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If you want to earn lots of points, miles, or cash back quickly, the best strategy is to apply for a rewards credit card and earn its welcome bonus. You'll usually have to meet a minimum spending requirement in a specified time frame (typically a few months), and it's well worth the effort to unlock a big bonus.
Even better, many top travel rewards cards are currently offering record-high welcome bonuses. Some of these offers are only available for a limited time, so you shouldn't wait long to apply.
The best credit card welcome offers available now:
* The Platinum Card® from American Express: (Note: New Platinum Card® cardmembers can earn 10x points on eligible purchases at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during the first 6 months of card membership)
The Platinum Card® from American Express is offering one of the most lucrative bonuses we've seen in recent months, and its many benefits can more than make up for the $550 annual fee (See Rates). While it's well known as a premium travel card, the Amex Platinum is worth considering even if you're staying close to home right now.
Read more: Amex Platinum card review
You can still get hundreds of dollars in value from perks like up to $200 in Uber (including Uber Eats) credits** per year and up to $100 in annual Saks Fifth Avenue credits**. The Platinum Card also comes with excellent shopping and purchase benefits, including return protection, extended warranty, and targeted discounts and bonuses through Amex Offers.
Travelers can take advantage of up to $200 in airline fee credits** each calendar year, airport lounge access, complimentary hotel elite status with Hilton and Marriott**, travel insurance, and Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts. You can use the Amex Membership Rewards points you'll earn with the card to book flights, hotels, and more through Amex Travel, or transfer points to airline and hotel partners like Delta, British Airways, and Marriott.
Small-business owners have a big opportunity to earn a massive amount of points with the limited-time welcome bonus on The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. Like the personal Platinum Card, there's a hefty annual fee — $595 (See Rates) — but it's more than worth it if you can maximize the card's perks.
Read more: Amex Business Platinum card review
Amex Business Platinum Card members get some of the same perks as personal cardholders, including airline fee credits, hotel elite status, and airport lounge access. You can also receive up to $200 in Dell statement credits** per year, and get a 35% points rebate when you redeem points for first- or business-class tickets, or for any fare with your selected airline, through Amex Travel (up to 500,000 points back per calendar year).
If you're not sure which version of the card is best for you, our comparison of the Amex Platinum and Business Platinum can help narrow down your choice.
The Amex Gold Card is sometimes overlooked as the "kid brother" to its Platinum siblings, but it's actually one of our favorite rewards cards, especially for dining. You'll earn 4x points at restaurants worldwide up to $25,000 per year (then 1x) and up to $120 in annual dining credits that you can use at select restaurants and on Grubhub and Seamless. It also offers up to $120 Uber Cash ($10 per month credit) each calendar year (this is only applicable to U.S. Eats orders and Rides, and the Gold Card needs to be added to the Uber app to receive the Uber Cash benefit).
Read more: Amex Gold Card review
The card didn't always come with an attention-grabbing welcome bonus, but it's now increased its intro offer to 60,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 6 months of account opening. Considering you can transfer your Amex points to nearly two dozen travel partners, these points can unlock lots of options for flights or hotel stays.
If you like earning cash back and spend a lot on groceries and streaming services, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is tough to beat. It's now offering a 20% back on Amazon.com purchases (up to $200 back) in your first 6 months of Card Membership, plus $150 back as a statement credit after you spend $3,000 on the Card within the first 6 months, and earns 6% back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in spending per calendar year (then 1%).
Read more: Amex Blue Cash Preferred card review
You'll also earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis, rideshares, parking, tolls, trains, and buses), and 1% cash back on everything else (cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars). If you max out the $6,000 limit at U.S. supermarkets, you could earn $360 in cash back each year just from that category alone — that's more than enough to offset the annual fee of $95 (waived the first year) (See Rates).
The American Express® Business Gold Card normally offers 35,000 points after meeting minimum spending requirements, so this limited-time bonus is double the usual points. If you can maximize the credits you'll do even better, because they can more than offset the card's $295 annual fee (See Rates).
Read more: Amex Business Gold Card review
One reason the card has remained popular with small-business owners is the ability to earn 4x Amex Membership Rewards points in the top two categories you spend the most in each month, on up to $150,000 in combined purchases each year (then 1x). These categories include airfare purchased directly from airlines, U.S. gas stations, U.S. restaurants, U.S. shipping providers, select U.S. advertising and technology providers, and U.S. purchases for advertising in select media (online, TV, radio).
The Citi Premier® Card is another card that doesn't always get the attention it deserves. It earns flexible Citi ThankYou Rewards points that you can redeem for travel, transfer to airline partners, cash in for statement credits, gift cards, or merchandise, and even use to pay off your student loan or mortgage.
Read more: Citi Premier card review
In addition to offering 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening, the Citi Premier card stands out for its pandemic-friendly bonus categories, including 3 points per dollar at restaurants and supermarkets. This makes the card a great option for maximizing your everyday purchases — because everyone has to eat.
The Citi Premier® Card also comes with a hotel savings benefit that can offset its entire $95 annual fee. This perk will save you $100 once per calendar year when you book a hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) through ThankYou.com.
You can't go wrong with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — it's one of the best to start with if you're new to credit card rewards (or if you don't want to pay the $550 annual fee on its premium sibling, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®).
Read more: Chase Sapphire Preferred card review
The card offers a welcome bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. The great thing about Chase Ultimate Rewards points is their flexibility — redemption options include booking travel directly through the Chase Travel Portal, transferring points to airline and hotel partners like United and Marriott, or cashing in rewards for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
The more premium sibling of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is offering 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening — an increase of 10,000 points over the usual offer. It also earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, allows transfers to Chase airline and hotel partners, and offers the same variety of options for points redemption as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
Read more: Chase Sapphire Reserve review
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a $550 annual fee — substantially higher than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. However, if you can make use of the card's additional benefits — especially if you're traveling — the annual fee is certainly worth it.
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is offering new cardholders a limited-time welcome bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus miles once you spend $20,000 on purchases within the first 12 months from account opening (or 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months). Aside from the bonus, you'll earn 40,000 Venture miles after spending $20,000 within 12 months, which means you could earn up to 140,000 miles in total, between the full bonus and annual spending.
With the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you'll earn 2x miles on all eligible purchases with no caps. Capital One Venture miles are worth 1 cent apiece when you redeem them toward travel purchases charged to your card, and potentially more when you transfer miles to travel partners like JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, and Air Canada Aeroplan. That's why Insider values Capital One miles as worth, on average, 1.4 cents each.
Capital One recently added new partners — British Airways, Turkish Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, and Choice Hotels — and improved the transfer ratio to 1:1 for some partners as well.
The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card offers the highest welcome bonus among Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points: 100,000 points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Read more: Ink Business Preferred Credit Card review
Plus, it has generous bonus categories — you'll earn 3 points per dollar in the first $150,000 in combined purchases you make on categories including travel, shipping, and advertising (and 1 point per dollar on everything else). This card has a $95 annual fee, and it offers benefits like primary rental car insurance when you're renting a car for business purposes and cell phone protection.
If you're looking for Chase small-business card but don't want to meet the hefty spending requirement on the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, the no-annual-fee Ink Business Cash® Credit Card is a great alternative. You'll earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — awarded as 75,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Read more: Ink Business Cash Credit Card review
The Ink Business Cash® Credit Card is a good pick if you spend a lot in the card's bonus categories: 5% cash back (5x points) on the first $25,000 spent (then 1x) in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services each account anniversary year, 2% back (2x points) on the first $25,000 spent (then 1x) in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year, and 1% back (1x points) on all other purchases with no cap.
Some small-business owners don't want to fuss with bonus categories or spending limits. If that's your style, the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card is an easy pick — it earns 1.5% cash back (1.5x points) on all eligible purchases with no caps.
Read more: Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card review
It's also offering a bonus of $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening (75,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) and has no annual fee. Although you won't have the opportunity to earn bonus points in popular business categories, the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card is a good fit if you value simplicity and straightforward earning.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is one of the best cash-back cards you can get, and it now offers one of the most generous intro bonuses, too. New cardholders can earn $200 after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening (20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points).
Read more: Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card review
You'll earn 5% cash back (5x points) on travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% cash back (3x) on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back (1.5x) on everything else. You can even pair the Chase Freedom Unlimited® with one of Chase's travel cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and unlock the ability to transfer points to partners like Hyatt, British Airways, and Singapore Airlines.
The no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex℠ has the same great welcome offer as the Chase Freedom Unlimited®: a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening (20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points).
Read more: Chase Freedom Flex credit card review
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns 5% cash back (5x points) on rotating quarterly bonus categories after activation (on up to $1,500 spent per quarter, then 1%), 5% back (5x) on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back (3x) on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1% back (1x) on everything else.
The New United Quest℠ Card is the most recent addition to Chase's lineup of United credit cards. With a $250 annual fee, the New United Quest℠ Card falls in between the United℠ Explorer Card (annual fee of $95, waived the first year) and the premium United Club℠ Infinite Card ($525 annual fee), and it comes with benefits that can make it well worth the yearly cost.
Read more: United Quest credit card review
Cardholders receive up to $125 in annual credits toward United purchases, a 5,000-mile credit on award flights up to two times a year after your first cardmember anniversary, and a free first and second checked bag on United flights for themselves and one companion on the same reservation. The card also offers up to $100 credit for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, travel protections like primary car rental insurance, and complimentary upgrades on award tickets for Premier members.
The United℠ Explorer Card is the best all-around card for United flyers, because, on United flights, cardholders and a companion on the same reservation receive a free first checked bag when they pay with the card. You'll also get priority boarding, a 25% discount on inflight food, beverage, and Wi-Fi purchases, and two one-time United Club passes each anniversary year (worth $59 apiece).
Read more: United Explorer credit card review
Normally, the bonus on the United℠ Explorer Card is 40,000 miles after meeting minimum spending requirements, but the new offer is 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months. The annual fee is $95, waived the first year, and you'll also get up to $100 in statement credit for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four years.
If you fly United frequently and enjoy airport lounge access, you should consider the United Club℠ Infinite Card, with a new bonus of 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. There's a $525 annual fee, but in return, cardholders receive a full United Club airport lounge membership. Normally, a membership costs $650, so this is a better deal compared to paying directly for this privilege.
Read more: United Club Infinite credit card review
Cardholders receive up to two free checked bags for the cardholder and one companion on United flights, Premier Access (priority check-in, security screening, boarding, and baggage handling when flying United), and a 25% discount on inflight food, beverages, and Wi-Fi aboard United-operated flights. If you have United Premier elite status and are traveling on an award ticket, you'll also eligible for complimentary Premier upgrades on United-operated flights, subject to availability.
Small-business owners should consider the increased bonus on the United℠ Business Card, which is offering 75,000 bonus miles after $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. The annual fee is $99, waived the first year, which makes this an even better deal, considering the normal bonus on the card is just 60,000 miles.
Read more: United Business credit card review
Along with many of the same benefits as the personal United℠ Explorer Card (free checked bag, priority boarding, two one-time United Club passes each anniversary year, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit), the United℠ Business Card throws in some additional perks. If you make seven or more United flight travel-related purchases of at least $100 in an account anniversary year with your 75,000 bonus miles after $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening, you will receive a $100 statement credit. And if you also have a personal Chase United card (like the United℠ Explorer Card or United Gateway℠ Card), you'll receive a "better-together anniversary bonus" of 5,000 United miles each anniversary of your 75,000 bonus miles after $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
TheUnited Gateway℠ Card isn't as flashy as other United cards, and it usually only offers a welcome bonus of 10,000 miles after meeting minimum spending requirements. But right now, the bonus has been doubled to 20,000 miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening — not a bad deal for a card with no annual fee.
Read more: United Gateway Card review
The 20,000 miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening doesn't offer many travel benefits, except a 25% discount on inflight purchases and no foreign transaction fees. However, this card is an excellent choice if you don't want to pay an annual fee but still want access to expanded award availability on United flights.
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card is offering an elevated welcome bonus of 100,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening, and cardholders earn up to 17 points per dollar at Marriott Bonvoy hotels (6x points from the card, up to 10x points from being a Marriott Bonvoy member, and 1x point from the Silver status that comes with the card), and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases.
Read more: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card review
The $95 annual fee is more than worth it if you can make the most of the card's annual free night benefit. Each year on your card anniversary, you'll receive a free night certificate — valid at Marriott hotels that cost 35,000 points or less — and if you redeem it at higher-category hotels, you can get a value that far exceeds the annual cost to keep the card.
Cardholders also get automatic Marriott Silver status, travel protections including baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and trip delay reimbursement, and purchase protection.
If you prefer a no-annual-fee credit card but still want to earn Marriott points, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card is offering 50,000 Bonus Points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. That's 20,000 more points than the usual offer.
Read more: Marriott Bonvoy Bold credit card review
While you won't get an anniversary free night with the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card, it does come with 15 elite night credits per year (enough for Silver elite status) and decent benefits you don't always find on a card with no annual fee. For example, you won't pay foreign transaction fees, and you'll still get perks like baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and trip delay reimbursement.
All three Chase Southwest personal cards, including the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, are offering a welcome bonus with the opportunity to earn 65,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has the lowest annual fee ($69) of the bunch, but also the fewest benefits. It's the only Southwest card that adds foreign transaction fees, and it doesn't earn tier-qualifying points from meeting spending thresholds like the others. That said, you'll earn 3,000 points each card anniversary (worth about $45 in Southwest airfare) and the welcome bonus alone can get you most of the way to qualifying for the Southwest Companion Pass.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is the mid-level Southwest personal card, with a $99 annual fee. It comes with the same welcome bonus and offers a few more perks, including tier-qualifying points for reaching spending thresholds, 6,000 points on your card anniversary, and no foreign transaction fees.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card has a $149 annual fee, but it's well worth it even if you fly Southwest just a few times a year. In exchange for the higher upfront cost, you'll get valuable benefits that can be worth much more than you paid — along with the same welcome bonus as the others.
Cardholders receive 7,500 points each card anniversary (worth about $112 in Southwest flights), up to $75 in statement credits toward Southwest purchases each year, four upgraded boardings per year when available (worth up to $50 each time), and a 20% discount on inflight purchases including Wi-Fi.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card is offering 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchase within the first 3 months of account opening.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card also offers an application fee credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, plus four upgraded boardings on Southwest per year and inflight Wi-Fi credits.
The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card comes with a welcome bonus of 150,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening, which is enough for up to 15 award nights at the lowest-priced IHG hotels (redemptions start at 10,000 points per night).
Read more: IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card review
The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card comes with an $89 (waived the first year) annual fee, but each year cardholders receive an anniversary award night valid at IHG hotels that cost up to 40,000 points. It's easy to get a value that more than exceeds the annual fee from this perk alone.
With travel still challenging due to the pandemic, now may seem like an odd time to open a travel rewards credit card, but earning a welcome bonus now can put you in a great position to use points and miles for your next vacation, whenever that may be.
Plus, in addition to allowing extra time to earn a welcome bonus, issuers like American Express and Chase are offering additional benefits tailored to life in quarantine, including new bonus categories for earning rewards and the option to use Chase points through Pay Yourself Back.
Before you apply for a new credit card, make sure you understand how credit card applications affect your credit score. Also make sure you treat your credit cards like debit cards, only spending what you can afford to pay back each month. If you carry a balance to earn rewards, you'll be putting yourself in a bad financial position — and the interest fees you'll rack up will easily outweigh any points or miles you earn.
What is a sign-up bonus?
A sign-up bonus, also known as a welcome bonus or intro offer, is a reward of points, miles, or cash back for new cardholders who meet designated requirements. Usually, these requirements involve meeting a minimum spending threshold within the first few months after you open your new credit card account.
Do credit card sign-up bonuses change?
Some credit cards almost always have the exact same sign-up bonus, while others change frequently. If you're considering opening a new rewards credit card, do your research to see whether the card you want has previously offered a higher bonus. If it has, it could be worth waiting until that elevated offer returns, or you may even be able to find that higher offer through the credit card issuer's website.
What is the best credit card sign-up bonus?
There isn't one single best sign-up bonus, because even if one card offers more points, not all points and miles are valued equally. There are also different types of credit card rewards: points, miles, and cash back, so the best sign-up bonus for you depends on the rewards you value most.
How can I use a credit card sign-up bonus?
There are typically several options for using a credit card sign-up bonus.
If you earn a cash-back sign-up bonus, you could be able to use it toward a statement credit to reduce your credit card bill, or you could receive the money in check form. With a travel rewards card, you could use your points or miles to book an award trip, or cash them out for gift cards, money back, or merchandise.
The exact options depend on the credit card you have and its specific rewards program, but the bottom line is that there are several possibilities for using your sign-up bonus.
Is a credit card without a sign-up bonus still worth it?
The short answer is yes. A credit card sign-up bonus can be a great incentive to apply, especially if you're looking at a card that has an annual fee, but not every good credit card offers an intro bonus. For example, the Citi® Double Cash Card is one of our favorite cash-back credit cards, but it doesn't offer a sign-up bonus. It could be worth forgoing an intro bonus if that card's 2% cash back (1% back when you make a purchase, and another 1% back when you pay your bill) appeals to you.
Jasmin Baron is an associate editor at Personal Finance Insider, where she helps readers maximize rewards and find the best credit cards to fit their lifestyles. She has covered credit cards, points and miles, and loyalty programs for over seven years, and she's a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF).
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Business Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, please click here.
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