5 Best Sign-up Bonuses for Airline Miles Credit Cards

By Jason Steele. Last updated 1 April 2014. 1 comment

They say that if an offer seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Therefore, one could be forgiven for dismissing some generous credit card sign-up bonuses on that basis, as many do. Nevertheless, travel credit cards really do offer some amazing bonuses that allow my family and I to travel extensively. When handled responsibly, these offers are legitimate ways to earn points and miles while giving banks the chance to compete for your business. (See also: 40 Most Useful Travel Websites That Can Save You a Fortune)

How to Find Outstanding Credit Card Offers

At first, finding a great credit card sign-up bonus may seem like luck, but there is actually a good deal of skill involved. The first order of the day is research. Many of the offers below do not apply to everyone who fills out an application, and you have to spend some time looking for the best deal and applying online from the link that is promoting it. Once you have learned what the most competitive offers are, the next strategy is patience. Banks love to promote their best deals over and over again as limited time offers, so if the right deal isn’t currently on the market, just wait a month or two and check again. The final key is to strike while the deal is hot; any of the offers below can disappear tomorrow. While many of them will come back, there is no guarantee. If you think that you are seeing a great deal now, don’t tell yourself that it will probably be available next month when you get around to filling out an application.

The Current Top Five Sign-Up Bonuses

In my research, these are the best bonuses available at the moment.

1. Citi ThankYou Premier® Card

Citi is another major card issuer that is working hard offer competitive rewards. Their current offer for their ThankYou Premier card grants customers 20,000 points after making $2,000 worth of purchases within the first three months of opening an account. After that, another 30,000 points are earned after you make another $3,000 in the first three months of the second year. These points can be used for up to $500 in gift cards or $625 in airfare. This card also comes with numerous purchase protection and travel insurance policies. There is a $125 annual fee that is waived the first year.

Click here to apply for the Citi ThankYou Premier® Card

2. Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®

Even though I don’t live in a city with a strong American Airlines presence, I still love collecting their miles. In my estimation, American miles are worth more than those of other major carriers because they offer far more award seats at the lowest mileage levels. Their AAdvantage Mastercard (review here) offers new customers a 30,000 miles after only $1,000 in purchases within three months. Better yet, cardholders recently received a new round of perks such as priority boarding, free checked bag, discounts on in-flight purchases, and a 10% mileage refund on all awards. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year.

Click here to apply for the Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®

3. Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Chase is offering 50,000 points in Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program, worth more than $800 towards any ticket in their “Wanna Get Away” fare class. Unlike other frequent flier programs, you don’t have to worry about award seat availability, as points work essentially as credits towards the cost of any ticket that is sold.

Furthermore, there is an opportunity here to get both the consumer and business cards in order to earn 100,000 points. This gets you closer to receiving their companion pass, which requires 110,000 points in a calendar year. Doing so will qualify you for a free companion ticket on all of your trips throughout 2013, even on award flights. There is a $99 annual fee for this card, but it is worth it as it comes with an annual bonus worth $100 in flights.

4. Chase Sapphire Preferred®

Chase has become one of the largest issuers of credit cards, and they are trying hard to develop a proprietary rewards program to rival American Express’s Membership Rewards. This card is currently being offered with a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points in their Ultimate Rewards program. Those points can be redeemed for miles with United, British Airways, and other airline and hotel partners. Alternatively, you can use their sign up bonus to book $500 worth of travel through Chase’s travel agent. To receive this bonus, cardholders must spend $3,000 within the first three months of opening their account. There is a $95 annual fee for using this card, but it is waived the first year and there are no foreign transaction fees with this card.

Responsible consumers are right to question whether or not they can truly fly for free by taking advantage of sign-up bonuses offered by travel credit cards. The truth is that the travel is never free. Customers will still be responsible for taxes and possibly annual fees and fuel surcharges. These costs are relatively minor costs compared to the expense of purchasing international tickets in Business and First Class. My experiences and those of others prove without a doubt that you really can enjoy a world of highly discounted award travel merely by earning credit card sign-up bonuses while giving the banks and the airlines an opportunity to earn your business.

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Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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Did the SW card, paid my house taxes, just booked 2 round trip tickets to Seattle (from Houston)...paid a total of $20.00 for taxes!! Sweet!!!!