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Signup bonuses are a great way to earn free nights at hotels, airfare to your next vacation, and a whole slew of other rewards. But remember: The best credit card signup bonus is the one that aligns with your spending habits; not one that changes them. From hotel cards to cash back offers, we put in the work to find this year’s best offers across all categories. Take a look to find out which one best suits your wallet and apply online in minutes.

Summary

Best credit card signup bonus offers for 2017

Here are the best credit card signup bonus offers for 2017:

Best overall

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Redeem for... Statement credit, airfare, hotels, cruises, and more
Reward details 2X points on travel & dining; 1X on everything else

Signup bonus 50,000 points
Annual Fee $95 (Waived first year)
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • 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®
  • 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 airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises 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
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Rewards Details: 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide
  • Sign Up Bonus: 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®
  • Annual Fee: Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: $0
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 16.99% - 23.99% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a great choice for avid travelers and explorers because it earns unlimited rewards on dining and travel expenses worldwide, including a few travel types that aren’t usually covered by other cards, like timeshares, car rental agencies, and parking garages. If you’re looking for a great signup bonus, this card should also be one of your top considerations: Its 50,000-point bonus is one of the most valuable bonuses available.

How to use it
  • Earn 2X points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases around the globe. Use this card for everything else and get 1X points per dollar you spend. And you don’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees.
  • Spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months to cash in on one of the most valuable signup bonuses available: 50,000 bonus points worth $625 toward travel when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Transfer your points to 11 leading airline and hotel loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio, including Hyatt, Marriott, and United.
Consider this

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the best credit cards for people who already travel a lot (and those who can handle a $4,000 spending requirement in the first 3 months to earn the signup bonus). If your travel is limited to your annual family vacation, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card might be a better pick. It earns 2X points on all purchases — not just travel and dining like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — and has a lower annual fee ($59) that’s also waived for year one. (Its bonus spending requirement is $1,000 less too.)

Why you'll love it

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns unlimited rewards on travel and dining worldwide — and you won’t have to worry about any foreign transaction fees. Plus, anytime you redeem your points for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®, you’ll get 25% more value. Let’s not forget the massive signup bonus either: 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months — that’s worth $625 toward travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Start your application now

Best for families

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
See Rates & Fees
Redeem for... Reward dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Terms Apply.
Reward details 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000, then 1%)

Signup bonus $200
Annual Fee $95
Highlights Provided by American Express Show Highlights
  • $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) - that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 13.99% to 24.99%.
  • Expanding merchant acceptance: Over 1 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in the last year.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Issuer: American Express
  • Rewards Details: 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) - that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
  • Annual Fee: $95 See Details
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 26.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 12 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 12 months
  • Ongoing APR: 13.99% - 24.99% Variable
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you find yourself cruising the grocery store multiple times a week, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is an excellent choice — it earns incredibly high rewards at U.S. supermarkets. (You’ll also earn high rewards at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores.) Plus, the signup bonus is one of the most easy to attain on the market: $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months.

How to use it
  • Use this card at U.S. supermarkets, U.S gas stations, and select U.S. department stores to earn incredibly high-rate cash back rewards.
  • Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Redeem your Rewards Dollars for statement credits that you can use to pay off your balance.
  • Use the 12-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers to avoid interest on high-APR cards or large purchases.
Consider this

If you don’t spend that much on gasoline or groceries or department store purchases, the Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® might have more to offer. It’s a flat-rate card that earns unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases — so you don’t have to worry about focusing on any categories. On top of that, it has no annual fee, and has a generous signup bonus: $200 cash back when you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account.

Why you'll love it

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns super-high rewards at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations, and select U.S. department stores — it’s a solid pick for most shoppers. Plus, you’ll receive a $200 statement credit signup bonus if you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Start your application now

Best for luxury travelers

The Platinum Card® from American Express
See Rates & Fees
Redeem for... Statement credit, airfare, hotels, cruises, and more
Reward details 5X points for flights and hotels (Terms apply)

Signup bonus 60,000 points
Annual Fee $550
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Annual Fee: $550 See Details
  • Balance Transfer Fee: N/A*
  • Cash Advance APR: N/A
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: See Details
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A*
  • Ongoing APR: N/A
  • Penalty APR: N/A

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you’re looking for a card with high rewards on travel, luxurious benefits (we’re talking about access to esteemed Centurion Lounges around the globe), and exceptional perks, The Platinum Card® from American Express is for you. Just remember the keys to earning 5X Membership Rewards® points: booking flights directly with airlines or with American Express Travel; and booking stays at eligible hotels on amextravel.com.

How to use it
  • Book flights directly with airlines or American Express to earn 5X Membership Rewards® points. Eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com earn high rewards too.
  • Access and enjoy over 1,000 lounges in the American Express Global Lounge Collection℠. That includes the esteemed Centurion Lounges, which offer perks like semi-private workspaces, shower suites, signature cocktails, and more.
  • Redeem Membership Rewards® points for a variety of rewards, including airfare, hotels, and more.
Consider this

The Platinum Card® from American Express has incredible amenities, but you’ll pay a whopping $550 per year to get them. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a much more affordable alternative at only $95 per year (and the fee is waived for year one). Plus, it actually has a slightly more valuable signup bonus that’s worth $625 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards® compared to the 60,000-point bonus from Amex that’s worth $600 toward travel.

Why you'll love it

Luxury is the name of the game with The Platinum Card® from American Express. You’ll enjoy some of the coolest travel perks and benefits around, like access to Amex Centurion lounges across the globe, while earning incredibly high rewards on eligible hotels booked through amextravel.com and flights booked directly with the airlines or American Express Travel. Cardholders receive automatic Hilton Honors Gold status (we’re talking about tons of perks at Hilton properties, like discounts and late check-outs), a yearly $200 Uber credit, and a yearly $200 airline credit fee, among other things.

Start your application now

Best hotel card

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
See Rates & Fees
Redeem for... Hotel nights, flights, and hotel + air packages
Reward details 2 Starpoints® at eligible hotels; 1 Starpoint on everything else (Terms Apply)

Signup bonus 25,000 points
Annual Fee $95 (Waived first year)
Highlights Provided by American Express Show Highlights
  • Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Planning a road trip? Rent your car, fill up your tank, book your hotel, and pay for it with your American Express® Card.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Issuer: American Express
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $95 See Details
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 26.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 16.24% - 20.24% Variable See Rates & Fees
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

Want to earn free nights at Starwood Preferred Guest® and Marriott Rewards® properties, as well as points redeemable for airfare and hotel and air packages? The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has one of the best hotel card signup bonuses around: 25,000 Starpoints® — enough for two nights at a category 4 hotel — after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. SPG® members even have the opportunity to earn up to 5X Starpoints® per dollar on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Rewards® hotels.

How to use it
  • Earn 2 Starpoints® per dollar when you book nights at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. All other purchases earn 1 Starpoint per dollar.
  • Get 25,000 Starpoints® when you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months — that’s enough for two free nights at a Category 4 hotel.
  • Redeem your Starpoints® via SPG® Flights for hotel stays and airfare.
  • Transfer Starpoints® to over 30 airline frequent flyer programs and get a 5,000 Starpoint bonus when you transfer 20,000 points or more at one time.
Consider this

The IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card (currently unavailable) is our recommendation for travelers who like to save money at economical IHG® brands like Holiday Inn® and Candlewood Suites®. It has a lower annual fee than the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express ($49, waived for year one) and a easier-to-earn bonus: 80,000 points after you spend $1,000 within the first three months of account opening. You’ll also enjoy one night free each year after your account anniversary.

Why you'll love it

Nights at SPG® or Marriott Rewards® properties, including brands such as Aloft and The Ritz-Carlton, earn high-rate rewards with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. You can redeem Starpoints® for a variety of travel (like hotels, airfare, and vacation packages) and you won’t have to worry about the $95 annual fee your first year — it’s waived for year one. Great signup bonus? It has that too: 25,000 Starpoints® (enough for two free nights at a category 4 hotel) if you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months.

Start your application now

Easy-to-earn signup bonus

Chase Freedom®
Redeem for... Statement credits, gift cards, travel, and Amazon purchases
Reward details 5X points in rotating categories; 1X points on everything else

Signup bonus $150
Annual Fee $0
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter like gas stations, restaurants and drugstores
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. 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
  • No annual fee
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Rewards Details: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 15 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 15 Months
  • Ongoing APR: 15.99% - 24.74% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

The Chase Freedom® offers significant rewards potential — if you can maximize certain bonus categories. With the ability to earn 5% on rotating categories, the points you’ll earn will add up quick! Make sure to check out our post on Chase Freedom categories for 2017 for details on this year’s selections.

How to use it
  • Focus your spending on the rotating categories to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 each quarter. (After that, it drops to 1% cash back.)
  • Get a $150 bonus — which you can redeem for a variety of rewards — after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months.
  • Redeem your cash back rewards at any time, for any amount. There’s no minimum for redemption.
  • Pair this card with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards® earning potential.
Consider this

The Chase Freedom® has one of the easiest-to-earn signup bonuses out there: spend $500 on purchases in the first three to earn a $150 bonus.

Why you'll love it

The Chase Freedom® is an exceptional cash back option because it’s more versatile than most of the offers on the market. It earns high-rate rewards that can be redeemed for a variety of things, including travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®. (Fun fact: Your points are worth 25% more when you redeem via Chase Ultimate Rewards®.) And who doesn’t love an easy-to-earn signup bonus — $150 for spending just $500 on purchases in your first three months?

Start your application now

Best business card

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
Redeem for... Statement credit, airfare, hotels, cruises, and more
Reward details 3X points in select categories; 1X points on everything else (Terms apply)

Signup bonus 80,000 points
Annual Fee $95
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in select categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases–with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Rewards Details: Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn.
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: $0
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 16.99% - 21.99% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you run an online business of any kind, check out the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card. You’ll earn 3x points per $1 spent on the first $150,000 on internet, phone, shipping, social media and search engine advertising, and travel. You can also pool your points with those earned through other Chase credit cards for even more rewards over time, which makes this card ideal for existing Chase customers.

How to use it
      • Focus your spending on the bonus categories (which include shipping purchases, travel, and internet, cable, and phone services) to earn 3X points per dollar on up to $150,000. After that it drops to 1X point per dollar.
      • Use this card for all purchases to earn unlimited 1X points per dollar.
      • Redeem your points for a variety of rewards, including discounted travel booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
      • Add authorized users at no additional cost.
      • Earn 80,000 bonus points when you spend $5,000 or more in the first three months — that’s $1,000 toward travel booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Consider this

While earning 3x points is ideal, it’s important to note that the bonus points only apply to the first $150,000 in combined purchases in select categories each account anniversary year. This card also comes with a $95 annual fee, so plan accordingly.

Why you'll love it

The Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card offers a huge signup bonus and diverse points redemption options. Cash in your points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, and you’ll score a 20 percent discount right away. Or you can transfer points to popular travel partners like Southwest Airlines, British Airways, Hyatt, and Marriott at a 1:1 ratio. As a final option, you can also redeem your points for a statement credit or gift cards.

Start your application now

Flexible cash back business rewards

SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express
See Rates & Fees
Redeem for... Statement credits
Reward details 5% in select categories; 3% on category you choose; 1% on all other purchases (Terms apply)

Signup bonus $400
Annual Fee $0
Highlights Provided by American Express Show Highlights
  • Special Offer: Earn up to $400 cash back
  • Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $5,000 in qualifying purchases on your Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, earn an additional $200 statement credit after you spend an additional $10,000 or more in qualifying purchases on your Card within the first year of Card Membership.
  • No Annual Fee. Plus, more buying power and more cash back. Get cash back on business purchases, even those above your credit limit.
  • 5% cash back on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. office supply stores.
  • 3% on the category of your choice from a list of eight and 1% cash back on other purchases.
  • 5% and 3% apply to the first $50,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1% applies thereafter. Cash back received is automatically credited to your statement.
  • Terms and limitations apply
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Issuer: American Express
  • Rewards Details: Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $5,000 in qualifying purchases on your Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Annual Fee: $0 See Details
  • Cash Advance APR: See Rates & Fees
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 2.7%
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 9 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: See Rates & Fees
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: See Rates & Fees
  • Ongoing APR: 13.24% - 20.24% Variable See Rates & Fees
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

The SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express offers big-time rewards for those who spend a lot of money on business supplies each year. You’ll earn 5% cash back on wireless phone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. office supply stores, 3% on a category of your choosing, and 1% on all other purchases.

How to use it
      • Earn high-rate rewards (5% cash back) in select categories, 3% cash back in a category of your choice, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. (All bonus category rewards rates apply to the first $50,000 in purchases per year, then it drops to 1%.
      • Get a $200 credit statement when you spend $5,000 in qualifying purchases within the first six months.
      • Earn another $200 statement credit after you spend more than $10,000 in qualifying purchases in the first 12 months.
Consider this

If you’re a big spender, you should be aware that the 5% and 3% bonus categories only apply to your first $50,000 in category purchases each year. And remember that you can only redeem your points in the form of a statement credit.

Why you'll love it

The SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express makes it easy to rack up rewards through its versatile bonus categories. The fact you can select your own 3% bonus category can also be valuable if your business spending is high in certain areas. And unlike most business credit cards, there’s no an annual fee.

Start your application now

Here are the best credit card signup bonus offers for 2017:

How signup offers work

Credit card signup bonuses come in a variety of flavors, including cash back, statement credits (which you can apply to almost any purchase on your card, depending upon the terms and conditions), and travel rewards. But regardless of the type of reward, all signup bonuses work in a similar fashion.

Here are a few signup bonus fundamentals you should consider as you choose the one that benefits you the most:

  • Signup bonuses usually have a minimum spending requirement. The majority of credit card signup bonus offers require that you hit a minimum spending requirement within a fixed amount of time after opening the account (usually three months). For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card awards 50,000 bonus points to cardholders who spend at least $4,000 within the first three months.
  • Pro Tip


    If you’re looking for a card with an easy-to-earn signup bonus, check out the Discover it® Cashback Match™. This card has no minimum spending requirement. Instead, Discover will match your first year cash back earnings dollar-for-dollar, and there’s no limit on how much you can earn.
  • You may have to pay an annual fee. A really generous signup bonus is often indicative of an annual fee — the fee you have to pay each year to maintain your account. These fees range anywhere from around $50 to $450, but they are oftentimes waived for the first year. If you’re considering a card with a fee, make sure to evaluate how paying the annual fee could impact the benefit of your signup bonus.
  • There may be additional terms and conditions. On top of the minimum spending requirement (and possible fee), you might have to perform other specific tasks to qualify for your signup bonus. For example, certain co-branded hotel loyalty credit cards might require that you sign up for the loyalty program before you can begin to earn your bonus.

How to navigate credit card signup bonuses

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to credit card signup bonuses. Before you commit to a lucrative offer, there are two rules you should follow to avoid stifling your financial goals in the long run.

Don’t get stuck with minimum spending requirement you can’t handle. When you’re comparing cards, forget about the dollar value of the signup bonus. First, focus on the spending requirement to find out which signup bonuses you could actually qualify for. There are a lot of tempting offers on the market, but it’s incredibly important that you don’t sign up for one with a minimum spending requirement that your wallet can’t sustain — or one that pressures you into overspending for the sake of the bonus.

Take the Citi Prestige® Card for example. It has a whopping 75,000-point signup bonus that’s worth over $900 — that’s almost $300 more than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s $625 signup offer. Here’s the kicker: The Citi Prestige® Card also has a massive $7,500 minimum spending requirement within the first three months of opening your account, which is over 50% higher than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card ($3,500). Unless you can easily spend $2,500 a month on your card, you won’t qualify for the bonus.

Don’t forget about the annual fees. Most cards with enormous signup bonuses offers also have equally enormous annual fees.

Let’s think about the Citi Prestige® Card again. It has a $450 annual fee, which is important for two reasons. First, unless you’re a prolific card user already, you might not have that much room in your budget. Secondly, once you’ve paid the fee out of pocket, the card’s generous $900 signup bonus is effectively worth $450.

A few more tips

Do keep your overall credit health in mind. Since opening new credit cards (and closing old ones) can have a negative effect on your credit, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of either action. In other words, sign up for cards when it’s to your benefit, but stop once you’ve reached a point where your credit score might feel a negative impact.

Do pay your bill in full every month to avoid paying interest. Paying interest on your purchases while simultaneously pursuing rewards is never a good idea. If you expect you’ll need to carry a balance, you should nix the idea of trying to earn a signup bonus altogether and opt for a low-interest credit card instead.

Do use your credit card as part of a comprehensive financial plan. Without a plan, a new credit card could wreak havoc on your finances. Before you sign up for a new credit card, you should put a plan in place to make sure your new line of credit is working in your favor.

Do pursue signup bonuses with a strategy in mind. A hefty signup bonus won’t do you much good if you don’t know how to use it. Before you pick one bonus over another, make sure to explore each loyalty program so you know what your points will be worth. These posts can help:

Don’t open too many cards just for the signup bonus. As we’ve written before, getting a new card will result in a hard inquiry with at least one of the three credit reporting agencies. While one hard inquiry might have minimum impact on your credit score, having several could cause your score to tumble substantially. So while you may earn more rewards by signing up for a handful of offers at once, you could potentially hurt your credit.

For example, if you don’t normally spend $3,000 on regular bills and expenses during a three-month period, what makes you think you can do it safely to earn a signup bonus? If the minimum spending requirement on a card puts it out of your comfort zone, you’ll be better off if you opt out instead of signing up.

Don’t carry a balance or pay interest. For some people, credit cards are a tool of mass destruction. And no matter how hard they try not to, they always manage to rack up a credit card balance that is bigger than they anticipated. If you’re one of those people – or if you just plan to carry a balance in general – you’ll be a lot better off if you steer clear of rewards cards and opt for a card with no annual fee or the lowest interest rate possible instead.

Don’t use rewards as an excuse to overspend. If you’re someone who tends to get carried away with credit, it’s easy to see a shiny, new credit line as an excuse to overspend. You’re not doing yourself any favors if you go this route, however. By overspending to earn more rewards, you’re actually putting yourself in a worse financial position than where you started.

Pro Tip


The best way to avoid losing control of your credit card spending is to live by a budget. Don’t spend more money than you have, else you risk maintaining a balance and incurring interest payments. Here’s another plus: Evaluating your budget is a great way to hone in on previous spending habits and determine which signup bonuses you could actually qualify for. Take a look at our guide to choosing the right type of budgeting system for your lifestyle and income for more information.

The bottom line

Credit cards can be a valuable tool if used wisely, and signup bonus offers can be extremely lucrative if pursued with a thoughtful strategy in mind. However, it’s important to fully understand how these offers work if you truly want to maximize them.

The most important thing to remember is to use credit cards to your advantage, but don’t let them use you. If you find yourself spending more just to get a bonus, or worse, getting into debt, you’ll probably be better off avoiding credit cards and signup bonus offers altogether.

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