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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MastercardCitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MastercardThe Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express

Opening and utilizing the right travel rewards credit cards can be a great way to unlock fantastic redemptions like premium-class fights or luxurious hotel rooms. In many instances, the welcome bonus alone can earn you enough points or miles to book at least one (if not multiple) free flights. Today I want to go through my list of the best 11 cards with current offers that can immediately put free flights within your reach.

Before diving into the list, it’s important to note that it isn’t exhaustive by any stretch, as most credit cards claim to offer you free flights (side note: don’t believe everything you read/hear/see). However, certain cards provide a valuable combination of large welcome bonuses coupled with flexibility to use that bonus in a number of different ways. The key is knowing how to redeem the points or miles you’ll earn to get the most value.

To help with organization, I’ll break this list into two separate categories: consumer and business credit cards. For each one listed below, I’ll follow a consistent framework for analysis:

  • Welcome bonus details
  • Additional benefits
  • Annual fee
  • Examples of free flight(s) you can book

Just note that the final bullet point will not highlight every redemption option but instead focus on some of the best-value flights that would be within reach with the bonus.

So…what are the best cards that provide a bonus worth round-trip flights? Here’s my list:

Consumer Cards

1. British Airways Visa Signature Card

American Airlines, Airplane, USA, Airport, Miami, Passenger, Miami International Airport, 2015, Asphalt, Economy, Florida - US State, Gulf Coast States, Horizontal
Even though it’s a British Airways card, one of the best redemption options is for short-haul American flights within the US. Image courtesy of ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images.
  • Sign-up bonus: Up to 100,000 Avios (50,000 Avios after you spend $3,000 in the first three months from account opening, plus an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after you spend a total of $10,000 within your first year from account opening. Plus, an extra 25,000 bonus Avios after spending $20,000 total in the first year.)
  • Additional benefits: 3 Avios per dollar spent on British Airways purchases; no foreign transaction fees; Travel Together ticket when you spend a minimum of $30,000 on the card in a calendar year
  • Annual fee: $95
  • Examples of free flight(s): Thanks to British Airways’ distance-based award chart, you can book economy flights within North America starting at just 7,500 miles each way, meaning the full sign-up bonus could get you six round-trip tickets on American or Alaska for flights under 1,152 miles in distance or five round-trip tickets for flights of 2,000 miles or less. If you look outside of North America, you could even get up to 11 free round-trips for flights under 651 miles! See Julian Mark Kheel’s post on the best uses of 100,000 British Airways Avios for additional inspiration.

2. The Platinum Card® from American Express

Amex Platinum Metal
The heft of the new metal Amex Platinum may be cool, but the award options for the sign-up bonus through Membership Rewards are much more exciting.
  • Current bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first three months.
  • Additional benefits: 5x points on airfare booked directly with the airline and on hotels booked through Amex Travel; $200 airline fee credit; $200 in Uber credits each year; lounge access; hotel elite status with SPG and Hilton; Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts; no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $550
  • Examples of free flight(s): Thanks to the diverse set of Membership Rewards transfer partners, this sign-up bonus gives you several options. You can transfer your points to Delta to book at least two round-trip flights using SkyMiles, or you could send them to Singapore’s KrisFlyer program to redeem for two round-trip United flights within North America, both of which should leave you with at least 10,000 points to spare. Booking the distance-based awards through British Airways mentioned above is also an option, though the transfer ratio was decreased back in 2015, meaning you’ll only be able to get three round-trip flights under 1,152 miles in North America with the sign-up bonus. Check out my post on 5 best ways to use 60,000 Membership Rewards points for other options.

3. Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

American DFW 777-300ER
A pair of round-trip flights on American, including to Mexico and the Caribbean, will be within reach with the Citi AAdvantage MasterCard.
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
  • Additional benefits: Free checked bag on domestic American flights; preferred boarding; 25% discount on in-flight purchases; no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $99 (waived for the first year)
  • Examples of free flight(s): This bonus alone can get you round-trip economy flights within the US or between the US and Canada, Alaska, the Caribbean or Mexico. You could also book a round-trip business-class flight between the US and Northern South America, which includes Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru.

4. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Additional benefits: 2x points on dining and travel purchases; primary car rental insurance; $0 in foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $95
  • Examples of free flight(s): The Ultimate Rewards program has several valuable transfer partners that turn this sign-up bonus into free flights. If you transfer your points to either United or Singapore, you can redeem your points for two round-trip flights within the US on United. You can also transfer to British Airways to utilize the distance-based awards mentioned previously. Finally, transferring to either Air France or Korean allows you to book two round-trip economy flights on Delta (if you can find availability), and both programs include Hawaii at this price.

5. Chase Sapphire Reserve

sapphire-reserve-review-feat
The Sapphire Reserve has the same transfer partners as the Preferred but comes with the added bonus of redeeming points directly for flights at a rate of 1.5 cents apiece.
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Additional benefits: $300 travel credit; 3x points on dining and travel purchases; lounge access; primary car rental insurance; no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Examples of free flight(s): With the current bonus, the Sapphire Reserve unlocks the same redemptions listed above for the Sapphire Preferred. However, one enhanced perk on the Reserve gives you some added flexibility: booking directly with Ultimate Rewards points. If you’re a Sapphire Reserve cardholder, your Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents apiece when redeemed for flights, and while this is lower than TPG’s most recent valuations, it could be a good option if you’re looking to keep cash in your pocket. The sign-up bonus will cover $750 worth of flights in this manner, which could easily be three, four or even five round-trip tickets, depending on the fare, which could make it a much better option than transferring to partners and booking only two award tickets.

6. United MileagePlus Club Card

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 19: United Airlines jets sit at gates at O
United’s Explorer Card gets you two free flights plus enhanced award availability. Image courtesy of Scott Olson via Getty Images.
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • Additional benefits: United Club membership; priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage handling; first and second bags checked free; complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist status; enhanced award inventory; no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Examples of free flight(s): With a haul of 50,000 MileagePlus miles, you could snag two round-trip economy tickets within the US on United. This card previously didn’t offer any sign-up bonus, so now’s a great time to apply if you’d like to get United Club access and other premium perks.

Business Cards

All of the cards listed above are marketed toward consumers, but if you are a small business owner interested in earning enough points or miles for a free flight (or two), there are many options for you as well! Remember that you don’t need to have a formal business to be eligible for a business card, as many individual proprietors who sell things on Amazon.com or work side jobs may not have an employer identification number. For complete details, see TPG’s post on the top 10 reasons to get a business credit card.

1. Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

The new Ink Business Preferred card offers some tremendous bonus spending categories.
The new Ink Business Preferred card can get you up to three free round-trip flights on the legacy carriers or even more if transferred to British Airways.
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening.
  • Additional benefits: 3x points on travel, shipping, telecommunications and online advertising; cell phone protection; no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $95
  • Examples of free flight(s): The Ink Business Preferred card is the newest Ultimate Rewards-earning card out there, so you have the same transfer partners as the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve. However, the higher sign-up bonus means that you’re within the realm of three round-trip United flights (booked through either United or Singapore) as well as three round-trip domestic Delta flights up to and including Hawaii (booked through either Flying Blue or Korean). 80,000 points could also get you up to five round-trip flights when you transfer to British Airways and book using the carrier’s aforementioned distance-based award chart.

2. The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

  • Current bonus: Up to 75,000 Membership Rewards points (50,000 points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first three months of cardmembership)
  • Additional benefits: 5x points on airfare booked directly with the airline and on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel; (airfare rebate dropping to 35% in June); $200 airline fee credit; lounge access; 10 free GoGo Wi-Fi passes each year; hotel elite status with SPG and Hilton; Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts; no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Examples of free flight(s): As a cardholder of the Business Amex Platinum, you’ll have access to the same transfer partners as holders of the personal version. The big difference here is that if you earn the full welcome bonus, you’ll be able to enjoy three round-trip flights on United (via Singapore) or Delta. You also have the option of transferring to British Airways for distance-based awards (albeit at a recently devalued ratio).

3. CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 29: A new American Airlines 737-800 aircraft featuring a new paint job with the company’s new logo sits at a gate at O
The CitiBusiness AAdvantage card’s enhanced sign-up bonus is good for two round-trip flights on American. Image courtesy of Scott Olson via Getty Images.
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 70,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $4,000 in the first four months.
  • Additional benefits: Free checked bag on domestic American flights; preferred boarding; 25% discount on in-flight purchases; no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $95 (waived for the first year)
  • Examples of free flight(s): This bonus opens up the same redemption options listed above for the personal version of the card, including two round-trip economy flights within the US or between the US and Canada, Alaska, the Caribbean or Mexico as well as one round-trip business-class flight between the US and Northern South America.

4. United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card

united 787
The business version of the Explorer card also unlocks some nice redemptions on United.
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • Additional benefits: Free checked bag on United flights (must pay with the card); priority boarding; 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $25,000 in a calendar year; two United Club passes each year; enhanced award inventory; no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)
  • Examples of free flight(s): This card is almost identical to the personal version listed above, so you’d be able to book two round-trip economy tickets on United within the US if you earn this sign-up bonus.

5. The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express 

  • Current bonus: Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in qualifying purchases on the card within your first three months of cardmembership.
  • Additional benefits: 3x points in a category of your choice (airfare, advertising, gas, shipping or computer purchases); 2x points in the remaining four categories; no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $175 (waived for the first year)
  • Examples of free flight(s): Since this is another card that earns Membership Rewards points, you’d be looking at similar redemptions already covered, including two round-trip tickets on Delta (transfer to SkyMiles) or United (transfer to Singapore KrisFlyer) as well as British Airways distance-based options discussed previously.

Bottom Line

Earning welcome bonuses on top travel rewards credit cards is a great way to quickly boost your account balances, and in the cases of these 11 cards, you can unlock at least one free flight from the bonus alone. While saving up your miles for a splurge on first or business-class flights can be a great redemption, you can double or even triple the number of free trips you can take by focusing on the above economy redemptions. Hopefully this post has demonstrated just how far a bonus can go!

Are any of you planning to redeem any of the above welcome bonuses for free flights?

Featured image courtesy of PhotoAlto/Ale Ventura via Getty Images.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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