The Best Credit Card Signup Bonuses

My Recommended Cards

(Updated 8/9/17 — Note: this page is still under construction, I'm adding more cards)

Besides regular travel, the most effective and popular way to rack up the miles is by strategically leveraging credit card spending rewards and signup bonuses. Credit card points and miles are the key to travel "hacking." Below, see my personal recommendations. These are the best publically available signup bonuses, and the most rewarding cards for your everyday spend. 

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Chase Sapphire Reserve

Signup Bonus: 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $450

Features:

  • 3x points on all travel/dining, 1x point on everything else
  • $300 travel credit per cardmember year
  • Priority Pass membership to access select airport lounges
  • Trip delay coverage, baggage delay insurance, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage coverage, and more
  • Points can be transferred to various travel partners, used to purchase travel through chase at 1.5¢/point, or exchanged for cash at 1¢/point.
  • No foreign transaction fees

The City Miler's take: Right now, this card is king. With an effective $150 annual fee (after the $300 travel credit), the benefits of this card are worth it for many, especially if you tend to travel a couple of times a year.

 
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Chase sapphire preferred

Signup Bonus: 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Features:

  • 2x points on all travel/dining, 1x point on everything else
  • Trip delay coverage, baggage delay insurance, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage coverage, and more
  • Points can be transferred to various travel partners, used to purchase travel through chase at 1.25¢/point, or exchanged for cash at 1¢/point.
  • No foreign transaction fees

The City Miler's take: For anyone balking at the large upfront cost with the Sapphire Reserve, this card is a fantastic alternative. 2x points on all travel and dining add up quickly.

 
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American express premier rewards gold

Signup Bonus: 25,000 Amex Membership Rewards Points after spending $2,000 in the first three months (you can often find a higher signup bonus by visiting the Amex homepage and clicking through to browse personal cards)
Annual Fee: $195 (waived the first year)

Features:

  • 3x points airfare purchased directly from airlines, 2x points on gas, restaurants and groceries, 1x point on everything else
  • $100 airline fee credit each year (for incidental fees, rather than tickets, but can be used to buy gift cards good for airfare from airlines like Delta)
  • Points can be transferred to various hotel and airline loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Charge card with flexible spending limit (you pay off in full each month)

The City Miler's take: A solid all-around card, you can get decent value for the effective $95 annual fee. However, unless you purchase a lot of airfare directly from airlines or spend a lot at grocery stores, the benefits of this card can be redundant compared to the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

 
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Delta Platinum Card By American Express

Signup Bonus: 35,000 Delta SkyMiles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $195

Features:

  • 2x points on purchases with Delta, 1x point on everything else
  • $100 statement credit after any Delta purchase (including gift cards to use later) within the first three months
  • Priority boarding, first checked bag free for you and anyone on your reservation
  • After your first year, earn an annual companion certificate — a free domestic economy ticket for a companion when you book a ticket for yourself (you still pay taxes and fees, which are generally low)
  • 20% discount on in-flight purchases (food and entertainment)
  • Discounted entry to Delta Sky Clubs ($29)
  • Earn 10,000 bonus Sky Miles and 10,000 bonus MQMs each year if you spend $25,000 on the card
  • No foreign transaction fees

The City Miler's take: If you fly Delta with friends, family or a partner at least once or twice a year, this card is a must-have. As long as you use the companion pass for a ticket that would cost more than $195, you're getting a great value (and most leisure travelers can do this). Add the other perks, and this is a card which will have a place in my wallet for years. The signup bonus often rises once or twice a year, so it may be worth waiting for a higher offer.

 

Delta Gold Card By American Express

Signup Bonus: 30,000 Delta SkyMiles after spending $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Features:

  • 2x points on purchases with Delta, 1x point on everything else
  • $50 statement credit after any Delta purchase (including gift cards to use later) within the first three months
  • Priority boarding, first checked bag free for you and anyone on your reservation
  • Discounted entry to Delta Sky Clubs ($29)
  • 20% discount on in-flight purchases (food and entertainment)
  • No foreign transaction fees

The City Miler's take: If you fly Delta and can use the perks, but either don't travel with a companion often (for instance, if most of your travel is for work), or don't like the idea of the $195 annual fee, this is a good alternative to the Delta Platinum card. As with that card, the signup bonus often rises once or twice a year, so it may be worth waiting for a higher offer.

 
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Citi AAdvantage platinum select (american airlines)

Signup Bonus: 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Features:

  • 2x points on purchases with American Airlines, 1x point on everything else
  • Priority boarding, first checked bag free for you and anyone on your reservation
  • Get 10% of all redeemed miles back (up to 10,000 miles each calendar year)
  • 25% discount on in-flight purchases (food and entertainment)
  • No foreign transaction fees

The City Miler's take: A good all-around card for people who fly American Airlines. Unless you make a lot of redemptions or fly often, it may not be worth holding onto for more than a year.

 
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United MileagePlus Explorer card by chase

Signup Bonus: 40,000 United MileagePlus miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $95 

Features:

  • 2x points on tickets with United, 1x point on everything else
  • 5,000 bonus miles if you add an authorized user in the first three months.
  • First checked bag free for you and one companion (if you pay for the tickets with your card)
  • Priority boarding
  • Two free United Club single-entry passes each year
  • 20% discount on in-flight purchases (food and entertainment)
  • No foreign transaction fees

The City Miler's take: The two annual United Club passes are a nice perk, though it's annoying that you have to use the card on your tickets to enjoy the checked-bag benefit (with Delta and AA, you simply need to have a card account open). One BIG unpublished perk: holding this card gives you access to extra saver award space on United, which makes redeeming your miles easier.

 
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Starwood preferred guest card from american express

Signup Bonus: 25,000 Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first three months (you can often find a higher signup bonus by visiting the Amex homepage and clicking through to browse personal cards)
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year

Features:

  • 2x points on expenses with Starwood or Marriott hotels, 1x point on everything else
  • Redeem points at Starwood hotels, or transfer them to Marriott for 3 Marriott points/SPG point
  • Points can be transferred to numerous airline frequent flier programs — 5,000 bonus for every 20,000 points transferred
  • 5 nights and 2 stays each year towards Starwood elite status
  • Complementary membership to Boingo on up to four devices — access to wifi in airports and millions of global wifi hotspots.
  • Premium in-room wifi at Starwood hotels
  • No foreign transaction fees

The City Miler's take: Fantastic card, as Starpoints are worth a lot. The airline transfer bonus is tremendously lucrative. I get a lot of use out of the Boingo membership, too. As Starwood and Marriott continue executing their merger, we're not sure what will happen with this card; it might be worth grabbing it before it's gone.