Ten Most Valuable Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses for Free Travel

Ten Most Valuable Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses for Free Travel

Open as many as you can and enjoy a ton of free travel benefits!

10 Most Valuable Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses for Free Travel

Also see our list of the 15 best cards ranked by value returned on spend!

Card Sign Up Bonus / Maximum Value of Sign Up Bonus How to Get Maximum Value Sponsor Message

The Platinum Card® from American Express (Also Available in a Business Version)


$450
First Year Fee
Bonus: 100,000 points after spending $10,000 within 3 months (Targeted offers are often as high as 150,000 points after spending $20,000 in three months).

Max. Value: $4,500 if you are targeted for the 150,000 points promotion, $3,000 if you only receive 100,000 points.  (We value Amex points as high as 3 cents each when redeemed through Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program.  Other opportunities are are significantly less valuable). 
Great redemption opportunities on Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program are outlined in this article A great card for big spenders who see value in the Singapore KrisFlyer program.

Chase Ink Plus Card®


$0
First Year Fee
Bonus: Get 60,000 points after spending $5,000 within three months. (Offer sometimes raised to 70,000).

Max. Value: $2,380 if you can get 70,000 points.  (We value Chase Sapphire points as high as 3.4 cents each.)
Transfer Sapphire points to:
  • Hyatt - 8,000 points gets a night at the Hyatt Regency Greenville, SC.
  • British Airways - 15,000 points gets a round trip ticket between Chicago and the East Coast (on AA).
  • United - 140,000 points gets a RT business class ticket from JFK to Narita.
  • Singapore - 60,000 points gets a RT business class ticket from the mainland US to Hawaii (on United).
Do you have a small business or are you seeking to separate business spend from personal spend? 

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card®


$0
First Year Fee
Bonus: Get 40,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months. (Offer is often raised to 50,000 points).

Max. Value: $1,700 if you can get 50,000 points.  (We value Chase Sapphire points as high as 3.4 cents each.)
Transfer Sapphire points to Hyatt, United, Singapore or British Airways as outlined above. A great card for those seeking flexibility in the way they can redeem travel rewards points.

The Fairmont® Visa Signature Card by Chase®

hyatt
$95
First Year Fee
Bonus: 2 free nights at any Fairmont worldwide after $3,000 spend within three months. 

Max. Value: $1500
Use the card to obtain free suite upgrades and then redeem at the Savoy in London or the Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui where a suite is easily $750 a night.   

Citi ThankYou® Premier

citi thank you card
$0
First Year Fee
Bonus: 50,000 ThankYou Points after you spend $3,000 within three months. 

Max. Value: $1,500 (We value ThankYou points as high as 3 cents each when redeemed on Singapore)
Great redemption opportunities on Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program are outlined in this article  

British Airways® Visa Signature Card®


$0
First Year Fee
Bonus: 50,000 points after spending $2,000 within 3 months.

Max. Value: $1,350 (We value British Airways points as high as 2.7 cents each).
15,000 points gets a round trip ticket between Chicago and the East Coast (on American), or a round trip between Seattle and LA (on American), or a round trip trip between London and Madrid (on Iberia).  Note that redemptions directly on British Airways are often subject to excessive fees. A great card for those redeeming on short haul flights through British Airways' partners!

The Hyatt Card® by Chase®

hyatt
$0
First Year Fee
Bonus: 2 free nights at any Hyatt worldwide after $1,000 spend; also get a $50 statement credit after your first purchase. 

Max. Value:$1000
Redeem your two free nights at Park Hyatt New York or Park Hyatt Paris where a room is easily $500 a night.  

Citi Hilton Honors® Visa Reserve Card®


$95
First Year Fee
Bonus: Earn 2 free weekend nights at any Hilton worldwide after you spend $2,500 in first four months.

Max. Value: $800
Redeem 2 free nights at a Conrad Hotel where a rate could easily be $400 a night.
 
A great card for those who plan to stay at Hilton hotels. 
 

The Barclaycard® World Elite Plus Mastercard®


$0
First Year Fee
Bonus: Receive 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 within 3 months.

Max. Value: $420 (Points have a fixed value of 1.05 cents each when redeemed for travel credits on Barclay's website).
Points are redeemable only for travel statement credits. A great card for those who seek maximum flexibility in award redemption, in return for giving up opportunities that may be available through an airline or hotel program.
Image: ID-100152225(artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are those of the author, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any bank advertiser, card issuer, airline or hotel.

Advertising Disclosure: This site may be compensated for hosting offers.


Can Opening A Credit Card for Hotel Points or Frequent Flier Miles Damage Your Credit?

Can Opening A Credit Card for Hotel Points or Frequent Flier Miles Damage Your Credit?

The risk is less than you think, but pay attention to your utilization ratio when closing a card.

When I mention an incredible travel rewards credit card deal to friends, I frequently hear the response: “I would love the benefit, but can’t risk damaging my credit.”

There are two types of people who should not open new credit cards under any circumstance – those who do not pay their bills on time (or run a credit balance) and those who spend more as a result of having a credit card (often to reach promotional spend amounts).   If you fall into either one of those categories, you will come out a loser by opening a new credit card, no matter what type of promotional bonus you are receiving or how many travel points or miles you are accumulating through spend.  But, so long as you pay your bills on time, there is very little risk in opening a new travel rewards credit card in order to receive a sign up bonus and in order to align your rewards with your travel interests.

In fact, having more available credit can actually improve your utilization ratio and improve your credit.  Someone who spends $10,000 a month on credit cards and pays their balance in full, but has $200,000 in credit is utilizing only 5% of their available credit.  That same person who has $20,000 in available credit is utilizing 50% and therefore has a higher utilization ratio.  A low utilization ratio (having credit and not using it) demonstrates responsibility with credit and leads to a higher credit score.

By the same token, the more important factor to consider in your credit is not the effect of opening a card, but that of closing a card.  If someone’s utilization ratio were to rise from, say, 5% to 50%, his or her credit score could be adversely impacted.  If you cancel a card, specifically one with a very large credit limit, it makes sense to call the issuer and ask that the credit line be reassigned to another card with that same issuer (the process of moving the credit and cancelling the card can often be accomplished by asking for it in the same call when you cancel the card, but it cannot be done after the card is cancelled).  Chase and Citibank are generally very accommodating to this request; Amex, not so much.

Americans generally pay too much attention to their credit score.  It is important to recognize that a credit score of 760 or above is always going to qualify you for the best lending rate on a mortgage (and not going to raise any red flags in a job interview, etc.).  Getting a new credit card, resulting in a “hard pull” on your credit, is never going to impact your credit more than temporarily, and never more than by a couple of points.  As long as your credit score has a few points of margin above 760 and as long as you are not imminently seeking a new mortgage, there is unlikely to be a material or deleterious impact in applying for a new credit card. 

See the best travel rewards cards available today.

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Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are those of the author, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any bank advertiser, card issuer, airline or hotel.

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Should You Get the Citibank ThankYou Premier Card or the Citi Prestige Card

Should You Get the Citibank ThankYou Premier Card or the Citi Prestige Card

Citibank is aggressively advertising its new and improved ThankYou cards, but the benefits of the costly Prestige Card aren't entirely clear. We did some digging and found they are there.

Editor's Note: The Prestige card ceased to offer the Admiral's Club access and the free golf benefit, described below, on July 23, 2017.  The 4th night free benefit was also recalibrated so that the credit offered is now for the average nightly rate across four consecutive nights.  

Citibank recently improved its ThankYou rewards program dramatically.  It added bonus categories to its point system so card holders get 3x spend on travel (including gas) and 2x on dining out.  It also added Singapore Airlines as a transfer partner, which prompted BestCashCow to consider if ThankYou points are now as valuable as Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points in this article.

Citibank’s ThankYou Premier Card and the Citi Prestige Card both offer the same 50,000 ThankYou points after $3,000 of spend in 3 months if you open online.  The Citi Prestige card also which offers the same spend categories and carries a heavy annual fee.  BestCashCow, however, discovered that by applying for the Prestige card in the branch you will get 60,000 ThankYou points as a signup bonus and the annual fee is only $350 (instead of $450).  We think that the extra 10,000 points and $100 is well worth a quick visit to the Citibank branch (provided it is in fact quick, and you don’t get trapped into spending 45 minutes speaking with some very junior banker who is trying to cross sell you).

We also discovered that there are tremendous other benefits of the Citi Prestige Card that can make it well worth its premium over the Citi ThankYou Premier Card (the fee on Prestige is not waived in the first year; the Premier Card carries a $95 annual fee but it is waived the first year).  

The first three Prestige Card benefits are well disclosed: 

Travel statement credit.  You will receive a $250 statement credit for purchases directly from an airline each year.  Since this is a calendar year benefit, it can be used in each of 2015 and 2016, even if you cancel the card when it is up for renewal.  You will lose the benefit of getting this twice if you get the card at the beginning of the calendar year, or if you renew.  But, if you use this benefit effectively, you get $500 in credit which more than covers the card’s fee.

American Admiral Club access.  You will get complementary access to the Admiral Club so long as you are at the airport for a flight on American Airlines (this is technically not the same benefit as a full club membership which does not require that you be boarding an American flight.).

Statement Credit for Global Entry.  Like the Amex Platinum Card, with which Citibank is trying to compete, the Prestige Card reimburses you for you $100 Global Entry fee.  This benefit is worthless if you already hold Global Entry and are not up for renewal.

Citibank has done a poor job promoting the other two benefits, but they are as follows:

3 Free rounds of Golf.  Each calendar year, you get 3 free rounds of gold so long as you sign up on Citibank’s site at a participating golf course.  Like the travel statement credit, this is a calendar year benefit.  Since a round of golf can be expensive and since this can provide six rounds over two years, this benefit can be valuable for active golfers.

4th Night free on Hotel Stays.  So long as you use the Citi Prestige Concierge for your booking and pay with the Citi Prestige card, you will receive a statement credit for any hotel stay over 3 nights.  For those who frequently have hotel stays of 4 nights or more, this is a fantastic benefit, especially if you can structure your stay so that the 4th night is the most expensive.   This benefit can be used an unlimited number of times and has no limit on the value it can provide.  It is obviously huge if you book the kind of rooms costing thousands in dollars.

With the Citibank Prestige card, Citibank is obviously going after the American Express Platinum card.  We found that the card is well worth the $350 fee for those who can take advantage of the above benefits, or, in some case, even just one of them.

Apply for the Citi Thank You Premier or the Citi Prestige Card here.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are those of the author, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any bank advertiser, card issuer, airline or hotel.

Advertising Disclosure: This site may be compensated for hosting offers.