Last year credit card bonuses were at an all-time-high, and they are likely to get even better in 2017/2018. Welcome bonuses provide us with one of the easiest ways to differentiate among various card offers. Most spending rewards only differ by 1 or 2 percentage points, while bonuses can vary hundreds of dollars. For those consumers who are interested in getting the best credit card bonus offers, we have compiled two lists which cater to those looking for:
The following credit cards offer the best the highest valued bonuses for airline miles, perks, and credits.
Chase Sapphire Reserve℠
We rank the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ as the credit card with the best sign-up bonus, which we value at $1,500. To qualify, you must spend $4,000 on the card within the first 3 months of card membership. The bonus offer comes in the form of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards, redeemable for travel, statement credit, cash back, or transferred to a participating program. However, to get the full $1,500 value, you must redeem your points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal. Any other redemption will result in a lower value. On top of this sweet bonus deal, you get an additional $300 in travel credit each year. It is automatically applied to your account as soon as you make a qualifying purchase.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express offers some of the best travel benefits around to those who call an airport their second home. Each cardmember year, users are given $200 in airline fee credit - this covers all incidental fees like checked bags, in-flight purchases, flight-change costs, and such. Secondly, cardmembers are given access to Canturion Lounges, which offer a quiet place for you to enjoy snacks, refreshments, and WiFi while at an airport. Finally, every 5 years cardholders get statement credit covering the expense of TSA Pre (worth $100) - those consumers who hate dealing with long security lines at airports will enjoy this benefit the most. Before applying for The Platinum Card® from American Express, keep in mind that it is a charge card. That means you must pay off your credit balance in full at the end of each month. If you are unable to do so, you will not be eligible to enjoy the bonuses offered by this card.
Companion tickets are the equivalent of buy one get one free offers, and are awarded by some airline-affiliated credit cards. It is impossible to put a set figure value on these tickets, as the price will vary between different itineraries (being dependent upon the destination, date of flight, etc.). In general, you can expect these tickets to be worth at least a couple hundred of dollars, making them the most valuable credit card bonuses available. While many different airlines offer certificates, we would like to highlight a standout in this category - the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier credit card.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
One of the best bonus offers comes from the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier card, due to its ability to help you earn a very special companion pass. This card does not come with a companion pass. Instead, the miles earned through it can help you earn the Southwest Companion Pass. This companion ticket, unlike most, is good for a whole year worth of travel. That means you may book 1 additional ticket per flight, for no extra cost on all flights within the year you qualify for your pass! The Southwest Pass can be worth between hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on how frequently you travel. To qualify, you must earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards miles. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card can get you part way there, thanks to its various bonus offers. First, when you sign up for the card you are given the chance to earn 60,000 Rapid Rewards points (when $2,000 in net purchases in the first 3 months). Then, each cardmember anniversary year you are awarded 6,000 more points, for a grand total of 66,000 points.
Credit Cards Offering Companion Certificates
The following is a list of credit cards from major issuers within the United States, which offer companion passes/certificates to cardmembers. The cards designated with the '*' symbol require you to pay anywhere between $99 and $121 per passenger. While not as good as other companion tickets, these bonuses are still highly valuable.
|Credit Card Name|
|Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card*|
|AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver World Elite MasterCard®*|
|Miles & More World MasterCard|
|British Airways Visa Signature® Credit Card|
|AeroMexico Visa Card*|
The bonuses offered by the cards below translate into free night stays at their affiliate hotel properties.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, one of the best hotel and rewards credit cards around, also gives consumers one of the best welcome bonuses. Currently, the signup bonus on this credit card is 25,000 Starpoints, which you earn after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your account opening. We estimate this bonus to be worth around $600. However, you can stretch the value of these points further, if you transfer your Starpoints to one of the program’s partners. Any Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express user who transfers 20,000 Starpoints, also receives a 5,000 point dividend.
Marriott Rewards® Credit Card
Marriot Rewards Visa Signature cardholders receive 2 free nights at a category 1-4 hotel, upon signing up for the card, upon their account approval. That is a $340 value right off the bat! Additionally, upon spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of card membership, users can get 30,000 bonus points. If you’re a frequent traveler who finds themselves staying at Marriot properties, this bonus offer is a must-have. The Marriot Rewards credit card also gives a decent reward of 3 points per every $1 spent at a Marriot location.
Fairmont Visa Signature® Credit Card
The Fairmont Visa Signature credit card rewards users with 1 complimentary nights stay at one of their hotels, for any cardmember year they spend at least $12,000 - that's just an average of $1,000 per month. We value a night's stay at one of the Fairmont properties to be worth approximately $250. There is no cap on reward redemptions. You are eligible for this bonus every year, as long as you remain in good standing with the issuer - that is if you are not failing to make at least the minimum payments on the card. For those who also want short term rewards, this card is no slouch. As long as you make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your account opening, you may get 2 complimentary nights, adding to the total value of this card.
For consumers interested in straight cash bonuses, with no need to be tied to travel rewards, the following cards are the way to go.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express hands down, offers one of the highest cash bonuses of any personal credit card that we came across. Spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of signing up for the card will earn you $150. The only downside to this card's bonus is the fact that you must pay a $95 annual fee, effectively taking you down to a net reward of $55 for the first year (counting just the bonus) - which is still much higher than most other cash back credit cards. In addition to this fantastic bonus, Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express cardholders earn 6% back on all purchases at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases), 3% back at U.S. gas stations, and 1% back on other eligible purchases. If you're a consumer whose spending sways towards the 6% and 3% spending categories, you can see a lot more value out of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, beyond its bonus.
If you don't want to pay an annual fee, but still want the highest possible cash back bonus, the Chase Freedom card is your best choice. There is $150 in cash back credit up for grabs to cardholders who manage to spend at least $500 within the first 3 months of card membership. If you factor in the fact that there is no annual fee associated with the Chase Freedom, this bonus actually beats out that of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express as far as net rewards are concerned. The downside is that the Chase Freedom's general spending rewards are a bit more unpredictable. The card gives 5% cash back on rotating categories (up to $1,500 in spending each month), and 1% on everything else. If you are not spending within the bonus categories, other credit cards will outperform the $150 bonus of the Chase Freedom in the long-run.
All the credit cards in the above lists have been either airline or hotel affiliated. Previous studies we've conducted show that these cards tend to have the best rewards, due precisely to these affiliations, which provide more funding for rewards programs intended to incentivize consumers to spend. If you're on the lookout for the highest credit card bonuses, you should avoid cash back credit cards - these offer the lowest bonuses, seldom topping $100. In fact, some cash back credit cards offer no bonuses at all.
In our analysis, we've also looked at which of the major credit issuers tend to offer the biggest bonuses. Unsurprisingly, we found that Chase was at the top of the list when it comes to the best credit card bonus offers. The bank has one of the greatest number of affiliations with airlines, and hotel chains from any other credit card issuer we've seen, which drove up its median bonus value. You can see a full list of card issuers, and how they performed, in the table below.
|Issuer||Median Welcome Bonus|
|Bank of America||$100|
Comments and Questions
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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.