Best Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses

Credit card sign-up bonus offers can be a great way for new cardholders to quickly reap rewards. These promotions let you earn extra cash back, miles or points after spending a certain amount of money on the card in a set time frame, usually your first 3 months. If you’re torn between several cards, an impressive sign-up bonus (think rewards worth hundreds of dollars or more) can be a differentiator.

Our experts examined over 350 cards to identify the best credit card sign-up bonuses. Here are our top picks from our partners for cards with the best sign-up bonuses.

Credit card sign-up bonus offers can be a great way for new cardholders to quickly reap rewards. These promotions let you earn extra cash back, miles or points after spending a certain amount of money on the card in a set time frame, usually your first 3 months. If you’re torn between several cards, an impressive sign-up bonus (think rewards worth hundreds of dollars or more) can be a differentiator.

Our experts examined over 350 cards to identify the best credit card sign-up bonuses. Here are our top picks from our partners for cards with the best sign-up bonuses.

Written by: Jeanine Skowronski | Edited by: Tracy Stewart | Reviewed by: Antonio Ruiz-Camacho

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April 23, 2021

Best credit cards for sign-up bonuses of 2021

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

1.5%
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases
1.8%
1.8% cash rewards on digital wallet purchases including Google Pay™ or Apple Pay® during the first 12 months from account opening

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$150 cash rewards

Earn a $150 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
14.49% - 24.99% variable
Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

14X
Earn up to 14X total Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy™.
2X
2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on other travel purchases (from airfare to taxis and trains).
1X
1X point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
50,000 Points

Limited Time Offer! Earn 50,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
15.99% - 22.99% variable
United℠ Explorer Card

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

2X
Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays, and on United purchases
2X
Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and eligible delivery services
1X
1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
Up to 65,000 Bonus Miles

40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months

Annual Fee
$95, waived first year
Regular APR
16.49% - 23.49% variable
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Excellent

Credit Recommended (740-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

3X
3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit.
3X
3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out.
1X
1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
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 $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee
$550
Regular APR
16.99% - 23.99% variable
Citi Rewards+® Card

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

2X
Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter.
1X
Earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
15,000 points

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
Regular APR
13.49% - 23.49% (Variable)
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

3X
Earn 3X points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year.
2X
Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases.
1X
Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
40,000 points

Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year.

Annual Fee
$69
Regular APR
15.99% - 22.99% variable
World of Hyatt Credit Card

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

9X
Earn up to 9 points total for Hyatt stays – 4 Bonus Points per $1 spent at Hyatt hotels & 5 Base Points per $1 from Hyatt as a World of Hyatt member
2X
Earn 2 qualifying night credits towards tier status every time you spend $5,000 on your card.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
Earn up to 60,000 points

Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent

Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
15.99% - 22.99% variable
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

3X
Earn 3X points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year.
2X
Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases.
1X
Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
40,000 points

Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year.

Annual Fee
$149
Regular APR
15.99% - 22.99% variable
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Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank's website for the most current information. Please note: The star-rating system on this page refers to reviews on the individual issuer’s website, rather than Creditcards.com reviews.

*All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card have been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.


Which credit cards have the best sign-up bonuses?

Sign-up bonuses are a prominent feature of the best credit cards, particularly travel, cash back and general purpose rewards credit cards. The best sign-up bonuses offer a generous amount of rewards for a reasonable amount of spending. However, the best credit card sign-up bonus for you will vary, based on your spending habits and financial goals. To help your search, we looked at over 350 cards with sign-up bonuses to determine which offers have the highest value. Along with our top picks, you’ll find information on the factors that went into our analysis and more. Here, we look at:

Whether you want to understand sign-up bonuses, choose the best one for you or identify ways to maximize rewards, we can help.


Comparing the best credit card bonus offers

After looking at all of the credit cards with sign-up bonus offers, here are our selections for the top offers on the market right now:

Best For:Credit CardSign-up BonusAnnual FeeCreditCards.com Rating
Cash backChase Freedom Unlimited®$200 After you spend $500 in the first 3 months $04.7 / 5
Flat-rate rewardsWells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card$150 If you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months $03.8 / 5
Marriott guestsMarriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card50,000 Points For a limited time only; if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening $03.1 / 5
Bonus airline travelUnited℠ Explorer CardUp to 65,000 Miles Earn 40,000 bonus miles if you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months, plus an additional 25,000 bonus miles if you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months $95, $0 first year3.9 / 5
RestaurantsChase Sapphire Reserve®60,000 points If you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months $5504.6 / 5
Everyday pointsCiti Rewards+® Card15,000 Points For spending $1,000 in the first 3 months $03.0 / 5
Southwest flyersSouthwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card40,000 Points After you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year $693.6 / 5
Hotel guestsWorld of Hyatt Credit CardUp to 60,000 bonus points Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn up to 30,000 more bonus points with 2 bonus points per $1 spent on purchases that earn 1 point up to $15,000 in the first 6 months $954.4 / 5
Anniversary bonusSouthwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card40,000 Points After you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year $1493.8 / 5
Points sign-up bonusChase Sapphire Preferred® Card80,000 Points If you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months $953.9 / 5
Business sign-up bonusInk Business Cash® Credit Card$750 If you spend $7,500 in the first 3 months $03.3 / 5

best credit card signup bonuses of 2021

Editor’s picks: Best credit card sign-up bonus details

Best for cash back: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Why we picked it: The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers one of the most generous cash back sign-up bonuses currently available: New cardholders earn $200 after reaching a relatively low spending threshold ($500 within the first 3 months of opening an account).

Pros: The card has a competitive base rewards program: 1.5% cash back on general purchases, plus 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining (including takeout and eligible food delivery services) and 3% on drugstore purchases. Plus, there’s no annual fee.

Cons: The Freedom Unlimited is a flat-rate cash back card, so if you tend to spend a lot in one or a few specific spending categories, you could conceivably earn more with a rotating or tiered cash back credit card. (See the best cash back credit cards for more options.)

Read our full Chase Freedom Unlimited review.

Best for flat-rate rewards: Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card

Why we picked it: This card provides cardholders the ability to earn $150 after a $500 spend on purchases in the first 3 months of card membership.

Pros: They’ll also enjoy an excellent 1.5% cash rewards on purchases with the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa, alongside the opportunity to earn 1.8% in cash rewards on Apple Pay® or Google Pay™ their first 12 months from account opening. There’s no annual fee.

Cons: You can potentially earn a higher cash back sign-up bonus (see the Chase Freedom Unlimited), and, again, you might be better served by a rotating or tiered cash back credit card offering 2% or higher in certain categories, depending on your spending habits.

Read our full Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa review.

Best for Marriott guests: Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card

Why we picked it: For a limited time, cardholders earn 50,000 points after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months of account opening, which is quite generous for a no annual fee card.

Pros: This card mightily rewards Marriott guests: It can be utilized on travel purchases (rewarded with 2X points) to visit destinations within Marriott’s boasted largest hotel network in the world. Plus, you earn up to 14X Bonvoy points (10X from being a Marriott Bonvoy Member, 6X on participating hotels and 1X from Marriott along with Silver Elite status, which comes as a benefit of being a cardmember) at more than 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy and receive 15 Elite Night Credits annually, qualifying you for Silver Elite Status. (Restrictions apply.)

Cons: This card’s rewards are tailored to loyal Marriott customers, so if you don’t frequent the hotel chain, a different credit card (and sign-up bonus) is likely warranted.

Read our full Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card review.

Best for airline travel: United℠ Explorer Card

Why we picked it: Cardholders can earn 40,000 bonus miles if they spend $2,000 within the first 3 months, plus an additional 25,000 bonus miles after spending $10,000 in the first 6 months. If you meet both required spends and redeem your miles for Saver Awards, that bonus amounts to about $988 in airfare, (assuming an average United mile value of 1.52 cents each).

Pros: The card’s base travel rewards are competitive: You earn 2X miles when spending on hotels, restaurants or United purchases and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. You also get a statement credit of up to $100 on Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, priority boarding privileges and 2 one-time passes to United Club℠ each anniversary.

Cons: The required $10,000 spend in the first 6 months for the additional 25,000 miles is pretty steep. If you don’t frequently fly United, you might be better served by a different airline credit card. There’s a $95 annual fee, though it’s waived the first year.

Read our full United Explorer Card review.

Best for restaurants: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Why we picked it: The Chase Sapphire has made waves in the travel credit card space since its debut, thanks to its big, shiny sign-up bonus: Cardholders earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months, a $900 value when booking travel through Ultimate Rewards.

Pros: As part of the card’s base rewards program, you earn 3X points on dining at restaurants, one of the highest rates for dining out there. You also earn 3X points on all travel purchases after you earn the card’s annual $300 travel credit. (And, when those points are used for booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, you get a 50% boost.)

Cons: The travel benefits come at a price, specifically the card’s $550 annual fee, so make sure you travel enough to justify that cost before applying.

Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve review.

Best for everyday points: Citi Rewards+® Card

Why we picked it: Cardholders earn 15,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $1,000 in purchases with the card within 3 months of account opening, redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com.

Pros: The card’s base rewards program lets you earn 2X ThankYou points at supermarkets and gas stations for the first $6,000 spent annually and 1X points on all other purchases. Plus, the card carries a unique feature in that it automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase. You’ll also get 10% back on the ThankYou points you redeem, up to 100,000 points per year. There is no annual fee.

Cons: There are higher cash back sign-up bonuses out there. There are also a few cards that offer a higher return on similar bonus categories.

Read our full Citi Rewards+ review.

Best for Southwest flyers: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Why we picked it: Cardholders can earn 40,000 points after they spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. We’ve estimated that bonus to be worth around $640 in Southwest travel, given we currently value Southwest Rapid Rewards points at around 1.6 cents apiece. They’ll also earn 3X points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year.

Pros: As base rewards, you’ll earn 2X points on Southwest purchases, Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Plus, you’ll receive 3,000 bonus points each year on your account anniversary.

Cons: The card carries a $69 annual fee, which isn’t quite covered by the anniversary bonus. (We estimate the anniversary bonus is worth around $48, using the 1.6-cent value per point mentioned above.) If you don’t fly Southwest, this card isn’t for you.

Read our full Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card review.

Best for hotel guests: World of Hyatt Credit Card

Why we picked it: You can earn up to 60,000 bonus points with a tiered sign-up offer that gives you 30,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months and 2 points per $1 spent on purchases that usually earn 1 point on up to $15,000 in your first 6 months.

Pros: The rewards don’t end with the bonus offer: You earn 2X points on a variety of spending, including at restaurants and on airline tickets purchased directly from airlines. You also receive a free night at a category 1 to 4 Hyatt hotel and can earn a second free night at the same type of hotel each year you spend $15,000.

Cons: The $95 annual fee isn’t waived the first year. If you don’t frequent Hyatt hotels, you may be better served by a different hotel credit card.

Read our full World of Hyatt Credit Card review.

Best for anniversary bonus: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Why we picked it: Cardholders earn 40,000 points after they spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, plus earn 3X points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year.

Pros: For base rewards, you earn 2X points on Southwest purchases, Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases and 1X point on other purchases. You also receive a $75 Southwest travel credit each year, a unique feature among Southwest cards. Plus, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority’s anniversary bonus is the highest of the Southwest cards: You earn 7,500 bonus points after each card anniversary.

Cons: The card has a $149 annual fee, not waived the first year, so you’ll need to carefully consider whether you patronize Southwest enough to truly reap this card’s benefits.

Read our full Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card review.

Best for points sign-up bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card*

Why we picked it: The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers an eye-popping 80,000-point sign-up bonus after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months of card membership. That’s worth around $1,000 in travel when you redeem your points through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal. Plus, you can earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.

Pros: In addition to the generous sign-up bonus rewards, this card offers 2X points on worldwide travel and dining, including eligible delivery services and takeout. The Sapphire Preferred also offers a 25% bonus when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Cons: The card carries a $95 annual fee that is not waived the first year, so, if you don’t travel frequently, you might be better served by a no-annual-fee travel credit card.

Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred review.

Best for business: Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

Why we picked it: This card offers high value for businesses with substantial expenses. Cardholders can earn a $750 sign-up bonus after spending $7,500 in the first 3 months.

Pros: You’ll receive 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent each year in combined purchases on office supply stores, internet, cable and phone services; and 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases each account anniversary year on gas stations and restaurants, along with 1% on all other purchases.

Cons: The Ink Business Cash charges no annual fee, which is rare for a business credit card that offers this much value – but carefully consider whether your business expenses are inside the 5% and 2% categories. Otherwise, you might want to opt for a flat-rate business rewards card like the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card.

Read our full Ink Business Cash review.

What is a credit card sign-up bonus and how do they work?

A sign-up bonus is a limited-time offer that many rewards credit cards feature (including travel credit cards and cash back credit cards). These promotions, also sometimes called “welcome offers,” give new cardholders a chance to earn extra rewards in the form of cash back, miles, points, free hotel nights or more. To get these rewards, they’re generally required to spend a certain amount in a specified time period in order to receive the bonus, but some offers stipulate a certain number of purchases or activate after just one swipe of the card. Typically, the higher the required spend, the more lucrative the bonus. In recent years, sign-up bonuses have become an increasingly popular way to entice new cardholders.

“A trend I’ve observed is that issuers are competing for consumers’ business based mostly on sign-up bonuses and rewards for ongoing spending,” says Ted Rossman, CreditCards.com industry analyst. “Whether you’re interested in travel or cash back, you can take advantage of offers that can put $500, $750 or even more into your wallet.”

Is a sign-up bonus worthwhile?

When choosing a card, it’s important to weigh how accessible the required spend is versus when you want to receive the intro bonus. For example, the Discover it® Cash Back card’s Cashback Match bonus matches the cash back you earned at the end of your first year, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited earns you $200 back after spending $500 within the first three months.

If your sign-up bonus comes via points or miles, how you redeem them matters, too. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card’s sign-up of 80,000 points to new cardholders who spend $4,000 in the first 3 months can be redeemed for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal for a 25% bonus, so 80,000 bonus points are worth $1,000 of Ultimate Rewards travel.

Chase Sapphire Preferred redemption options

RedemptionPoint ValueValue of 80,000-Point Sign-up Bonus
Ultimate Rewards travel portal (25% redemption bonus)1.25 cents$1,000
Statement credit1 cent$800
Direct deposit1 cent$800
Gift cards1 cent$800
Amazon.com purchases0.8 cents$640
Chase Pay purchases0.8 cents$640

However, if you don’t redeem the bonus in the first year and continue to hold the card without using it, your rewards value drops nearly a $100 each year, due to the card’s annual fee. And if you don’t redeem the bonus at all, its value amounts to $0, because credit card points have no value outside of the rewards that you redeem them for. We’ll go into more detail below about how to determine if you’re likely to reap the rewards from a particular sign-up bonus, even when the card carries an annual fee.

How to choose a card with a sign-up bonus

Your first impulse might be to apply for the largest sign-up bonus you see, but it’s important to fully evaluate a card. There’s a lot that goes into choosing the best credit card, but for the purposes of evaluating credit cards with sign-up bonuses, it’s best to consider the offer alongside these key terms:

  • Base rewards: The best rewards credit card for you offers points, miles or cash back on the categories you already spend money on. So, for instance, if you travel a lot, you might want to opt for an airline credit card with a good bonus offer. If you dine out frequently, you might want to opt for a lucrative restaurant rewards card. If your spending is more varied, a general-purpose rewards card is probably your best bet. Whatever your profile, you want to choose a card with a rewards program and a sign-up bonus you’ll actually use.
  • Fees: You’ll want to minimize costs, so evaluate any sign-up bonus against common card fees, including the annual fee, penalty fees and foreign transaction fees. Note: An annual fee isn’t always a deal-breaker. We have more details below on how to calculate whether to opt for an annual fee credit card with a good sign-up bonus.
  • Annual percentage rates: You generally want to avoid carrying a balance on a rewards credit card, given they tend to carry higher APRs than, say, a low-interest credit card. However, it’s important to know what APR will be imposed in the event you revolve purchases. (Learn how to spot a good APR.)

Here are some other factors to consider when trying to find the best sign-up bonus for you.

Is this the highest bonus you can earn on the card?

Don’t just spring for the first offer that you find – do some research. Depending on the card, the amount of the sign-up bonus can fluctuate over time, so you should check the card’s bonus history to see if the offer is at a high point or if it is likely to increase soon. Also, you should check around to see if you can qualify for a special offer with a larger sign-up bonus.

What is the bonus worth?

Points from different issuers have different values, and even point values from different cards from the same issuer can vary. Points also can gain or lose value over time as issuers add or subtract options. It’s also important to consider the points’/miles’ contextual value, depending on your current circumstances. So take a look at what the points/miles are worth and what you can get with the bonus before applying, and then keep an eye out for any announcements from the card’s points program.

Are the terms of the bonus affordable?

Before attaching yourself to a new credit card to take advantage of a welcome offer, be sure the required spend fits your budget. If you have an idea of your average monthly spending, this isn’t too difficult to weigh. Overextending yourself to meet the bonus requirement isn’t a recommended practice and may lead to issues down the line, like missing a payment or a hit to your credit score.

What is the issuer’s intro bonus policy?

Before you apply for a card hoping to snag a giant bonus, you should take a look at the card’s terms and conditions to make sure you qualify to earn a welcome bonus. Many issuers will not award a bonus if you’ve previously owned the card. And some issuers – including Chase with its “5/24” rule – won’t give you a bonus if you’ve signed up for too many cards recently. Here’s a summary of intro bonus policies:

IssuerWelcome bonus policy
American ExpressYou can only earn the bonus for a particular card once in a lifetime (includes personal and small business cards).
ChaseYou can reapply for the same bonus 24 months after earning the bonus and closing the card. You are not eligible for a sign-up bonus if you’ve opened more than five accounts in the past 24 months (including authorized user accounts but not including business card accounts).
CitiYou can only earn one ThankYou Rewards card sign-up bonus every 24 months after receiving a bonus, opening an account or closing an account. Personal Citi / AAdvantage cards follow the same rules but with a 48-month window.
BarclaysAccording to their terms and conditions for most cards, only first-time cardholders qualify for a bonus.
DiscoverFirst-year Cashback Match bonuses are only available for new card members.
U.S. BankAccording to terms and conditions, cardholders who have previously had an account for the same type of card won’t qualify for a bonus.

How to decide if you should get a sign-up bonus credit card with an annual fee

You shouldn’t automatically nix a card with an annual fee. If you do the math, you’ll often find that annual fee cards – due to larger sign-up bonuses and higher rewards redemption rates – offer the best value, even with a fee. Plus, some annual fee cards waive the charge in their first year. Still, you need to be sure you can afford to pay a fee and that you’ll redeem the rewards in a timely manner to make the fee worth it.

Let’s take a look at the value of a no annual fee card versus an annual fee competitor to determine the impact of each over two years. We’ll compare the travel and dining rewards value available from the United Explorer Card ($95 annual fee – waived the first year) and the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card*. The United Explorer Card’s miles are worth 1.3 cents, according to TPG’s points valuation, and the Propel’s points are worth 1 cent each. Let’s evaluate return based on someone who annually spends $2,000 on travel expenses, $1,800 on dining and $5,000 on other purchases, while hitting their sign-up bonus along the way.

Putting it all together…

CardSign-up bonusRewards rateRewardsAnnual feeTotal minus annual fee
United Explorer Card – Year 1Up to 65,000 miles* x .013 = $8452X miles on travel and dining, 1X elsewhere($2,000 x 2) + ($1,800 x 2) + ($5,000 x 1) = 12,600 miles x .013 = $164$95 waived first year$1,009
United Explorer Card – Year 22X miles on travel and dining, 1X elsewhere($2,000 x 2) + ($1,800 x 2) + ($5,000 x 1) = 12,600 miles x .013 = $164$95$69
Wells Fargo Propel – Year 120,000 points** x .01 = $2003X points on travel and dining, 1X elsewhere($2,000 x 3) + ($1,800 x 3) + ($5,000 x 1) = 16,400 points = $164$0$364
Wells Fargo Propel – Year 23X points on travel and dining, 1X elsewhere($2,000 x 3) + ($1,800 x 3) + ($5,000 x 1) = 16,400 points = $164$0$164

*United Explorer Card earns up to 65,000 miles: 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months, plus an additional 25,000 miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months

**Wells Fargo Propel earns 20,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months

At first glance, the two-year rewards are lopsided. This large gap is thanks to the United Explorer Card’s sign-up bonus. As such, when looking at ongoing rewards, the Propel may be the better choice in the long-term. Although the first-year rewards are slightly one-sided, the Propel’s consistent rewards and lack of annual fee will bring you more year-to-year value in the future. It may be hard to deny the upfront rewards available with annual fee cards, but consumers hunting for a card for the foreseeable future might want to look towards the best no annual fee options.

How to maximize sign-up bonuses

Signing up for the right bonus at the right time can help you take your sign-up bonus the extra mile. Here are some tips to squeeze more value out of your sign-up bonus:

Look for special offers

Sometimes issuers offer sign-up bonuses to targeted groups of cardholders that are larger than the offers advertised on their sites. Visit the issuer’s site often, check your mail or call the issuer directly to find out if you qualify for a special offer.

Keep an eye on the bonus after you sign up

Some issuers will award you the larger bonus amount if the offer increases after you sign up for the card. If the bonus goes up before the promotional period expires, call your issuer to see if you can qualify for the larger bonus.

Sign your spouse up for the same card

Many issuers will allow couples (married or otherwise) to sign up for the same card separately. Yes, even if your spouse is already an authorized user on your account, you can earn twice the number of bonus points!

Time your applications carefully

You’ll need to keep issuers’ policies – such as Chase’s 5/24 rule and American Express’s once-in-a-lifetime limit on welcome bonuses – in mind when deciding which cards to apply for. For instance, if you know that an issuer puts a limit on the number of new accounts you can have in a certain time frame, you might want to apply for those cards first.

Watch out for hidden convenience fees

Avoid using your card to pay for products or services that charge a fee to use credit cards. For example, some utility companies and providers, such as contractors or plumbers, may charge you a convenience fee of 2-4% to pay by card. See if you can meet the minimum spending requirement without paying fees.

Know what counts toward the minimum spend

If you read the sign-up bonus terms and conditions, you’ll likely find that the annual fee, your balance transfers, and the purchase of travelers checks or other “cash-like” items, don’t count toward your minimum spending total.

Be careful about returning items

If you return an item that you purchased with your card, be sure to subtract the amount from your total spending. Otherwise, you could accidentally fall short of the spending threshold and miss out on your card’s bonus.

Don’t get sucked into debt

What good is a few hundred dollars’ worth of bonus points if you also end up thousands of dollars in debt? Before you spring for a sign-up bonus, make sure you can afford the spending threshold. And aim to pay your monthly balances off in full, lest you lose lucrative points, miles or cash back to interest!


Frequently Asked Questions