The 11 best elevated credit card offers to sign up for in January
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
Credit card sign-up bonuses and welcome offers are the quickest and easiest way to rake in lots of points and miles, so we regularly update the roundup of our favorite current offers in our best credit cards guide. But what if you put a priority on not missing any limited-time or elevated offers?
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To help you in that situation, we’ve rounded up the best offers currently available — especially the ones that are worth an extra look right now before they disappear. This month, we’re seeing some especially enticing offers for some of the best travel credit cards, including cobranded hotel and airline credit cards.
Since many issuers have restrictions on how often you can earn a bonus on a card, it’s important to apply when there’s a good offer. Also, higher bonuses don’t always stick around for long, so if you’re considering one of these offers, you’ll want to hop on it sooner rather than later.
The best new elevated card offers in January
- IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Best overall for IHG stays
- IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card: Best no-annual-fee card for IHG
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Best premium card for Marriott
- United℠ Explorer Card: Best for United flyers
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Best for frequent Southwest flyers
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Best for casual Southwest flyers
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: Best low-fee card for Southwest
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Best low-cost card for Hilton
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: Best no annual fee card for Hilton (see rates and fees)
- The Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card: Best for elevated CardMatch offers
IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
Current sign-up offer: Through Jan. 13, 2021, earn 140,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Bonus offer value*: $700
Annual fee: $89 (waived for the first year; offer ends 1/13/2021)
Benefits: The IHG Premier’s perks can easily offset its annual fee. As a cardholder, you’ll get an annual award-night certificate worth up to 40,000 points, automatic IHG Rewards Platinum Elite status, a fourth-night reward on award stays of four or more nights, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit of up to $100 and no foreign transaction fees. On the earnings side, you’ll 10x points per dollar spent at IHG properties; 2x points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants; 1x point per dollar everywhere else.
Read our review of the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.
APPLY HERE: IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
IHG Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card
Sign-up bonus: Through Jan. 13, 2021, earn 100,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Bonus offer value*: $500
Annual fee: $0
Benefits: The IHG Traveler earns a solid 5x points at IHG hotels and resorts; 2x points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants; and 1x point on everything else. Like the IHG Premier, this card offers a fourth reward night on award stays of four or more nights. It also provides a 20% bonus whenever you buy IHG points and offers a pathway to Gold elite status.
Read our review of the IHG Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card.
APPLY HERE: IHG Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card
Current offer: Earn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points: 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months and an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of card membership. Plus, receive complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum elite status for the 2021 status year (offer ends Jan. 13, 2021; terms apply).
Bonus offer value*: $1,000
Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)
Benefits: Enjoy complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status with your card (worth $2,655 based on TPG valuations) from Feb. 1, 2021 to Jan. 31, 2022; then automatic Marriott Gold elite status thereafter, with a pathway to Platinum. Each year on your cardmember anniversary, you’ll receive a free night award worth up to 50,000 points, good for up to a standard Category 6 hotel. You’ll also receive up to $300 in statement credits for eligible purchases (including room rates) at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels and up to $100 in credits for on-property charges when booking stays of two nights or more at Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis properties.
Non-hotel benefits include Priority Pass Select lounge access and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit. On the spending side, you’ll earn 6x points at participating Marriott properties, 3x points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with the airline, and 2x points on everything else.
Read our review of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant credit card
APPLY HERE: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex
United℠ Explorer Card
Current offer: Through Jan. 13, 2021, earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open, plus another 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first six months.
Bonus offer value*: $910
Annual fee: $95
Benefits: You’ll get perks such as a free checked bag for you and one companion on the same reservation, as long as you purchase your ticket (or pay taxes and fees on an award ticket) from United using the United Explorer Card. Then, there are other benefits, including priority boarding, two one-time United Club passes each year, a 25% discount on inflight United purchases — including Wi-Fi, food and beverage — and access to additional award space.
For those looking to fast-track elite status, the United Explorer Card allows you to earn up to 1,000 elite Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) on the card with $24,000 in annual spending on the card (500 points for each of the first $12,000 in annual spending).
Read our review of the United Explorer Card.
APPLY HERE: United℠ Explorer Card
Southwest credit cards
Current sign-up bonus: The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card are currently each offering a sign-up bonus of up to 80,000 points — 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months and an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 in the first nine months of account opening. Plus, now through March 31, 2021, you’ll earn 5x points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases (on up to $2,000 per month; 2x points on all other Southwest purchases).
Bonus offer value*: $1,200
Annual fee: $69 – $149
Benefits: Perhaps the biggest benefit of the Southwest cobranded personal cards is that the sign-up bonus points and the points earned from everyday spending count toward earning the Southwest Companion Pass, which offers a year or more of flying with a designated travel companion. All of the cards also offer bonus points every year on your account anniversary — 3,000 points with the Plus card, 6,000 with the Premier and 7,500 with the Priority.
Carrying the highest annual fee, the Priority card offers the most benefits, including an annual $75 Southwest travel credit; 20% back on inflight drinks, Wi-Fi, messaging and movies; and four Upgraded Boardings in the A1–A15 position each year (worth up to $50 each). The credit on the Priority makes its annual fee $74, which is less than the Premier card — with better perks.
For a closer look at each of the cards, check out our comparison of the best Southwest Airlines credit cards.
Current welcome offer: 130,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus, exclusively through TPG, earn a one-time $100 statement credit after using your new card to purchase an Expert Flyer Premium annual subscription ($99.99 plus applicable taxes, followed by automatic renewal) within your first year (Expert Flyer is owned by TPG parent company Red Ventures). Terms apply.
Welcome offer value*: $780
Annual fee: $95 (see rates and fees)
Benefits: The Hilton Surpass is one of the best mid-tier hotel cards available. Its welcome offer is very generous, given its manageably low spending requirement. The ongoing earning rates outrank its competition. The card earns an impressive 12x points per dollar spent at participating Hilton properties (a 7.2% return based on TPG valuations); 6x points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants and U.S. gas stations; and 3x points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
You’ll also get 10 Priority Pass lounge access passes each year, complimentary Hilton Gold elite status and a pathway to earning Diamond status. Additionally, you can earn a weekend night reward redeemable at any Hilton Honors property after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year.
Expert Flyer (owned by TPG parent company Red Ventures) is one of the best tools available for frequent flyers. It helps you search for award availability, track seat availability, schedule changes and more.
Read our review of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card.
APPLY HERE: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card
Current welcome offer: 80,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Bonus offer value*: $480
Annual fee: $0 (see rates and fees)
Benefits: The Hilton Honors Amex features a few notable benefits for a no-annual-fee card. For starters, you’ll earn a respectable 7x points per dollar spent at participating Hilton properties; 5x points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations; and 3x points per dollar on all other eligible purchases. You’ll also get automatic Hilton Honors Silver status (with an upgrade to Gold when you spend $20,000 in a calendar year), basic travel and shopping protections and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).
Read our review of the Hilton Honors American Express Card.
APPLY HERE: Hilton Honors American Express Card
While these aren’t technically limited-time offers, you can often find elevated welcome offers through the CardMatch tool. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express, with a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees), is currently offering a public welcome offer of 75,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first six months, but some new customers can earn a 100,000-point welcome offer after meeting the same minimum spend requirements via the CardMatch tool.
While the American Express Gold® Card, with a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees), offers a public welcome offer of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months, some new customers can earn a 75,000-point welcome offer after meeting the same minimum spend requirements via the tool. Please note: These elevated offers are targeted and subject to change at any time.
*Bonus offer value based on TPG valuations and not provided by issuers.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors card, please click here.
Featured photo by Victoria 1 via Shutterstock.
This is The Points Guy’s permanent page with limited-time welcome offers to consider each month, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for updates.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- 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 dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.