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NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Sign-up Bonus Offers of 2016

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Credit card sign-up bonuses offer a quick way to earn hundreds of dollars’ worth of rewards by using your card regularly, but the best deals don’t always stick around. The largest bonuses typically come from travel credit cards — airline- and hotel-branded cards especially, but also general travel cards.

Here are NerdWallet’s picks for the best current sign-up bonuses. Click a card’s name for more information about it:

GENERAL TRAVEL CARDSSIGN-UP BONUS
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardEarn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
HOTEL CARDSSIGN-UP BONUS
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American ExpressGet 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit CardEarn 80,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
AIRLINE CARDSSIGN-UP BONUS
British Airways Visa Signature® Card50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit CardEarn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
CASH BACK CARDSSIGN-UP BONUS
Chase Freedom®Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressSpecial Offer - Earn 5% cash back on eligible travel purchases in the first 6 months, up to $200. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply
Discover it® - Cashback Match™You could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™. We’ll automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. New cardmembers only.

Find a breakdown of each card below:

Best bonuses: General travel cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • A large bonus
  • $0 foreign transaction fee
  • Cool factor - metal card
  • Rewards redemption bonus through Ultimate Rewards

Cons

  • Introductory annual fee of $0 the first year, then $95
  • Best for savvy travelers

Bonus Offer

Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, then $95

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 16.24% - 23.24% Variable APR
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named a 'Best Credit Card' for Travel Rewards by MONEY Magazine
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to 10 travel rewards programs, including airlines and hotels. 

What are the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s points worth?

Ultimate Rewards points are worth a minimum of 1 cent each and can be redeemed for things like gift cards, Amazon purchases or straight cash back. Point value jumps to 1.25 cents when used to book travel through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

Who is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card good for?

  • People who spend on restaurants and travel. It earns 2 points per $1 spent in those categories and 1 point per $1 on everything else.
  • Travelers who aren’t loyal to one airline or hotel chain. Points can be redeemed to book travel through Chase or transferred at 1:1 rate to a variety of branded rewards programs.
  • People who travel internationally. There’s no foreign transaction fee.

» Read the full Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review here.
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Best bonuses: Hotel cards

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Pros

  • High rewards rate
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Needs excellent credit
  • Rewards only valuable if you stay at Starwood properties frequently

Bonus Offer

Get 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, then $95

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 15.49%-19.49% Variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.49%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • Get 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
  • Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • Get free nights at over 1,200 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries with no blackout dates. Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms and Conditions apply.
  • View Rates and Fees

Sign-up bonus: Get 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply Use points at Starwood Preferred Guest hotels, or transfer them to airlines like Alaska, American, British Airways, Delta, Virgin Atlantic and more, usually at a 1:1 rate.

What are the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express’ points worth?

We value Starpoints at 2.3 cents apiece on average. They’re worth most when redeemed to book domestic weekday and weekend hotel stays at SPG locations. Starpoints can also be redeemed, at a lower value, for things like rental cars, charitable donations and gift cards.

Who is the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express good for?

  • People who stay at SPG properties:
    • It earns 4-5 points per dollar at SPG hotels, with 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
    • Starwood provides opportunities to upgrade to Gold and Platinum status, which, if achieved, grants the cardholder accelerated return rates and additional fringe benefits (free upgrades and late checkout, for example).
  • People who fly on different airlines; you can trade in Starpoints at a 1:1 point-to-mile ratio on many popular airlines, making the card more lucrative, on average, than many of those airlines’ own co-branded cards.
  • People who travel internationally. There’s no foreign transaction fee.

Nerd Tip

Marriott’s bid to buy Starwood leaves the future value of Starpoints somewhat uncertain. Though no changes are likely for a while, keep an eye out for updates on the value of Starpoints moving forward.

» Read the full Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express review here.
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Best bonuses: Hotel cards

Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Needs excellent credit
  • Rewards only valuable if you frequently stay at Marriott properties

Bonus Offer

Earn 80,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

$85

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 16.24%-23.24% Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 80,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Plus, Earn 7,500 bonus points when you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Enjoy 1 Free Night Stay at a Category 1-5 location every year after your account anniversary date!
  • Earn unlimited Marriott Rewards points and get free stays faster
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent at participating Marriott locations & 2 points per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airlines, at car rental agencies & restaurants
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent everywhere else
  • The fastest way to earn Marriott Rewards Elite Status. Receive 15 Elite Credits guaranteeing Silver Elite Status or better. Plus, Earn 1 Elite Credit for every $3,000 spent on purchases
  • All for an $85 Annual Fee

Sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Use points for hotel stays, free flights, merchandise, gift cards and other travel expenses.

What are the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card’s points worth?

We value Marriott Rewards Points at around 1 cent apiece on average. They’re worth most when redeemed for domestic and international weekday stays and domestic weekend stays at Marriott hotels.

Who is the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card good for?

  • People who stay at Marriott hotels. The card:
    • Earns 5 points for every dollar spent at Marriott locations, 2 points per dollar for airfare bought directly from airlines, rental car agencies and restaurants, and 1 point per dollar on everything else
    • Comes with automatic Silver Elite status — priority late checkout, discounts on amenities and more
    • Provides one free night every year on the anniversary of card approval for as long as you have the card
  • People who travel internationally. There’s no foreign transaction fee.

» Read the full Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card review here.
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Best bonuses: Airline cards

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • $0 Foreign Transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Needs excellent credit
  • Most valuable for those who fly British Airways or oneWorld partners

Bonus Offer

50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 16.24%-23.24% Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you'll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years
  • In addition to the bonus Avios, you will also get 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad.
  • Chip Technology allows you to use your card for chip based purchases in Europe & beyond, while still giving you the ability to use your card as you do today at home

Sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Use miles for flights on American Airlines and other OneWorld partners, as well as Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines and OpenSkies.

What are the British Airways Visa Signature® Card’s points worth?

We value Avios at 1.6 cents apiece on average. Business/first class international flights with British Airways can be redeemed for around 1.8 cents per Avios, with some flights providing a value of as much as 3.7 cents apiece.

Who is the British Airways Visa Signature® Card good for?

  • People who fly on British Airways.
    • This card earns 3 Avios per dollar spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios per dollar on all other purchases.
    • Additional bonuses: 25,000 Avios when you spend at least $10,000 and 25,000 more when you spend at least $20,000 in your first year
    • Travel Together Ticket: If you spend more than $30,000 with your card, you’ll earn a free companion ticket (good for two years) when you redeem your Avios for a reward seat.
  • Some domestic travelers, too: Avios can be used to book flights with any OneWorld Alliance member, including domestic carrier American Airlines.
  • People who travel internationally. There’s no foreign transaction fee.

Read the full British Airways Visa Signature® Card review here.
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Best bonuses: Airline cards

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • $0 foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • $99 ongoing Annual Fee
  • Best for savvy travelers

Bonus Offer

Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Annual Fee

$99

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 16.24%-23.24% Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Chip-enabled cards with 24/7 fraud monitoring
  • Points Don't Expire, No Blackout Dates, Bags Fly Free®
  • 6,000 points after your Cardmember Anniversary every year
  • 2 points/$1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases and participating Hotel and Car Rental partners
  • 1 point/$1 spent on all other purchases

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Use miles for Southwest Airlines or international flights, hotel rooms, rental cars or gift cards.

What are the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card’s points worth?

We value Rapid Rewards points at 1 cent apiece on average. Domestic and international Wanna Get Away?® fares offer the best redemption value at 1.1 cents each.

Who is the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card good for?

  • People who fly on Southwest. The card:
    • Earns 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines purchases, Rapid Rewards hotels and rental car purchases. It earns 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
    • Provides an anniversary bonus of 6,000 bonus points every year on your account anniversary
    • Has no blackout dates. If there’s a seat available, and you have the points, you’re good to go.
  • People who travel internationally. There’s no foreign transaction fee.

» Read the full Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card review here.
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Best bonuses: Cash back cards

Chase Freedom®

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Qualify with Good credit

Cons

  • If you value simplicity, a flat rate cash back card may be better

Bonus Offer

Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

APR

  • APR: 14.24%-23.24% Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 14.24-23.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like gas stations, restaurants, and wholesale clubs
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee

Sign-up bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Earns straight cash back — not points — on eligible purchases

What are the Chase Freedom®’s points worth?

The Chase Freedom® earns cash back directly; no need to convert points to dollars.

Who is the Chase Freedom® good for?

  • A wide range of people; the Chase Freedom® offers 5% cash back in bonus categories that change each quarter, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter. All other spending earns 1% cash back. Here are the categories for 2016:
Q1 (Jan. 1 – March 31)Gas stations and local commuter transportation (not including parking, tolls or Amtrak)
Q2 (April 1 – June 30)Grocery stores and wholesale clubs
Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)Restaurants and wholesale clubs
Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)Holiday shopping (specifics to be announced) and wholesale clubs

Note: Cardholders must remember to opt in to bonus categories to earn the 5% cash back.

» Read the full Chase Freedom® review here.
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Best bonuses: Cash back cards

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Pros

  • Leading cash back rewards for groceries
  • Sign-up bonus
  • 0% APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers

Cons

  • Has annual fee - but if you spend more than $31/week the rewards offset the fees
  • American Express isn’t accepted at as many merchants as Visa or MasterCard

Bonus Offer

Special Offer - Earn 5% cash back on eligible travel purchases in the first 6 months, up to $200. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply

Annual Fee

$95

Intro APR Promotions

0% on Purchases for 12 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months

APR

  • APR: 13.24%-23.24% Variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.49%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • Special Offer - Earn 5% cash back on eligible travel purchases in the first 6 months, up to $200.
  • Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
  • Everyday Cash Back: 6% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); 3% at U.S. gas stations; 1% other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • No rotating reward categories. No enrollment required.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. You can only earn cash back on eligible purchases.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then a variable rate, currently 13.24% to 23.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms and Conditions apply.
  • View Rates and Fees

Sign-up bonus: Special Offer - Earn 5% cash back on eligible travel purchases in the first 6 months, up to $200. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply 

What are the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express’s points worth?

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns cash back directly; no need to convert points to dollars.

Who is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express good for?

  • People who spend at least $31 a week at grocery stores. The card earns 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases). Spending at least $31 a week will offset the annual fee of $95.
  • Commuters and shoppers. The card earns 3% back at U.S. gas stations and select department stores and 1% on all other purchases.

» Read the full Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express review here.
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Best bonuses: Cash back cards

Discover it® - Cashback Match™

Apply Now on Discover's secure website

Pros

  • Cash back match at the end of your first year
  • Bonus cash back categories
  • No annual fee
  • 0% on purchases for 12 months and 0% on balance transfers for 12 months

Cons

  • Slightly less merchant acceptance for Discover in US - acceptance outside of US can be an issue
  • No sign-up bonus
  • If you value simplicity, a flat rate cash back card may be better

Bonus Offer

You could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™. We’ll automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. New cardmembers only.

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

0% on purchases for 12 months and 0% on balance transfers for 12 months

APR

  • APR: 11.24% – 23.24% Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • You could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™. We’ll automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. New cardmembers only.
  • Earn 5% cash back in new bonus categories like gas, restaurants, Amazon and more - up to $1500 every quarter you activate. Plus, unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • FICO® Credit Scores for free on statements and online.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

New cardmember bonus: You could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™. We’ll automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. New cardmembers only.

What are the Discover it® - Cashback Match™’s points worth?

The Discover it® - Cashback Match™ earns cash back directly; no need to convert points to dollars.

Who is the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ good for?

  • A wide range of consumers. The Discover it® - Cashback Match™ offers 5% cash back bonus (on up to $1,500 in spending each quarter) in categories that rotate throughout the year. All other spending earns 1% back. Here are the categories for 2016:

Q1 (Jan. 1 – March 31)Gas and ground transportation
Q2 (April 1 – June 30)Restaurants and movies
Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)Home improvement and Amazon.com
Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)Amazon.com, department stores and Sam's Club

  • People willing to wait for a bigger bonus. The Discover it® - Cashback Match™ doesn’t have a traditional sign-up bonus for spending a certain amount of money in the first few months. Instead, your bonus comes at the end of your first year, and it depends entirely on your use of the card — the more you use it, the more you’ll get back. The Cashback Match feature essentially turns this into a 2% cash back card for the first year, with 10% back for spending in the bonus categories. That gives it the best flat rate of any cash back card … at least for the first year.

Note: Cardholders must remember to opt in to bonus categories to earn the 5% cash back.

» Read the full Discover it® - Cashback Match™ review here.
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Methodology

NerdWallet’s credit cards team selects cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to win in multiple categories.

Last updated June 13, 2016.

Kevin Cash is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: kcash@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @kevin_cash.