Best Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses of 2016
If you’re going to paying for things in your life, you might as well stop using cash so you can get points you can later cash in for rewards by using a credit card responsibly. What’s even better is when you can get your hands on some great sign-up bonuses to give you a head start on your rewards points balance.
A sign-up bonus is when rewards cards offer some sort of large incentive to open a new credit card account. With so many credit cards that have these sign-up bonuses, it’s difficult to decide whether each one is worth it.
After reviewing hundreds of credit cards with introductory offers, we picked the ones with the best sign-up bonuses:
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
A favorite of travelers, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has one of the best sign-up bonuses on the market. You can earn up to 50,000 in points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months of opening the account. That equals about $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The points can also be transferred to a variety of airline and hotel partners so you aren’t stuck with just one particular company. Additionally, you’ll get double points for every dollar spent on travel and dining.
Marriott Rewards® Premier
The Marriott Rewards® Premier is known as a great hotel with one of the best sign up bonuses. You can earn 80,000 points when you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening the account. You can use those points for hotel stays and flights.
Additionally, they merged with Starwood Preferred Guest not too long ago so they may be adding some great hotels to their roster. However, because of the merger, you may want to get this card as soon as possible just in case they decide to change up the rewards program.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
A couple of times a year, the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card card doubles the sign-up bonus by offering 50,000 on each of their credit cards when you spend $2,000 or more in purchases within three months.
You can easily hit that $2,000 spend goal just by paying bills as usual. Even if you take out both cards and the spending goal doubles to $4,000 it’s still pretty easy to attain. Second if you take both cards out at once, that can give you a total of 100,000 points and then you can qualify for a companion pass. Additionally, Southwest points go a long way if you have flexible dates.
British Airways Visa Signature Card
British Airways Visa Signature Card is another card with one of the best sign up bonuses for airline credit cards. As it currently stands, you can get 50,000 Avios (that’s their version of points) when you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening the account. You can also get an additional 25,000 Avios when you spend $15,000 in the first year for a total of 75,000 Avios.
From time to time, there’s another bonus that offers another 25,000 Avios when you spend $20,000 in the first year. This isn’t an offer that’s available year round so it’s important to keep your eye on it so you know when to apply.
Chase Freedom® is often times lauded as one of the best cash back cards on the market because of their 5% cash back rate in categories that rotate each quarter. For example, during one quarter, you may qualify for 5% cash back on groceries, another quarter may be gas, etc. It also earns straight cash back and not statement credits, meaning you can get the money deposited straight into a bank account. This also includes the bonus, which is why it’s one of the best sign up bonuses for a cash back card.
It also has a pretty great sign up bonus where you earn $150 when you make $500 in purchases within the first three months of opening the account. You can earn an additional $25 bonus when you add an authorized user for a grand total of $200. That’s $200 bucks you can use to invest, boost your emergency fund or spend on something you’ve been eyeing for a long time.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers you 3% cash back when shopping in supermarkets up to $6,000 in purchases (1% thereafter) and 3% cash back on gas year-round so there’s no need to keep up with a calendar. You also can earn 5% cash back on eligible travel purchases in the first 6 months, up to $200.
The downside is you don’t get actual cash, you get statement credits. There’s also an annual fee of $95.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has long been hailed as one of the best hotel credit cards on the market. One major feature is the generous sign-up bonus of 25,000 SPG points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
Depending on the hotel, a free night at an SPG cost as little as 2,000 points. With a 25,000 bonus, that’s a lot of free nights. You can also transfer flights on Alaska, American, Delta, Virgin Atlantic, and more at a 1:1 ratio, depending on the airline. Because the points go such a long way, the SPG card has long been noted as having one of the best sign up bonuses for a credit card.
Just note that SPG did merge with Marriott so that will probably lead to some changes in the rewards program. People are concerned that the SPG points, in particular, will be devalued. That’s why if you want in on this card you’d better get it and use those points soon.
How to meet the requirements to get the bonus
In order to earn the big sign-up bonuses, you are often required to spend a certain amount within a limited time period. Usually, the larger the bonus, the more you have to spend. However, for some people, it can be difficult to reach such a level of spending. If you are making random purchases to fulfill the requirement, you could be overspending just to get the bonus. It could defeat the purpose of getting a sizable credit card bonus.
Tips to make enough purchases with wasteful spending:
- Buy branded gift cards. Many retailer-branded gift cards do not have an expiration date. Therefore, you can buy them to create spending. Save the gift cards for whenever you need them).
- Swipe on someone else’s behalf. By offering to charge spending on your card in exchange for cash reimbursements, you can accumulate spending quickly to earn sign-up bonuses.
Credit card churning to take advantage of sign-up bonuses
The practice of credit card churning is used to qualify for sign-up bonuses repeatedly. Typically, large sign-up bonuses are only available to new card customers. Some customers would take advantage of an introductory offer and then cancel the card.
Depending on the credit card, a consumer may be considered a “new customer” after not having the credit card for a certain period of time (e.g., 12 months or 24 months). Once eligible again, the consumer can apply for the card again for the sign-up bonus.
However, credit card churning is not for everyone. It requires that you are able to pay off your balance before the account actually closes. Additionally, opening and closing credit card accounts can hurt your credit temporarily. Churning would not be ideal if you plan to apply for a major loan such as a mortgage or auto loan in the near future.