Ten Most Valuable Credit Card Welcome Offers for Free Travel 2020

BestCashCow’s Top Rules for Opening New Credit Cards to Get Free Travel Rewards

1. Play the Game
There is nothing wrong with earning loyalty points from your favorite hotel or airline, or flexible points (such as Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points) that can later be transferred to a program or used for your travel expenditures. There is also nothing wrong with opening several credit cards to take advantage of welcome offers. Credit card companies are exacting large transaction and processing fees from vendors. That is being passed on to you in the form of higher prices on everything (even if you pay in cash!). It is fair to ask for some of the value back for your loyalty and usage.

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Card Welcome Offer / Maximum Value of Welcome Offer How to Get Maximum Value Why BestCashCow Likes

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card
$95
First Year Fee
Bonus:

Get 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first three months. BestCashCow values these points as high as 2.05 cents each, making the value of this bonus $2,050.   $95 annual fee.   


Max.Value: $2,050 as we value Chase points as high as 2.05 cents per point on some redemption opportunities at United, Hyatt, British Airways or Singapore Airlines.
The complete list of Chase transfer partners is here.    Some of the more attractive transfer opportunities are:
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).

A fantastic welcome bonus and multiple spend categories make it easy for small business owners to accumulate Chase Ultimate rewards points that we think can easily be redeemed for more than 2 cents a point.

Review: | Jul 03, 2020

I've had the card for a few years. The 100,000 sign up points is just great, and it is easy to rack points quickly for online ad spend (which my business does a lot of ). I transfer the points to my Sapphire card and then onto United or Hyatt usually where I get great value. No complaints so long as I am able to travel again after this Trumpvirus.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
$550
First Year Fee
Bonus:

Receive 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months.  $550 annual fee.   The card includes Priority Pass membership, a $300 travel statement credit that renews on each card membership anniversary date, certain Lyft benefits, and a $60 Grubhub credit annually (through 2021).


Max.Value: $1,025 as we value Chase points as high as 2.05 cents per point on some redemption opportunities at United, Hyatt, British Airways or Singapore Airlines.

Coronavirus / COVID-19 Additional Benefits:

This card is offering 5x points per dollar spend on grocery spend until June 30, 2020 up to a maximum of $1500 a month.   This excludes shopping at Costco or other big box retailers.

The more valuable redemptions of Chase points include:
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).

Our favorite card for those who spend a lot on travel and dining who can benefit from 3x Sapphire points on spend in these categories.   Also brings a great list of transfer partners.

Review: | Sep 29, 2020

Yada, yada, yada with Chase and CSR already. The card was the must-have card for millennials when it launched 4 years ago, but now the sign-up bonus is lower, the card's annual fee is higher and the benefits don't stack up the Amex Platinum. Plus, Platinum really seems to be going out of their way to add new incentives during the Trumpvirus, including all sorts of incentives to renew. I haven't seen any of that coming from Chase.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
$95
First Year Fee
Bonus:

Get 80,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months. 


Max.Value: $1,640. We value Chase Sapphire points as high as 2.05 cents each.

Coronavirus / COVID-19 Additional Benefits:

This card is offering 3x points per dollar spend on grocery spend until June 30, 2020 up to a maximum of $1500 a month.   This excludes shopping at Costco or other big box retailers.

The complete list of Chase transfer partners is here.    
A great card for those seeking maximum flexibility in the way they can redeem travel rewards points with a low annual fee.

Review: | May 30, 2016

This is probably the gold standard (or Platinum or Sapphire standard) now that Amex isn't.

United Business Card

United Business Card
$99
First Year Fee
Bonus:

Earn 100,000 United Mileage Plus points after spending $10,000 in your first three months of card membership.   


Max.Value: $1,800 if you qualify for the full 100,000 Mileage Plus points as we value United points around 1.80 cents each.

Earn 2x on United purchases, at restaurants, at gas stations and at office supply stores.  Also earn 2x at local transit including ride sharing services.   Earn 1 mile everywhere else.

Also, receive a 5,000 United miles on each anniversary when you have this card and a United personal credit card.

As few as 70,000 United miles can still be redeemed on any of its Star Alliance® partners for a one-way business class ticket from anywhere in the US to anywhere in Europe.   Star Alliance® partners include Lufthansa, TAP Portugal, Austrian Air and SAS Airlines.

The card includes 2 United Club passes upon enrollment and at each anniversary.   It also includes a 25% discount on in-flight purchases, a $100 credit after 7 United flight purchases of $100 or more, and a free first checked bag on United.    No foreign transaction fees.   

World of Hyatt Card by Chase

World of Hyatt Card by Chase
$95
First Year Fee
Bonus:

50,000 Hyatt points.  25,000 after a $3,000 spend within 3 months, and an additional 25,000 after total spend of $6,000 within the first 6 months.  $95 annual fee.


Max.Value: $1,200

We value Hyatt points as high as 2.4 cents per point when redeemed at Park Hyatts in Paris or New York or at the Churchill in London. 

A great card for customers of Hyatt and those seeking to redeem value for their credit card spend at Hyatt.

Review: | Feb 26, 2017

This is the best card here. Became my go-to card recently. I'll pay $75 all day for a free cat 4 night every day of the year.

United Club Infinite

United Club Infinite
$
First Year Fee
Bonus:

As of October 1, 2020, this card is no longer offering a bonus, but is also is not offering an annual fee in the first year ($525 thereafter).


Max.Value:

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express
$550
First Year Fee
Bonus:

60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 within 3 months (Targeted offers may offer more Membership Rewards points).   The Welcome Offer is not available if you have ever had the exact same product before (if you have had the card before, consider the Business version, the Morgan Stanley version or the Mercedes Benz version.)


Max.Value: $1,170, as we value Amex points as high as 1.95 cents each when redeemed through Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program (other opportunities are are significantly less valuable).

Coronavirus / COVID-19 Additional Benefits:

Through the end of 2020, the Platinum card is providing $20/month streaming service credit and $20/month wireless phone service credit.  This benefit is not extended to co-branded cards such as the Morgan Stanley Platinum card, the Mercedes Benz Platinum card, the Ameriprise Platinum card or the Charles Schwab Platinum card.

Ordinarily 1 point per $1 spent on the card, this card now offers 5 points per $1 spend directly on airlines and on hotels booked through American Express. $200 annual airline incidental credit (can be used in twice in the first payment year for airline incidental fees - once in each of two successive calendar years).  $200 in Uber statement credits annually ($15 per month and $35 in December).   $50 semi-annual Saks statement credit.  Limited Priority Pass membership.   Global Entry reimbursement.   Access to Amex's own airport lounges worldwide.  $550 annual fee.

A great card for those who book travel directly with airlines or who are willing to use Amex's travel services for booking hotels (the card now gives 5x per dollar for both).   

Review: | Jul 03, 2020

Don't even dream of opening this for 60,000 points in this environment. Wait until you get matched for a 100,000 sign up bonus with the cardmatch tool. Everyone is matching due to the Corona! Don't leave 40,000 points on the table.

United Mileage Plus Explorer Card

United Mileage Plus Explorer Card
$0
First Year Fee
Bonus:

Earn 40,000 United Mileage Plus points after spending $3,000 within your first three months of card membership.   Since the pandemic began, United has been davaluing its progam and we cannot value United miles any greater than 1.20 cents now.   Therefore, we value this Welcome Bonus around $500.   No annual fee for the first year, $95 thereafter.


Max.Value:

Review: | May 24, 2016

I dont really understand why someone would get any kind of card not tied directly to an airline? I tried to cash in points once on another card I had and I had to book my ticket on line through their system and the ticket was pretty expensive so I still wound up paying a fortune for it. I have Chase United card now and 25,000 miles I can get a ticket anywhere in the US. It seems you have to burn through so many more points on general cards than on airline specific cards so by the time you have 50K points, that might just get you one flight on the other system but 2 on United. My question I guess is if you have a United Chase card, it says on the paperwork you can not get another one while you have one. Has anyone tried to sign up for 2 United chase cards just to get the 30K, 50K whatever bonus points and just switch from one card to the next for a while? Thanks! Also Question number 2, what is the cheapest way to get a card that allows you access to lounges anywhere? I dont travel all that much to if you are paying 495 for every card that gives you that it is almost cheaper for me to pay as I go not that I could probably ever pay for a lounge. I know there are a lot of gurus in here so just curious if anyone knows a way to get in there cheaper. Thanks everyone!

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
$95
First Year Fee
Bonus:

Earn 125,000 Hilton points after spending $2,000 within your first three months. $95 annual fee.  (The Hilton Honors American Express card, a separate card, offers 75,000 points after spending $1,000 within your first three months and has no annual fee). 


Max.Value: $95

Coronavirus / COVID-19 Additional Benefits:

This card is now offering 12x points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets until July 31, 2020.

Most Conrad hotels are 95,000 points a night.  

A solid card for those who plan to stay at Hilton hotels where the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card delivers 12 Hilton points per $1 spend.

Review: | Dec 22, 2016

Had no problem using the 2 free nights at the Conrad in NY and that made it worthwhile and then I cancelled.

British Airways Visa Signature Card

British Airways Visa Signature Card
$95
First Year Fee
Bonus:

Receive 50,000 British Airways Avios points after spending $3,000 within 3 months.  Receive an addtional 50,000 British Airways Avios if you spend a total of $20,000 within your first year of card membership.  If you spend a total of $30,000 in a calendar year, you will receive a "Travel Together voucher" valid for 2 years which can be redeemed for a companion ticket in the same class of service as a fully fare round-trip ticket on British Airways.   $95 annual fee.


Max.Value: $1,350 (We value British Airways points as high as 2.7 cents each).

There are redemption opportunities as low as 15,000 British Airways Avios for a round trip coach ticket between Chicago and the East Coast (on American), between Hong Kong and most destinations in Southeast Asia (on Cathay Pacific), or between London and Madrid (on Iberia).  Note that redemptions directly on British Airways are often subject to excessive fees.

A solid card for those who can spend $30,000 on the card in a year in order to get the "Travel Together Voucher".   Also, a good card for those who can redeem BA miles on short haul flights through British Airways' partners.

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
$95
First Year Fee
Bonus:

100,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of receiving the card. We value each Marriott point as high as 0.90 cents ordinarily.  $95 annual fee.


Max.Value: $675

Until recently, some redemptions as high as 3 cents a point had been found at the Westin Snowmass Resort in Colorado and at the Wailea Beach Resort in Hawaii, but following 2020 reset it will be difficult to get 9/10 cent a point in value for most redemptions.

A great card for those who stay at Marriott hotels, and who want to take advantage of their higher end hotel properties (St. Regis, Ritz Carlton, Luxury Collection, Edition, Autograph).   Receive automatic silver status and 15 nights credit towards gold status each year.   No foreign transaction fees.

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card
$95
First Year Fee
Bonus:

Earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 within three months of opening the card. $95 fee.


Max.Value: $975 (We value ThankYou points as high as 1.95 cents each when redeemed on Singapore, though substantially less valuable elsewhere.)

Coronavirus / COVID-19 Additional Benefits:

New cardholders who applied for a Citibank credit card between Dec. 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020, will get an additional three months to meet the sign-on bonus spending requirement. You'll get a total of six months to meet the bonus if you applied (or will apply) between those dates.

The Premier Card is a "lite" $95 version of the $495 Citi ThankYou Prestige card.   It has the same sign-up bonus, but lacks the point earning capabilities or the benefits of the more expensive Prestige card.   It delivers 3x on restaurants and gas stations and 2x on travel and entertainment.

A solid card for those who find value in the Singapore KrisFlyer program or JetBlue's program or Air France's, as those are the best of Citi's transfer partners.  

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card
$0, $95 thereafter
First Year Fee
Bonus:

Earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 within 3 months of account opening, or 100,000 bonus miles if you spend $20,000 within 12 months of account opening.  $95 annual fee.


Max.Value: $500

Redeem miles at 1 cent each on any major airline.

Review: | Aug 13, 2019

This is a shit card from a shit company. Stick with Chase, American Express, Citibank and Barclays. Those companies may annoy you by sending you transfer checks. They won't compromise your personal identity, harass you to get you to take out all sorts of loans or provide you with lousy service. All for what? 50,000 worthless points.

Citi American Airlines® Advantage Platinum Select World Mastercard®

Citi American Airlines® Advantage Platinum Select World Mastercard®
$0, $99 thereafter
First Year Fee
Bonus:

50,000 points after spending $2,500 within 3 months.  $99 annual fee, waived the first year.


Max.Value: $900

Coronavirus / COVID-19 Additional Benefits:

New cardholders who applied for a Citibank credit card between Dec. 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020, will get an additional three months to meet the sign-on bonus spending requirement. You'll get a total of six months to meet the bonus if you applied (or will apply) between those dates.

A great card for those who fly American Airlines or who seek to redeem points on American Airlines.

Barclays Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Barclays Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
$95
First Year Fee
Bonus:

60,000 American AAdvantage Points after making your first purchase within 90 days of receiving the card.  $95 annual fee.


Max.Value: $1,140 if you are willing to American Advantage points as high as 1.90 cents each.

A great card for those who fly American Airlines or who seek to redeem points on American, or those seeking a faster path towards status on American.


2. Go with travel rewards to get the most return for your dollars spent. Plus, it's more fun to have your spend go towards your next Hawaii trip than towards offsetting part of the next cable bill.

The industry standard is basically that a dollar spent on a credit card is worth as much a penny in remuneration to the consumer. Most cash back programs are geared to this number. Gift card programs through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards or Amex’s Membership Rewards will also give you back over 1%. You may from time to time find a 2% or even a 3% welcome offer, but you are simply never going to get more than about a 1.5% on average.

Leading hotel rewards points and airline frequent flier points can easily be redeemed for 3 or 4 cents per dollar spent. Using points to stay at luxury hotels or to fly, or upgrade to business or first class on long haul flights often results in value of as much as 8 or 9 cents per dollar spent! Hotel and airline points are therefore always your best bet.

3. Having the right cards with large lump sum welcome offers is the easiest way to jumpstart a point earning strategy

Many people get more travel and reward points from credit card usage than they do from actually traveling, and many of those get most points through welcome offers.

4. Not all travel and reward programs are equal

Before you earn points with a program, you need to examine whether the program is generous and whether it works for you. These programs are very different, even within a certain segment. For example, among hotels, Hyatt’s program is strong. Even after a 2014 devaluation, 30,000 points will give you a free night in Park Hyatts in Milan, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney or Zurich where a room could easily run you over $1,000 a night. Other programs such as the Hilton, the Marriott or the IHG programs offer significantly less value.

Within the airline category, British Airways has turned their Avios program into a great vehicle for short haul redemptions on American or on other OneWorld partner airlines. Delta, on the other hand, has turned both their airline and their SkyMiles program into one where even the most loyal traveler only sees value in Business Class inter-continental redemptions.

5. Hotel and Airline points should be used, not accumulated

People frequently make the mistake of hoarding points instead of using them. Hotel and airline programs can be devalued in multiple ways – by changing the number of points required for a reward, changing categories, changing partners, and of course by causing your points to expire. The terms of the program are very clear: the fine print always explains that the issuer can change or even withdraw the program at any time. And, as it becomes easier to earn points, virtually every major airline or hotel chain is tweaking, or even dramatically changing their programs each year.

6. Do Not Be Afraid to Open the Cards You Need

The major banks really want and are competing for your credit card business. Chase lets you reapply for a new card in each category every 24 months and get a new welcome offer, but you cannot have opened more than five other credit cards over that period. Citibank lets you open a new card do it so long as you haven’t held the exact same product for 24 months. Amex has a once in a lifetime rule, which allows you to take advantage of each welcome offer only once. As this article points out, when opening cards you also need to be careful not to damage your credit utilization ratio.

Use BestCashCow's Credit Card Maximizer to see the cards that may be most valuable for you based on your spending patterns.

The table above is generated by BestCashCow and includes BestCashCow’s commentary about the credit card product listed. It may include references to products from one or more of advertisers, but no content herein has not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser. BestCashCow has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. We may receive compensation when you click on links to products. Additional terms may apply.