If you have a very good credit score, credit card companies want you -- and they want you badly.
In an effort to win over new customers, card companies are offering everything from elevated sign-up bonuses to exclusive perks to attract cardholders who are more likely to spend heavily and pay their bills on time. Those with high credit scores can really cash in from premier cards, which frequently offer hundreds of dollars in new cardholder bonuses to qualifying cardholders.
Here are three great cards that offer up to $1,350 in free travel rewards.
$625 toward travel plus a rental car perk
Vacations are great, but they're even better when you don't have to pay full price. The Chase Sapphire Preferred has one of the most attractive sign-up bonuses on the market today. Qualifying cardholders receive 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, which converts to $625 of travel when points are redeemed through Chase's Ultimate Rewards portal.
Importantly, Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to a myriad of airline and hotel rewards and loyalty programs, including programs offered by British Airways, Southwest Airlines, and Marriott Rewards, just to name a few.
One of its best perks is hidden in the fine print: Cardholders enjoy free primary collision damage waiver protection on rental cars charged to the card. Primary insurance means that damage to the rental car is charged to the card company's insurance, not yours, and it can save cardholders from paying as much as $15 a day to get similar protection from the rental company.
The card carries an annual fee of $95, which is waived in the first year. Cardholders earn two points per dollar spent on travel and dining worldwide and one point per dollar on all other spending. With the new cardholder bonus and high ongoing rewards rate, it makes the grade as one of Fool.com's top picks for the best travel cards of 2017. Learn more in our full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Get a big boost from a no-annual-fee card
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® card is a great choice in no-annual-fee travel cards. While the new cardholder bonus of 20,000 points may seem pedestrian, the card has a low minimum spending requirement to qualify. Qualifying cardholders must spend $1,000 in the first 90 days to receive the 20,000-point bonus, which is valued at $200 when redeemed for travel.
What makes the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® a good pick is its high ongoing rewards rate of 1.5 points per dollar, with the option to earn higher rewards based on the cardholder's relationship with Bank of America.
Bank of America customers can receive an additional 10% to 75% bonus on points earned depending on their banking status, which can elevate the rewards rate up to 1.65 to 2.62 points per dollar spent. Members at the highest tier of the bank's Preferred Reward program enjoy one of the highest base rewards rate of any travel credit card.
Rewards can be redeemed via a flexible statement credit, making it an excellent choice for card users who prefer to shop around for travel rather than use a bank's limited travel portal. With a high ongoing rewards rate, no annual fees, an easy-to-meet new cardholder bonus, and flexible redemptions, it's one of the best cards for people who value simplicity and flexibility from a no-fee card. Learn more from the full review of the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card®.
$525 in flexible travel bonuses
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard has one of the highest base rewards rates of any premier travel card. The card earns at a rate of two miles per dollar spent, and it rewards cardholders for making redemptions in the form of a 5% redemption bonus. (Cardholders who redeem 100,000 miles for travel would have 5,000 points added back to their balance, for example.)
The best part about the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard is that rewards are remarkably easy to use. Rewards are claimed via a statement credit, thus allowing travelers to charge travel expenses to their card and have the cost erased from their statement with just a few clicks. Miles convert at a rate of $0.01 each when redeemed for travel, but cash redemptions value each mile at just $0.005 each.
Qualifying cardholders receive 50,000 miles after spending at least $3,000 in the first 90 days after approval. Including the redemption bonus, new cardholders effectively receive 52,500 miles worth $525 in travel redemptions. Be aware of the card's $89 annual fee (waived for the first year) before applying. Learn more about the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard in our full review of the card's benefits.
A word of caution
Credit cards aren't for everyone. Used appropriately and responsibly, credit cards offer superior fraud protection compared to debit cards, while rewarding cardholders with bonuses and perks that make travel more affordable. A credit card can also help pad a cardholder's credit score, as on-time payments and credit utilization are two factors that make up the majority of a FICO score.
Used irresponsibly, credit cards can cause financial hardship, as interest charges, late penalties, and annual fees can cause balances to grow at a rate as high as 29.99% each year when the cardholder fails to make payments on time.
Rewards cards are best enjoyed by those who pay their balances in full each month. In many cases, a single month's interest can add up to more than the rewards a cardholder earns, erasing any financial benefit. It makes little sense to earn $50 in one-time travel rewards only to pay $50 in recurring monthly interest on a growing balance.