NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Signup Bonus Offers of 2014
Looking to make a quick $300, $500 or even $600? We’ve assembled a list of the best credit card offers of 2014, from hundreds of dollars to airline flights to hotel stays — all free money. The best deals tend to come from travel credit cards, whether airline mile cards or hotel ones, but there are still quite a few excellent deals to be had from general travel cards. Read on for deals galore!
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General travel rewards bonuses
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Use points on: United MileagePlus, Southwest, British Airways, Korean Air, Singapore KrisFlyer, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Hyatt, Priority Club, Amtrak
As far as travel cards go, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of our favorites, not least for its great bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. If you use the bonus for travel booked through Chase’s Kayak-style tool, your points are worth 25% more. International travelers won’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees, and it has an Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95.
- Bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.
- Annual fee: Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95.
Citi ThankYou Premier
Use points on: Gift cards, but worth 25% more when used for travel booked through Citi’s Kayak-like tool
- Bonus: Earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points, after required spend.
- Annual fee: $125, waived the first year
Hotel credit card bonuses
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve
- Bonus: Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio after $2,500 in eligible purchases within 4 months of account opening*
- Annual fee: $95
Starwood American Express
Use points on: Starwood Preferred Guest hotels; plus, transfer to Alaska Airlines, AAdvantage, British Airways, Delta, United MileagePlus, US Airways, Virgin Atlantic and more at a 1:1.25 rate
At 25,000 points, the Starwood American Express doesn’t immediately appear to offer an extraordinary sign-up bonus. But here, the general penny-per-point principle does not apply. We value Starpoints at about 2.3 cents apiece when redeemed for hotel stays. It’s a great miles credit card as well: You can trade in 20,000 Starpoints for 25,000 miles on many popular airlines, making the card more lucrative than most of those airlines’ own credit card offers. Therefore, the 25,000 sign-up bonus boasts a $575 value. You get 10,000 points after your first purchase and the remaining 15,000 when you spend $5,000 in 6 months. Ongoing rewards accumulate at a rate of 4 points per dollar at SPG hotels and 1 dollar per point everywhere else. Starwood provides opportunities to upgrade to Gold and Platinum status, and, if achieved, will grant the cardholder accelerated return rates and additional fringe benefits (free upgrades and late check-in, for example). The annual fee is $65 and is waived the first year. With its high return rate and sizable signing bonus, the Starwood is NerdWallet’s favorite hotel credit card.
- Bonus: Earn up to 25,000 bonus points: 10,000 after your first purchase and another 15,000 after you spend $5,000 within the first 6 months of Cardmembership. (NW value: $575)
- Annual fee: $65, waived the first year
Marriott Rewards Premier
After the Starwood, the Marriott Rewards Premier is one of our favorite hotel credit credit cards. The signing bonus is good for a few nights right off the bat, and the ongoing rewards have variable rates for fast earning. You earn 5% at Marriott locations, 2% on airfare, dining and car rentals, and 1% on all other purchases. The annual fee is $85 (waived the first year), but you get one free night every year on the anniversary of your signing. Being a cardholder automatically upgrades you to Silver elite status, which, among other benefits, yields a 20% bonus on Marriott Rewards Points.
- Bonus: Earn 50,000 Points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
- Annual fee: $85, waived the first year; you also get one free night every year
Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card is for classy travelers, an exclusive travel card on par with the American Express Platinum. The rewards rate makes for quick earning at 5% at the Ritz-Carlton, 2% on airfare, dining and car rentals, and 1% everywhere else. But where the RC really shines is in its fringe benefits — the only true means of justifying the $395 annual fee. Every time you stay at the Ritz-Carlton for two or more nights, you receive a $100 credit for dining, spa or hotel recreation activities. You get free access to airport lounges, and you can upgrade for a personal concierge and complimentary food and beverage presentations. During your first year, you’ll enjoy complimentary gold status, which grants room upgrades, priority late checkout and a 25% bonus on your rewards. The Ritz-Carlton is for people who travel often and travel well.
- Bonus: 70,000 Ritz-Carlton Rewards Points Bonus after spending $2,000 - when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months
- Annual fee: $395
Airline miles credit card bonuses
British Airlines Credit Card (miles can be used on American Airlines!)
Use miles for flights on: American Airlines and other OneWorld partners, as well as Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines, Kingfisher and Open Skies
The British Airways credit card gives an excellent value – just so long as you don’t redeem for, you know, British Airways flights. The miles are subject to hefty taxes if you actually redeem for a flight on BA, but if you redeem on American Airlines, you get a much better value. The BA card’s signup bonus is actually better than any AAdvantage card out there – it’s the best way to get flights on American. You earn 2.5% miles on British Airways purchases and 1.25% on all other charges, and the card comes with a $95 annual fee.
- Bonus: 50,000 bonus Avios after you make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Annual fee: $95
Southwest Airlines Credit Card
Use miles for flights on: Southwest Airlines, AirTran and international flights
The Southwest credit card is a perennial for high signup bonuses: Get 25,000 points for 1 Roundtrip Flight after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account. Government fees as low as $12 not included. At 1.43 cents per point, that’s worth $715 of Wanna Get Away fare. And Southwest is generally a low-cost airline, so that amount goes quite a bit further. Moreover, the card has no foreign transaction fee, so you can use it overseas. It does have a $99 annual fee, but that’s partially mitigated by an anniversary bonus of 6,000 points, worth $86 of Wanna Get Away fare.
- Bonus: Get 25,000 points for 1 Roundtrip Flight after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account. Government fees as low as $12 not included.
- Annual fee: $99