5 Best Sign-up Bonuses for Airline Miles Credit Cards

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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 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: 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. 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 top bonuses available at the moment.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

Citi has revamped their Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® which, for a limited time, has a sign up bonus of 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Other benefits include first checked bag free, Group 1 boarding, 25% savings on in-flight purchases, and earn 10% of your redeemed miles back — up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year. You also get 2x AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases. The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year. 

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

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® offers 40,000 miles when you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days -- this is enough to redeem a $400 travel statement credit. This is also a great travel rewards credit card in general, as it gives you 2x miles on all purchases -- miles don't expire as long as your account stays open, active, and in good standing. Your miles can be redeemed for travel statement credits. Redemptions start at 2,500 miles for $25 toward travel purchases made in the last 120 days. Plus get 10% miles back to use towards your next redemption when you redeem travel statement credits.

Annual Fee: $89, waived for the first year

Click here to apply for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

This card is currently being offered with a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months — that's $500 in travel rewards through their Ultimate Rewards portal. You can also transfer those points on a 1:1 value to participating frequent travel programs, including British Airways, Korean Air, Southweat, United, Virgin, and more.

Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year.

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

The Gold Delta SkyMiles® card 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 get a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Get travel benefits like first checked bag free and Priority Boarding. Rewards benefits of the card include two miles on purchases made directly with Delta and one mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases. 

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

  • Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn two Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn one mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on every Delta flight - that's a savings of up to $50 on a round-trip Delta flight.
  • Settle in sooner with Priority Boarding and save 20% on eligible In-Flight purchases in the form of a statement credit.
  • The annual fee will be $0 for your first year of Card Membership with an introductory offer, then $95.
  • Terms and Restrictions Apply.

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

Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®

I mentioned the Arrival Plus card above, but the Arrival World MasterCard also has an attractive bonus offer but with no annual fee. You get 20,000 miles when you spend $1000 the first 90 days (enough to redeem a $200 travel credit). An additional sign-up benefit is 0% intro APR for the first 12 months on each balance transfer completed within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR applies (currently 14.99% or 18.99%, depending on your creditworthiness). You also get 10% miles back every time you redeem statement credits. It's a great card with a great sign-up offer for those who are wary about cards with annual fees.

Annual Fee: none.

Editor's note: This card is currently unavailable.

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.

To the Credit Card Guide

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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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....

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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.