Updated on Sep 22, 2020

Best Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses

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A lucrative credit card sign-up bonus can give you a head start toward leveraging returns on your spending. Since it’s one of the most competitive incentives used by issuers, you can expect them to be pushed to the forefront. With multiple credit card offers claiming to have the best credit card sign up bonus, it’s smart to do a little homework before choosing.

Summary

The Best Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses of 2020

The best credit card sign up bonuses offer anywhere from $100 to $1,000 in perks to entice consumers. Generally, these perks fall into three main categories: a cash back, points or miles. Depending on the terms, you’ll continue to earn rewards with the card for as long as your account remains open.

For people who pay their balance in full every month, credit cards with sign up bonuses are a great way to leverage the convenience of credit to your advantage. The sign up bonus alone can be enough to earn a night’s stay at a hotel or an airline flight right away — or you can choose to have cold hard cash deposited into your bank account. But how much weight should you give the sign up bonus when selecting the right credit card for you? Here are some of the best bonus offers and some things to consider when making your decision.

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Best for travel

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Rewards Summary 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit, 3X points on dining at restaurants, 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Redeem for... Travel statement credit; travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Current Offer 50,000 bonus points
Annual Fee $550
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • Spend $4,000 on purchases in your first three months to earn 50,000 bonus points. That’s $750 in travel!
  • Annual travel credit of $300 given as statement credit.
  • Get 50% more in redemption value when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can redeem for airfare, hotels, cruises and car rentals.
  • Earn 3x points on travel after earning your $300 travel credit. Earn 3X on dining and 1x points on all other purchases.
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Annual Fee: $550
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater
  • Cash Advance APR: 24.99% 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

Chase Sapphire Reserve® is perfect for dedicated travelers. Its sign up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months is worth $750 when cardholders redeem through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, making it one of the best bonus deals around.

How to use it
With a reward rate on travel and dining of 3x points for every dollar spent, you can accumulate points quickly toward your travel destinations.
Consider this

  • The 16.99% - 23.99% Variable APR is higher than many comparable cards
  • The $550 annual fee is steep
  • You must have excellent credit to qualify

Why you'll love it

High reward value and a great sign-up bonus, combined with all the benefits you would expect from a travel card — including reimbursement for the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee — are the highlights. Chase Sapphire Reserve® also gives cardholders a $300 statement credit each anniversary year toward travel expenses, which takes a big dent out of the annual fee.

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Pro Tip


Pro tip: In order to get the best rewards rate return on travel and dining costs, make sure to redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards or transfer the points to Chase’s hotel and airline partners.

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Best for flexible redemption options

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Rewards Summary 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Redeem for... Travel statement credit; travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; and more

Current Offer 80,000 points
Annual Fee $95
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 24.99% 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: 15.99% - 22.99% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a good option for those who dine out and travel frequently but don’t want to use a travel rewards card exclusively. You earn 2x points in dining and travel categories, and you can maximize your rewards when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

How to use it
The best way to optimize the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is to use it primarily for travel and dining out. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card gives you 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Consider this

  • Annual fee of $95
  • There is a 15.99% - 22.99% Variable variable APR, so you should not carry a balance on this card
  • You aren’t eligible for the sign-up bonus if you have another Sapphire card or received a sign-up bonus for any Sapphire in the last 24 months

Why you'll love it

The sign up bonus alone is worth $1000 dollars when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards (80,000 points after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months of card membership). You’ll also love the ease of accumulating points with this laid back card — there are no rotating categories and nothing to finagle. Just use the card and collect your points.

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Pro Tip


Pro tip: If you’re ineligible for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card sign up bonus, you can still get bonus points by inviting your friends to Chase. You’ll get 15,000 bonus points for each friend who is approved, up to a total of 75,000 bonus points.

Learn More on bankrate.com's secure website

Best for cash back

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Rewards Summary Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Redeem for... Cash back

Current Offer $200
Annual Fee $0
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • No minimum needed to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards never expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score with Credit Journey℠
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 24.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 15 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 14.99% - 23.74% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

What’s great about Chase Freedom Unlimited® is there are no rotating categories of things to sign up for and no annual fee. You just rack up unlimited points every time you use the card, making it an ideal go-to option for your daily purchases.

How to use it
Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a straightforward credit card that earns 1.5% cash back on everything you buy and the points don’t expire. You can be extremely flexible in how you redeem rewards, and you don’t have to worry about rotating bonus categories.
Consider this

  • Once the introductory 0% APR is over after 15 months for purchases, the rate converts to a variable APR of 14.99% - 23.74% Variable
  • Unlike most comparable cards, Chase Freedom Unlimited® has a foreign transaction fee
  • There are no higher reward categories

Why you'll love it

Chase Freedom Unlimited® is all about simplicity. You can redeem cash-back rewards whenever you want, and there’s no cap on how much cash back you can get. The sign-up bonus of $200 after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months is especially generous considering that the card has no annual fee.

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Pro Tip


Pro tip: This card allows you to transfer your points to other Chase cards, for more valuable redemption offers, or use them to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Best sign up bonus credit cards for 2020: Summed up

Best for... Credit Card
Travel Chase Sapphire Reserve® Learn More
Flexible Redemption Options Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Learn More
Cash Back Chase Freedom Unlimited® Learn More

Compare the Best Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses

Card Rewards Rate Annual Fee Sign Up Bonus
Chase Sapphire Reserve®– Best for travel 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees. $550 Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card– Best for flexible redemption options 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. $95 Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Chase Freedom Unlimited®– Best for cash back Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. $0 Earn $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card — Best for travel rewards Unlimited 2x miles per dollar on every purchase. $95 Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3000 on purchases in the first 3 months

The best credit card sign up bonuses let you do more of what you already love. If you travel a lot, the sign up bonus on a travel or rewards card lets you stay an extra night or purchase a travel upgrade. Cash back rewards give you extra holiday spending money or can be used to pay down existing debt.

What is a credit card sign up bonus?

Credit card companies want your business, which is why they’re willing to offer incentives to new customers in the form of a sign up bonus. This one-time bonus typically takes the form of points, cash back or miles. Typically, the cardholder must spend a specified amount within a set period of time in order to receive the bonus, though there are a few cards that waive spending requirements.

How do sign up bonuses work?

Receiving a sign up bonus is not automatic once you are approved for the card. You also need to charge the required amount on your card within the specified amount of time. There may be other conditions and restrictions as well, depending on the company that issues the card.

What types of sign up bonuses are there?

There are two main types of sign up bonuses — points and cash back. Points have a variable redemption value; for instance, if you have an airline miles card, you’ll earn the highest value on deals offered by the miles program and/or transfer partners. Cash back cards offer cold hard cash that can be transferred into your bank account or used to pay down the statement balance.

What are some best practices for maximizing a sign up bonus?

When using a points card, make sure to redeem the points through the award program affiliated with the card in order to maximize value. Some points cards allow you to make a purchase with a combination of cash and points, so using your card to fund the cash portion will earn even more points. Some issuers partner with other companies for a limited time — for instance, Vivid Seats with Capital One Savor — to offer even more bonus points, and other issuers combine bonus cash back with an introductory 0% APR. It’s important to pay attention to all these variables.

Is a credit card sign up bonus worthwhile?

It is if you make sure to read the fine print carefully, says Beverly Harzog, writing for U.S. News. She suggests that you research and compare various offers to see which one is right for you. The right card is the one that gives you the best sign-up bonus and allows you to earn the most points or cash back when you make everyday purchases.

How to choose the best credit card sign up bonus for you?

The first thing you want to do, according to Forbes, is figure out whether you would fare better with a cash back or rewards card. You should then figure out how much the sign-up bonus is worth over time, not just during the introductory period, by factoring in the annual fee and determining how many points or cash-back dollars you will earn on things you buy every month.

Which sign up bonuses can I earn multiple times?

Although credit card companies frown on credit card churning, or the practice of getting new cards just for the sign-up bonus, some issuers actually allow you to earn multiple sign-up bonuses. There are restrictions. Citibank, for instance, will only allow you to get the sign up bonus when you have closed a card and waited 24 months to apply again. The bottom line, though: If you play by the rules, you can earn more than one sign-up bonus with the same card.

What is the Chase 5/24 rule?

The Chase “5/24” rule says cardholders can only sign up for certain Chase credit cards if they haven’t acquired more than five new credit cards from any company in the past 24 months. Among the cards subject to this rule are cards with big sign up bonuses.

I got a credit card for a sign up bonus, but I barely use it now: Is it better to cancel unused credit cards or keep them?

The general consensus is you should keep your accounts open if you don’t use them because canceling credit cards has a negative impact on your credit score. However, there are some ways to minimize the hit, such as paying off the balances on all your cards to lower your utilization of credit percentage, an important factor in your credit score.

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