Ten Most Valuable Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses for Free Travel 2017

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

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

The Barclaycard® World Elite Arrival Plus Mastercard®

The Barclaycard® World Elite Arrival Plus Mastercard®
$0
First Year Fee

Bonus:
Receive 50,000 points when you spend $3,000 within 3 months.

Max.Value: $525 (Points have a fixed value of 1.05 cents each when redeemed for travel credits on Barclay's website).
Points are redeemable for statement credits directly against travel charges made to the card.  Charges may be taken against hotel charges, airfare charges and virtually anything travel related.

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: $2,250, as we value Amex points as high as 2.25 cents each when redeemed through Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program (other opportunities are are significantly less valuable). $3,375 if you are targeted for the 150,000 points promotion.
Great redemption opportunities on Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program are outlined in this article.
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.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card®

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card®
$0
First Year Fee

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

Max.Value: $1,920. We value transferable Chase points around 2.4 cents each.
Transfer Sapphire points to Hyatt, United, Singapore or British Airways as outlined above.

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card
$450
First Year Fee
Bonus:
Earn 3 free nights in a Tier 1-4 Ritz Carlton after you spend $5,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Max.Value: $1800
Redeem 3 nights at The Ritz in Laguna Niguel or Half Moon Bay in California, The Ritz in Aruba or the Hotel Arts in Barcelona.

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: $1,200. We value Chase Sapphire points around 2.4 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.

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: $1,200 as we value Chase points as high as 2.4 cents per point on some redemption opportunities at United, Hyatt, British Airways or Singapore Airlines.
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).

Merrill Plus Card

Merrill Plus Card
$$0
First Year Fee
Bonus:
Receive 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 within your first 90 days of card membership.

Max.Value: $1000
You may redeem up to 25,000 points at a time at 2 cents a point on American, British Airways, Delta and United. So a $500 ticket can be redeemed for 25,000 points. However, points are only worth a penny apiece towards amounts over $500 in airfare (redeemed in 2500 point increments).  
A great card for those who can purchase tickets on American, United, Delta or British Airways for a close to $500 without going over.

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.

Citi ThankYou® Prestige

Citi ThankYou® Prestige
$450
First Year Fee

Bonus:
40,000 ThankYou Points after you spend $3,000 within three months.  (We anticipate it may be raised higher shortly).

Max.Value: $920 (We value ThankYou points as high as 2.3 cents each when redeemed on Singapore, though substantially less valuable elsewhere.)
This is a $450 version of the Citi ThankYou Premier card.  Since Citi has stripped is card of most of its benefits in 2017, those who will not routinely take advantage of the Prestige's fourth night free benefit will fidn the Premier more sensible (albeit the sign-up bonus is 10,000 points lower).

Citi Hilton Honors® Visa Reserve Card®

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 Hyatt Card® by Chase®

The Hyatt Card® by Chase®
$0
First Year Fee

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

Max.Value: $750
Redeem your two free nights at Park Hyatt New York or Park Hyatt Paris where a room is easily $375 a night.
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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!