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The best credit card welcome bonus offers

With multiple credit card issuers claiming to have the best welcome bonus, it's smart to do a little homework before choosing one.
Written by Andy Bowen, Contributor on
Reviewed by Evan Zimmer

A lucrative credit card welcome bonus can give you a head start toward leveraging returns on your spending. The best credit card welcome bonuses offer anywhere from $100 to $1,000 or more in rewards to entice consumers. Generally, these rewards fall into three main categories: cashback, points or miles.

For people who pay their balance in full every month, credit cards with welcome bonuses are a great way to leverage the convenience of credit to your advantage. The welcome bonus alone can be enough to earn a night's stay at a hotel or an airline flight right away -- or you can choose to have cold hard cash deposited into your bank account. But how much weight should you give the bonus when selecting the right credit card for you? Here are some of the best bonus offers and a few things to consider when making your decision.

card highlights
intro bonusEarn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
APR21.24% - 28.24% Variable
recommended creditExcellent/Good
reward rates
  • 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3x on dining.
  • 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
annual fee$95
intro purchase APRN/A

Who should get it

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a good option for those who dine out and travel frequently but don't want to use a travel rewards card exclusively. You earn 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, and you can maximize your rewards when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

How to use it

The best way to optimize the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is to use it primarily for travel and dining out. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card gives you new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.

Consider this

  • Annual fee of $95
  • There is a 21.24% - 28.24% Variable variable APR, so you should not carry a balance on this card.
  • You aren't eligible for the welcome bonus if you have another Sapphire card or received a welcome bonus for any Sapphire in the last 24 months

Why you'll love it

The welcome bonus alone is worth $750 when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards (60,000 points after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months of card membership). You'll also love the ease of accumulating points with this laid back card -- there are no rotating categories and nothing to finagle. Just use the card and collect your points.

Pro tip: If you're ineligible for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card welcome bonus, you can still get bonus points by inviting your friends to Chase. You'll get 15,000 bonus points for each friend who is approved, up to a total of 75,000 bonus points.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

card highlights
intro bonusEarn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
APR21.74% - 28.74% Variable
recommended creditExcellent Credit
reward rates
  • Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
annual fee$550
intro purchase APRN/A

Who should get it

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a top-tier travel card offered by Chase. It carries a high annual fee ($550) but provides a slew of travel benefits and perks to help mitigate that. It comes with an impressive reward program and a lucrative welcome bonus. Due to the high fee, it should only be considered by consumers who travel frequently each year and are able to take full advantage of the card's suite of benefits.
How to use it
Note cardholders will need to spend $300 on travel annually to unlock the high rewards, but that shouldn't be too hard for consumers who are considering this card. That said, the card comes equipped with an annual $300 travel credit that's automatically added to your account as a statement credit for eligible travel purchases, covering that requirement. It also includes an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Use the card for all of your travel and dining needs, sign up for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, book through Chase Ultimate Rewards when you can, and utilize point transfers to get a higher per-point value for your rewards.

Consider this

  • $550 annual fee
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • Great selection of travel protections
  • Flexible redemption and point transfer options

Why you'll love it

First off, the welcome bonus: 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months with the card. That's a $900 value when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Aside from that, the Sapphire Reserve can be very rewarding for frequent travelers. It offers high rewards through Chase Ultimate Rewards and includes an impressive array of travel protections that could save cardholders a lot of money in certain situations. It also provides time and money saving perks like a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit and an annual $300 travel credit.

Additionally, its flexible redemption program provides a 50% point bonus for travel redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards as well as a 1:1 point transfer rate to Chase's travel partners. 

Pro tip: By transferring points to Chase's airline and hotel partners, cardholders could find a greater per-point value.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

card highlights
intro bonusEnjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
APR20.74% - 28.74% (Variable)
recommended creditExcellent, Good
reward rates
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
annual fee$95
intro purchase APRN/A

Who should get it

The Venture Rewards card is a good choice for consumers looking for an uncomplicated yet rewarding card who travel enough times per year to justify the $95 fee. It offers a high welcome bonus of 75,000 miles for $4,000 spent in the first three months. It earns 5x miles per dollar for hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and an unlimited 2x miles for everything else.

How to use it

Use the card for everyday purchases like gas and groceries, so long as you don't have a dedicated gas/grocery card that earns more. Book your rental card and hotels through Capital One if you can, and take advantage of the Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) application fee credit. Consider looking into point transfers to Capital One's travel partners. You might be able to find a good deal that increases your per-point value beyond the typical 1 cent.

Consider this

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lucrative welcome bonus
  • Flat 2x miles for most purchases
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • Rental car insurance and Travel Accident Insurance

Why you'll love it

The Venture Rewards card is simple, rewarding and can save you time and money. The welcome bonus is pretty high for a card like this, and provides plenty of value. The card offers rental car insurance and Travel Accident Insurance which could save you from a headache and a lower bank account balance. And, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck is a must-have for anyone who visits airports on a regular basis, and having the fee covered is a nice touch. It's a good value for the $95 annual fee.

Pro tip: Use the card for any planned upcoming trips to help reach the welcome bonus spending requirement, but don't spend money on anything you normally wouldn't have just to reach it.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

What is a credit card welcome bonus?

Credit card companies want your business, which is why they're willing to offer incentives to new customers in the form of a welcome bonus. This one-time bonus typically takes the form of points, cashback or miles. Typically, the cardholder must spend a specified amount within a set period of time in order to receive the bonus, though there are a few cards that waive spending requirements.

How do welcome bonuses work?

Receiving a welcome bonus is not automatic once you are approved for the card. You also need to charge the required amount on your card within the specified amount of time. There may be other conditions and restrictions as well, depending on the card issuer.

What types of welcome bonuses are there?

There are two main types of welcome bonuses -- points and cashback. Points have a variable redemption value; for instance, if you have an airline miles card, you'll earn the highest value on deals offered by the miles program and/or transfer partners. 

Cashback cards offer cold hard cash that can be transferred into your bank account or used to pay down the statement balance.

What are some best practices for maximizing a welcome bonus?

When using a points card, make sure to redeem the points through the award program affiliated with the card in order to maximize value. Some points cards allow you to make a purchase with a combination of cash and points, so using your card to fund the cash portion will earn even more points. Some issuers partner with other companies for a limited time to offer even more bonus points. Other issuers combine bonus cashback with an introductory 0% APR. It's important to pay attention to all these variables.

Is a credit card welcome bonus worthwhile?

Yes, if you can reach the spending requirement without going out of your way to spend more than you normally would, a welcome bonus can provide a good return on your spending. While the bonuses are an incentive to get the card, there's no need to spend above your means just to reach the bonus.

How to choose the best credit card welcome bonus for you?

First, choose the type of card that best suits your needs. If you're looking for a travel card and know you have a business trip or vacation coming up, getting the card and using it to fund the trip can be an easy way to earn the welcome bonus without spending money you wouldn't have otherwise.
Rewards cards are good choices for earning a return on purchases consumers are already making, like gas and groceries. Make sure your monthly spending is enough to qualify for the bonus, and you'll earn rewards while working toward it. Just don't go out of your way to spend more than usual to get the bonus.

Keep in mind you shouldn't choose a credit card based solely on its welcome bonus. Rather, look at your spending and choose a card that best suits your needs, and consider the other card features such as rewards, fees and benefits.

Which welcome bonuses can I earn multiple times?

Although credit card companies frown on credit card churning, or the practice of getting new cards just for the welcome bonus, some issuers actually allow you to earn multiple welcome bonuses. There are restrictions. Citibank, for instance, will only allow you to get the bonus when you have closed a card and waited 48 months to apply again. The bottom line, though: If you play by the rules, you can earn more than one welcome bonus with the same card.

What is the Chase 5/24 rule?

The Chase "5/24" rule says cardholders can only sign up for certain Chase credit cards if they haven't acquired more than five new credit cards from any company in the past 24 months. Among the cards subject to this rule are cards with big sign up bonuses.

I got a credit card for a welcome bonus, but I barely use it now: Is it better to cancel unused credit cards or keep them?

The general consensus is that you should keep your accounts open if you don't use them because canceling credit cards negatively impacts your credit score. However, there are some ways to minimize the hit, such as paying off the balances on all your cards to lower your utilization of credit percentage, an important factor in your credit score.

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.

[This article was first published on The Simple Dollar in 2020. It was updated in January 2022.]

Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.    

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