Best Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses

Last Updated: 7/9/2012

While there are hundreds of credit card deals and sign-up bonuses out there, a few select offers will make your eyes go wide in disbelief, like this cute lemur. These bonuses can really can add up (translation: thousands of dollars of extra income per year), and come in the form of cash back, points, miles, and hotel stays. We cover the best opportunities in each category, though do keep in mind that offers are constantly expiring, and new ones are being offered, so this page will update often.

We’ve included a quick summary table, and you can read more details about each card further down this post.

2 quick notes:

  • On bonus calculations: we convert airline miles, hotel rewards and points to cash equivalent, usually relying on separate analyses done at GetDebit. We then subtract any first year annual fees to arrive at net sign-up bonuses.
  • In the summary table below, we assume you successfully achieve any minimum spending requirements to earn bonuses. More detailed information can be found by clicking on the “get the details” link or just scrolling down the post (which we recommend).
Summary of Best Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses
Form of Reward GetDebit Estimated Value of Sign Up Bonus Details Application
BEST CASHBACK CREDIT CARD DEALS
Chase Sapphire Preferred Cash $400 Details Chase Sapphire Preferred
BEST AIRLINE CREDIT CARD DEALS
British Airways Visa Signature Airline $585 Details Chase British Airways Visa Signature
Chase Sapphire Preferred Airline $500 Details Chase Sapphire Preferred
BEST HOTEL CREDIT CARD DEALS
Chase Hyatt Hotel Stays $1,000+ Details Chase Hyatt
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card Hotel Stays $540 Details Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Best CashBack Deals

Great straight cash sign-up offers are the rarest type of sign-up bonus. I think one major reason is that the cost of an airline giving away a seat is a lot less than the face value of the ticket, whereas cash is king and hits the bottom line (translation: cash is always more expensive to give away all else equal). Also, straight cash has less of a loyalty effect, whereas say hotel rewards get you to a) use their hotels, and b) get you involved in their loyalty program.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Summary: Probably the best pure cash bonus available on the market (despite a recent reduction from 50,000 points to 40,000), although we’d still recommend you redeem for airfare to grab the 25% bump-up in the value of the points. The core rewards are not bad, but not out of sight, so may not be a great choice for a daily-use, long-term card.

Net Value of Sign Up Bonus: $500 if you redeem for airfare and $400 if you redeem for cash.

How to get the bonus: You’ll get 40,000 points if you spend $3K on the card within the first 3 months of card activation.

Annual Fee: $95 (waived 1st year)

Value of Points: Chase gives you a 25% bump in point value if you redeem for airfare (thus making each point worth 1.25 cents); if you redeem for cash then points are worth 1 cent each.

Core Rewards: 2 points on airfare, hotel, rental cars, restaurants, cruises, travel agencies, and local+commuter transports. 1 point on all other spend.

Foreign Transaction Fee: None.

GetDebit Review: Chase Sapphire Review

Apply: Chase Sapphire Card

Best Airline Deals

Great airline offers are actually quite common, and on occasion can be quite monstrous (British Air runs a 100K mileage sign-up bonus every so often). Also note that we assume you redeem miles for economy class tickets, but if you plan to use them for business/first class tickets, or especially for upgrades, then the value of these sign-up bonuses can increase 2x-5x!!

British Airways Visa Signature

Summary: With their 50K Avios bonus, this card is a worthy candidate. The annual fee isn’t waived first year, so we net that out of the sign-up bonus. Additionally, because of BA’s insanely high fuel surcharges, you are all but forced to redeem through one of their partners (they belong to the OneWorld Alliance, so sample partners include AA, JAL, Cathay Pacific, etc).  While partner award seat availability is always an issue, if you can plan ahead, you may be able to take full advantage of this offer and line your pockets a bit.

Net Value of Sign Up Bonus: up to $585 (assumes you hit hit first year spend target, see below).

How to get the bonus:50K Avios (BA’s term for points) after you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Annual Fee: $95

Value of Avios: Approximately 1 cent per Avios if you redeem on partner airlines; redemptions on BA are worth only 0.4 cents per point due to fuel surcharges. (read more)

Core Rewards: 2.5 BA points per $1 spent on BA purchases; 1.25 BA points on all other purchases.

Other Bonuses: If you spend $30K+ per calendar year, you’ll get a companion rewards ticket (still subject to fuel surcharge).

Foreign Transaction Fee: None.

GetDebit Review: Review of the BA Visa Signature Credit Card.
Apply: Chase British Airways Visa Signature Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred

See our review in the Cash Back section above, where we also discuss airline redemptions.

Best Hotel Deals

Hotel loyalty cards, like their brethren airline cards, offer some of the most compelling sign-up bonuses around. While some hotel cards allow you to transfer your points into mileage programs, your best value will always be redeeming points for hotel stays.

Chase Hyatt Visa

Summary: While 2 free nights may not seem like much (how quickly the time will fly!), you have the opportunity to stay at some really first-rate hotel properties. According to our online research, availability (even at top properties) is actually quite good. We checked out the Hyatt Paris-Vendome, and saw for Dec 6-8 it would cost 660 Euros per night. Based on current Euro-USD FX rate of $1.37 per Euro, the sign-up bonus would be worth a whopping $1,808. That, folks, is jaw-dropping.

GetDebit’s Estimated Net Value of Sign Up Bonus: $1,000+

GetDebit’s Estimated Value of Points: 1 cent per point.

GetDebit Review: Not available yet.

Apply: Chase Hyatt Visa Credit Card

Chase Marriott Premier Visa

Summary: With the annual fee waived for first year, plus a solid bonus (mix of points + 1 free night), the Chase Marriott card is definitely a contender.

    GetDebit’s Estimate of The Sign-On Bonus

    The Chase Marriott Premier Credit Card gives you 50,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months from account opening. Additionally, you’ll earn 1 free night’s stay at a category 1-4 hotel on account approval. That’s a pretty fantastic bonus, with a very achievable spend threshold. We estimate the combination of the point bonus and the free night to be worth around $540.

    Additionally, there is an $85 annual fee for this card, but the fee is waived for the first year. Also, there is no foreign transaction fee (yay!).

    GetDebit Review: Chase Marriott Premier

    Apply: Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card

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