Best credit card sign-up bonuses
CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through the LendingTree affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
While it’s important to have a credit card that earns rewards every time you swipe it, one of the best — and fastest — ways to rack up a bunch of travel points and miles right off the bat is with a lucrative credit card sign-up bonus. Accumulating rewards from a sign-up bonus is the best way to jet off on a dream vacation, from flying down to Disney World to exploring the beaches of Thailand
But offers come and go regularly, so it’s vital to know when a credit card is offering a top-notch sign-up offer that can earn you the biggest possible bonus. And since many credit card issuers these days restrict the number of cards you can get with them — or the number of times you can get a card — you’ll want to apply for a credit card when it’s offering a peak sign-up bonus.
So, how do you know which credit card sign-up bonuses are currently higher than normal? We’ve put together a list of the best limited-time credit card sign-up bonus offers available in January so you can get as many points or miles as possible when you apply. Get a new credit card with the right limited-time offer, and you’ll rack up rewards in no time, putting you one step closer to that much-needed vacation.
Citi Premier® Card: Best bonus categories
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for groceries
The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for travel perks
United Quest℠ Card: Best for United flights
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Best for IHG stays
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card: Best business card with no annual fee
American Express® Business Gold Card: Best for small businesses
Why did we choose these limited-time credit card sign-up bonus offers as the best for January? Dive into the details of each card with us, and see how they stack up.
While Citi credit cards don’t typically get as much attention as Chase and American Express cards, don’t overlook the Citi Premier card, especially right now. New card holders can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months after opening the account. That’s the highest bonus we’ve ever seen on the Citi Premier.
And even after you’ve earned the bonus, it’s easy to keep racking up points with the Citi Premier, because the card comes with a slew of bonus categories. You’ll earn 3 points for every dollar you spend at gas stations, at restaurants, at supermarkets, at hotels and on air travel, and 1 point per dollar on all your other purchases.
Once you’ve got all those points, you can redeem them for gift cards or book travel with them through Citi’s travel portal and get 1 cent per point in value. But if you’ve got some time and flexibility, you can do even better by transferring your points to any of Citi’s 17 airline and hotel partners, which now includes both Choice and Wyndham hotels.
The ability to transfer points to Citi’s airline partners is why The Points Guy values Citi ThankYou points at 1.7 cents apiece. At that rate, those 80,000 bonus points are worth as much as $1,360 in travel.
Plus, if you get the Citi Premier and like the way it works, you can dive even further into the Citi ThankYou Rewards ecosystem by pairing it with either the Citi® Double Cash Card or the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card — or both. Both cards are marketed as cash back cards, but Citi gives you the option to convert that cash back into ThankYou points and combine them all together in one big pot.
So you can put all the cards in your wallet and use each one where it earns the most rewards — the Citi Premier in its bonus categories, the Citi Custom Cash in the one eligible category each month where you spend the most money and the Citi Double Cash for everything else. It’s a great strategy to quickly rack up a huge balance of travel rewards while paying only one $95 annual fee across all three cards.
Click here to earn 80,000 bonus points when you apply for the Citi Premier card.
Even as travel returns, you might prefer a credit card that puts cash right in your pocket. That’s where the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express comes into play, and right now, new card members can earn a $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first six months after opening an account.
The card also currently comes with a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 per year thereafter (see rates and fees). That means you’re easily coming out ahead in the first year, and the $3,000 minimum spending requirement averages out to just $500 per month.
The Blue Cash Preferred is also one of the best cards to use for groceries, since you’ll earn 6% cash back as a statement credit on up to $6,000 in U.S. supermarket purchases each year (then 1%). With home-cooked meals becoming more popular over the last year, this could mean some serious cash back.
You’ll also earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions with the Blue Cash Preferred, 3% cash back on transit and at U.S. gas stations and 1% on all other purchases. But if you’d prefer a card that never has an annual fee, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express might be the better choice. It offers less in cash back and has a smaller welcome offer, but it could make sense if you don’t spend that much on groceries each year.
Click here to learn more about the Blue Cash Preferred.
Click here to learn more about the Blue Cash Everyday.
If you expect to be back in the skies often in 2022, The Platinum Card from American Express provides many elite VIP benefits when you travel…and a few even when you aren’t.
Right now, new card members can earn 100,000 bonus points when you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership, plus a whopping 10 points for every dollar you spend on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. for the first six months after you open the account, up to $25,000 in combined purchases.
The Points Guy values American Express Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, making this offer worth as much as $2,000, plus any additional points you earn from the limited-time 10x bonus categories.
The list of benefits that come with the Amex Platinum card are endless. But with a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), you’ll have to make sure you can use those benefits.
One of the most popular perks that comes with the card is access to more than 1,300 airport lounges around the world, including Amex Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs (when flying Delta) and Priority Pass Select lounges (enrollment required). You’ll also receive complimentary Marriott Gold and Hilton Gold elite status (enrollment required), which offers special perks such as room upgrades (when available), complimentary breakfast at participating properties, bonus points on paid rates and more.
And, if you rent cars often, you’ll also be bumped up to Avis Preferred status, National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status and Hertz Gold Plus Rewards (enrollment required).
Then there are the annual credits. The Amex Platinum comes with up to $200 in credits each year for airline incidental fees, up to $200 in Uber Cash each year (doled out in $15 monthly portions with $35 in December), up to $240 in annual digital entertainment credits in portions of $20 per month, up to $179 in annual Clear membership credits and up to $100 in credits for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue split into $50 increments for each half of the year (enrollment required before using these credits). Additionally, you’ll get up to $100 in credits toward a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership every five years you have the card.
The Amex Platinum also comes with cell phone protection, extended warranty protection, purchase protection, trip cancellation and trip insurance, trip delay insurance, car rental loss and damage insurance and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).
Click here to learn more about The Platinum Card from American Express.
The United Quest Card is a relatively new card that was introduced with an impressive sign-up bonus. Right now you can earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months after opening the account. Frequent flyer website The Points Guy values United miles at 1.13 cents apiece, which would make 80,000 miles worth $904 in United travel.
The United Quest Card does come with a $250 annual fee, but there are a number of benefits that can help offset the fee a good chunk of the cost, including up to $125 in statement credits for United purchases charged to your card. This is a yearly benefit — available every 12 months from the date you first open the card — and if you can use all $125 in credits each year, you’re effectively knocking off half of the $250 annual fee.
Also, starting at your first anniversary as a card holder — meaning one year after you were approved for the card — and each year thereafter, you’ll get 5,000 United miles back when you redeem your miles for a United- or United Express-operated flight, regardless of the number of miles redeemed. You can even earn this mileage rebate twice per year.
For those chasing United elite status, the United Quest Card earns 500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) for every $12,000 you spend on the card, up to 3,000 PQP per year. While this won’t earn you elite status on its own, if you aren’t flying as much this year as you typically might, it can help push you over the threshold.
Other benefits of the United Quest Card include 3 points for every dollar you spend on United purchases (after your $125 in annual credits), 2 miles per dollar on travel, dining and select streaming services, up to $100 in Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credits, free first and second checked bags for you and a companion traveling on the same reservation, priority boarding, 25% back on United in-flight purchases and no foreign transaction fees.
Click here to earn 80,000 bonus points when you apply for the United Quest Card.
If you’ve been contemplating getting the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card at some point, now’s not a bad time to do it. New card applicants can currently earn 125,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on the card within three months of opening the account.
While 150,000 points sounds like an earth-shattering amount, remember that not all travel points are created equal. The Points Guy values IHG points at 0.5 cents apiece, so 125,000 points are worth about $625 toward IHG hotel stays.
Fortunately, the sign-up offer isn’t the only reason to apply for the IHG Premier. If you stay regularly at IHG properties, which includes Holiday Inn, InterContinental and Kimpton Hotels, the benefits can be quite phenomenal for a card that only has an $89 annual fee after the first year.
For starters, all IHG Premier card holders receive complimentary IHG Platinum elite status and their fourth night free when using points to book an award stay. So if you’re booking a four-night stay at a property that costs 40,000 points a night, you’ll only have to redeem 120,000 points for it.
Another great benefit is that, starting with the second year you have the card and every year thereafter, you’ll receive a reward night that can be used at any IHG property costing up to 40,000 points. Just using this certificate each year can easily offset the card’s annual fee.
Click here to earn 125,000 bonus points when you apply for the IHG Premier card.
Chase currently has some unbelievable sign-up offers on its no-annual-fee business credit cards, including the Ink Business Unlimited. Right now, new card holders can earn $750 in bonus cash back after spending $7,500 on purchases in the first three months. You’ll be hard pressed to find an offer this high on any other credit card with no annual fee.
This card is very straightforward, as you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with no bonus categories to worry about or track. And if you prefer travel rewards to cash back, the Ink Business Unlimited offers potential flexibility on that front as well.
If you have a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, the rewards you earn with the Ink Business Unlimited can be transferred to your premium card, and from there, redeemed for travel at a higher rate, or even transferred to one of Chase’s partner loyalty programs for potentially even more value.
Even though it’s a no-annual-fee card, you’ll still find many valuable benefits on the Ink Business Unlimited, such as purchase protection, extended warranty protection and primary car rental coverage when you rent a car for business purposes. But you’ll want to steer clear of using this card internationally, as you’ll be charged a 3% foreign transaction fee on overseas purchases.
And this isn’t the only Chase business card currently offering a top-of-the line sign-up bonus. The Ink Business Cash® Credit Card also earns $750 in bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 within the first three months after opening the account. The main difference between the two cards are the number of points you’ll earn on your everyday purchases, as the Ink Business Cash has several bonus categories.
Finally, the Ink Business Preferred is also offering an incredibly rich credit card sign-up bonus — 100,000 bonus points when you spend $15,000 in the first three months after opening the account. This card comes with a $95 annual fee, but additional point-earning opportunities and even more benefits.
Click here to earn 75,000 bonus points when you apply for the Ink Business Unlimited.
Click here to earn 75,000 bonus points when you apply for the Ink Business Cash.
Click here to earn 100,000 bonus points when you apply for the Ink Business Preferred.
The American Express Business Gold Card is an intriguing card for small businesses who don’t have expenses the fall into easy-to-predict categories each month, and the card currently comes with a rich welcome offer of 70,000 bonus points after you spend $10,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months after opening the account.
These business credit cards earn rewards and can get you through a cash crunch
With the Amex Business Gold, you’ll earn 4 points per dollar on the two select categories where your business spends the most each month, and those categories will automatically change each month to match where you’ve spent the most. There’s a $150,000 annual cap for earning bonus points in these select categories, but you’ll still earn 1 point per dollar even after you reach the cap.
The select categories eligible to earn bonus points are:
- Airfare purchased directly from airlines
- U.S. gas stations
- U.S. restaurants (including take out and delivery)
- U.S. purchases for shipping
- U.S. purchases for online, TV and radio advertising.
- U.S. purchases of computer hardware, software and cloud systems from select technology providers
The Amex Business Gold card does have a $295 annual fee (see rates and fees), but when you use your points to book flights through American Express Travel, you’ll get 25% of your points back (up to 250,000 points per calendar year) for flights booked with one airline that you choose annually, or on any airline when you book business or first class flights.
Learn more about the American Express Business Gold Card.
Click here for rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred card.
Click here for rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday card.
Click here for rates and fees of the American Express Platinum card.
Click here for rates and fees of the American Express Business Gold card.
Need help getting rid of credit card debt? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best balance transfer credit cards of 2022.
Get all the latest personal finance deals, news and advice at CNN Underscored Money.