Article updated March 5th, 2018
[UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
If you’re looking to sign up for a new credit card, you may be wondering what kind of bonuses issuers are going to offer to you. After all, credit card issuers have long offered signup bonuses to entice new cardholders. Heavy marketplace competition has led to a few truly sweet — even outrageous — deals that can help you do the things you’ve wanted to do, like taking that dream vacation to some exotic locale.
Over the last year or so, in particular, it’s become commonplace to see issuers offer hundreds of dollars worth of bonus rewards or a full airfare in miles for spending a certain amount of money in your first few months as an account holder. Narrowing down the best signup bonus for you depends on how much you spend or how often you travel, among other things. Still, there are a few strong contenders for the best signup card bonuses on the market right now. Let’s break them down.
Expert Intel: Credit card signup bonuses change frequently and can even vary by customer, so it’s a good idea to visit the issuer’s site directly to double-check their latest offers.
Cards With Big Signup Rewards
The best signup bonuses offer huge value when combined with the card’s standard features. Here’s an overview of the better offers on the market right now.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: A big points bonus that gains additional value if you redeem your points for travel with Chase.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: If you can’t afford the Reserve’s hefty annual fee, you can consider its little brother, which also touts a sweet signup bonus.
- Discover it® Cash Back: Discover is offering a dollar-for-dollar match on all the cash back a new cardholder earns in their first year — to be paid out at the end of it.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: If you’re looking to score a signup bonus without paying an annual fee or hitting an uber-high spend threshold, the Freedom’s got you covered.
The Signup Bonus: Cardholders earn 50,000 bonus points if they spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. Those points are worth $750 when used to book travel through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal.
Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Base Rewards: Dining and travel purchases earn three points per dollar, while all other purchases earn one point per dollar.
The Big Extras: Cardholders get an annual $300 travel credit and $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or an $85 application fee credit for TSA Pre-Check, depending on what program you choose. Plus, the card comes with airport lounge access, special hotel and car rental benefits and a host of other travel perks.
When Deciding to Apply: Remember, if you want to book travel elsewhere or redeem your points for something else, you’ll lose out on that additional 50% value. (In short, you’re handcuffed to Chase’s travel platform.) Plus, the card carries a hefty $450 annual fee, so you’ll want to do a cost-benefit analysis to determine how much of a bonus you’re actually netting — and whether you’re likely to recoup that annual fee during your second year as a cardholder and beyond.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Card Details +
The Signup Bonus: Cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus points if they spend $4,000 in their first three months of account opening — that’s worth $625 in travel booked through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards.
Annual Fee: $0 Intro for the first year, then $95
Purchase APR: 17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Base Rewards: Dining and travel purchases earn two points per dollar, while all other purchases earn one point per dollar.
The Big Extras: You won’t get any travel credits, but card does carry some nice ancillary perks, like trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement and an auto rental damage collision waiver.
When Deciding to Apply: There is a $95 annual fee, after the first year, so again you’ll need to crunch the numbers to see if you’re likely to recoup it. Plus, $4,000 in three months is a pretty high spending threshold so if that’s out of your normal charge range, consider a card with a bonus that’s easier to qualify for.
Discover it® Cash Back
- Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
- Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
- INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
- Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
- Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
- Receive FREE Social Security number alerts—Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
- No annual fee.
Card Details +
The Signup Bonus: It’s a bit less conventional, but Discover is offering new cardholders a dollar-for-dollar cash back their first year, which gets paid out at the end of it.
Annual Fee: $0
Purchase APR: 13.74% - 24.74% Variable on purchases & balance transfers, after a 0% for 14 months on purchases expires.
Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Base Rewards: Cardholders can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in revolving bonus categories, so long as they enroll each quarter. Cardmembers also earn 1% cash back everywhere else.
The Big Extras: Discover skips the penalty APR and waives the late fee on your first missed payment (which you’ll still want to avoid). Plus, there’s a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfer for the first 14-months. Your APR will be a 13.74% - 24.74% Variable on purchases & balance transfers after that, depending on your credit.
When Deciding to Apply: The dollar-for-dollar match isn’t contingent on meeting any spending threshold, but you’ll have to wait for it — it’s paid out at the end of your first year. Plus, you’ll need to monitor bonus categories and make sure to enroll once a quarter ends.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase – it's automatic
- Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
- No minimum to redeem for cash back
- Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
- Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
- No annual fee
Card Details +
The Signup Bonus: Cardholders earn $150 when they spend $500 in the first three months of account opening. Plus, they’ll earn $25 if they add an authorized user who goes on to make a purchase in the same time period.
Annual Fee: $0
Purchase APR: 16.74% - 25.49% Variable, after a 0% for 15 months on purchases expires.
Foreign Transaction Fees: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
Base Rewards: Cardholders earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase.
The Big Extras: The card comes with purchase protection, price protection and an extended warranty. Plus, there’s also a 15-month 0% introductory APR on balance transfers, too; after that, your APR will be a 16.74% - 25.49% Variable.
When Deciding to Apply: You will pay a balance transfer fee of $5 or 5% (whichever is greater), if you take Chase up on that offer. Plus, if you don’t mind considering what card to use at the register or enrollment dates, you might earn more rewards with a revolving category 5% cash back card.
How to Choose a Card with a Great Signup Bonus
Most cards with strong signup bonuses charge annual fees. Any time you evaluate a card, you’ll need to weigh the value of the bonus against the fees. If the perceived benefits don’t meet or exceed the annual fee, you might want to keep looking.
You’ll also want to pick a card that offers benefits you’ll actually use. Travel rewards are most valuable to frequent travelers, so if you tend to stay put you may be better off with a cash-back card. Cards tied to specific companies such as Southwest or Marriott will only deliver the best value to loyal customers, so if you like to shop around you’re better off with a general rewards card.
Finally, most sign-up bonuses require you to spend a specific amount in the first few months of the card. If the spending requirements are far outside your normal spending behavior, it likely isn’t worth it to sign up for the card.
What Is Required to Get a Card With a Signup Bonus?
Cards with big signup bonuses generally require a good to excellent credit score. If you aren’t sure where your credit stands, you’ll want to view your credit score, available free on Credit.com, before you apply. A hard inquiry into your credit can ding your score a little bit, so you probably shouldn’t apply unless you’re reasonably confident you can get approved.
At publishing time, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Discover it® Cash Back, Chase Freedom Unlimited, The Platinum Card from American Express, and the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.