Best Credit Card Sign-Up and Welcome Bonuses for January, 2020
Have you seen some of the latest credit card sign-up bonuses? This Summer, many credit card users are realizing there are some incredible offers available to earn points, miles, and cash back. These offers are available to new applicants just to encourage you to give these cards a chance to earn your business.
A sign-up bonus is just one of several ways that credit card issuers encourage you to apply for their cards. Other ways include promotional financing offers and waived annual fees. Sign-up bonus offers are specified in advance, and can come in the form of points, miles, or cash back.
Table of Contents
- How Sign-up Bonuses Work
- The Best Credit Card Sign-Up and Welcome Bonuses for January
- Bottom line
- Frequently Asked Questions
How Sign-up Bonuses Work
Some credit cards offer the sign-up bonus after the new cardholder makes their first purchase, but most have some sort of minimum spending requirement. For example, an airline card might offer 50,000 bonus miles after new applicants use their card to spend $3,000 within the first three months of account opening. Some offers even have multiple sign-up bonuses that can be earned after meeting each of several different required spending amounts.
Just remember that any minimum spending requirements must be met within a specified time period, often three months after account opening. Your account is considered open when your application is approved, not when your new card is mailed, received, activated or used. Also, the minimum spending requirement is based on net purchases, not including returns, balance transfers, annual fees, or cash advance. So, don’t try buying and then returning something expensive, as it won’t work.
Once you’ve met your card’s minimum spending requirement, you can’t expect your bonus to instantly appear in your airline or hotel’s reward program, or even in one operated by the credit card issuer. Most cards have terms and conditions that specify that you will receive your bonus within “one to two billing cycles.” Fortunately, nearly all card issuers will award your bonus shortly after your billing statement is issued, but after you’ve met your card’s minimum spending requirements.
For example, if you opened your account on March 15th, and your first billing cycle ends on or about the 15th of each month, then you’ll have until June 15th to meet the minimum spending that’s required within three months of account opening. If you meet your minimum spending requirement in late May, then you’ll likely receive your sign-up bonus shortly after your statement period closes on June 15th.
What to Look For with Sign-Up Bonuses
Many credit card users are inherently skeptical of credit card sign-up bonuses. Credit card bonuses can be extremely valuable, and they believe that if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Most importantly, some credit card users feel that receiving a sign-up bonus will somehow hurt their credit score. By itself, earning a sign-up bonus will have no effect on your credit score, but the new account you open will appear on your credit report and can have some effect on your credit score.
Thankfully, opening a single new account will have little, if any, effect on your credit score. Opening a new card can slightly reduce the average age of your credit accounts, which is a minor factor in your credit score. But if you manage your new card responsibly by paying your bills on-time and carrying little debt, then the new account will add to your positive credit history and help your credit score. In fact, it’s for this reason that many credit card users find that their credit score rises after opening a new account.
Your credit score is only likely to suffer when you open several new accounts in a short period of time. This behavior is interpreted as a sign of possible financial stress, and your credit score can drop but the effect is usually minor and temporary.
More importantly, you never want to have to overspend in order to meet the minimum spending required to earn a sign-up bonus. The value of the sign-up bonus will almost always be less than the waste of making an unnecessary purchase.
And finally, your credit score will always suffer if you don’t manage your new accounts responsibly, regardless of whether you earned a sign-up bonus. If opening a new account causes you to accumulate debt or miss payments, then it won’t be worth doing, even if you can earn a sign-up bonus.
Limitations on Sign-Up Bonuses
There is a certain type of person who sees a tray of free samples at a supermarket and thinks, “Wow, I could have a whole meal here without paying for it!” Likewise, some people see credit card sign-up bonuses as an unlimited source of free points, miles and cash back. And for some time, the card issuers did little to stop these serial credit card applicants, often called churners.
But today, several major credit card issuers have imposed restrictions designed to prevent churners from repeatedly signing up for new cards, just to earn a bonus. For example, Chase will not let you earn a bonus on a card unless it’s been at least 24 months since you earned a bonus on the same card. It will also deny applications for most cards when you’ve opened five or more credit cards (from any issuer), within the last 24 months. American Express even goes so far as to deny new welcome bonuses if you have ever received a bonus for that card in the past. Therefore, it’s important to always read the fine print on an offer to ensure that you are eligible to receive the sign-up bonus.
The Current Market for Sign-Up Bonuses
The credit card industry is extremely competitive, and card issuers are constantly adjusting their product’s sign-up bonuses in order to attract as many new customers as possible. Right now, a typical sign-up bonus for an airline credit card is about 50,000 points or miles. An offer greater than that is considered to be strong, and anything less than that is not very competitive.
When it comes to hotel points, each of which are generally less valuable than an airline mile, you can expect to receive about 75,000 points or more from a competitive offer. Or in the case of points that are more valuable, you should expect to receive at least enough points for two free nights at a mid-range hotel. For cash back cards, most cards are offering at least $150, with some small business cards having even greater offers.
And with all types of sign-up bonuses, you can expect a minimum spending requirement of between $3,000 and $5,000 within three months of account opening. Smaller bonuses typically require less spending, if any, while the largest bonuses could require even more spending over a longer period of time.
The Best Credit Card Sign-Up and Welcome Bonuses for January
Best Welcome Bonus: Cash Back Consumer Cards
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card is offering an outstanding $300 in cash back after new applicants spend $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. This card also offers you unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Other benefits include exclusive access to premium dining, entertainment and sports experiences. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
The Blue Cash Preferred® card from American Expres, a Credit Cards House advertiser, is offering new applicants $250 in bonus cash back (as a statement credit) after you spend just $1,000 within three months of account opening. It also offers new applicants 12 months of 0% APR financing on both new purchases and balance transfers, with a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer (whichever is greater). After the introductory period, a variable APR of 18.49%-29.49% will apply (see rates and fees).
This card also offers very competitive rewards and it’s recently been refreshed. You can earn still 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in annual spending at U.S. supermarkets and unlimited 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations. You also receive 6% back on select US streaming services and 3% back on transit, including parking, tolls, trains and rideshares. Cardholder benefits include extended warranty coverage, return protection and coverage against accidental theft and damage. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card and a 2.7% foreign transaction fee imposed on all charges processed outside of the United States. (see rates and fees).
Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited®
The Chase Freedom® offers you $200 in cash back and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card offers you $150 in cash back after spending just $500 within three months of account opening. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers you 1.5% cash back on all purchases, while the standard Freedom offers you 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each month at featured merchants and merchant categories. There’s no annual fee for these cards.
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer
The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card offers you $200 in cash back after spending $1,000 on new purchases within 90 days of account opening. You also earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice including gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings, and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%). There’s no annual fee for this card.
Disney® Premier Visa® Card from Chase
With this credit card, new applicants can earn a $200 statement credit after spending $500 in new purchases within three months of account opening. You also earn 2% back in Disney Rewards Dollars at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and at most Disney locations, and 1% on all other purchases.
Benefits include a 10% savings on Disney and Star Wars purchases at Disney Stores and at DisneyStore.com. You also get 10% off select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at select locations at the Disneyland® and Walt Disney World® Resorts. Finally, cardholders receive exclusive photo opportunities with Disney or Star Wars Characters, held in private locations at the Disneyland® and Walt Disney World® Resorts. There’s a $49 annual fee for this card.
Best Sign-Up Bonus: Cash Back Business Cards
Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card
This card is now offering new applicants $500 in cash back after spending $3,000 within three months of account opening. You also earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with no limit to the amount you can earn. New applicants also receive 12 months of 0% APR financing on new purchases. After the introductory period, the APR will be a variable 17.49%-23.49%. There’s no annual fee for this card, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card from Chase
The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card also gives new applicants $500 in cash back after spending $3,000 within three months of account opening. It features 5% cash back on up to $25,000 spent each account anniversary year in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services. It also offers 2% cash back on your first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year, and 1% cash back on all other purchases, with no limit. New applicants also receive 12 months of 0% APR financing on new purchases. After the introductory period, a variable 17.49% - 23.49% applies. There’s no annual fee for this card, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.
U.S. Bank Business Cash Rewards World Elite™ Mastercard®
This card also offers you $500 cash back when you spend $4,500 within 150 days (approximately five months) of account opening. You also receive up to 3% cash back on eligible gas station, office supply store and cell phone/service provider purchases, and a 25% annual bonus based on your prior year's cash rewards, up to $250. That’s pretty good for a no-annual fee card.
Best Sign-Up Bonus: Frequent Flyer Mile Cards
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
This card offers you 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after you make your first purchase within 90 days of account opening. It also offers you an Introductory Companion Certificate good for one guest at $99 (plus taxes and fees) after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in the first 90 days. Other benefits include priority boarding, a free checked bag and $25 back as statement credits for inflight Wifi purchases. You also receive an anniversary Companion Certificate when you use your card to spend $20,000 during your account year. There’s a $99 annual fee for this card.
The British Airways Visa Signature® Card from Chase
This card currently has a sign-up bonus offer of up to 100,000 points. You earn 50,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first three months of account opening, and another 50,000 after spending a total of $20,000 within your account’s first year.
These miles are valuable, even if you don’t normally fly British Airways. As part of the OneWorld Alliance, you can redeem these miles on partners such as American Airlines, Qantas, Iberia, Japan Airlines and Qatar. You can also redeem your miles on non-alliance partners including Alaska/Virgin America and Aer Lingus.
This card also offers 3x miles for all British Airways purchases, and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere. Benefits include baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, purchase protection, and extended warranty coverage. And as a part of the Visa Signature program, you also receive access to numerous travel benefits and shopping discounts. There's a $95 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
United℠ Explorer Card from Chase
With the United℠ Explorer Card, for a limited time new cardholdes can earn up to 65,000 bonus miles. This new offer lets you earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first six months your account is open. You also get double miles at restaurants, hotels and United purchases. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year.
Best Sign-Up Bonus: Frequent Flyer Mile Cards for Small Businesses
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® from Citi, a Credit Cards House advertiser, offers a generous sign-up bonus in the form of valuable American Airlines AAdvantage miles. New cardholders can earn 65,000 bonus miles after spending a total of $4,000 within four months of account opening. These are enough miles for two round-trip award tickets to anywhere in the continental US, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or even Central America. You also earn 2x miles on all American Airlines purchases and on select business categories and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere.
Cardholder benefits include preferred boarding, a 25% savings on in-flight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, a free checked bag and a companion certificate each year when you use your card to spend $30,000 or more. You are also eligible to redeem your miles for reduced mileage awards requiring up to 7,500 fewer miles. There’s a $99 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, a Credit Cards House advertiser, is offering new applicants 125,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. This card also offers you 12x points at Hilton hotels, 6x points at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations, and 3x points elsewhere. Other benefits include complimentary Gold status, and Diamond status when you spend $40,000 on your card in calendar year. You also get a weekend night award each year and another when you spend $15,000 on new purchases in a year. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).
Best Welcome Bonus: Hotel Points
Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express
Editorial Note: The information related to Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express has been collected by Credit Cards House and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, a Credit Cards House advertiser, is offering new applicants 150,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. This card also offers you 14x points at Hilton hotels, 7x points on flights booked directly with airlines or at amextravel.com, on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants. You earn 3x points elsewhere.
Other benefits include complimentary Diamond status, and a weekend night award each year and another when you spend $60,000 on new purchases in a year. You also get an annual $250 Hilton Resort statement credit, a $250 annual airline fee credit and a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card and no foreign transaction fees.
The World Of Hyatt Credit Card from Chase
With The World Of Hyatt Credit Card from Chase, new applicants can earn up to 50,000 bonus points. You earn your first 25,000 after spending $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening, and an additional 25,000 points after spending a total of $6,000 within six months. This card also offers 4x points at Hyatt hotels, double points at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from carriers, on local commuting expenses and gym memberships. You earn one point per dollar spent elsewhere.
Benefits include a free night at a category 1-4 property each year and an additional free night when you spend $15,000 on your card during your cardmember anniversary year. It also offers you Discoverist status and five qualifying night credits towards your next tier status every year. You also earn another two additional qualifying night credits toward your next tier status every time you spend $5,000 on your card. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
Best Sign-Up Bonus: Travel Statement Credits
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
This card continues to offer new customers a class leading sign-up bonus. New applicants receive 50,000 bonus miles after making $3,000 in new purchases within three months of account opening. This card also offers you 2x miles on all purchases, and miles are worth one cent each as statement credits towards travel reservations including airfare, hotels, car rentals, cruises and more. These rewards can now be transferred to frequent flyer miles as well. Cardholder benefits include extended warranty coverage, damage and theft protection, and lost luggage insurance. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card offers new applicants 50,000 bonus points, worth $500 in travel statement credits, after making $3,000 in purchases within 90 days of account opening. You also earn 2x points for all travel and dining purchases and 1.5x points per dollar spent elsewhere. Benefits include up to $100 annual airline incidental statement credit and up to $100 airport security statement credit towards a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card.
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite™ Card
This card offers you 50,000 bonus points, worth $750 in travel statement credits after spending $4,500 within three months of account opening. You earn 3x points on all travel and mobile wallet purchases and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Points are worth 1.5 cents each towards travel statement credits. There’s a $400 annual fee for this card, but you receive $325 in annual travel statement credits.
Best Welcome Bonus: Flexible Travel Reward Cards
Citi Premier℠ Card
The Citi Premier℠ Card from Citi, a Credit Cards House advertiser, offers you 60,000 ThankYou® Points after spending $4,000 on new purchases within three months of account opening. You also earn 3X on travel purchases including gas stations, 2X on dining out and entertainment, and 1X on all other purchases. ThankYou points can be transferred to miles with airline partners or are worth 1.25 cents each for airfare booked through the ThankYou Travel Center. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card and no foreign transaction fees.
Citi Prestige® Credit Card
The Citi Prestige® Credit Card from Citi, a Credit Cards House advertiser, has been reintroduced and now offers 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening. It also offers you 5x points on air travel and restaurants, 3x on hotels and cruises and 1x elsewhere. Benefits include a Priority Pass Select membership, your 4th night free at hotel stays twice a year and a $250 annual travel credit. There’s a $495 annual fee for this card.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
This perennial favorite is now offering new applicants 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers you double points on travel and dining, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Points can be redeemed for one cent each as gift cards, merchandise or cash back. Points are also worth 1.25 cents towards travel booked through Chase. Finally, you can transfer your points to nine airline or four hotel programs. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card and no foreign transaction fees.
Best Welcome Bonus: Flexible Travel Reward Cards for Small Businesses
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
New applicants of the Business Platinum® Card from American Express, a Credit Cards House advertiser, can earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards points. You can earn 50,000 points after you spend $10,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership and an additional 25,000 points after spending an additional $10,000 within the first three months. You also earn 5x points for flights booked with the airlines or with American Express Travel, and 5x for hotels booked on Amextravel.com. You earn one point per dollar spent elsewhere, and points can be transferred to miles with 17 different frequent flyer programs.
This card also comes with many other benefits including an airport lounge membership with the Delta SkyClubs, Priority Pass Select and the American Express Centurion lounges. You also receive an annual $200 airline fee credit, and a $100 fee credit towards the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee. You also receive up to $200 in annual credits towards Dell purchases.
Other cardholder benefits include extended warranty coverage, return protection and coverage against accidental theft and damage. This card even comes with a roadside assistance policy that will give you a jump start, change a tire, or tow your car short distances, up to four times a year. Finally, you also receive Gold status with Hilton and Marriott hotels as well as elite status with Avis, Hertz and National car rentals. There’s a $595 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card from Chase
The Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card from Chase is a premium small business rewards card that has the largest sign-up bonus of flexible travel rewards points available. New applicants can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 within three months of account opening. You also earn 3x points on your first $150,000 spent each cardmember year on combined purchases of travel, shipping, Internet service, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. You earn one point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Points are earned in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program and can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards travel reservations, or transferred to miles with nine different airline or points with four hotel programs. Cardholder benefits include trip delay reimbursement, return protection, and cell phone protection. There's a $95 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
These cards offer the best sign-up bonuses available in each category, but choosing a new credit card isn’t that simple. When it comes to cards that offer points or miles, you have to look beyond the amount of points offered and consider the value of the rewards and what you can redeem them for. You also have to look at the minimum spending requirements and how hard it will be for you to meet them.
And of course, you need to look beyond the sign-up bonus and determine the value of the card’s rewards and benefits, as well as its costs. Once you take all of these things into account, you will be able to find the best card for your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do you choose a rewards credit card?
There are several factors you should consider when choosing a rewards credit card. First, you should find a card that’s designed for your credit profile. Those with excellent credit will be able to qualify for most credit cards, but those with just good credit will have to choose a simple card with less competitive rewards and benefits. And if you have fair or poor credit, you may only qualify for a limited number of cards that offer rewards.
Next, you should look at the type of rewards you can earn to find out which is most valuable to you. Travelers can consider a card from their favorite airline or hotel, or can choose a card that offers travel statement credits or flexible travel rewards that can be transferred to airline miles or hotel points. If you aren’t a regular traveler or you just don’t have an interest in travel rewards, then there are plenty of competitive cash back cards available.
Finally, as you narrow your options, you need to look at the rest of the card benefits and terms. For example, you might want a card that offers you travel insurance or purchase protection benefits, or travel perks when using a specific airline or hotel. You also want to take into account the card’s annual fee and fees for other things like foreign transactions.
2. What are the advantages and drawbacks of co-branded reward cards?
The rewards card market is split roughly evenly between cards that are co-branded, meaning a card that earns rewards from an airline or hotel program, and cards that offer rewards directly from the card issuer. A co-branded card can offer unique benefits that are specific to the co-brand partner. For example, an airline credit card can offer a free checked bag, priority boarding and discounts on in-flight food and beverages. And hotel credit cards often give you elite status in their loyalty program, which can offer you room upgrades, late checkouts and even free breakfasts.
However, the rewards offered by co-branded cards are limited to the airline’s or hotel’s rewards program. Should the terms of this program change suddenly, as they regularly do, then all of your accumulated rewards can be instantly worth less than they were when you earned them. For example, an airline can raise the number of miles required for an award flight, impose pricey surcharges, or reduce the availability of award seats at the lowest mileage levels.
In contrast, the rewards programs offered by card issuers can be much more flexible. You can earn statement credits towards travel reservations or you can receive rewards that can be transferred to airline miles or hotel points with select rewards programs. Having so many options to redeem your rewards can mitigate the negative effect when one airline or hotel makes changes in their program. Non-cobranded cards can also offer you travel statement credits towards airline fees that aren’t tied to a single carrier.
3. What are some insider tips to picking a rewards card?
Hard-core travel rewards enthusiasts generally prefer the cards that offer flexible rewards points, which allow you to transfer your points to miles with multiple frequent flyer programs. And since most frequent flyer programs allow you to redeem your miles for flights on a dozen or more different partners, these flexible rewards points can enable you to book award travel on over one hundred different airlines.
The major flexible travel rewards programs are:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
- American Express Membership Rewards®
- Citi ThankYou® Rewards
- Marriott Bonvoy program
Travel rewards enthusiasts also like to leverage multiple credit cards to accumulate rewards in a particular program. For example, you can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points through several of their business and personal credit cards. The Sapphire Preferred®, Sapphire Reserve℠, Ink Preferred℠, Ink Cash®, Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cards all offer points in the same Ultimate Rewards program. As a cardholder, you can combine your points from all of your accounts, and even transfer points between yourself and your spouse or domestic partner.
Numerous business and personal American Express cards offer points in the Membership Rewards program, and the points you earn from all of these cards are combined, although you can’t pool points with anyone else. Likewise, Citi offers several cards that earn points in their ThankYou® Rewards program, which has many airline transfer partners. Finally, Marriott is a hotel program that features over 40 different airline transfer partners. You can earn these points at hotel stays as well as by using the Marriott Bonvoy cards from Chase or American Express, either the consumer or business version.
Rates & Fees For rates and fees of The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, click here For rates and fees of The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, click here
Editorial Note The information related to Disney® Premier Visa® Card from Chase, British Airways Visa Signature® Card, United℠ Explorer Card, The World Of Hyatt Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card and Chase Freedom® Credit Card has been collected by Credit Cards House and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.