5 Best Sign-up Bonuses for Airline Miles Credit Cards

By Jason Steele. Last updated 25 July 2016. 5 comments

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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 rewards credit cards really do offer some amazing bonuses that allow my family 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: 6 Ways My Family Scores Free Travel with Credit Cards)

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. 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 top bonuses available at the moment.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has an attractive bonus for new cardmembers. Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You can also earn an extra 5,000 points after adding an authorized user and make a purchase within the first 3 months from account opening. Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. This card allows you to transfer points on a 1:1 value to participating frequent travel programs, which means 1,000 Chase points equal 1,000 partner miles/points.

Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card today!

BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card offers 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1000 in purchases in the first 90 days. These bonus points can be redeemed as a $200 statement credit that you can put towards travel purchases. Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on every purchase, with no limit to the points you can earn and no expiration date on the points. Points can be redeemed as a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, and more with no blackout dates and restrictions. This card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. See terms.

Click here to learn more and apply for the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card today!

Discover it® Miles

With Discover it® Miles, you earn unlimited 1.5x miles on every dollar spent on purchases, and at the end of your first year, Discover will match all the miles you've earned. Essentially, that's 3x miles on all purchases for a whole year! Redeem your miles for statement credit on travel expenses, or deposit as cash into an account you designate. Plus, you can get up to $30 a year of in-flight Wi-Fi fees credited back to your account. There are no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Discover it® Miles today!

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express is offering 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 in purchases on your new card within your first 3 months. Plus, you can also earn a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within your first 3 months. Get 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Get 1 mile on ever dollar spent on other eligible purchases. Get travel benefits like first checked bag free and priority boarding. Terms and conditions apply.

Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year of Card Membership with an introductory offer

Click here to apply for the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express today!

British Airways Visa Signature Card

With the British Airways Visa Signature® Card, new cardmembers earn 50,000 bonus Avios after they spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. In addition, if you make $30,000 in purchases in a calendar year on your British Airways Visa card, you will receive a Travel Together Ticket that’ll allow you to bring a companion with you in the same cabin on your next rewards flight that you redeem with your Avios. The Travel Together Ticket is good for two years. Cardholders can earn 3 Avios for every dollar spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every dollar spent on all other purchases. This card offers Smart Chip Technology and no foreign transaction fees.

Annual Fee: $95

United MileagePlus Explorer Card

The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card offers its new cardmembers 30,000 bonus miles after they spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Earn double miles on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile for every dollar spent on all other purchases. There is no limit to the number of miles you can earn, and miles don't expire as long as your credit card account is open. This card also offers some great travel perks, including your first checked bag free, priority boarding privileges, and two one-time-use passes to the United Club airport lounge every year. There are no foreign transaction fees.

Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year.

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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Guest's picture

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!!!!

Guest's picture

The Southwest Credit Card worked well for me. Charged $2k as soon as it arrived. I got 40K points, booked two free one way tickets to Denver and two free one way tickets from Salt Lake City back to Ohio for a total of $20.00 in fees. All with zero hassle and little effort. All on line. What's great about this is both my brothers did the same thing and we are headed on a family vacation to the Black Hills and Yellowstone. No blackout dates or seat restrictions. Great deal!

Guest's picture

I always check who is servicing the cards. I still use them, but with reluctance; I thoroughly examine anything processed by FIA Card Services. They make many mistakes and are too quick to post charges improperly. In fairness they made corrections, in spite of the great stress of contacting/ reaching the staff responsible- for resolving complaints....

Guest's picture
Credit Card Rewards Geek

I hadn't previously noticed that with the Fidelity cards. I'll be sure to check my statements more closely in the future. I usually just glance at them briefly. I know what you mean about the stress/annoyance of getting things corrected on bills; I've been putting that off on one of mine for about a week now.

Guest's picture

If I'm planning to use my accumulated points for future SW travel but i don't know that I will pay off the total every month. Are the hopes of using or acquiring points futile? Please advise. Thanks!