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You don’t always have to spend thousands of dollars to get a good credit card sign-up bonus. In fact, some bonuses require just one purchase of any amount. These bonuses can provide a quick start in a new program or a boost to your balance in a well-loved currency.
In this article, I’ll discuss some credit card bonuses that only require one purchase. Some of these cards are mainly attractive due to their sign-up bonus, while others may legitimately earn a long-term place in your wallet.
US Airline Cards
Current Sign-up Bonus: 60,000 AAdvantage miles after making a purchase and paying the annual fee within the first 90 days.
Value of Bonus: Although TPG pegs the value of 60,000 AAdvantage miles at $840, it’s certainly possible to get much more value from this bonus. For example, one-way domestic reduced mileage awards cost 8,750 miles, one-way business-class flights to Europe cost 57,500 miles and round-trip economy flights to Europe cost 45,000 to 60,000 miles.
Card Benefits: Earn 2x miles on eligible purchases with American Airlines and 1x on other purchases. The first checked bag is free for the primary cardholder and up to four companions on domestic American Airlines itineraries. Get 10% of your redeemed miles back, up to 10,000 per year. Travel benefits include preferred boarding for the cardholder and up to four companions on American Airlines operated flights, a 25% in-flight discount on food and beverages on American Airlines and no foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $95
Quick Take: This sign-up bonus is extremely impressive considering that only one purchase and payment of the annual fee are required. This card can also help you defeat basic economy: Between preferred boarding and checked bag privileges, you’ll be able to carry on and check a bag even when flying on a basic economy ticket.
2. Spirit Airlines World Mastercard
Current Sign-up Bonus: 15,000 miles after your first purchase. For a limited time, you can get 15,000 more miles after making at least $500 in purchases within 90 days of the account opening.
Value of Bonus: The bonus after the first purchase is only worth $60 based on TPG’s latest valuations. But, if you’re willing to give Spirit a chance and have flexibility in your travel dates, off-peak award tickets can provide great value. One-way off-peak award tickets start as low as 2,500 miles. Unfortunately, these off-peak awards are only available when you put the taxes and fees on your Spirit Airlines card — so you’ll miss out on delay and baggage protection benefits that you might get with another card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Plus, there are some annoyances to using Spirit miles: award redemption fees of $15 per person to $100 per person for redemptions within 180 days of departure and all of your miles expire if no miles are earned for any three-month period.
Card Benefits: Earn 2x miles on all purchases. Preferred boarding and domestic priority check-in when flying on Spirit. Earn a 5,000-mile anniversary bonus when you spend at least $10,000 annually. Access to off-peak Spirit awards.
Annual Fee: $0 first year, then $59
Quick Take: If you’re willing to fly Spirit and have flexibility to fly during off-peak times, this sign-up bonus could get you up to six one-way flights — or 12 if you also spend $500 on the card within the first 90 days after account opening. If you book your awards at least 21 days before departure, the $15 redemption fee isn’t terrible. But, this probably won’t be a card to keep once the bonus miles are gone — unless you fly Spirit frequently, want access to off-peak awards or need mileage activity to extend the expiration date of your Spirit miles.
Foreign Airline Cards
Current Sign-up Bonus: Up to 60,000 bonus miles; 40,000 welcome bonus after first purchase, plus 20,000 bonus miles after at least $1,000 spend on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.
Value of Bonus: TPG values the advertised 60,000 LifeMiles bonus at $1,020. Avianca LifeMiles are best used to book flights on Avianca and Avianca’s Star Alliance partners. There are many hidden gems in the LifeMiles program — including short-haul domestic US awards starting at 7,500 one-way — that make the sign-up bonus particularly appealing.
Card Benefits: Earn 3x miles on eligible purchases with Avianca, 2x at gas stations and grocery stores and 1x on all other purchases. Get a 15% discount on purchases of Avianca LifeMiles using the Multiply Your Miles feature. Travel benefits include no foreign transaction fees and a complimentary second checked bag on Avianca flights between the US and Central America. A coupon for a 50% discount on an award ticket redeemed for travel to Central America or Colombia from the US is available after spending $12,000 each calendar year. An additional coupon is available after spending $24,000 each calendar year.
Annual Fee: $149
Quick Take: The sign-up bonus certainly justifies the first year’s annual fee and some may find benefit in the Multiply Your Miles feature. However, the card issuer is pretty particular with whom it approves for the card. So if you’re limiting your credit pulls, you may not want to apply for this card since some readers with excellent credit have reported being denied for seemingly no reason.
Current Sign-up Bonus: 20,000 Flying Club miles after your first purchase.
Value of Bonus: TPG’s valuation pegs this bonus at $300. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is a transfer partner of all of the major point currencies, so this sign-up bonus doesn’t offer a difficult-to-obtain currency. Virgin Atlantic imposes high fuel surcharges on redemptions, but there are ways to avoid the fuel surcharges and get solid value from Flying Club redemptions by booking award flights on partner airlines. In particular, there are some great sweet spots to be found when using Flying Club miles to book Delta flights.
Card Benefits: Earn 3x miles on eligible purchases with Virgin Atlantic and 1.5x on other purchases. Earn 2,500 miles for each of the first two authorized users added to your card. Earn 25 tier points per $2,500 in purchases (maximum 50 tier points per month) to elevate your Flying Club status. Earn 7,500 bonus miles after spending at least $15,000 within an anniversary year of your card. After spending at least $25,000 within an anniversary year, earn 7,500 more bonus miles and an economy companion ticket for half the standard miles of an economy seat plus taxes and fees. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $90
Quick Take: This card is one of TPG‘s favorite credit cards from foreign carriers due to sweet spots in the Flying Club program and the ability to earn 3x miles on purchases with Virgin Atlantic. The sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles may justify the $90 annual fee for the first year, but it won’t take you as far as some of the other offers.
5. AeroMexico Visa Signature Card
Current Sign-up Bonus: 15,000 miles after your first purchase. This bonus isn’t available if you have this card or have closed this card within the last 12 months. First-time AeroMexico Visa cardmembers will get a complimentary companion certificate for use on an eligible round-trip AeroMexico ticket between the US and Mexico.
Value of Bonus: The complimentary companion certificate provides obvious value. As for the bonus value, AeroMexico Premier Points aren’t covered by TPG’s monthly valuations. A new AeroMexico redemption table took effect January 3, 2018. Based on this table, round-trip economy tickets within Mexico cost 28,000 to 32,000 points; round-trip economy tickets within the US cost 40,000 to 44,000 points; and round-trip economy tickets between the US and Mexico cost 56,000 to 60,000 points. Business awards cost about twice as much as economy awards. So the first purchase bonus won’t take you very far.
Card Benefits: Earn 2x miles at gas stations and grocery stores, 2x on eligible purchases of AeroMexico tickets and AeroMexico Vacations and 1x miles on other purchases. Get one free upgrade per year and an extra checked bag on AeroMexico flights departing from the United States to Central and South America with a stop in Mexico. Purchase three tickets in certain fare classes and get the fourth free for one-way or round-trip travel from the US when all four passengers use this card, buy the tickets at the same time and travel together. Each cardmember anniversary, enjoy 4,000 bonus miles and a $99 companion certificate for use on an eligible round-trip AeroMexico ticket from the US to Mexico.
Annual Fee: $80
Quick Take: The sign-up bonus isn’t that strong, but the complimentary companion certificate can make this card worth signing up for if you and a companion want to visit Mexico soon. But unless you travel — especially in groups of four or more — on AeroMexico frequently, you probably won’t get enough value after the first year to justify the $80 annual fee.
Current Sign-up Bonus: 20,000 LATAM Pass points after making your first purchase. This bonus isn’t available if you have this card or have closed this card within the last 12 months.
Value of Bonus: First of all, LATAM Pass points are based in kilometers, so redemptions look expensive when compared with miles. But there are certainly some sweet spots to be found on the region-based LATAM award chart. For example, you can fly round-trip from US gateway cities to Colombia for 38,000 points in economy or between Argentina and Chile for 20,000 in economy. Oneworld redemptions are mileage-based instead of region-based, but seem to generally offer worse value.
Card Benefits: Earn 2x on eligible ticket purchases with LATAM Airlines and 1x on other purchases. Get a 20% discount (up to $1,000) each year on your first LATAM Airlines purchase. Earn 4,000 bonus points at annual renewal. Earn three LATAM Airlines one-way Upgrade Coupons, that can only be used by the cardmember, each year you spend at least $15,000.
Annual Fee: $0 first year, then $75
Quick Take: The first purchase bonus points and annual renewal points won’t take you very far. But, the 20% discount each calendar year on your first LATAM Airlines purchase could more than pay for the annual fee by itself if used correctly.
7. Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature Card (no annual fee version)
Current Sign-up Bonus: 15,000 bonus points after making one purchase or balance transfer.
Value of Bonus: Based on TPG’s valuations, this bonus is worth $180. 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points — or 3,000 points and a cash payment as low as $35 — can be redeemed for one standard bedroom at applicable properties. Although the “one standard bedroom” terminology is strange, it allows one bedroom vacation properties to also be booked for just 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points. One other sweet spot for redemptions are the all-inclusive Viva resorts.
Card Benefits: Earn 3x points on eligible Wyndham stays, 2x on eligible gas, utility and grocery store purchases and 1x on other purchases. Automatically receive Wyndham Rewards Gold status, which provides late checkout and preferred rooms. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual fee: $0
Quick Take: The bonus isn’t amazing — one night at any Wyndham property where you can find availability or five nights of points and cash. But, for a no annual fee card that comes with Wyndham Rewards Gold status, it’s not a bad card to have.
8. Radisson Rewards Visa Signature Card
Current Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 points after your first purchase and 10,000 more points after spending $1,500 within the first 90 days of account opening. Neither bonus is available to applicants who have had this card or another Radisson Rewards credit card within the last 12 months. You must keep your card open for at least six months after account opening or your sign-up bonus may be deducted from your account.
Value of Bonus: Based on TPG’s valuations, the first-purchase bonus is worth $200. Award nights in a standard room at a Category 1 property cost 9,000 points, while award nights in a standard room at a Category 7 property cost 70,000 points. Hence, the first-purchase bonus can net between zero and five award nights. Points and Cash booking start at 5,000 points per night, so up to ten Points and Cash bookings could be made with the first-purchase bonus.
Card Benefits: Earn 6x points on eligible purchases at participating Radisson Family of Hotels and 3x on other purchases. Get Radisson Rewards Silver status after you activate and use your card. If you already have Silver status, you’ll receive 10 qualifying nights toward obtaining or maintaining Gold or Platinum Status. Earn 25,000 points each year after paying the annual fee. Earn up to three free night certificates each year after paying your annual fee. A free night certificate is earned for each $10,000 you spend during the 12-month statement cycle period immediately prior to your annual anniversary.
Annual Fee: $50
Quick Take: The first-purchase bonus of 50,000 points can give you five nights at Category 1 hotels; get you a significant way toward a night at a Category 7 hotel; or give you something in between at Category 2-6 properties. If you want award nights at Radisson hotels, the sign-up bonus is certainly worthwhile, and you might find that the 25,000 renewal points and Silver status make it worth keeping the card long-term even with the $50 annual fee. If you plan to keep the card past the first year, you might want to consider the Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature Card, which offers the same first-purchase bonus but provides Gold status and better earnings for a slightly higher annual fee.
Current Sign-up Bonus: 16,000 points after your first purchase. Earn an additional 16,000 points after making one eligible Best Western room night purchase.
Value of Bonus: Based on TPG’s latest valuations, the total 32,000-point bonus is worth $224. Redeeming points for stays at Best Western properties generally provides the best value. Redemptions range from 8,000 to 36,000 per night, so you could redeem the sign-up bonus for up to four nights.
Card Benefits: Earn 3x points on eligible Best Western room night purchases and 2x for all other purchases. Automatic Gold Rewards status, which provides complimentary room upgrades when available and a choice of thank you gift or points at check-in when staying in the US or Canada. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $0
Quick Take: Automatic upgrades with Gold status and a sign-up bonus worth a night at any Best Western property or four nights at 8,000 point properties isn’t bad for a card without an annual fee. Plus, this card only requires a purchase and a paid Best Western stay to unlock the full 32,000-point sign-up bonus.
These first-purchase bonuses can provide value greater than the first year’s sign-up bonus if you redeem your rewards wisely. But your preferences and needs determine the actual value of both the bonus and the card benefits.
Travelers who want as many nights as possible from the bonus will like the Best Western Rewards Mastercard and Radisson Rewards Visa Signature Card. Alternatively, the Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature Card provides enough points to get a free award night at any Wyndham property, including Wyndham’s Viva all-inclusive resorts.
The value of the foreign airline cards are dependent on your upcoming travel plans. One excellent US airline card option is the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard with its 60,000 AAdvantage miles and a reasonable $95 annual fee. And, if you’re willing to fly Spirit and have some flexibility, the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard currently offers a sign-up bonus that can get you up to six one-way flights with just one purchase — and up to six more one-way flights after spending just $500 on the card within the first 90 days.
Know before you go.
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