Ten Most Valuable Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses for Free Travel 2018

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

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

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card®

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card®
$95
First Year Fee

Bonus:

Get 80,000 points after spending $5,000 within three months.


Max.Value: $1,640. We value transferable Chase points around 2.05 cents each.
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).

Barclays Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Barclays Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
$0, $95 thereafter
First Year Fee

Bonus:

60,000 after your first purchase within 90 days.


Max.Value: $1,140 as we value American Advantage points as high as 1.90 cents each.

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

The Platinum Card® from American Express

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

Bonus:

100,000 points after spending $3,000 within 3 months (Targeted offers on the business version are often as high as 150,000 points). The sign up bonus is not awarded 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: $1,950, 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). $2,925 if you are targeted for the 150,000 points promotion.
The complete list of travel partners to which Amex points may be transferred is here
A great card for those who book travel directly with airlines as the card now gives 5 per dollar spent when booking directly with airlines, and for those who see value in the Singapore KrisFlyer program.

World of Hyatt Card® by Chase®

World of Hyatt Card® by Chase®
$95
First Year Fee

Bonus:
60,000 Hyatt points after $6,000 spend. 40,000 points if you spend $3,000 if the first three months and an additional 20,000 points after spending a total of $6,000 in the first six months.

Max.Value: $1,440
We value Hyatt points as high as 2.4 cents per point. 
N/A

Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card

Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card
$95
First Year Fee

Bonus:

100,000 Marriott points (33,333 Starwood) after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of receiving the card.  (We value each Marriott point as high as 0.90 cents per dollar only when redeemed for 7 Night Hotel + Air packages.  Other redemption values will ordinarily be lower).


Max.Value: $900
Some commentators have suggested that there will be a temporary opportunity to find valuable rewards at the high end Starwood properties in late 2018 as these properties will temporarily fall in category.  

Citi ThankYou® Premier

Citi ThankYou® Premier
$0, $95 thereafter
First Year Fee

Bonus:

60,000 ThankYou Points after you spend $4,000 within three months.


Max.Value: $1,170 (We value ThankYou points as high as 1.95 cents each when redeemed on Singapore, though substantially less valuable elsewhere.)
Citibank ThankYou points earned through this card may be transferred to any of Citi's transfer partners.    The Premier Card is a $95 version of the $450 Citi ThankYou Prestige card and has the same sign up bonus.  While Citi has stripped the Prestige card of most of its benefits in 2017, that card may still be attractive for those who routinely take advantage of the Prestige's fourth night free benefit (the Prestige also comes with a $250 travel credit that the Premier does not carry).

 

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card
$450
First Year Fee

Bonus:
Earn 2 free nights in a Tier 1-4 Ritz Carlton after you spend $5,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Max.Value: $1200
Redeem 2 nights at The Ritz in Laguna Niguel or Half Moon Bay in California, The Ritz in Aruba or the Hotel Arts in Barcelona.

Citibank® American Airlines AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Card

Citibank® American Airlines AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Card
$0, $99 thereafter
First Year Fee

Bonus:

50,000 American Airlines points after spending 23,500 within your first 3 months.  Also available with a 70,000 bonus point sign up as a business card.


Max.Value: $900

 

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

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card®

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card®
$0
First Year Fee

Bonus:

Get 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months. 


Max.Value: $1,025. We value Chase Sapphire points around 2.05 cents each.
The complete list of Chase transfer partners is here.    
A great card for those seeking flexibility in the way they can redeem travel rewards points.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card®

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card®
$450
First Year Fee

Bonus:

Get 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months.


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.
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).

British Airways® Visa Signature Card®

British Airways® Visa Signature Card®
$95
First Year Fee

Bonus:
50,000 points after spending $3,000 within 3 months. 25,000 more points if you spend $10,000 in 12 months, and 25,000 more if you reach $20,000 in 12 months.  If you reach $30,000 you also get a free companion pass.

Max.Value: $1,000 as we value BA points around 2 cents each. You may find much more valuable redemptions on inexpensive short haul flights.
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.

Hilton Honors® Ascend Card® from American Express

Hilton Honors® Ascend Card® from American Express
$95
First Year Fee

Bonus:

Earn 125,000 points after spending $2,000 within your first 3 months (the Hilton Honors card, a separate card, offers 75,000 points with no annual fee and a $1,000 promotional spend). 


Max.Value: $800

Most Conrad hotels are 95,000 points a night.  

A great card for those who plan to stay at Hilton hotels where the Ascend card delivers 12 Hilton points per $1 spend.

Venture® from Capital One®

Venture® from Capital One®
$0, $95 thereafter
First Year Fee

Bonus:
Each 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months.

Max.Value: $500
Redeem miles at 1 cent each on any major airline.

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 sign up bonuses. 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.

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% bonus, 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 sign-on bonuses 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 sign-on bonuses.

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. Flipping Cards can work

Chase and Citibank really want your business. Chase lets you reapply for a new card in each category every 24 months and get a new sign up bonus. Citibank lets you do it so long as you haven’t held the exact same product for 18 months. (Amex has a once in a lifetime rule; they don’t really seem to want your business anymore). As this article points out, flipping can damage your credit utilization ratio, but the risk does not offset the reality that flipping cards is an effective way to get value out of thin air!

Card names, trademarked images and copyrights appearing on this page are the property of the issuer, not BestCashCow. Calculations and editorial information appearing on this page have been determined by our editorial team and by site users without any input or endorsement of the issuer.