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Best credit card signup bonuses of October 2021

Bonus points, miles and cashback make these credit card offers some of the best cards for new cardholders. CardRatings editors compare the best credit card signup bonuses and promotions.
Brooklyn Lowery, CardRatings Senior Manager Last Updated, October 14, 2021
Best credit cards of 2021

TOP CREDIT CARD BONUS OFFERS

The credit card bonus offer is flashy, exciting, enticing… and quite possibly fleeting.

That’s right, credit card bonuses can and do rise and fall, which means that applying for a new card at the right time could mean a substantially higher bonus for you. Likewise, missing the window of a limited time offer could mean your bonus opportunity is half of what it could be. This is why we are bringing you the best credit card offers from our partners, so you never miss a beat.

And excellent bonuses aren't just for personal/consumer cards; small business owners can get in on the bonus offer situation as well.

These offers are the best of the best, but that doesn't mean they all come with annual fees. Don't overlook the best signup bonuses for no-annual-fee credit cards that we've listed here as well.

Let's get started.

BEST FOR TRAVEL REWARDS

5
About Our Ratings
Why We Like It:
This card offers a solid opportunity to rack up valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards® points with its lucrative ongoing rewards opportunity. You'll find yourself reaching for this card often to keep the earning going even after you secure its solid signup bonus.

The Signup Bonus: Earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within three months of opening an account. Because your rewards are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through the Ultimate Rewards® portal, that means the bonus is worth $750 when redeemed through the portal and potentially even more if you transfer strategically to one of the available travel loyalty program partners.

Annual Fee: $95

Rewards Rate:  Earn five points per $1 spent on travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®; earn three points per $1 on dining, online grocery store purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs) and select streaming services; two points per $1 on travel; and one point per $1 spent on everything else.

PROS:

  • Take advantage of up to $60 back on eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership.
  • Rest assured with a range of travel perks and protections like a rental car collision damage waiver and lost luggage insurance.
  • Combine this card with other cards earning Ultimate Rewards® points to make all your points worth 25% more when redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards® portal.

CONS:

  • There is an annual fee of $95 to consider
  • The travel partner options are fairly extensive, but the greatest value with Ultimate Rewards® points is often through those travel partners, so make sure the partners match with the loyalty programs you're likely to use.

Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 82.3 84.4
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.3 8.3
Customer Service 8.4 8.7
Website/App Usability 8.2 8.1
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.7 9.0
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.8 8.4

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

BEST FOR FLEXIBLE TRAVEL

5
About Our Ratings
Why We Like It:
This card offers a valuable new cardholder bonus – 60,000 bonus miles when you spend just $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Plus, the annual fee is less than what you might expect to pay for a card with this kind of earning potential. You can also transfer your miles to multiple leading travel loyalty programs and cardholders are eligible for a reimbursement of their Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® application fee, worth up to $100.

The Welcome Offer: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel.

Annual Fee: $95

Rewards Rate: You can earn two miles for every $1 you spend and redeem your miles for flights, hotel stays, or other types of travel.

PROS:

  • The bonus of 60,000 miles can be worth $600 in travel.
  • You can transfer your miles to multiple leading travel loyalty programs, providing much more flexibility for redemption than many branded rewards programs.
  • No foreign transaction fees so it’s great to use on any purchases you make outside of the U.S.

CONS:

  • This card charges an annual fee so you'll need to be sure you can earn the bonuses and use the benefits for the card to be worth it.
  • The current partner airlines with the Venture card are not the most common or frequently used for rewards travel so transferring points may not provide as much value as other card programs.

Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 81.6 84.4
Rewards Program Satisfaction 7.9 8.2
Customer Service 8.3 8.4
Website/App Usability 8.5 8.4
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.8 9.1
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.1 8.6

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

BEST FOR FLEXIBLE AIRLINE REWARDS

5
About Our Ratings
Why We Like It:
New cardholders can earn a bonus of 60,000 Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within your first six months as a cardholder. This is double the time that most other cards allow for earning a welcome offer. Plus, you can earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases at supermarkets, then one point per $1). American Express is a CardRatings advertiser.

The Welcome Offer: You can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within your first six months as a cardholder.

Annual Fee: $250

Rewards Rate: Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants including takeout and delivery, and 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases at supermarkets (then one point per $1). Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com; and 1X point per $1 on your other purchases.

PROS:

  • You won’t get six months to meet your welcome offer bonus threshold with many (if any) other cards. You can easily earn this bonus just using your card for purchases you’d make anyway.
  • This card awards bonus points in multiple everyday categories, especially in food categories. If your spending is in primarily on groceries or restaurants, you’ll be able to rack up quite a few points on those purchases.
  • Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.

CONS:

  • There is an annual fee with this card that is slightly higher than many others so you’ll need to be sure you can make up for it with the benefits and bonuses.
  • Unlike typical credit cards, the card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all.

Read our full American Express® Gold Card review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 88.9 84.6
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.8 8.3
Customer Service 9.1 8.7
Website/App Usability 8.9 8.2
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.2 8.8
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.7 8.4

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

BEST FOR DINING

5
About Our Ratings
Why We Like It:
This card offers a bonus of 80,000 points which can be worth $800 in gift cards if you redeem them through thankyou.com. But besides the great bonus, you also earn some nice rewards on everyday purchases. (Citi is a CardRatings advertiser.)

The Welcome Offer: Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 with your card within the first three months of opening the account. This bonus can be worth $800 in gift cards if you redeem through thankyou.com.

The Annual Fee: $95

Rewards Rate:  Earn three points per dollar spent on air travel, hotels and at gas stations as well as supermarkets and restaurants. Earn one point per dollar on all other purchases.

PROS:

  • The bonus offered can be worth $800 if you redeem your points for gift cards with thankyou.com. This is one of the more valuable bonuses offered.
  • You also earn 3 points per dollar in several different categories, most of which you probably spend on at least a few times a week. There aren't as many cards available that offer bonus points in categories such as restaurants and supermarkets.
  • This card offers other bonuses such as $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) through thankyou.com, each calendar year.

CONS:

  • There is an annual fee so you'll need to be sure you can earn enough with the rewards program and bonuses to offset the fee.
  • The ThankYou® Points program isn't as popular or well-known as some other rewards currency programs, but that doesn't mean it isn't valuable and worthwhile.

Read our full Citi Premier® Card review.

We have not polled this card yet, but would love to hear your thoughts on it if you are a cardholder. Comment below or email us at editor@cardratings.com to share more about your experience.

BEST NO-ANNUAL-FEE CASH-BACK CARD

The biggest cash-back bonuses on no-annual-fee cards are typically offered with small business credit cards. For example, both the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card and the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card are currently offering $750 bonus cash back once you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first three months you open an account. If you're a traditional small business owner, or even a non-traditional business owner such as a contractor, freelancer, Airbnb operator or rideshare driver, you could qualify for and benefit from a small business credit card. Even if a small business card isn't in your future, cash-back credit cards are often annual-fee-free and many feature simple to understand rewards structures. That means that just about anyone can benefit from a cash-back rewards card and the level of effort on your part is minimal.

5
About Our Ratings
Why We Like It:
This card offers new cardholders a great bonus of $200 if you spend $500 with the card in the first three months of opening the account. This bonus can be worth 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. A bonus this valuable is rare for a card with no annual fee and the low spending requirement makes it easy to earn.

The Welcome Offer:  New cardholders earn a $200 bonus after spending $500 within the first three months of account opening. This bonus can also be thought of as points as it's technically 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. Furthermore, earn 5% cash back on up to $12,000 spent on grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) for the first year.

Annual Fee: $0

Rewards Rate: This card awards 5% cash back on travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal and 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in categories that rotate quarterly (activation is required each quarter). You can also earn 3% cash back at restaurants, including takeout and delivery, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases.

PROS:

  • You can earn a bonus worth $200 just by spending $500 with the card in the first three months of opening the account. This is one of the easiest bonuses to earn because of the low spending requirement.
  • You can earn bonus cash back in many different categories so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to rack up cash back just with your everyday spending.
  • You also get cell phone insurance if you use the card to pay your phone bill, which isn’t a benefit you’ll find with a lot of credit cards.

CONS:

  • There are a lot of different spending categories you can earn with so it might become overwhelming. If you prefer a flat rate of rewards on your purchases, this card isn’t for you.
  • The 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars fee for foreign purchases makes it an expensive card to use if you travel abroad.

Read our full Chase Freedom Flex℠ review

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 84.2 Did not survey
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.4 n/a
Customer Service 8.6 n/a
Website/App Usability 8.3 n/a
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.0 n/a
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.1 n/a

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

BEST NO-ANNUAL-FEE TRAVEL CARD

5
About Our Ratings
Why We Like It:
The amazing thing about this card's bonus offer is that it can be as lucrative as you choose to make it. We'll explain below.
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Only Discover gives you an unlimited match of all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. There's no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
  • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase - with no annual fee.
  • Redeem Miles to pay any part of your monthly bill, including your minimum payment.
  • Turn Miles into cash in any amount, any time. Or redeem as a statement credit for travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more with no blackout dates. However you redeem, Miles keep the same value. And Miles never expire.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Discover Match® details & other information.
See More

PROS:

  • No one likes to be told what to do and with this card, you're not. You can redeem points for travel or cash.
  • There's no better way to monitor your identity than to have Social Security number use alerts.
  • With miles that never expire, you won't be rushed into any purchases before you're ready.

CONS:

  • If you're not an Amazon user, the instant cash rewards on Amazon.com will not benefit you.
  • All of your miles earned the first year will be matched by Discover, but that's only good in the first year -- a temporary benefit.
  • Discover is not as widely accepted as other credit card brands.

Read our full Discover it® Miles review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 82.5 82.0
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.2 8.2
Customer Service 8.4 8.1
Website/App Usability 8.2 8.2
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.6 8.7
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.1 8.0

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.


There are a number of other no-annual-fee cash-back credit cards offering welcome bonuses, but those bonuses sometimes fall a bit lower– typically around $150. Remember, these bonus offers can fluctuate though, and often times certain cards come with other valuable perks such a cell phone protection or an intro 0% APR period, which make them worthy options to consider. Some notable mentions include:

    • Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Offers $200 after you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months; unlimited 3% back on dining, entertainment, and grocery store purchases, plus on select streaming services; and 1% back on other purchases; no foreign transaction fees (which is rare for a no-annual-fee cash-back credit card); and 0% intro APR on new purchases for 15 months (then 14.99% - 24.99% (Variable)).
    • Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: Offers a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months; unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase; no foreign transaction fees (again, somewhat rare for cash-back, no-annual-fee credit cards); and 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months (then 14.99% - 24.99% (Variable)).
    • Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Offers a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months, plus 5% cash back on up to $12,000 spent in the first year on grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart); unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases on an ongoing basis; and 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases (then 14.99% - 23.74% Variable).
    • Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months. On an ongoing basis, earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 2% back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, and 1% back on other purchases. Also enjoy 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then 13.99% - 23.99% Variable). See Rates and Fees; terms apply.

    BEST FOR GROCERY PURCHASES

    5
    About Our Ratings
    Why We Like It:
    This card offers a whopping 6% cash back in popular categories! That's a lot of cash back in your pocket.

    The Welcome Offer: Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months. Plus, enjoy 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases (then 13.99% - 23.99% Variable).

    Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

    Rewards Rate: Earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 6% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); 3% back on transit including taxis/rideshares, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more; 3% at U.S. gas stations; and 1% on all other purchases.

    PROS:

    • You can lower your food budget by earning 6% at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 a year, as well as 6% on select streaming services.
    • Save money elsewhere with a 0% intro APR on new purchases for 12 months (then, 13.99% - 23.99% Variable).
    • New cardholders can earn a nice welcome bonus which is sure to help offset the cost of regular monthly expenses.

    CONS:

    • The annual fee might not be worth it if you don't spend heavily at U.S. supermarkets.
    • Walmart and Target do not count as U.S. supermarkets, so if you do a lot of spending there, this card might not be the best fit.

    Read our full Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.

    Current Scores Past Scores
    Overall Score 87.0 86.0
    Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.6 8.3
    Customer Service 8.7 8.9
    Website/App Usability 8.8 8.7
    Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.9 9.0
    Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.8 8.6

    *Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

    HOTEL REWARDS CREDIT CARD BONUSES

    Travel loyalty programs, that is hotel and airline rewards programs, often have their own branded credit cards, and those cards often come with eye-popping signup bonus opportunities. The catch, of course, is that you need to be a frequent guest of these particular airlines or hotel chains to take full advantage of all the benefits and rewards offered by these cards. Sometimes, these cards are excellent second cards to have around in addition to a more general travel rewards card.

      BEST FOR MARRIOTT HOTEL REWARDS

        5
        About Our Ratings
        Why We Like It:
        If Marriott if your go-to home away from home, this card can help you rack up points toward free nights fast with an solid bonus offer as well as automatic silver elite status, which means you'll earn more points on every stay.

        The Welcome Offer: For a limited time, earn 125,000 bonus points and one Free Night Award (worth up to 50,000 points) when you spend $5,000 in the first three months.

        Annual Fee: $95

        Rewards Rate:  Earn up to 17 points for every $1 you spend at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels and two points on everything else.

        PROS:

        • Receve a Free Night Award (valued at up to 35,000 points) each year after your account anniversary.
        • Get free in-room internet access when staying at a Marriott property.
        • There are no foreign transaction fees.

        CONS:

        • They put you on the path to Gold Status (and include automatic Silver Elite Status), but to earn Gold Status you need to spend $35,000 in a year.
        • You are limited to earning big points at Marriott properties. All other purchases earn just two points per $1 spent.

        Read our full Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card review.

        Current Scores Past Scores
        Overall Score 77.2 82.8
        Rewards Program Satisfaction 7.7 8.2
        Customer Service 7.8 8.5
        Website/App Usability 7.5 8.5
        Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.2 8.3
        Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.5 8.2

        *Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

          BEST NO-ANNUAL-FEE BUSINESS CARD

            5
            About Our Ratings
            Why We Like It:
            This cards screams simplicity— which let's be honest, we can all use when it comes to our business needs— with unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made.

            The Welcome Offer: Enjoy a $750 cash-back bonus after you spend $7,500 within the first three months as a cardholder. You can also take advantage of introductory 0% APR on purchases for the first 12 months (then, 13.24% - 19.24% Variable).

            Annual Fee: $0

            Rewards Rate: Earn unlimited 1.5% back on all purchases.

            PROS:

            • The free employee cards are great, but the huge benefit is that the primary cardholder can set spending limits on authorized user cards.
            • Allows you to import expenses into bookkeeping software as a separate business account making taxes easier.
            • The extended warranty protection adds one year to all US manufacturer warranties.

            CONS:

            • The partnership with Apple to get extra rewards when you spend through them is great… unless you're not an Apple user.
            • Rewards can be booked on most major airlines, but not all.
            • In order to earn the welcome bonus, you need to spend $7,500 in your first three months as an account holder, which is not always an easy feat.

            Read our full Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card review.

            Current Scores Past Scores
            Overall Score 71.6 78.3
            Rewards Program Satisfaction 6.9 7.8
            Customer Service 7.1 7.9
            Website/App Usability 7.2 8.2
            Likelihood of Continuing to Use 7.4 7.7
            Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.7 7.7

            *Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

              BEST FOR BUSINESS REWARDS

                5
                About Our Ratings
                Why We Like It:
                In addition to the generous rewards structure, business owners are sure to appreciate the included cell phone insurance that provides up to $600 per claim in cell phone protection against covered theft or damage for all phones listed on the monthly cell phone bill that's paid with the card.

                The Welcome Offer: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 within three months of opening an account.

                Annual Fee: $95

                Rewards Rate: Earn three points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent annually in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. Earn one point per dollar on all other purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn.

                PROS:

                • Choose your security alerts and also how you receive them, so you're not inundated with notifications.
                • Points redeemed through the ultimate rewards program are worth 25% more than face value.
                • Using this business card will also build your business credit.

                CONS:

                • There are exclusions to purchases toward your 100,000 welcome bonus points.
                • There are not a lot of perks outside of travel benefits.
                • With this card, you are not rewarded for brand loyalty, which means fewer opportunities to earn extra points.

                Read our full Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card review.

                Current Scores Past Scores
                Overall Score 83.4 81.7
                Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.4 8.3
                Customer Service 8.5 8.2
                Website/App Usability 8.2 8.0
                Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.4 8.4
                Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.1 7.9

                *Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

                  BEST FOR PREMIUM BUSINESS REWARDS

                    5
                    About Our Ratings
                    Why We Like It:
                    The annual fee is substantial, but if you travel enough to offset it, you'll be rolling in perks and rewards.

                    The Welcome Offer: Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first three months of card membership. Also, take advantage of an intro 0% APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases eligible for Pay Over Time (then, 14.24% - 22.24% Variable).

                    Annual Fee: $595 ($695 if application is received on or after 1/13/2022)

                    Rewards Rate: Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com. Earn 1.5X points on eligible purchases in select business categories as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more (up to a cap). Earn 1 point per $1 on your other eligible purchases. Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year when you book on amextravel.com.

                    PROS:

                    • Spend money with Dell technologies and receive up to $400 in statement credit annually; $200 between January and June and another $200 from July to December. Enrollment required
                    • Get access to a premium global assist hotline that will help wherever you are with any emergency situation.
                    • Choose one airline and receive up to $200 in credit on your statement per year for fees associated with it such as baggage.

                    CONS:

                    • The rewards are small for high-cost items such as wireless and shipping, so you might think about combining this card with another that offers higher rewards on those purchases.
                    • Airline credit is only good for one airline that you choose. So if you shop around for better prices, you won't be rewarded for the services you use with them.
                    • Purchase protection has exclusions and restrictions.

                    Read our full The Business Platinum Card® from American Express review.

                    Current Scores Past Scores
                    Overall Score 87.0 81.4
                    Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.5 8.3
                    Customer Service 8.7 8.1
                    Website/App Usability 8.7 8.4
                    Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.1 7.9
                    Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.8 7.8

                    *Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

                      WHAT IS A CREDIT CARD SIGN-UP BONUS?

                      A credit card sign-up bonus is just what it sounds like, that is if you think it sounds like a reward that a credit card gives you as a welcome gift for applying and using the card.

                      A credit card sign-up bonus is basically a marketing tool, designed to entice you to sign up for the credit card - instead of a competing card. That doesn't take anything away from the fact that credit card sign-up bonuses are often pretty generous, and if you see one that suits you, you should definitely consider it.

                      Still, you do want to look at everything the card has to offer and picture whether it's something you'll be excited about using six months or a year or two from now and not be too dazzled by the credit card sign-up bonus alone.

                      Think of it as the credit card flirting with you. It's the entire package you should look at, and not just the credit card's opening moves. For instance, does the credit card have a strong rewards program - or just an enticing welcome bonus? Does the credit card offer perks such as cell phone protection and roadside service or trip cancellation? Is there an annual fee, and is it reasonable, or do you feel like you'll never get enough points, miles or cash back to really justify paying it? You don't want to get into a relationship with a credit card and later regret it.

                      Typically, for signing up, you'll be given cash back, points (which you can usually later redeem for cash or maybe something else, like gift cards) or miles, which you can later use to get a free or much cheaper airline ticket. In order to earn these bonuses though you typically have to spend a certain amount of money with the card in a specific time frame, so be sure the requirements are reasonable for you.

                      Not every credit card offers a sign-up bonus, but a lot of them do - and fortunately, often a flashy sign-up bonus is a sign that you're looking at a good credit card.

                      HOW DO SIGNUP BONUSES WORK?

                      It's almost always the same with every credit card that offers a signup bonus. You usually have three months to spend a certain amount of money - say, $5,000 - and then as long as you do it within the allotted time frame, which isn't always three months but usually, you'll receive $200 cash back or 30,000 airline miles or whatever the offer is.

                      For instance, just as an example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card currently offers new cardholders 60,000 points once spending $4,000 in the first three months. Those points are worth $600 in cash or $750 towards travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

                      But the bottom-line is, signup bonuses are usually pretty easy to get. Sometimes you have to spend a fair amount, like $4,000, and sometimes not all that much, like, $500, to get a signup bonus.

                      Sometimes a credit card will even offer two signup bonuses - cash back, miles or points after the first few months of opening an account, and then maybe on your anniversary of signing up, it'll give you some other rewards. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card for example offers new cardholders 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first three months, plus a nice 6,000-point bonus after your card member anniversary. Additionally, new cardholders earn 3x points on dining purchases, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year.

                      ARE SIGN-UP BONUSES PAID UP FRONT?

                      No, sign-up bonuses are not paid up front. Credit card companies give you a specific number of months to earn your sign-up bonuses. You may think that once you have met the outlined threshold, you can get your rewards right away. Unfortunately, that's not usually the case. After earning your rewards, it may take up to six to eight weeks for them to be credited on your account.

                      WHAT IS A GOOD SIGN-UP BONUS?

                      A good sign-up bonus allows you to maximize the use of your card the most. Companies offer sign-up bonuses to convince consumers to carry their card, and these bonuses may take several forms. In some cases, you may get cash back back for spending a certain amount of money in the first months of having the card, which is outlined by the credit card company. Other bonuses may come in the form of points or miles, or even limited time offers like a 0% introductory APR period.

                      When it comes down to it though, a good credit card welcome bonus is a bonus that you can realistically earn, and use. A card offering 100,000 bonus miles with an airline you never fly, for example, likely won't benefit you much. You should never choose a credit card based solely on its welcome offer, but if a card you are considering does have a welcome offer, be sure it's one that's realistic for your lifestyle and spending habits.

                      WHICH CREDIT CARDS GIVE YOU MONEY FOR SIGNING UP?

                      In a way, that's a trick question. No credit card will give you money just for signing up. We're being technical and perhaps overly literal, but just so it's clear– you won't receive $300 in your bank account or on your credit card statement a few seconds after getting approval for a credit card. You do have to spend something first.

                      Generally, if you've successfully applied for any credit card that offers cash back, you have to spend a certain amount of money within three months - the credit card will make it clear how much when you're signing up and in their marketing materials - and once you hit that threshold, you'll get cash back.

                      Still, if you want some examples of credit cards that give you money really quickly after you sign up, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers a $200 bonus after you spend $500 within the first three months of the account opening (technically it's 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, but it's worth $200). Meanwhile, the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card will give you $750 back after you spend $7,500 within the first three months as a cardholder.

                      WHAT IS THE BEST CREDIT CARD BONUS?

                      The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card currently offers one of the most valuable bonuses, worth $750 if you redeem your points through Ultimate Rewards. Because it is at the higher end of signup bonuses, CardRatings experts consider it the best credit card bonus. However, this card also comes with several other valuable bonuses that make it well worth carrying.

                      Keep in mind, though, that there is an annual fee of $95, so it has to offer a valuable bonus to help new cardholders offset the fee a little. If you don’t see yourself using the benefits the card offers or if for some reason you won’t be able to take advantage of the credit card bonus, this may not be the card for you.

                      The best credit card bonus for you might be lower in value and only worth $150, but on a card with a lower or no annual fee. Also, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month or the interest you pay could end up costing you more than any credit card bonus is worth.

                      WHAT ARE THE EASIEST SIGN-UP BONUSES TO EARN?

                      Generally, credits cards that offer lower bonus amounts, as well as lower spending thresholds required to qualify for those bonuses, are easier to earn than those cards with higher bonuses. Cards that have high bonuses also usually have high spending requirements– and usually higher available lines of credit– so they tend to be for consumers with excellent credit histories.

                      If you only average, say, $200 a month spend on your card, it's going to be quite difficult, and probably unrealistic for you, to try and earn a $500 welcome bonus that's earned once spending $3,000 within three months, for example. If you regularly spend $1,000 or more on your credit card each month though, a bonus like this should be no problem for you to earn.

                      HOW TO EARN A CREDIT CARD BONUS

                      At the surface, earning a signup bonus is pretty straightforward: Spend X number of dollars before the deadline and see your reward roll in.

                      But what if spending $3,000 or more dollars in a three-month time span isn't in your typical budget? Should you just give up on earning the bonus? Worse, should you go into debt just to earn it? Even if the that spending is in your budget, what do you need to think about?

                      Before you give up on earning a bonus or start spending wildly just to earn it, consider our tips below.

                      1. Before applying for a card, consider your spending plans for the next several months. If you really want a spending bonus, applying for a card right before you plan to go on a "spend as little money as I can" diet for a few months is not a good idea. Take a look several months out and make sure that you aren't anticipating any sort of major events or circumstances that would require you to drastically reduce the spending you'll be able to do on a credit card. For example, if you're in "save up to buy a car" mode, now might not be the right time (However, be sure and check out the best credit cards for gas rewards once you're in your new ride).

                      2. Think about your expenses in bulk. Most people have at least a few regular big-ticket expenses that they pay on a few times a year or maybe even monthly. If you can swing it, consider paying a full year of your car, renters or home insurance on your card. Or perhaps you can pay for an annual subscription to your favorite streaming service or wholesale club rather than paying monthly. Do you or your kids have a tuition bill coming up? Pay for it with your card. Depending on the bill, one payment might be enough to meet your bonus spending threshold, or consider combining several of these to meet the mark.

                      3. Make a contribution to a favorite charity. These days, many charities offer the opportunity to make contributions via your credit card. Perhaps now is the time for you to give. Remember, it does cost charities (and every merchant) a percentage to accept credit cards; if you're giving to a charity with your card, consider upping the amount you give by a few percentage points to cover that processing cost.

                      4. Don't, we repeat, DON'T go into debt. The fastest way to make a credit card bonus decrease in value is to pay interest on the amount you spent just trying to earn the bonus. If you can't pay for what you're putting on the card, no amount of rewards or bonuses is going to be worth it. Ensure whatever you're spending on the way to earning that bonus is something you can pay off each billing cycle (or is covered by an intro 0% APR period, in which case ensure you can pay off the charges before that intro period ends).

                      ARE CREDIT CARD REWARDS TAXABLE?

                      If you earned credit card rewards by spending money, then no, these rewards aren't taxable. Generally, if you are earning cash back on a percentage of your purchases, for tax purposes the money you get back is considered a rebate or discount, so that is not taxable. However, if you earn a bonus without spending anything, you may need to report that bonus as income as it isn't tied in any way to spending. Because credit card companies almost always require you to meet some sort of spend threshold before earning a bonus though, this situation is very rare. Occasionally though, there will be some sort of bonus offer where you can earn a bonus just for being approved for the card. So, in those rare situations, it's important to take into consideration the tax implications that bonus could have.  Also, if you have a business card, since the purchases you make are tax deductible, any cash back that you receive on those purchases could reduce the amount of the deduction you are allowed to write off.

                      For further information, please see our guide to credit cards and taxes


                      Survey Methodology: CardRatings commissioned Op4G in September and October 2020 to conduct surveys among 1,746 cardholders nationwide. CardRatings website analytics from Jan. 1, 2020-Aug. 31, 2020 were used to determine a selection of the most popular cards and additional cards were added to add survey breadth. Responses to each of nine questions were given on a scale of 1-10 and respondents' scores were then averaged under broad topics. To determine the overall score, responses from questions 1-8 were summed and the answer to "How likely are you to recommend this card to a friend, coworker or family member?" was double weighted.

                      Ranking Methodology: CardRatings experts review the fine print, details, perks, rewards and features of hundreds of cards and compare them side-by-side with similar cards. A card that makes an excellent balance transfer card may not make a great cash-back rewards card even though it offers those rewards. While the Best of the Year list is announced annually, that list – and all other “best of” lists on CardRatings – are regularly reviewed and updated as issuers change the terms and features of each card often. 


                      To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards featured in this post, please visit the following links: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees; terms apply); Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees; terms apply); The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (See Rates and Fees; terms apply); American Express® Gold Card (See Rates and Fees; terms apply)

                      Disclaimer: The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

                      This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. CardRatings.com does not review every company or every offer available on the market.

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