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- Credit cards frequently offer large sign-up bonuses to try and entice new customers.
- Opening a new credit card and earning these bonuses is the fastest way to build your stocks of credit card rewards, hotel loyalty points, and frequent-flyer miles.
- This March 2019, there are a few fantastic limited-time bonuses available on co-branded cards Delta, IHG, and Marriott credit cards. Hurry, though; some of these end in a few days.
- Plus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card raised its sign-up bonus for the first time since 2015 from 50,000 points to 60,000 – its highest-ever.
The fastest way to earn rewards points, cash back, and frequent-flyer miles is to open a new credit card and earn its sign-up or welcome bonus.
Credit card issuers like Chase and AmEx offer huge bonuses to attract customers, while designing card features with long-term, continuing value in an effort to keep them. This offers consumers a chance to take advantage of these bonuses, perks, and features.
You can read more about earning new card-member bonuses and how that will affect your credit score here, or scroll down to find some of the best offers available this month.
Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which can far outweigh the value of any rewards.
When you’re working to earn credit card rewards, it’s important to practice financial discipline, like paying your balances off in full each month, making payments on time, and not spending more than you can afford to pay back. Basically, treat your credit card like a debit card.
- The Points Guy
Sign-up bonus: 60,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first three months).
The Sapphire Preferred is one of the most popular all-around rewards credit cards, and it’s easy to see why. This card earns 2x points per dollar spent on just about all travel and dining purchases, and 1x point on everything else. It also comes with a ton of travel and purchase protections, such as rental car insurance, trip delay coverage, and extended warranty.
The card’s sign-up bonus was just raised for the first time since 2015 – it’s now 60,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points. That’s worth, at the very least, $600 as cash back or gift cards. However, if you book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and use points to pay, you’ll get a 25% bonus, making points worth 1.25 cents each. That means that the sign-up bonus would be worth $750.
Even more lucrative – the Chase Sapphire Preferred lets you transfer your UR points to a few different frequent-flyer and hotel-loyalty programs. This comes in handy because in many cases it costs fewer points to book a trip if you go through one of those programs, as opposed to using the points as cash. You can read more about why transferring points to frequent-flyer programs gets you more value here.
This all comes for a fairly standard annual fee of $95, which is not waived the first year.
- American Express
Welcome bonus: 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (after spending $5,000 in the first three months). Offer ends April 24.
Last month, Marriott wrapped up a major rebranding of its loyalty program, combining it with the Starwood Preferred Guest program to create a single entity: Marriott Bonvoy.
The various terms and benefits of the program are virtually unchanged from what took effect in August, when the two separate programs were brought under a new single set of benefits.
The biggest changes under February’s rebrand came to the Bonvoy’s rewards credit cards, which are issued by American Express and Chase. To mark the occasion, both are offering a big, limited-time promotion on the personal cards they issue.
AmEx issues the premium version of Marriott’s credit cards, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card, formerly called the SPG Luxury Card. Until April 24, new cardholders can earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when they spend $5,000 on the card in the first three months.
While the card has a high $450 annual fee, it’s easy to get much more value from it than you pay for that fee – especially if you stay at Marriott hotels semi-frequently.
Right off the bat, the card offers up to $300 each year in statement credits for purchases at participating Marriott hotels, which can apply to room charges. That effectively brings the fee down to $150.
It also offers a free night award each year on your cardmember anniversary, which can be redeemed at any hotel that costs 50,000 points per night or under. The card also offers complimentary Gold elite status, and comes with a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership.
The card earns 6x points at Marriott hotels, 3x points at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with the airline, and 2x points on everything else.
Sign-up bonus: 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (after spending $5,000 in the first three months). Only available for a limited time.
Between the yearly $300 of credits, and the annual anniversary free night, the Bonvoy Brilliant card from AmEx tends to represent a better deal for cardholders.
However, the downside to that card is that you’ll have to pay a $450 annual fee. Sure, you’ll get the value back from the various benefits and rewards, but you’ll still have to float that fee at the top of each calendar year.
For people in that camp, Chase offers the mainstream version of the personal card: the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card.
The Bonvoy Boundless currently offers the same sign-up bonus as the Bonvoy Brilliant – unlike with the Brilliant’s, we don’t know the Boundless offer’s end date, but we do know it’s only available for a limited time.
Like the Brilliant, the Boundless offers a free night award each year on your cardholder anniversary; the difference is that it’s only good on rooms that would cost up to 35,000 points per night, rather than 50,000. Fortunately, that still includes plenty of properties.
The Boundless card comes with complimentary Silver elite status. Silver doesn’t get you as much as Gold, but it’s still something. You’ll get a 10% bonus on points earned, priority for late checkout, access to a dedicated customer service line, free Wi-Fi, and more. While it’s not a published benefit, you may also be given preferential rooms. You can get Gold status if you spend $35,000 or more in a calendar year. You’ll also get 15 qualifying nights’ worth of elite credit each calendar year, making it easier to earn Gold status or higher through hotel stays.
The card earns 6x points per dollar spent at Marriott hotels, and 2x points per dollar on everything else.
Welcome offer: 75,000 Delta SkyMiles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) (after spending $3,000 in the first three months). Ends April 3.
The Delta Platinum SkyMiles card is one of my personal favorites, because even though it has a $195 annual fee, it pays for itself. The first year, you can earn a welcome bonus – right now it’s 75,000 SkyMiles when you meet the spending requirement, as opposed to the normal 35,000 miles – which more than makes up for the year.
Every year after that, on your card-member anniversary, you’ll get a companion pass good for a domestic round-trip flight in economy (or “Main Cabin” as Delta calls it). The companion pass is essentially a “buy-one-get-one-free” certificate. When you book an economy-class flight for yourself anywhere within the continental US, you can get a second flight for free, other than minimal taxes and fees.
For me, the value of the pass at least cancels out the annual fee, and in some cases offers enough value to mean I’m making a profit. Although I’ve heard from a few readers before that they felt the companion pass’ terms were too restrictive, I respectfully disagree (for what it’s worth, I live near a Delta hub). For instance, last year I used my companion pass to book a flight for my wife and I to pick up our new puppy – the tickets were about $225 each, and when I redeemed the pass, we only had to pay $24 of taxes and fees for her ticket.
The card also offers plenty of perks for Delta flyers, including one free checked bag for each person on the cardholder’s reservation; priority boarding so that you can settle in sooner and snag space in the overhead compartments; discounted access to Delta Sky Club lounges; a 20% discount in the form of a statement credit on Delta in-flight purchases; and no foreign-transaction fees.
If you aren’t interested in the companion pass, you can also consider the Gold version of the card (the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express). The card offers similar benefits, except for the companion pass, and only has a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year. Its limited-time welcome offer is 60,000 SkyMiles when you spend $2,000 in three months – also ending April 3.
You can read more about the limited-time offers and the differences between the two cards here. Even if you’ve had one of them before, you can still get the bonus on the other one.
The welcome offers on these two cards are tied for the highest-ever made publicly available, in terms of SkyMiles.
Sign-up bonus: Up to 120,000 points (80,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months; an additional 40,000 points after spending a total of $5,000 in the first six months).
IHG is the parent company of a handful of hotel chains, including Holiday Inn. The company has more than 5,600 properties around the world, making it the second-largest hotel brand, behind Marriott. IHG has a wide range of properties from budget options like the Holiday Inn Express, to luxurious Regent and InterContinental hotels and resorts.
IHG’s Rewards Club program is often overlooked – I know I’m guilty of passing it over without a second look in favor of Hilton Honors or Marriott Bonvoy (and back in the day, Starwood Preferred Guest).
However, the program is worth a second look, and a newly increased sign-up bonus on its primary credit card offers a perfect opportunity.
Right now, the IHG Rewards Club Premier card has a sign-up bonus of up to 120,000 points that is broken up into two parts. First, you’ll earn 80,000 points if you spend $2,000 in the first three months. Then, you’ll earn the remaining 40,000 points when you spend an additional $3,000 within the first six months (for a total of $5,000).
Rooms can cost as little at 10,000 points per night, depending on the property and its location within a city. The bonus is enough to cover almost two weeks’ worth of nights at a Holiday Inn Express – even some in prime markets – or two to four nights at top InterContinental locations.
The card earns 10x points per dollar spent at IHG hotels, 2x points per dollar spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, and 1x point on everything else.
It also comes with automatic Platinum elite status, which entitles you to a 50% bonus on points earned during a stay, complimentary room upgrades, late checkout when available, and guaranteed room availability with 72 hours’ notice – helpful if you have a last-minute trip.
The Premier card offers an annual anniversary free night certificate that can be used at any category 1-7 hotel (hotels that cost 40,000 points per night or less). While that means that some of IHG’s most premium locations are excluded, the certificate is still valid at a ton of locations all around the world.
For instance, I didn’t have trouble finding properties in major cities like New York and Chicago during peak travel season – all charging well upward of $200 – that accept the free night certificate. That more than makes up for the card’s $89 annual fee.
- The Points Guy
Welcome Offer: 60,000 points (after spending $5,000 in the first three months).
The American Express Platinum card has one of the highest annual fees of any consumer credit or charge card – $550 – but as AmEx’s flagship product, this premium credit card offers a tremendous amount of value to offset that fee. For example, I got more than $2,000 worth of value in my first year with the card.
The card earns Membership Rewards points, the currency in AmEx’s loyalty program, which can be exchanged for statement credits or cash back, used to book travel through AmEx’s travel website, or, to get the most value, transferred to any of 17 airline and three hotel transfer partners (transferable points are among the best). Travel website The Points Guy lists a valuation of 2¢ per membership rewards point; based on that, the welcome offer is worth about $1,200.
The Platinum Card earns an incredible 5x points on airfare purchased directly from the airline, and offers an airline fee credit of up to $200 each calendar year, and up to $200 in Uber credits each card member year.
It also grants the cardholder access to more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world, including Delta Sky Clubs and AmEx’s own Centurion Lounges.
Other benefits include automatic Gold elite status in the Marriott and Hilton loyalty programs, a statement credit up to $100 to cover enrollment in Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, concierge service, access to exclusive events, and much more.
If you’re an active military servicemember, you can get the AmEx Platinum Card’s fee waived.
- The Points Guy
Welcome offer: 30,000 Go Far points (after spending $3,000 in the first three months).
This card from Wells Fargo has one of the more attractive rewards offerings you’ll find from a no-annual-fee card. The current Propel card is a relaunch of an old product – Wells Fargo stopped accepting applications for the old card a year ago, before announcing the new product and reopening applications this summer.
The card earns 3x points on all travel, dining, and select streaming services (and 1x point on everything else). If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s almost the same as the popular Chase Sapphire Reserve.
There are key differences between the cards. The Propel lets you redeem points for 1¢ each toward cash back, merchandise, travel, or more, while the Sapphire Reserve offers a range of more valuable redemption options – it’s easy to get at least 50% more value for Chase points. Plus, the Sapphire Reserve offers a number of premium perks that the Propel doesn’t, like airport lounge access, a $300 annual travel credit travel delay insurance, and more.
Of course, the Sapphire Reserve also comes with a $450 annual fee, while the Wells Fargo Propel doesn’t have a fee. Between the new member offer, and the solid earning rate on popular spend categories, the Propel makes a decent option for those who don’t travel often, or who aren’t comfortable floating a large annual fee.
We named the Propel the best no-fee card of 2018.
- The Points Guy
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first three months).
The Sapphire Reserve is basically a beefier version of the Preferred. While the card comes with the same sign-up bonus, it earns points on everyday spending faster, nabbing a higher 3x points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases, and 1x on everything else. It also offers similar, though in many cases, enhanced travel and purchase protections.
Unlike the Preferred, the Sapphire Reserve comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, which gets you and any travel companions free access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world.
You can use points from the Reserve the same ways as with the Preferred, except that you’ll get a 50% bonus when booking travel through Chase, making your points worth 1.5¢ each.
The card carries a higher annual fee than the Preferred: $450. However, it also comes with a $300 travel credit each card member year. Each year, you’ll get statement credits for the first $300 in travel-related purchases you make, including things like subway fare, taxis, parking, and tolls, as well as airfare and hotels – naturally, you don’t earn points on the purchases covered by that credit. When you subtract this credit from the annual fee, the card is effectively only $150 each year.
If you’re not sure whether the Preferred or Reserve is the better card for you, take a look at this breakdown. Also keep in mind that you can typically only earn the sign-up bonus for one Sapphire-branded card every two years.