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The signup bonus — one of the most valuable and coveted credit card features, with the potential to put a huge dent in your spending or help you score free flights and hotel stays. Many rewards cards come with signup bonuses, also known as introductory bonuses or welcome bonuses. These bonus offers can provide a surprising amount of value, with returns on spending ranging from around 20% on average to more than 50% in some cases.
By Brendan Harkness
Signup bonuses are pretty easy to evaluate. Spend some money, get some rewards. But not all bonuses are created equal.
By Brendan Harkness
Do you like money for free? If so, a signup bonus credit card might be right for you.
It’s not really free money, because you need to spend with credit cards in the first place, and if you’re not responsible you could wind up with fees. But it’s about as close to free money (or travel) as you can get.
A signup bonus is a reward that usually takes the form of bonus points or cash back, which you receive for reaching a certain spending threshold in a certain amount of time — think 40,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 in 3 months, for example.
You should never spend money just to get a signup bonus, of course. You should only use credit cards to buy things you would normally buy. Pay off the statement balance by the due date or you’ll be charged interest, cutting into your rewards (unless you have a 0% intro APR). And we don’t recommend opening new cards purely for the bonuses.
But if a card fits in with your spending habits and offers a great bonus too, why not go for it? Follow the simple rules above and credit card bonuses can be effectively free. You won’t need excellent credit scores to nab a sweet bonus, but cards for better credit tend to have better bonuses.
Here are some situations where welcome bonuses can make big differences.
A signup bonus, often known as an introductory bonus, an intro bonus, or a welcome bonus, is a special offer created to spur credit card spending.
Signup bonuses are usually awarded in the form of points, cash back, or a statement credit after the cardholder spends a set amount of money within a given timeframe after the account is opened. The intro bonus for a given card may change quite frequently.
Here’s an example of a typical signup bonus: Spend $1,000 in the first three months to earn $250 in cash back.
Learn much more about signup bonuses here, including ideas for reaching spending requirements without spending more than you usually would.
Less commonly, credit card issuers will change it up. Other types of signup bonuses include travel rewards like free hotel stays, or offers like Discover’s Cashback Match, which doubles the cash back earned during your first year as a cardholder.
All spending to secure your signup bonus must be done within the allotted time, and in most cases only purchases count — your annual fee won’t help you earn a welcome bonus, nor will balances transferred from another account.
In most cases, you’ll get either three months or 90 days to meet the spending requirement to earn the bonus. The countdown begins the moment you’re approved for your credit card and the account is opened — not when you get the card in the mail or activate it.
Some offers are different, however. You may only get two months in some cases, while other introductory bonuses give you six months or even a year.
Be sure to take note of your specific offer when you apply for a card — signup bonus offers change fairly often, so if you check the issuer’s website later on, you may see a different offer. If you lost track of your offer details, contact your card issuer to ask.
Intro bonuses aren’t too complicated, but there may be more to them than you realize; read all about signup bonus offers here.
There are both public signup bonuses and private signup bonuses. Public offers are open to anyone, and private offers are only available to select groups of targeted consumers.
Private offers are typically better than public, perhaps offering $250 or $300 cash back instead of $200. The spending requirement may remain the same or it could change.
You may get private credit card offers online, by email, or by postal mail. Consider checking if you’re pre-approved for any credit cards, which may show you private offers that you’re eligible for (although it won’t always show you every available private offer).
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, please click here.
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For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, please click here.
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The information related to Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, Discover it® Cash Back, Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, Citi Premier℠ Card, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Citi Prestige® Card, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business, and Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.