Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 14, 2018.
The weather is starting to heat up—and so are credit card rewards. Several card issuers have amped up sign-up bonuses on rewards credit cards in time for the summer travel season.
Here’s a roundup of seen cards offering extra hefty sign-up incentives. Note that these offers are subject to change at any time.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 100,000 points after you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening the account
Annual Fee: $95
Chase is offering one of the best signup bonuses around with its huge 100,000 point bonus that is only around for a limited time. (The bank has not specified how long the 100,000 bonus will last.)
But this new card also has several other attractive features, especially if you are a frequent guest at Marriott International Hotels. Cardholders earn 6 points per $1 spent at participating Marriott hotels, and a respectable 2 points per $1 spent on everything else. Cardholders also get automatic Silver Elite status in Marriott’s loyalty program.
The card can also help your Marriott stays go more smoothly: Starting in August, cardholders will receive free, premium in-room internet access. Plus, you’ll earn one free night at eligible hotels each year. And starting in 2019, cardholders will earn 15 Elite Night Credits toward the next level of the program’s elite status.
Find Experian’s detailed breakdown on this card—and whether you should apply—here.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 100,000 points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening the account
Annual Fee: $450
This is an impressive offering, even despite the card’s significant annual fee. Cardholders earn 14 Hilton Honors Bonus Points for every $1 spent on Hilton reservations, 7 points for every $1 spent on flights booked directly with the airlines or through American Express Travel, 7 points for every $1 spent on car rentals booked at select car rental companies, 7 points for every $1 spent on restaurants, and 3 points for every $1 spent on everything else.
The card’s other perks are eye-opening, as well: Cardholders get automatic Hilton Honors Diamond Status, a $250 airline fee credit each year, one free weekend night each year, plus the chance to earn a second one after spending $60,000 on the card, and a $250 Hilton resort statement credit.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 80,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening the account
Annual Fee: $89
If you frequently stay at hotels in the IHG Group (like Intercontinental, Kimpton, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and more), you might consider adding this new card to your wallet—especially because you get automatic Platinum Elite status. The 80,000 point bonus is impressive, especially considering you only have to spend $2,000 to get it.
And if you spend $20,000 in a calendar year, you can rack up an additional 10,000 bonus points. Add an additional cardholder to the account and get an extra $5,000 points. Cardholders earn 10 points per $1 spent on 5,200 IHG hotels worldwide; 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants; and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
You’ll also have access to one free night at participating hotels (worth 40,000 points or less) every year, and if you redeem points for a three-night stay, the fourth night is free.
You’ll also get a 20% discount on points purchases if you use the card, a $100 Global Entry application credit, and no foreign transaction fees. (See: Fly Through Airport Security With These Credit Cards)
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first three months
Annual Fee: $95
This card is only available to small business owners (though side gigs like freelancing may also count). Cardholders earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel, shipping, Internet, cable, phone and advertising purchases each year.
You also earn unlimited 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. Your points never expire, and if you redeem them for travel purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards site, they are worth 25% more.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 75,000 points after you spend $2,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening the account, plus an additional 25,000 points after you make an additional $1,000 in purchases within the first six months of opening the account
Annual Fee: $95
If you don’t want a Hilton card with the $450 fee, the Ascend card is another good option with a large sign-up bonus. Cardholders can also earn a free weekend night after spending $15,000 on the card in one year. If you spend $40,000 in one year, you earn Hilton Honors Diamond Status through the end of the next calendar year.
Rewards earnings are also still pretty high, especially if you use this card for everyday purchases. In addition to earning 12 points for every $1 spent on Hilton purchases, you get 6 points for every $1 spent at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations. You earn 3 points per $1 spent on everything else.
6. Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World EliteTM Mastercard®
This offer is no longer available.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 60,000 miles after you make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening the account
Annual Fee: $99, waived the first year
This card has been around for a while, but in addition to boosting its sign-up bonus to 60,000 miles, Citi has recently changed its rewards earning structure as well.
Cardholders still earn 2 miles for every $1 spent on American Airlines purchases, but they now also get 2 miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants. (You earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.)
Another new feature: Cardholders get a $100 American Airlines flight discount after spending $20,000 on the card in one year. And you still get a free checked bag for yourself and four companions traveling on the same reservation.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 60,000 Membership Reward points after you make $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening the account
Annual Fee: $550
With a significant annual fee, this card certainly lands in the luxury rewards credit card category. But consumers should do the math before writing it off. The card’s perks may more than outweigh the fee if you use them all each year.
For example, cardholders get a $200 credit for Uber purchases each year (up to $15 each month, except for December, when it jumps to $20). You also get a $200 to spend on fees, such as checked bags or in-flight purchases at any one airline. (Eligible airlines include Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Spirit, Southwest and United.)
And if you’re applying for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, you get $100 to cover the fee.
Find Experian’s detailed breakdown on this card—and if it might be for you—here.
Finding the Most Rewarding Card, For You
It may be tempting to open an account for the sign-up bonus, especially when there are so many enticing offer right now—but experts caution against going into credit card debt in order to snag a sign-up bonus.
“Cards with lucrative sign-up bonuses can be very attractive and tempting to customers. But you need to make sure you do not overspend to qualify for the bonus,” says Bill Hardekopf of LowCards.com. “The money you put on the card should be money you have budgeted to spend—you are simply paying for those purchases with this particular card in order to qualify for the one-time bonus.”
If you’re in the market for a new rewards card, shop around for one that will suit your spending style. For example, if you spend a lot of money on travel and dining, look for a card that offers extra points on those purchases.
Or, if you frequently fry a specific airline, co-branded airline cards can make your experience much smoother with perks like free checked bags and priority boarding. Experian’s credit card marketplace is a good place to start your search and if you sign up for a free account, you’ll get matched with cards that best fit your spending habits and credit profile.
You should also try to maximize your opportunity for bonus rewards—extra miles or points you can earn by spending a certain amount of money within the first few months of opening an account.
This is one of the best ways to boost your cashback rewards or miles. Typically, you have three months to charge a few thousand dollars in purchases to the card in order to earn the bonus, which can be as high as 100,000 points.