I often tell people that the hardest way to earn airline miles is to step on an airplane. Even on the carriers that still offer you miles based on the distance you travel, you’ll only earn about 500 miles per hour you spend on an airplane. And you’ll have to spend an entire night in a hotel just to earn a few thousand points in their loyalty program.
In contrast, it takes just a few minutes to sign-up for a credit card that can offer you 50,000 to 100,000 points or miles as a sign-up bonus. 50,000 miles is a competitive offer from an airline card, or one that offers points that can be transferred to airline miles. However, the best offers will be in the 60,000 to 100,000 mile range. With hotel points, a strong offer is one with enough points for at least two free nights in a mid-range hotel. But because hotel points are generally less valuable than airline miles, expect to receive 80,000 to 100,000 points from the best of these offers.
To receive these rewards, you’ll typically have to meet a minimum spending requirement, often $3,000 to $5,000 within three months of account opening. However, some of the most generous offers will have even larger spending requirements. Also, most cards will have an annual fee, although some are waived the first year.
Once you’ve paid an annual fee and received your sign-up bonus, the last thing you’ll want to do is cancel your card. Instead, try it out for a year and see how you like its rewards, benefits and customer service. At the end of your first year, you’ll have all the information you need to decide if it’s worth keeping or not.
10 Major Credit Card Bonuses for September 2018
Welcome offer: This card offers new accounts 125,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 within three months of account opening. You'll earn another 5,000 bonus points after you add your first authorized user who makes a purchase within the same three months.
Annual fee: $89
Comment: Rewards include 10x points per dollar spent at IHG hotels, 2x points at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, and one point per dollar spend elsewhere. Benefits include instant Platinum Status each year so long as you maintain membership. Platinum Elites receive room upgrades, extended check-outs, free mini-bars, and $30 in-room spa credit. You also receive Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check fee credit of up to $100 every four years as reimbursement for the application charged to your card.
Welcome offer: New applicants can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on their card within three months of account opening.
Annual fee: There's a $95 annual fee for this card that's waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
Comment: This card offers you 3x points on travel, including gas stations, and 2x points on dining out and entertainment. The sign-up bonus of 60,000 points is redeemable for $750 on any airline, anytime, with no blackout dates when booked through ThankYou® Travel Center, or can be redeemed for $600 in gift cards at ThankYou.com.
Welcome offer: New applicants can earn 60,000 bonus miles, worth $600 in travel statement credits, after spending $5,000 on new purchases within 90 days of account opening, and paying the annual fee.
Annual fee: $89
Comment: This card was briefly withdrawn from the market when Barclays introduced its Arrival Premier, with a $150 annual fee (waived the first year) and no sign-up bonus. But now it’s back with one of the most generous welcome offers seen on a card like this. This card offers double miles on all purchases, and you receive 5% of your redeemed miles back to use towards your next redemption.
Welcome offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $10,000, and another 25,000 after spending an additional $10,000 within three months of account opening.
Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)
Comment: This is an attractive introductory bonus, but it also has a very high minimum spending requirement. This can be an attractive offer for small business owners looking to jump start their rewards balances. It comes with enough perks, benefits and travel fee reimbursements to justify the annual fee.
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
Welcome offer: 70,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 within the first four months of account opening.
Annual fee: $99, waived the first year.
Comment: This card now offers double miles on purchases at telecommunications merchants, car rentals and at gas stations, as well as for American Airlines purchases. You also receive a free checked bag, priority boarding, and discounts on in-flight food and beverages.
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Welcome offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within three months of account opening. This is a limited time offer available only until September 19, 2018. (see rates and fees)
Annual fee: $195
Comment: This is an attractive card that offers you a bunch of perks like free checked bags and priority boarding. But the biggest value here is the annual Companion Certificate that offers you a single domestic (contiguous 48 states), round-trip, economy class companion fare upon renewal of your card, plus government taxes and fees of no more than $75 for domestic flights (see rates and fees). This alone could be worth hundreds of dollars.
Welcome offer: 60,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first three months of account opening.
Annual fee: $99.
Comment: This is the best sign-up bonus ever seen for this card, and the points count towards the 110,000 necessary for their Companion Pass. It also features a 6,000-point bonus every year, on the cardholder's account anniversary.
Welcome offer: 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening.
Annual fee: $550.
Comment: While the card's annual fee is among the very highest, it also comes bundled with up to $200 annual air travel fee statement credit, up to $200 in annual Uber credit, and a $100 credit towards the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application. This card now offers a $50 credit towards Saks Fifth Avenue purchases twice a year (enrollment required). You also earn 5x points per $1 for flights booked through the airline and hotels booked with Amextravel.com. (see rates and fees)
Welcome offer: 100,000 points. Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within three months of account opening (see rates and fees).
Annual fee: $95.
Comment: This card offers 12x points at Hilton portfolio hotels, 6x points at US restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations and 3x points on all other eligible purchases. You also receive Gold elite status.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
Welcome offer: Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 within three months of account opening. This limited offer is available until October 31st, 2018.
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.
Comment: This card offers 6x points at over 6,500 participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® properties, giving them an enormous footprint. You also earn 4x points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping, with 2x points for all other eligible purchases. You get a free night stay each year (select hotels have resort fees), Marriott Silver status, and Gold status when you spend $35,000 on purchases in a calendar year (see rates and fees).