The best credit card sign-up bonuses of 2017

Image:

In a Nutshell

We selected four credit cards that offer strong sign-up bonuses and welcome offers to go with other valuable perks. Good news for jet-setters: Travel rewards cards generally score the highest marks here.

We generally make money when you get a product (like a credit card or loan) through our platform, but we don’t let that cloud our editorial opinions. Learn more about how we keep this compensation from affecting our editorial views.
Advertiser Disclosure
We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.   Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.   Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

At a glance: The best credit card sign-up bonuses and welcome offers of 2017

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ 

**This offer is no longer available on our site.

50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 3 months
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within your first 3 months. And for a limited time, earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you spend an additional $1,000 within your first 6 months

* Sign-up bonuses and welcome offers are current as of September 2017. All sign-up bonuses and welcome offers are subject to change.

Credit card sign-up bonuses and welcome offers can be tempting, but before you apply, make sure to find a card that makes sense for you — even beyond the bonus.

If you’re shopping for a new credit card, it’s likely you’ve seen some appealing sign-up bonuses and welcome offers. While these bonuses and offers can net you a ton of value in the short term, remember: They’re not the be-all and end-all.

The most valuable card for you will generally be the one that earns you the best rewards on your most regular purchases. You’ll also want to make sure you can redeem those rewards in a way that makes sense for you.

We’ll share a couple pointers up front to help make the most of your sign-up bonus or welcome offer, whichever card you choose.


Understanding points and miles

Seeing thousands of points or miles offered as a bonus for a travel card can be dizzying. But what are those points or miles actually worth? Well, it depends on a number of factors, including the rewards program and the credit card. And then there’s the matter of how you redeem your credit card points or miles.

If you choose a travel rewards card, it pays to be smart about how you redeem your rewards. As David Slotnick, the credit card expert behind the blog The City Miler, points out, “It’s possible to get even more value with certain cards by transferring them to partnering frequent flyer programs.”

Doing the research takes some work, but checking a couple of various options when redeeming points for travel can save you a bundle.

The best frequent flyer programs of 2017

Staying financially responsible

Typically, you’ll only qualify to receive a card’s sign-up bonus after you spend a certain dollar amount on purchases within a set period of time — for example, three months from account opening.

Before applying for a rewards credit card, make sure you’ll be able to meet the minimum spend to qualify for the sign-up bonus. If spending $3,000 within a three-month window doesn’t fit within your budget, maybe that particular card isn’t for you. (Or maybe you should wait to apply until you need to make a large purchase). While the rewards can be appealing, they’re generally not worth it if you’re carrying a balance and accruing interest or fees.

On that note, let’s explore the cards.


The best credit card sign-up bonuses of 2017

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠
**This offer is no longer available on our site.

The sign-up bonus

50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Who’s it for?

People who can comfortably spend thousands of dollars on travel each year — and want to do it in style.

Why we like it

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ is a great all-around travel card. With this card, you’ll earn three points per $1 spent on travel and dining, and one point per $1 spent on all other purchases. That gives it plenty of rewards value even after you qualify for the huge sign-up bonus.

As we mentioned earlier, it matters how you redeem your points. This card is a shining example of that — with Chase Sapphire Reserve℠, you’ll get 50 percent more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. That means your 50,000 bonus points (which you’ll receive after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening) can be worth up to $750 toward travel.

How to maximize the benefits of Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

Watch out for

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ comes with a $450 annual fee, plus a $75 fee for each additional authorized user.

Also note that you’ll have to spend a minimum of $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening to receive your sign-up bonus. That’s a hefty chunk of change, so make sure it fits into your budget before springing for this card.

 

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

From our partner
See Details, Rates & Fees

The sign-up bonus

40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Who’s it for?

Travelers who want to earn solid, flat-rate rewards on every dollar spent. This is a great card if you want the flexibility to book travel with a number of different providers.

Why we like it

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® offers two miles per $1 spent on all purchases. You’ll also get 5 percent of your miles back to use toward your next redemption every time you redeem.

As long as your account remains open and you redeem your rewards for travel statement credits, that 5 percent bonus on redeemed miles results in an effective 2.1 percent earnings rate. What’s more, the bonus on redeemed miles also applies to the 40,000 miles you can earn from the sign-up bonus.

Add it all up, and the sign-up bonus is worth $420. You can redeem the 40,000 miles to offset $400 worth of travel, and you’ll get 2,000 miles back. You can then use those miles for an additional $20 in travel statement credits upon your next redemption. Nice! (Note: You must have at least 10,000 miles to receive a travel statement credit.)

Watch out for

This card comes with an annual fee of $89 ($0 intro in the first year). You’ll want to make sure you earn enough miles to make that fee worth it — thankfully, we’ve already done the research for you.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

From our partner
See Details, Rates & Fees

The welcome offer

$200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 3 months.

Who’s it for?

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a great option for people who drive everywhere and rack up big grocery bills.

Why we like it

With this card, the welcome offer is just the tip of the rewards iceberg. You’ll get a whopping 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1 percent). You’ll also get 3 percent cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1 percent cash back on other purchases.

Watch out for

American Express is not as widely accepted as Mastercard® or Visa®, so you may need another credit or debit card for certain purchases.

The annual fee for this card is $95. Though common among travel credit cards, a $95 annual fee is somewhat rare for cash back cards, which often don’t have an annual fee.

Make sure you’ll get enough value from the gas and supermarket cash back to still come out on top.

 

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

From our partner
See Details, Rates & Fees

The welcome offer

50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within your first 3 months. Plus earn an additional 10,000 miles after you spend $1,000 within your first six months as a cardholder.

Who’s it for?

Frequent Delta travelers looking for a welcome offer with a smaller required spend.

Why we like it

While the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express offers a hefty 50,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases in your first 3 months, it also has a smaller minimum spend than some of our other favorite rewards cards. If spending $3,000 to $4,000 within 3 months doesn’t make sense for you financially, here’s a card that will let you get a nice reward without breaking the bank.

After you qualify for the welcome offer, you’ll still earn two miles per $1 spent on purchases made directly with Delta and one mile for every $1 spent on other eligible purchases.

Watch out for

If you don’t travel frequently with Delta, this probably isn’t the right card for you.

Also note that there’s a $95 annual fee (waived the first year). You’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough value out of the card to offset that fee. That means taking advantage of perks like Priority Boarding and checking your first bag free on every Delta flight.


Bottom line

Getting a credit card with a sign-up bonus or welcome offer can be a great way to splurge on a vacation or put a little extra cash in the bank. But putting in a bit of time and research can help you get the most value out of the perks.

And if you don’t see an especially appealing offer, your best bet may be to wait for the right one to come along. As Slotnick says, “There’s no way to know if there will ever be a better offer, but high offers usually come in summer and around the holidays.”


Editorial Note: The opinions you read here come from our editorial team. While compensation may affect which companies we write about and products we review, our marketing partners don't review, approve or endorse our editorial content. Our content is accurate (to the best of our knowledge) when we initially post it, but we don't guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. You can visit the company's website to get complete details about a product. See an error in an article? Use this form to report it to our editorial team. For questions about your Credit Karma account, please submit a help request to our support team.