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Many of us spent our lockdowns and quarantines fervently imagining all the amazing trips we'd take as soon as it was safe. With hope on the horizon, 2021 could be the perfect time to collect enough credit card rewards to turn those quarantine dreams into travel realities.
The best way to score enough travel rewards for a dream trip is with sign-up bonuses. A good plan is to start with a points card with transferable rewards that you can use for airfare and rental cars. Then, add on a hotel card from your favorite brand to cover your accommodations.
With the right card combo, you can easily earn 160,000 or more in rewards points -- enough to pay for your entire vacation when redeemed wisely. Here's a look at some of the biggest credit card sign-up bonuses as we head into 2021.
Bank 60k+ in transferable points
Most of the redemptions offering you the best per-point value on your credit card rewards will involve transferring your points to an airline frequent flyer program. The sign-up bonuses on the following cards are all enough to travel domestically for free, and smart use could help you travel internationally, too.
Platinum Card® from American Express
Despite its $550 annual fee, the Platinum Card® from American Express is a long-standing travel rewards favorite, and it always has a solid sign-up bonus. Right now, you can earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® points by spending $5,000 in the first six months.
On top of that, new cardholders enjoy 10x Membership Rewards® points per dollar at U.S. grocery stores and gas stations on up to $15,000 in combined purchases in the first six months. Depending on your grocery budget, that could easily mean 15,000 or more in extra points before summer.
American Express® Gold Card
Whether you prefer home cooking or delivery, the $250-a-year American Express® Gold Card has you covered with great rewards. You can also earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points when you spend $4,000 in the first six months, a reasonable requirement some folks could meet with food purchases alone.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the less expensive of the two Sapphire cards -- it costs just $95 a year -- but it frequently offers a larger sign-up bonus than its pricier sibling. New cardholders can earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards® points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
Citi Premier® Card
Another mid-tier card with a top-tier bonus, the Citi Premier® Card offers a sign-up bonus of 60,000 ThankYou® points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months. The card comes with a $95 annual fee, and Citi doesn't have quite as many transfer partners as American Express and Chase do, but you can still get some quality redemptions with those 60,000 ThankYou® points.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
A somewhat recent addition to the transferable points game, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has a $95 annual fee and a tiered sign-up bonus that starts with 50,000 Venture® miles for spending $3,000 in the first three months.
Cardholders can earn an additional 50,000 miles for spending a total of $20,000 in the first 12 months. It's worth noting that Capital One's list of transfer partners doesn't include most of the major domestic carriers and the transfer rate is low.
Stays for days with 100k+ in hotel rewards
Most of the major hotel brands have at least one credit card that offers hotel loyalty points, and these cards often feature six-figure sign-up bonuses. What's more, hotel credit cards tend to come with a number of extra perks like status upgrades and free nights.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Hilton cards often come with massive sign-up bonuses, like the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card offering 130,000 Hilton Honors points for just $2,000 in spending during the first three months. Cardholders will also receive Hilton Gold status for their $95 annual fee.
For Hilton loyalists, the $450 Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is also worth a look. It comes with a sign-up bonus worth 20,000 more points than the American Express Surpass® Card (for twice the spend) and Diamond status.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ Card is the pinnacle of Marriott carddom -- especially right now. New cardholders can currently earn 100,000 Marriott Rewards points for meeting the $5,000 spending requirement, as well as receive Platinum Elite status in 2021. Keep in mind that the card also comes with a $450 annual fee, so it's likely only worthwhile for regular Marriott patrons.
Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card
Although not as commonly discussed as other cards on our list, the Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card nonetheless has a very impressive 125,000-point sign-up bonus for spending $3,000 in the first 90 days. The $75 annual fee even unlocks Gold status with Radisson. Applicants who don't qualify for the Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card will be automatically considered for the Radisson Rewards Platinum Visa® Card, so double-check your approval.
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (platinum elite)
Rounding out the hotel bonuses is the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, which gives cardholders 140,000 points for spending $3,000 within the first three months. The $89 annual fee is also waived for the first year. As a Chase co-branded card, the IHG® Rewards Club Premier is subject to the 5/24 rule.
Check referrals and private mode for bigger offers
If you're not seeing a card's top offer, you may still have options. In some cases, better offers can be found while searching online in private or incognito mode on your browser. Using direct offer links or referral links can also sometimes unlock larger sign-up bonuses than if you navigate from the issuer's site.