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NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Signup Bonus Offers of 2014

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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
Free hotel nights
Free flight bonuses

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

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
Apply Now

on Chase's
secure website

As far as travel cards go, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of our faves, 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

Citibank ThankYou Premier Credit Card
Apply Now

on Citibank's
secure website

The Citi ThankYou Premier is offering a limited-time only signup bonus: Earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points, after required spend. It’s worth $500 of gift cards or a stellar $625 of airfare. That’s the biggest bonus on the market today. Your points are worth 1 cent each when used for gift cards, but if you use them for travel booked through Citi, they’re worth 25% more. And Citi’s prices are comparable to Kayak’s, so they’re not trying to gouge you there. The $125 annual fee is waived the first year, there’s no foreign transaction fee, and it comes with EMV chip-and-signature technology. As for ongoing rewards, you’ll get 3 points per $1 spent on restaurants and entertainment, 2 per $1 on airfare and hotels, and 1 per $1 elsewhere – all eligible for the 25% boost.

  • 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

Citibank Hilton HHonors Reserve Credit Card
Apply Now

on Citibank's
secure website

The Citi HHonors Reserve from Citi offers pretty much the best signup bonus offered right now: 2 weekend nights at a Hilton hotel, a bonus worth a whopping $650 when redeemed for a Category 7 stay, when you spend $2,500 in the first 4 months. Talk about luxury! And the perks don’t end there – you’ll get 10 points per $1 at the hilton, 5 per $1 on airfare and car rentals, and 3 per $1 elsewhere for ongoing rewards, plus an anniversary bonus of 1 free night if you spend $10k a year. That’s a $325 bonus for spending $10,000, on top of your regular rewards. The HHonors Reserve also has no foreign transaction fee and EMV capability, key for international travelers. We’d say it’s well worth the $95 annual fee.

  • 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

Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
Apply Now

on Chase's
secure website

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-Cartlon, 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 you’re 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

Chase British Airways Credit Card
Apply Now

on Chase's
secure website

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: Get 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

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card
Apply Now

on Chase's
secure website

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
We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet's official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.
  • http://twitter.com/sunkcosts slug

    What happened to #2?

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Good catch, Slug! The Sapphire is just so awesome it ties for first place with itself.

  • Davep763

    I love the Chase Sapphire but was going to cancel to avoid the annual fee. When can I reapply to get the rewards again? Or can I even do that?

    Thanks!

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Chase includes language in their terms and conditions that seem to indicate they won’t give you the bonus:

      Chase cardmembers who currently have or have had a Chase credit card in any Rewards Program associated with this offer or have received a similar bonus offer, may not be eligible for a second Chase credit card in the same Rewards Program, or for any bonus offer. Chase cardmembers currently receiving promotional pricing, or Chase cardmembers with a history of only using their current or prior Chase card for promotional pricing offers, are not eligible for a second Chase credit card with promotional pricing.

      From that language, it seems like they might “blacklist” you for trying to game the system too much. That said, you can sometimes get exceptions to the stated policy by simply asking or trusting to luck.

      • Davep763

        Thanks for your help! I’ll give it a shot anyways and if it works, will report back.

        • eeka

          I got the regular chase sapphire first and the bonus. Applied for the preferred and got it and the bonus. They transferred my points from my regular sapphire to the preferred without issue. I use the preferred only however, but did not cancel the regular sapphire…hth

          • Rob

            I applied for the Premium and got it, cancelled it before the annual fee. Waited a few months and did it again, again got the bonus. I am trying to do it a third time and was recently told by an employee that the waiting period is 90 days to be eligible again. That being said, they were overseas, and i’m not completely sure they understood the question.

    • looking4job

      After 6 months. Also look into the city bank limited time promo.

  • John Smith

    In a unique position compared to some of you as I do not need flyer miles. So my question is which mile programs offer gift card redemption. And what is the average points per gift card dollar for each program. For example: I completed the southwest bonus and am getting $500 in gift cards for the 50k points to buy groceries and gas at walmart. Does AA, US Airways, or Delta offer this? If so whats the points per dollar? Again I understand its a loss to not take flights but I am at a place in life Im trying to build wealth rather than live the good life of traveling, so if I can put the bonus towards my regular expenses thats best for me right now. I can rack the miles up down the road :)

    • Chris Topher Conley

      I think the free Amex cards like the Blue Cash Everyday (3% groceries) and the Costco True Earnings Card (3% gas, 2% restaurants) are worth checking out if you don’t travel. The free Capital One Quicksilver (1.5% everything) has a $100 signup bonus right now too.

  • Mike Stalls

    i spend about $75k per year on my AmEx gold rewards, i dont travel much… what would be a better card, or is there a better card?

    • looking4job

      The amex gold is rarely worth the 195$ fee. Sure they give you the occasional upgrade if available but american express seems to have higher rates on hotels and travel.while the sapphire preffered credit card from chase offers 20% off flights when redeeming their points through their website which is almost exactly comparable to a website like price line, the gold card seems to be worth 20% less in my experience. The sapphire also waives foreign transaction fees of 3% and after waiving the first year is only 95$. They offer a great sign up bonus of 450$ between primary and authorized user after spending 3k in 3 months.the card also has a chip and is metal not plastic. The beat part is if you don’t want to travel unlike the gold, the ultimate rewards can be resdemes for 1% cash value

    • Ian McIntire

      I’d also recommend the Barclay Arrival+ or Capital One Venture card if you’re spending that much. 2 points per $1 would be an extra 75k points vs. a typical 1 pt card.

  • icbintern

    What are the steps to redeeming BA points in AA?

    • blowitup

      it’s relatively easy. but you have to book through BA phone reps, which is sometimes a bit harder, since they aren’t as familiar with the AA network.

      we’ve used BA points now two years in a row to fly to MIA for vacation, though.

  • dee bag

    air tran visa had a nice promo. two free round trip flights with annual fee waived the first year after spending was met. We flew into Nassau, Bahamas for a week.

  • John Smith

    I’m looking for the best card for airline rewards and I’m considering this card or the Citi aadvantage card…I’m new to all this…. I have a few questions that I hope someone can answer for me…
    1. Can I link a Chase Sapphire to my bank account somehow so that I can get points for purchases from my bank account??
    2. Does the recent increase in required miles on United make the Citi Card a much better choice?
    3. Do you get miles for miles flown as well?
    Thanks

  • MichaelRC

    Might also wanna check out the rewards calculator at CredítCardTuneUp. com to see which cards will pay you the best total rewards of signup bonus plus ongoing rewards for your expenses.

    It calculates the best card combos for you too.

  • Moiz Jafferji

    I have an offer for 50,000 sign up bonus on the Southwest card. Email me if you’re interested: moizmalumaat@gmail.com

  • DB Andersen

    I have an offer for the 50000 sign up bonus for the Southwest Personal Plus Credit Card. Annual Fee is $69. This offer expires 9/30/14.
    If interested please email me at
    retiredarmygen@yahoo.com
    And I will send you the offer via email.
    Thanks and have a great day.