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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 January 2019


The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card.

Welcome offer: Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases in the first 3 months of Card Membership.

Annual fee: $95

Comment: This card offers you 12x points at Hilton hotels, 6x points at US gas stations, wireless telephone services, US shipping and US restaurants plus rental cars and flights booked through Amex Travel. You get 3x points everywhere else, plus automatic Gold elite status and a Weekend Night Award  after you spend $15,000 in purchases during a calendar year.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

Welcome offer: New applicants can earn 70,000 bonus miles, worth $700 in travel statement credits, after spending $5,000 on new purchases within 90 days of account opening.

Annual fee: $89, waived the first year.

Comment: This card is back with one of the most generous welcome offers seen on a card like this, along with a waived annual fee the first year. It offers double miles on all purchases, and you receive a 5% of your redeemed miles back.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

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 your three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $450

Comment: This is an attractive welcome bonus, but it’s also has a very high minimum spending requirement. Still this can be an attractive offer for small businesses owners looking to jump start their rewards balances. The annual fee is expensive, but it comes with enough perks, benefits and travel fee reimbursements to justify it.

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, car rental merchants and at gas stations, as well as for American Airlines purchases. You also receive a free checked bag, preferred boarding and discounts on in-flight food and beverages.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

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 an annual air travel fee statement credit of up to $200, and an annual Uber credit of up to $100, and a credit towards the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application of up to $100. 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 prepaid hotels booked with Amextravel.com.

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

Welcome offer:  Earn 125,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. You also get a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your Card in a calendar year.

Annual fee: $95.

Comment: This is a great offer for a card that offers 12x points at Hilton portfolio hotels, 6x points at US restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations and 3x points on all other purchases. You also receive Gold elite status.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 within three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.

Comment: This card offers 6x points at over 6,700 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 purchases. You get a free night stay each year after account anniversary (redemption level under 35,000 points), Marriott Silver status, and Gold status when you spend $35,000 on purchases in a calendar year.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card

Welcome offer:  50,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first 90 days of account opening.

Annual fee: $95.

Comment: This card’s sign-up bonus is worth $500 and it offers 2x points on all travel and dining purchases, and 1.5x elsewhere. It also includes up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits, and no foreign transaction fees.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Welcome offer:  40,000 points after spending $1,000 within the first three months of account opening, and another 20,000 after spending $12,000 in your first year.

Annual fee: $149.

Comment: This card comes with $75 in Southwest travel credit each year, plus four upgraded boardings per year when available.

United℠ Explorer Card

Welcome offer: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.

Comment: Benefits include a free checked bag, a Global Entry or PreCheck fee credit of up to $100, and two United Club passes each year on your card anniversary. But perhaps best of all, MileagePlus cardmembers enjoy expanded availability of economy class Saver Awards.

Intro image by Kaspars Grinvalds via Shutterstock

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