by Brittney Myers | Feb. 6, 2021
You don't need to spend like a Rockefeller to earn big bonuses.
There's something about redeeming a big pile of credit card rewards that always brings a smile to my face. In fact, just knowing that I'm maximizing my rewards each time I tap my card can be satisfying (despite the work of maintaining my card collection and its associated spreadsheets).
But you don't need to have a 12-card wallet and big annual fees to know you're getting a great return on your purchases. Nor do you need to (nor should you!) churn cards with massive spending requirements to enjoy the sweet satisfaction of redeeming a big sign-up bonus. Some of our favorite no-annual-fee cards come with competitive sign-up bonuses and solid rewards.
So, you can have your sign-up bonuses -- and maximize, too -- without paying a dime in annual fees. These three cards, for example, cover a spectrum of purchase rewards and offer big bonuses worth a total of $600. Since they each offer unique rewards without annual fees, this trio of cards would make a great start to anyone's card collection.
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a solid starter card for any would-be rewards maximizer thanks to its combination of static bonus rewards and quarterly rotating bonus categories. Year-round, you'll earn 3% cash back at restaurants and drugstores, plus 5% back on travel booked through Chase.
Additionally, each quarter you activate your bonus category, you'll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined bonus category purchases. For example, through March 2021, Chase Freedom cardholders earn 5% back on cable and internet, on select streaming services, and at wholesale clubs.
And let's not forget the sign-up bonus. You can earn $200 by spending just $500 on your new card within the first three months. No matter what your budget, chances are good you can meet the low spending requirement without a lot of effort (my internet bill alone would almost be enough).
The next card to consider is the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card. While there's a slight overlap in rewards with the Chase Freedom Flex℠ -- both cards earn 3% back on dining -- the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is more than dining rewards.
Cardholders earn 3% back not just on dining, but also on entertainment purchases, including sporting events, movie theaters, zoos, museums, and record stores. Additionally, you'll earn 2% cash back on grocery store purchases (excluding big-box stores like Target and Walmart).
The Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card's sign-up bonus also rivals the Chase offer, with the same $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first three months. Groceries alone would likely get you there, but a couple of nice (socially distanced) trips to the zoo with 3% cash back could help, too.
Every rewards maximizing strategy needs its anchor card, and the American Express Cash Magnet® Card is a good option. With the American Express Cash Magnet® Card, cardholders earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, regardless of the category. Buying a new rug? You'll earn 1.5% back. Need to pay some bills? That's 1.5% back, too.
And with the same flat rate on every purchase, it'll be easy to earn solid purchase rewards while working toward the card's $200 sign-up bonus. You'll need to spend a little more for this bonus -- the spending requirement is $1,000 in the first three months -- but non-category spending like utilities can quickly get you there.
Thanks to a persnickety restriction known as the Chase 5/24 Rule, you can only get a Chase credit card if you haven't opened more than five cards in the last 24 months. So, if you plan on going after multiple cards, it's a good idea to start with any Chase card picks.
Of course, you'll also want to be sure to leave some time between applications regardless of the issuer. Signing up for several new credit cards at the same time can be a red flag on your credit, reducing your credit score. It'll also make it harder to hit your sign-up bonus spending requirements if you're trying to earn multiple bonuses at once.
Speaking of bonuses, don't worry if you don't see the largest bonus when you head to apply for a card. The available sign-up bonus offers not only change regularly, but they can even be different depending on things like which browser you use. One common trick is to look at the card's page in incognito or private mode on your browser when searching for the best deals.
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