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 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).
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.

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).
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).   

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
$$95
First Year Fee

Bonus:

Get 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months. 


Max.Value: $1,230. 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 maximum flexibility in the way they can redeem travel rewards points with a low annual fee.

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.


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).

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.

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.


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

World of Hyatt Card by Chase

World of Hyatt Card by Chase
$95
First Year Fee

Bonus:

50,000 Hyatt points after $6,000 spend. 25,000 points if you spend $3,000 if the first three months and an additional 25,000 points after spending a total of $6,000 in the first six months.


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.

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

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

Bonus:

75,000 Marriott points 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.).


Max.Value: $675
Until recently, some redemptions as high as 3 cents a point have 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 a penny a piece 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).

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

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

Bonus:

Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $2,000 within your first 3 months of card membership.   (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: $800

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.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card
$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.

Barclays Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Barclays Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
$$95
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 or who seek to redeem points on American, or those seeking a faster path towards status on American.

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card
$$95
First Year Fee

Bonus:

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


Max.Value: $975 (We value ThankYou points as high as 1.95 cents each when redeemed on Singapore, though substantially less valuable elsewhere.)
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, as it is the best of Citi's transfer partners.  

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 2,500 within your first three months.  


Max.Value: $900

 

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

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.

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