sign-up bonus, it is important to consider the overall rewards value and how the rewards program fits into your spending habits.

  Rewards rate Annual fee
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
  • 2 miles per dollar on general purchases
  • 5% bonus miles when you redeem for travel statement credits
$89 (waived first year)
United℠ Explorer Card
  • 2 miles per dollar on restaurants and hotel stays
  • 2 miles per dollar on United purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
$95 (waived first year)
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
  • 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
$69 
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
  • 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
$99 
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
  • 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 20% back on in-flight purchases
$149 

We spend our money a bit differently during the holidays, perhaps budgeting a bit more for travel or gifts than the rest of the year. All of these cards offer bonus categories for travel purchases and can help you get more value out of your holiday shopping.

But looking forward to the new year, consider how the rewards program fits into your everyday purchases. Most of these options give the best rewards for a specific airline. So while the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus credit card might have a smaller sign-up bonus than the United Explorer, it still might earn more value for frequent Southwest flyers. Cardholders who are not loyal to any one airline might get the most value out of the Barclaycard.

Consider long-term ownership

Signing up for a new travel card during gift-shopping season is a great way to ensure you’ll meet the spend threshold and earn a bigger intro bonus. After the holidays are over though, you want to make sure you continue to get great value out of your new card. If you don’t do much traveling outside of holiday season, you might not be able to justify a higher annual fee.

Spend thresholds for increased sign-up bonuses

All of these offers require you to spend quite a bit of money in order to get the full sign-up bonus. While holiday shopping might make it much easier to spend $1,000 in three months – in the case of the Rapid Rewards cards – it still might not be feasible to spend the $12,000 in the first year required to get the full intro offer value.

The United Explorer card requires even more to get the full bonus – $10,000 in six months. If you don’t typically put this much money on a credit card, even with added gift shopping, it is probably not a good idea to rack up a large balance just for the rewards.

Give yourself a gift this holiday season

As you start your hunt for the perfect gifts for your loved ones, consider how you can reward yourself over the holidays. By taking advantage of higher spending to earn higher sign-up bonuses, you can give yourself the gift of credit card rewards.


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Updated: 12-15-2018