Best Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses for February 2020

Matt is a Certified Financial Planner® and investment advisor based in Columbia, South Carolina. He writes personal finance and investment advice, and in 2017 he received the SABEW Best in Business Award.

We are committed to full transparency in our mission to make the world smarter, happier, & richer. Offers on The Ascent may be from our partners - it's how we make money - and we have not reviewed all available products and offers. That transparency to you is core to our editorial integrity, which isn’t influenced by compensation.

We’ve vetted some of the most popular offers on the market and narrowed down the list to a select number that fit with what we value in a credit card -- namely, balancing rewards with Swiss Army knife-style perks that help you ascend to conquer your money goals.

Ratings Methodology
Travel bonus
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Rewards

2x points on travel and dining, 1x points on all other purchases. 25% more points for travel booked through Chase's portal.

Annual Fee

$95

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A
Balance Transfers: N/A

Ongoing APR

17.49% - 24.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

60,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months -- worth $750 of travel redeemed through Chase

Highlights
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Unlimited miles
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Capital One's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Capital One's Secure Website.

Rewards

Unlimited 2x miles on all purchases

Annual Fee

$0 intro for first year; $95 after that

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A
Balance Transfers: N/A

Ongoing APR

17.24% - 24.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

50,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within three months, equal to $500 in travel, up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓

Highlights
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
High cash back
Discover it® Cash Back

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Discover's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Discover's Secure Website.

Rewards

Earn 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories you activate ($1,500 quarterly spending cap), 1% back on all else

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 14 months
Balance Transfers: 0%, 14 months

Ongoing APR

13.49% - 24.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

Double cash back in the first year -- that's worth up to 10% back, FICO score for free

Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Bank of America's Secure Website.

Great for: Cash rewards program Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Why Apply

Includes a market-leading bonus in the no-annual fee category and a flexible cash rewards program that enables you to earn premium cash back in a category of your choice. Plus, the long 0% intro APR offer makes this card a standout among its peers. Read Full Review

Apply Now

On Bank of America's Secure Website.

Rewards

3% cash back on gas or in your choice category, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), 1% on all else.

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 15 billing cycles
Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 billing cycles for balance transfers made within first 60 days

Ongoing APR

15.49% - 25.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

$200 after spending at least $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening, 25% to 75% more rewards for Preferred Rewards members

Highlights
  • No annual fee
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • No expiration on rewards
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase
Chase Freedom®

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Rewards

5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, 1% on all else

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 15 months
Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months

Ongoing APR

16.49% - 25.24% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

$150 after spending $500 within three months, free credit score monitoring

Highlights
  • 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. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • 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 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Rewards

3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees

Annual Fee

$550

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A
Balance Transfers: N/A

Ongoing APR

18.49% - 25.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Worth $750 redeemed for travel through Chase, up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®

Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Bank of America's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Bank of America's Secure Website.

Rewards

2x points on travel & dining purchases, unlimited 1.5x points on all else, 25%-75% more points for Bank of America Preferred Rewards members

Annual Fee

$95

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A
Balance Transfers: N/A

Ongoing APR

17.49% - 24.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

50,000 bonus points - a $500 value – after $3,000 in purchases within 90 days, 25% to 75% more points for Preferred Rewards members

Highlights
  • Receive 50,000 bonus points - a $500 value - after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
  • No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire
  • Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
  • Get up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits + valuable travel insurance protections
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Low $95 annual fee
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Bank of America's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Bank of America's Secure Website.

Rewards

Unlimited 1.5x points, 25%-75% more points for Bank of America Preferred Rewards members

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 12 billing cycles
Balance Transfers: N/A

Ongoing APR

16.49% - 24.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

25,000 points after spending $1,000 within 90 days, 25% to 75% more points for Preferred Rewards members

Highlights
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases. After the intro APR ends, 16.49% - 24.49% Variable APR will apply
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more points on every purchase
Discover it® Miles

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Discover's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Discover's Secure Website.

Rewards

Unlimited 1.5 Miles per $1

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 14 months
Balance Transfers: 10.99%, 14 months

Ongoing APR

13.49% - 24.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

Double Miles in the first year, FICO score for free

Highlights
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Miles Pay You Back. Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases. Or get cash.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Well Fargo's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Well Fargo's Secure Website.

Rewards

3X points for eating out and ordering in, gas stations, rideshares, transit, flights, hotels, and more, 1x points on all else

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 12 months
Balance Transfers: 0%, 12 months on qualifying balance transfers

Ongoing APR

15.49%-27.49%, variable

Bonuses & Perks

Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months, mobile phone protection

Highlights
  • Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that’s a $200 cash redemption value
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign currency conversion fee
  • Earn 3X points on eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points on travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 3X points on gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points on popular streaming services
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Rewards

3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories, 1 point per $1 on all else. Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase.

Annual Fee

$95

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A
Balance Transfers: N/A

Ongoing APR

17.74% - 22.74% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases within 3 months. That's $1,000 towards travel booked with Chase, free employee cards

Highlights
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee
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People who have good to excellent credit scores can cash in on sign-up bonuses valued at hundreds of dollars just for opening a new credit card account and using it for purchases. In a competitive card market, many of the best credit cards are paying out some of the largest sign-up bonuses in recent memory.

In this new “golden age” for credit card rewards, sign-up bonuses remain one of the best ways to get a fast start toward earning high rewards. You can think of a sign-up bonus as a way to earn elevated rewards shortly after opening a new credit card account.

Sign-up bonuses 101

A credit card sign-up bonus is a financial incentive you receive for opening a new credit card account and using it for a certain amount of spending shortly after account opening. A typical sign-up bonus might offer cardholders $150 in cash after spending at least $500 in the first 90 days after account opening.

Credit cards with the biggest sign-up bonus opportunities generally carry an annual fee and require more spending to qualify. For example, some cards offer bonuses upwards of $750 in travel value, though you'll incur an annual fee and have to spend $3,000 to $4,000 in the first three months after account opening. In contrast, no-annual-fee credit cards offer sign-up bonuses worth $150 or $200 and typically require only $500 to $1,000 in spending in the first three months after account opening.

Front-end vs. back-end bonuses

We tend to think that new cardholder bonuses can be divided into two categories. There are what we call “front-loaded bonuses,” which offer a certain amount of rewards for meeting a minimum spend, and “back-loaded bonuses,” which pay bonuses based on your spending over longer periods of time.

  • Front-loaded bonuses -- These cards offer nearly immediate rewards in the form of a bonus for making a certain amount of spend in the first three months after account opening. Front-end bonuses are the most common.
  • Back-loaded bonuses -- Discover cards tend to have back-end bonuses where you receive a bonus calculated from your spending over a full year. For example, Discover matches all rewards earned in the first year of having the card, effectively doubling rewards you earn. If you spend heavily, such offers can be very lucrative, though you’ll have to wait longer to collect your bonus rewards.

Valuing sign-up bonuses

The financial value of a sign-up bonus may not be as obvious as it appears, particularly if the sign-up bonus is denominated in “points” or “miles” rather than cash because the value of a point or mile may vary based on the redemption method.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points and the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles. That said, though the numbers look similar, the actual value of the sign-up bonus varies greatly when these rewards are redeemed for travel.

Credit card Sign-up bonus Travel value per point or mile Sign-up bonus value
Chase Sapphire Preferred® 60,000 points $0.0125* $750
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card 50,000 miles $0.01 $500

Redeemed through Chase's travel portal.

Of course, there are other ways to measure rewards. Some people like to compare sign-up bonuses based on the value of the bonus as a percentage of the spending requirement to get it. Viewed in this way, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card actually offers more value.

Credit card Sign-up bonus Minimum spend requirement Sign-up bonus as a percentage of the minimum spend requirement
Chase Sapphire Preferred® 60,000 points ($750 in travel value) $4,000 in the first 3 months after account opening 18.75%
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card 50,000 miles ($500 in travel value) $3,000 in the first 3 months after account opening 16.7%

All this is to say that sign-up bonuses should be compared to how much spending you can reliably expect to put on a card during the sign-up bonus period. If you can only spend $2,000 in a three month period, then it makes little sense to sign up for a credit card that requires $3,000 of spending to get the sign-up bonus, for example.

Should you pay an annual fee?

The largest sign-up bonuses are typically offered by credit cards that have annual fees and large minimum spending requirements to get the bonus. If that's what you value, then paying an annual fee may be table stakes.

If you intend to carry a card for the long haul, then it would be wise to consider the cost of the annual fee when making a decision on which card is best. We tend to think the best way to look at annual fees is to consider them as a fee you pay for an increased rewards rate on your spending.

How to pick a good sign-up bonus card

Choosing which sign-up bonus card is best for you really comes down to a few key features. Here’s what you should analyze when making the decision on which sign-up bonus card is worthy of your application:

  • Look at the minimum spending requirement -- Sign-up bonuses require you to meet a certain minimum spending amount to qualify. If you have lower spending needs, it may be smart to apply for cards that have a $500 or $1,000 minimum spending requirement vs. a card that requires $4,000 or more of spending to qualify.
  • Consider on-going rewards rates -- The sign-up bonus is just one part of a rewards program. You should also look for a card that offers a rewards program that fits well with your budget, rewarding you the most for what you spend on.
  • Take note of the annual fee -- The cards that offer the highest sign-up bonuses also come with the highest annual fees.

How to best use a sign-up bonus card

A credit card that offers a sign-up bonus may appear to be a no-brainer, but there are a few instances in which prospective applicants might want to pass on a lucrative bonus offer. If all of the following statements apply to you, then you’re probably a good candidate for a card that offers a sign-up bonus:

Meet the minimum spend requirement -- New cardholder bonuses are all or nothing perks that require a certain amount of spending to qualify. If you can’t meet the spend requirement, you should probably pass on the card.

Redeem rewards through the preferred method -- Bonus points or miles you earn from a travel card are usually worth much more when redeemed for travel rather than cash. Redeem travel card bonuses for travel to get the most value from them. As a general rule, travel cards make sub-par cash-back credit cards.

Don’t carry a balance -- If you plan on carrying a balance, a sign-up bonus card probably isn’t the best choice. That’s because the interest you pay on the balance can easily exceed the benefit of the new cardholder bonus. A card that offers 0% intro APRs on purchases or balance transfers would be a smarter pick since the 0% intro APR can help you avoid hundreds of dollars in interest charges over the life of the balance.

FAQs

  • Many rewards credit cards offer sign-up bonuses to encourage you to open the card. Usually, they will offer a lump-sum of points or cash back if you can spend a certain amount of money within the first few months of opening the card. A typical travel sign-up bonus might be an offer of 50,000 miles if you can spend $3,000 on new purchases within three months of card opening. A typical cash back bonus will be for $150 to $200 if you spend $500 to $1,000 within three months.

  • If you want to go after a big sign-up bonus, it's not hard to find cards with offers worth more than $500, and some credit cards come with offers that are worth close to $1,000. Travel rewards credit cards tend to offer the biggest sign-up bonuses. These include airline and hotel credit cards as well as generic travel credit cards.

    While point value varies by credit card, they tend to average out to at least $0.01 each, so you can use that to estimate the value of a sign-up bonus. For example, a 50,000 point sign-up bonus is likely worth at least $500.

    There are also some cash back credit cards that offer sign-up bonuses but they're usually far below $500.

  • Cards that offer sign-up bonuses require good to excellent credit. A credit score above 720 is ideal since that puts applicants in a cohort of “prime” borrowers who are most likely to get approved for a high-end rewards card.

    Of course, people with lower scores (670 or higher credit score is suggested) can also get approved, since there are more factors (such as income) that play into credit decisions. but these cards generally aren’t open to people who have recent blemishes on their credit reports.

  • Opting for a rewards credit card with a sign-up bonus is a great way to earn lots of rewards right off the bat. However, you should make sure that the card's reward system is a good fit even without the sign-up bonus so you can continue earning lucrative rewards in the long-run.

    Establishing a long average account history is one way to increase your credit score, which is why it's important to consider a credit card beyond just the bonus.

The Ascent's picks for top credit card sign-up bonuses:
Card Sign-Up Bonus Great For…
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Graphic of Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Sign-Up Bonus:

60,000 points

Great For:

Travel and points transfers

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Graphic of Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus:

50,000 miles

Great For:

Flat-rate travel miles

Discover it® Cash Back Graphic of Discover it® Cash Back Sign-Up Bonus:

Double cash back in the first year

Great For:

Bonus cash rewards and no annual fee

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Graphic of Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Sign-Up Bonus:

$200

Great For:

Cash rewards program

Chase Freedom® Graphic of Chase Freedom® Sign-Up Bonus:

Rotating bonus cash rewards program

Great For:

Bonus cash rewards program

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Graphic of Chase Sapphire Reserve® Sign-Up Bonus:

50,000 points

Great For:

For premium travel

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card Graphic of Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card Sign-Up Bonus:

50,000 points

Great For:

Premium travel

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card Graphic of Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card Sign-Up Bonus:

25,000 points

Great For:

Unlimited travel rewards

Discover it® Miles Graphic of Discover it® Miles Sign-Up Bonus:

Double miles in the first year

Great For:

Travel card with no annual fee

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card Graphic of Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card Sign-Up Bonus:
Great For:

No annual fee

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card Graphic of Ink Business Preferred Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus:
Great For:

Business

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