The Most Lucrative Credit Card Bonuses We’ve Ever Seen

Jan 22, 2019

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – View the current offers here – The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, Capital One Spark Miles for BusinessSouthwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit CardSouthwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit CardChase Sapphire Preferred Card

At any given time there are dozens of valuable credit card welcome offers that can help get you on your way to another free vacation. If you’re not currently working on a minimum spend requirement, it shouldn’t be hard to peruse the top card offers and find one you’re eligible for that fits with your personal travel goals.

Some cards are incredibly consistent with the welcome bonuses they offer, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which has almost always offered a welcome bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $1,000 based on TPG’s valuations) after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. That consistency isn’t bad, as the Sapphire Preferred is an almost unanimous recommendation for a starter rewards card, but it’s the best-ever, limited time, never-ever-coming-back-again welcome bonuses that really move the needle on your account balances.

When we see these lucrative bonuses, including a few currently available ones which range in value from several thousand dollars to a potentially unlimited amount of free travel, one thing inevitably follows. People hesitate on applying for these cards, for one reason or another, and the offer ends. In many cases, once these “too good to be true” bonuses expire, they never come back, and the people who waited too long are left kicking themselves thinking about all the value they left on the table.

Today we’ll take a look at some of the most over-the-top valuable welcome bonuses in credit card history, including a few offers you still have time to take advantage of.

Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Best-ever welcome offer: 50,000 after spending $4,500 in the first 3 months.

Current welcome offer: One-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

Offer end date: January 28, 2019

Card benefits: In terms of sheer value, the current limited time welcome bonus on the Capital One Spark Miles for Business is quite possibly the best we’ve ever seen. This bonus was launched to drum up excitement for the airline transfer partners Capital One added to the Spark and Venture card families, and this limited-time offer is nearing its end date. Once the offer ends on Jan. 28, 2019, I doubt we’ll ever see this big a bonus again. Now might be your only chance to walk away with 300,000 Capital One miles — 200,000 from the two-tiered welcome bonus plus another 100,000 you’ll earn by spending $50,000 (since the Spark Miles earns a fixed 2x miles on all purchases).

TPG values that whopping haul of 300,000 miles at $4,200 thanks to the diverse list of transfer partners Capital One assembled. Whether you’re looking to book a ton of cheap domestic award travel on United by transferring to Avianca LifeMiles, or looking for premium cabin award sweet spots with Avianca, Etihad Guest and Aeroplan, Capital One has something for you. The Spark’s $95 annual fee is waived the first year, so if your business is eligible and capable of spending $50,000 in 6 months, you really don’t want to wait. Whether you’re trying to help your employees get where they need to go or looking to supercharge your own vacation, 300,00 miles will stretch a long way, and once this offer is gone we might never see something this good again. And speaking of too-good-to-be-true offers that got away…

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Best-ever welcome offer: Earn 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months

Current welcome offer: Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months

Card benefits: While in many ways it was the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card that gave award travel its mass appeal, it was the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the 100,000-point welcome bonus it launched with that brought the rest of the stragglers in off the sidelines. That short-lived 100,000-point offer was too stupendously valuable to ignore. Even if you didn’t want to take the time to learn the ins and outs of transfer partners, those 100,000 points could be redeemed for $1,500 of travel directly through the Chase portal with no work.

The card generated a huge amount of hype, so much so that Chase even temporarily ran out of the metal needed to make the cards. While the 100,000-point offer is gone and likely to never be seen again, the current 50,000 point bonus (worth $1,000 based on TPG’s valuations) as well as the ongoing benefits of the Sapphire Reserve continue to make it a fan favorite. The card’s $450 annual fee is mostly offset by a $300 annual travel credit, automatically applied to a wide range of purchases including airfare, hotels Uber, public transit, parking fees and many more. Sapphire Reserve card holders also enjoy a complimentary Priority Pass select membership, 3x points on travel and dining purchases, and access to an excellent concierge service. While the card might not be as much of a no-brainer decision without the 100,000-point offer, these perks can be tremendously valuable for a card that only costs $150 a year out of pocket (after factoring in the travel credit).

Southwest Companion Pass Offer

 

CURRENT best-ever welcome offer: Up to one year of the Southwest Companion Pass and 30,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.

Offer end date: Feb. 11, 2019

Card benefits: While it’s easy to look at 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points and explain how they can be worth $2,000 or more thanks to a wide range of valuable airline and hotel transfer partners, the current offer we’re seeing on all three personal Southwest cobranded credit cards offers an unlimited amount of free travel. Now through Feb. 11, 2019, applicants to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card will earn up to one year of Southwest’s famous Companion Pass and 30,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. This promotional Companion Pass, which lets your designated companion fly for free (just pay $5.60 in taxes) on both award and revenue Southwest tickets, expires Dec. 31, 2019. This means that if you’re eligible for this offer you shouldn’t waste a day applying, as the clock has already started ticking. A similar offer was available a few years ago — but it was for California residents only, and include any bonus points (it also only required making one purchase).

These cards are subjected to Chase’s 5/24 rule, meaning that you’ll be automatically rejected if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards in the last 24 months. You also won’t be eligible if you currently hold a Southwest personal credit card, or have received the welcome bonus on one in the last 24 months. With identical bonuses across the Priority, Premier and Plus cards, you’re free to pick the product that offers the right combination of annual fee and benefits for you. You can check out this guide for a head-to-head comparison of the three cards, but here’s a quick overview of the important differences:

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
Annual fee $69 $99 $149
Anniversary points bonus  3,000 Rapid Rewards points 6,000 Rapid Rewards points 7,500 Rapid Rewards points
Earning rates 2x on Southwest flights and hotel and car rental partners1x everywhere else 2x on Southwest flights and hotel and car rental partners1x everywhere else 2x on Southwest flights and hotel and car rental partners1x everywhere else
Other perks N/A N/A $75 annual Southwest travel creditFour upgraded boardings per year (when available)

20% back on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi

Tier Qualifying Points N/A Earn up to 15,000 TQPs a year, 1,500 for each $10,000 spent Earn up to 15,000 TQPs a year, 1,500 for each $10,000 spent
Foreign-transaction fee 3% None None

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Best-ever welcome offer: Earn up to 150,000 Membership Rewards points, 100,000 for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months and another 50,000 for spending $15,000 total in the first 3 months. (Note there was a 250,000-point tiered bonus on the card in the past, but it was extremely tightly targeted and required a stupid-high amount of spending in three months so we’ll focus on the best-ever offer that most people might have been eligible for.)

Current welcome offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards points, 50,000 for spending $10,000 in the first 3 months and another 25,000 for spending an additional $10,000 in the first 3 months.

Card benefits: Amex’s once-per-lifetime welcome bonus policy (per card) means that it’s especially important for you to time your application to receive the highest-possible welcome bonus. While some people are currently being targeted for a 100,000-point welcome offer on The Platinum Card® from American Express, over the years there has been an even better offer available to targeted customers for the Business Platinum Card from American Express, either in the mail or online. The exact terms of the offer might vary based on when you were targeted, but generally speaking you were able to earn 150,000 Membership Rewards points (worth $3,000 based on TPG’s valuations) by spending $15,000 in the first 3 months.

This offer hasn’t been around for a while, and with changes coming to the Business Platinum card in February, it might be worth applying now with the publicly available 75,000-point welcome offer. Starting in February, the annual fee is being raised from $450 to $595, though the card will also get a free year of WeWork access and a $200 annual statement credit for Dell technology purchases. Even with a higher fee, the Business Platinum card is a very compelling product, offering a $200 annual airline incidental fee credit, access to Amex’s growing global collection of Centurion lounges, a 50% points bonus on purchases of $5,000 or more, Gold elite status with both Marriott and Hilton, and a host of other perks.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Best-ever welcome offer: In 2011 the Venture card offered to match your miles earned up to 100,000 miles after sending proof of any airline miles you’ve earned on an airline credit card. The next year they followed it up by awarding 2x the number of points you earned on a rewards credit card that year (up to 100,000).

Current welcome offer: Earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

Card benefits: Too bad the Venture Rewards Card didn’t have transfer partners when the 100,000-mile match offers were going around, as that would get you $1,400 in value based on TPG’s latest valuations. Without the option to transfer miles to partners like Avianca and Etihad, your 100,000 miles would be worth $1,000 toward erasing travel purchases from your statement credit. Other card benefits include earning 10x miles at Hotels.com and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit. This card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year.

Premier Rewards Gold Card (Now the American Express® Gold Card)

Best-ever welcome bonus: Time for a little points and miles history lesson: Back in 2011, new card holders were able to bump their bonus on the old Amex Premier Rewards Gold from 15,000 to 75,000 points (with $0 introductory annual fee) with just a phone call and an offer code. This was a huge deal not only for award travelers but for many award travel blogs, with the offer taking off and helping pave the way for the success of both TPG and Mommy Points!

Current welcome offer: The PRG is now the Amex Gold Card, which is offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. You could also be eligible for a 50,000-point offer through CardMatch or a referral link (offer subject to change at anytime).

Card benefits: Amex refreshed the PRG as the Amex Gold Card in late 2018, and made it a decidedly dining-focused card. You’ll now earn 4x points on dining and 4x points on the first $25,000 spent each year at US supermarket, plus 3x points on flights. Other perks include up to $120 in dining credits each year, allotted as up to $10 per month in statement credits when you use your card at participating restaurants including Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Seamless and Shack Shake, and a $100 annual airline fee credit. The card has a $250 annual fee (See Rates & Fees), and no foreign transaction fees (See Rates & Fees).

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

Best-ever welcome bonus: 100,000 AAdvantage miles plus a $200 statement credit after spending $10,000 in the first 3 months

Current welcome offer: 50,000 miles after making $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months

Card benefits: The Citi AAdvantage Executive offers card holders full Admirals Club membership with up to two guests, and this benefit extends to authorized users as well. You can add up to 10 authorized users, meaning with one card 33 people can get into American Airlines’ airport lounges. The card has a $450 annual fee, but thanks to its Admiral Club access, and other benefits like a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee credit (up to $100), it can be well worth it.

It’s been several years since we saw the 100,000-mile offer, and it was certainly a popular one. People were even able to open multiple cards and earn multiple bonuses!

Bottom Line

While it’s not unusual for credit cards to offer slightly elevated welcome bonuses from time to time, some of these offers deserve a spot in the history books. While the days of the 100,000-point offer on the Sapphire Reserve are never coming back, there are still some jaw-dropping best-ever offers you can take advantage of. The most valuable of these by far is the two-tiered bonus on the Capital One Spark Miles for Business, which will leave you with 300,000 miles after completing minimum spend. This offer ends Jan. 28, 2019, and we have to assume it will never come back this strong. If you’ve been eyeing the Spark Miles card, make sure to apply in the next week so you don’t miss out on one of the single best sign-up bonuses in history.

For rates and fees of the American Express Gold Card, please click here.

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

Earn 50,000 bonus miles with this business card plus 2x miles on all purchases.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn unlimited 2 miles per $1 on every purchase, everywhere
  • Earn a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles – equal to $500 in travel – once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Receive up to $100 credit for one Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application fee
  • Fly on any airline, anytime, with no blackout dates or seat restrictions
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is lost or stolen
  • Free employee cards which also earn unlimited 2x miles from their purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.74% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent, Good

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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.