Published in: Credit Cards | Aug. 20, 2019

6 Reasons to Jump on a Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus

By:  Lyle Daly

We are committed to full transparency as part of our mission to make the world smarter, happier, & richer. You should know that offers on The Ascent may be from our partners - it's how we make money. That transparency to you is core to our editorial integrity, which isn’t influenced by compensation.


Here’s when you should snatch up a credit card sign-up bonus.


credit card atop stack of 100-dollar bills

Image source: Getty Images

Considering they give you the opportunity to earn some serious cash back or travel rewards, credit card sign-up bonuses can be a major selling point for potential cardholders.

But applying for a new credit card isn’t always a clear-cut decision. You’ll need to be sure that you can get approved for the card and meet the conditions of the bonus, because if not, you’re wasting your time. It’s also important that you get the right card and bonus for your financial needs.

If you’re not sure whether to fill out that credit card application, here are the best reasons to take advantage of a bonus opportunity.

1. You have a trip coming up

Travel rewards cards are known for having some of the biggest sign-up bonuses on the market, so they’re the perfect way to save money on a vacation. Depending on the card and where you’re going, your bonus could end up paying for your airfare, your accommodations, or maybe even both.

Since there are so many travel cards available, you’ll have plenty of options to help pay for your trip, no matter where you’re planning to go. Just make sure you apply for the card early enough that you can receive it in the mail and earn the bonus by the time you need to book everything.

2. You’re confident you can hit the spending minimum

Many sign-up bonuses have spending minimums that are required to get the bonus. For a smaller bonus, the minimum may be $500 or $1,000 of spending on the credit card within the first three months. Larger bonuses could require you to spend $3,000, $5,000, or more within that time frame.

When a sign-up bonus has a spending minimum, double-check that you can reach that minimum comfortably with just your usual spending. You don’t want to miss out on your bonus because you can’t spend enough, and you also don’t want to make unnecessary purchases solely to hit a minimum.

3. You want the card anyway

Here’s an easy one -- if a credit card has caught your eye because of the perks it offers, then you should go ahead and apply for it. You already want the card, so you can consider the sign-up bonus the cherry on top.

4. You have good credit

Your credit card options are somewhat limited if your credit is subpar. You may have trouble getting the best credit cards or the most valuable sign-up bonuses.

That all changes once your credit score is in the good-to-excellent range. To clarify, the good credit range is a FICO® Score of 670 to 720, and excellent is anything above 720.

When you’ve gotten your credit to this point, it makes sense to use that high score to your advantage. One smart way to do this is to find a card with a valuable sign-up bonus. You have the credit to qualify, so you might as well use it.

5. You want to pocket some extra cash

Even if you haven’t been shopping around for a new credit card lately, you may want to consider checking out some cash-back cards. You can find plenty of cards with $100 to $200 sign-up bonuses that only require you to spend $500 to $1,000. And most cash-back cards don’t charge an annual fee.

Bonuses like these are basically free money. As long as you pay off your credit card bill every month, you’re guaranteed to come out ahead.

6. You have an expensive purchase to make

One way to make a big purchase a little less painful is to use it so you can reach the spending minimum on a sign-up bonus.

Maybe you need to put new tires on your car, furnish your living room, or buy tickets to an event. If you’re going to be spending the money anyway, it makes sense to get a bonus out of it. This is also a great way to hit a spending minimum that you wouldn’t be able to reach with your typical expenses.

The right time to grab a bonus

As you can see, there are a lot of situations when it makes sense to get a credit card sign-up bonus. When you have the credit score for an approval, you should definitely check what kind of bonuses are out there that can help you save some money. 

Our #1 cash back pick has a surprise bonus

This may be the perfect cash back card! That's because it packs in $1,148 of value. Cardholders can earn up to 5% cash back, double rewards in the first year, and avoid interest well into 2020. With such a deep bench of perks you'll wonder how this card packs in a $0 annual fee. Best yet, you can apply and get a decision in two minutes. Learn more with our in-depth review.

Find the right card for you

Cash Back & Rewards