10 Cards with Sign-Up Bonuses That Get You at Least $500 in Value

Jun 20, 2016

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If you’ve spent any time on this site or are at all interested in the points and miles hobby, you know that credit card bonuses are a great way to quickly earn points or miles that can be used toward flight, hotel and other travel redemptions. However, not all rewards currencies are created equal — which is why I created my monthly valuations series to pin down an exact worth in cents for the points and miles used by the major travel loyalty programs.

To show you just how lucrative these bonuses can be, below I’ll run through 10 cards with offers that equate to $500 or more in value. (As you’ll see, some get you more than double that amount.) All values are calculated based on my latest valuations, and I subtracted the annual fee from the points/miles valuation if the card charges it within the first year.

Finally, keep in mind that you can get significantly more value from several of these cards if you maximize certain benefits. For example, if you use the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card to earn the Companion Pass and get virtually free travel for one of your friends or family members, the value will far surpass the $651 you’ll get from the bonus.

1. Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

Sign-up bonus: 100,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months (worth $1950, factoring in the annual fee and $300 travel statement credit). Hurry! Offer ends January 11.

Annual fee: $450

Reason to get it: This card comes with the most value because of its incredibly high sign up bonus and the $300 annual travel credit that automatically is credited to your account once you make a purchase that qualifies as travel (i.e. parking, tolls, airfare, hotel stays, car rentals). While the annual fee is steep, the travel credit essentially knocks it down to a $150 annual fee which is much more palatable. This card earns you valuable Ultimate Rewards points on all purchases, plus 3x points on travel and dining purchases and other benefits like primary auto rental insurance and trip cancellation coverage. This online offer ends January 11, so apply now.

2. Chase Ink Business Preferred Card

Sign-up bonus: 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $1,680) after you spend $5,000 in purchases in the first three months

Annual fee: $95 (annual fee is waived for the first year when you sign up in branch)

Reasons to get it: Apart from offering the second highest-value bonus of all the cards on this list, the Ink Business Preferred Card is a great pick due to its lucrative bonus categories. You’ll earn 3x points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping, internet, cable and phone services and internet advertising on social media sites each account anniversary year, plus 1x on all other purchases. While this is a business card, you could qualify if you freelance or have a side gig such as an eBay store. If you do qualify, you’ll benefit from this windfall of Ultimate Rewards points, which you can transfer and redeem with the program’s 11 travel transfer partners.

3. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Sign-up bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $1,050) after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Reasons to get it: Aside from the large sign-up bonus, this card earns you valuable Ultimate Rewards points on all purchases, plus 2x points on travel and dining purchases. I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for most of my purchases thanks to the generous bonus category and other benefits like primary auto rental insurance and trip cancellation coverage. As with the Ink Plus Business Card, you can transfer points to a strong selection of travel partners, including British Airways, Hyatt and United.

4. British Airways Visa Signature Card

Sign-up bonus: Earn 4 Avios for every $1 spent on all purchases within your first year up to $30,000. That’s up to 120,000 bonus Avios.

Annual fee: $95

Reasons to get it: This isn’t the highest sign-up bonus we’ve seen for this card, but it’s a good opportunity to earn a lot of Avios without having to spend too much up front. The  British Airways Visa Signature Card earns you 3 Avios per dollar spent on British Airways purchases, and if you spend $30,000 on the card within a calendar year, you’ll get a Travel Together Ticket good for two years when you redeem Avios for a flight on BA.

5. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Sign-up bonus: 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months

Annual fee: $99

Reasons to get it: There are several reasons to consider this card if you ever fly Southwest for domestic travel or destinations like Costa Rica. For one, the points you’ll earn both from the sign-up bonus and everyday spending will get you far with the carrier’s revenue-based award chart. Plus, these points count toward the Companion Pass, an amazing benefit that lets a designated friend or family member fly with you for free (minus taxes and fees) when you earn 110,000 points in a calendar year. See Jason Steele’s post on how to earn the Companion Pass starting with a sign-up bonus for more info.

6. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Bonus: 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months (worth $625).

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Reasons to get it: Even with the impending Marriott-Starwood merger, this card is a great option thanks to the valuable points it will earn you. In fact, I value Starpoints at 2.5 cents apiece — higher than any other loyalty currency listed in my valuations. That’s because you can use them for a wide variety of great redemptions, including hotel award nights, transfers to more than 30 airline programs and VIP experiences through SPG Moments. I’d recommend signing up for this card before the merger, since it will likely be discontinued if the Starwood Preferred Guest program is folded into Marriott Rewards. Even if the system for redeeming Starpoints eventually changes, we’ll likely have some advance notice, and you can always use the sign-up bonus for awards in the short term rather than saving them up.

7. Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

Use points earned with the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express at properties like the St. Regis Osaka.

Bonus: 25,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months (worth $625)

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Reasons to get it: This card offers most of the same benefits as the personal version, with the main differences being that you need to spend $5,000 rather than $3,000 to earn the welcome bonus and you get Sheraton Club access on eligible stays. Other benefits for both cards not mentioned above include 5 night and 2 stay credits toward SPG elite status (per card), complimentary premium in-room internet access and no foreign transaction fees.

8. Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Bonus: 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months plus a $50 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase in the first three months

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Reasons to get it:  While Delta no longer publishes its award charts, you can make the most of these SkyMiles by planning ahead and finding Saver-level tickets or looking into partner redemptions. Other benefits of the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, include priority boarding, a first bag checked free on round-trip Delta flights, 20% off in-flight purchases, no foreign transaction fees and an earning rate of 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases. Note that the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express is also currently offering a bonus of 30,000 SkyMiles when you spend $1,000 in the first three months.

9. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

Sign-up bonus:  50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more in the first 90 days. (worth $525, factoring in the 5% mileage refund when you redeem for travel)

Annual fee: $89 (waived the first year)

Reasons to get it: This card typically offers a 40,000 point offer so this a nice 25% increase. In addition to earning 2x on all purchases, you will receive 5% of your redeemed miles back when you use them for travel statement credits. This is a great card if you are looking to cover travel costs for things that you aren’t typically able to redeem points or miles for like boutique hotels.

10. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card

Sign-up bonus: Two free weekend nights (worth a varying amount, but easily more than $500) after you spend $2,500 within the first four months

Annual fee: $95

Reasons to get it: The two free weekend nights with this card can be extremely valuable, as long as each of the free nights is worth more than $300 (factoring in the annual fee). However, that threshold isn’t amount isn’t hard to get to because there’s no limit on the category of the hotel you can use for the free nights. I used my free nights at the Conrad Maldives and got extremely good value out of that — worth well more than $500. In addition to the valuable sign-up bonus, the card also comes with complimentary HHonors Gold status as long as you’re a cardholder, an anniversary bonus of one weekend night after you spend $10,000 each year and no foreign transaction fees. You’ll earn 10x points per dollar on Hilton stays, 5x points on airlines and car rental purchases and 3x points on all other purchases.

Bottom Line

As you can see, there are plenty of travel rewards cards that will get you well over $500 in value from their welcome bonuses alone. Also keep in mind that my valuations are on the conservative side; you can often get even more out of your points and miles if you redeem for a hotel stay or award flight that would cost thousands of dollars out of pocket. Plus, this post doesn’t even touch on more premium cards like the Platinum Card® from American Express that come with steep annual fees but also offer perks like a $200 annual airline fee credit. In any case, hopefully this post has made it clear that credit card bonuses are one of the best ways to reap the rewards of the points and miles hobby quickly!

What’s the highest-value bonus you’ve received?

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